According to many experts, intermittent fasting is the least expensive and most powerful healing tool we can incorporate into our lives.
Last blog post, I mentioned two tools that I’d added to the Transformational Reset Cleanse this year. One was taking all grains out for 7 days and the other was to incorporate a 12-to-16-hour intermittent fast.
Before I could ask my Transformational Warriors or private clients to incorporate intermittent fasting, I felt obligated to try it out on myself first. I wanted and needed to be able to relate to some of the feelings and outcomes they were going to encounter. So I tried it and was surprised at what I noticed and what came up for me. But before I get into that, I’d like to talk a bit more about exactly what intermittent fasting is and why it’s such a powerful healing tool.
Our ancient ancestors have been fasting either voluntarily (we see it in many religious customs) or nonvoluntarily for thousands of years. We humans have been fasting since we first walked the earth. Our Paleolithic ancestors were not privy to convenience stores or fast-food joints or the abundance of food that we now have everywhere we turn. They ate what was freshly available, and sometimes there was nothing available for extended periods of time. We have not evolved all that much since then. Our biology is still basically the same, yet we very rarely take breaks from consuming food for more than 4-5 hours at a time. In fact, we’ve been encouraged to eat every 3-4 hours.
What Is Intermittent Fasting? Basically, it’s intentionally interspersing periods of eating with periods of non-eating,ranging from 10-24 hours. It’s not a diet where you’re being told what to eat and what not to eat. It’s a time when you’re giving your digestive system a rest and allowing your body to heal and restore.
Who Does It Benefit? Anyone who is interested in improving their health, especially those who are diabetic and treatment-resistant and those experiencing weight-loss resistance.
What Are Some of the Benefits?
- Improved hormone profile: reduced insulin resistance = reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease; increase in human growth hormone (anti-aging, increased muscle mass)
- Increased use of fat as energy
- Increased weight loss, especially in those for whom losing weight is difficult
- Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass (think testosterone and increased metabolism)
- Decreased blood glucose levels
- Increased production of energy inside the cell
- Body becoming a fat-burner instead of a sugar-burner
Why Does Intermittent Fasting Burn Fat? Basically, your body is smart and understands that, in order to maintain blood sugar, spare muscle, and the liver’s store of energy (glycogen), it’s better off relying on it’s own fat stores,which naturally provides more energy than either carbohydrates or protein.
How Long Do I Have to Fast? There are many different types of intermittent fasting, some lasting for 24 hours and some that are every other day. I think the easiest and still very effective type is either the 12-hour or the 16-hour fast. You will reap more benefits from a weekly 16 hour fast. If you notice you have a bit of fear around the idea of not eating for a stretch of time (I know I did), start off with a 12-hour fast and then graduate to a 16-hour fast. Remember that you’ll be sleeping for 7-8 hours of your fast.
Best Way to Prepare for a Fast: For a 16 hour fast, I like to eat a large pre-fasting meal (about 1,000 Kcal) that’s fairly high in healthy fats and vegetables (for bulk and fiber) and medium in protein. I kind of bulk up, but in a mindful way.
Best Time of Day to Begin a Fast: It doesn’t matter when you start your fast. It is an individual preference. I found that I really like to eat almost immediately when I rise in the morning, so I’ll back up the start of my 12- or 16-hour fast to allow for that. For a 12-hour fast, if I’m getting up at 5:30 AM, I’ll start my fast at 5:30 PM the day before.
What If I Hit a Rough Patch During the Fasting Period? Take a breath, drink some water or herbal tea, and notice what you’re really feeling. Are you actually hungry? Or are you feeling anxious or bored? Or is your desire to eat something more of a habitual or conditioned response? This awareness alone is worth doing a fast. Remember, this may be a bit of a challenge but also one of the most rewarding experiences, as you’ll become much more aware about why you eat and when you eat. It’s also a very freeing process.
Can I Drink or Take Supplements When Fasting? Yes, you can drink water and herbal teas. This is a good time to take a break from your supplements, again to allow the body to rest.
How Often Should We Do a Fast? Studies have shown that fasting just once a week, even when there are no other significant changes in eating habits, will give you the benefits listed above. Please note that this does not give you license to eat whatever you want when you are off your fast! J We still need to remember that food can heal or harm.
What Should I Eat After My Intermittent Fast? I like this recommendation from the experts: When you finish your fast, you need to pretend that it never happened. In other words, there’s no compensation, no reward, and no bingeing. At the end of your fast, just pick up where you normally would and go forward. For example, if you end your fast at 3:00 PM and you normally don’t eat your next big meal until 6:00 PM, eat a snack to break the fast and then your meal at the regularly scheduled time. Many people like to end their fast with a nice green drink.
Once you’re incorporating an intermittent fast weekly and you consciously make the decision that tomorrow will be a fast day, you activate a new mechanism inside yourself. You’re allowing your innards to recharge while you reflect on your eating habits. You have an opportunity to notice if and how you’ve been self-medicating with food. Fasting is a profound tool for deep change. And I highly recommend committing to incorporating it once a week over a 30-day trial period. See how you feel and decide for yourself if this is something that you would like to make a regular practice.
My own experience with intermittent fasting has been eye-opening. I haven’t done it on a consistent basis yet, but I’ve learned a lot about my eating patterns when I have incorporated it. Here are some of the things I’ve learned: I hadn’t realized that when I do the dishes after dinner, I always nibble. I have a deep-seated habit of eating first thing in the morning, and I don’t like it when it’s messed with. I feel lighter when I fast at least 10 hours once a week. I used to get anxious when I felt really hungry and there was no food around. Now I acknowledge and observe the hunger, take a drink of water, and remember that I will survive a couple of hours longer and be just fine. It is freeing!
There you go. This is a pretty good intro to get you started on your way to intermittent fasting. I would love to hear about your experience here!
Onward to health and vitality!
P.S. It’s always important to check in with your health care professional before incorporating a new way of eating or moving your body.