We are always on a journey to find new ways to improve ourselves. Intermittent fasting has become hugely popular in health and wellness circles for its effect on weight loss, longevity, and overall bodily function. Intermittent fasting has proven itself to be a healthy way of life that is backed up by studies of metabolism and human evolution. But what is intermittent fasting? And is it worth skipping dinner for? Let’s explore!
Fasting is a practice that has been done by humans for thousands of years. During hunter-gatherer times, fasting was done out of necessity due to lack of food. Many religions, including Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity, implement a form of fasting into religious rituals. It is also an instinctive reaction for humans and other animals to fast when experiencing an illness. Our bodies are well-equipped to spend significant periods of time without food, and can in fact thrive in a period of fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between time periods of fasting and eating. Unlike many diets that focus on WHAT we are eating, intermittent fasting focuses on WHEN we are eating. Studies have shown fasting has many positive effects on the body. Some of these include weight loss and fat burning, as well as reducing blood sugar and insulin levels. It has also been shown to aid in cellular repair by removing excess waste from cells, which can lead to a longer life and prevent harmful diseases. And it even can reduce the stress that may come from planning, cooking, and cleaning up after so many meals.
When we eat and are well-fed, each cell is in “growth mode”. This is when the insulin that signals the pathways that instruct the cell to grow, divide, and synthesize proteins is active. When these pathways are being overworked, they are in a process of growing and dividing and are therefore too busy to complete their duties of cleaning up our bodies from damaged proteins. When fasting, our cells and pathways have more freedom to complete their necessary duties of keeping our bodies clean and healthy.
This process of fasting does not mean that you have to severely restrict yourself to succeed. In fact, it is very important to develop this practice of fasting properly, so that your cells are not significantly lacking in glucose and insulin, which can lead your body to enter starvation mode. There are many different ways to make intermittent fasting work for you. You may want to try out a few methods before deciding what is right for your body. Here are a few ways to get started with this pattern of eating:
The 16/8 Method
The 16/8 method is to fast for about 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window, eating about 2-3 meals. You can fit this timing into your day however you see fit, but it can be as simple as not eating anything after your dinner, and skipping breakfast the next day.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet is to eat the way you normally would for 5 days of the week and on the other 2 days, restricting your calorie intake to 500-600 calories. You can split these calories up into one meal, or two small meals, or even just snacking throughout the day.
The eat-stop-eat method involves a full 24 hour fast once or twice a week. For example, do not eat anything after dinner one day until dinner the next day. This is more challenging than other methods, but you can work up to this by practicing the 16/8 method and progressively adding more hours to your fast when you feel ready.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
If the other methods of intermittent fasting seem unsustainable to your lifestyle, but you still want to reap some of the benefits, try spontaneous meal skipping. This can be as simple as just not eating when you are not hungry, busy, or just don’t feel like cooking again. Many of us believe that we are not sustaining our bodies properly if we do not eat 3 full meals a day, but even with a short fast, your body is allowed the time to process and regenerate the way it needs.
When beginning this journey of intermittent fasting keep in mind that it is still important to eat healthy. During your window of eating, try to avoid processed foods and do not over consume more calories than your body needs. During the times of fasting, you can drink zero calorie beverages, like water and tea. You can add fruit to your water which adds flavor to help curb cravings. We find that a cup of flower tea with a spoonful of honey can be super helpful for satisfying those cravings!
Pay attention to what is and is not working for you. Making a big change to your diet is going to take some time to become comfortable with, but try to understand the difference that your body feels when it is uncomfortable with a new routine versus when it is telling you that you may be unwell. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor before trying something like this to discuss what is the best option for your body. Always remember that you know your body the best! Listen to yourself and figure out what feels right for you!