I had changed how I ate to a keto regime and I had been losing weight. I’m part of two low-carb support groups on FB and I kept seeing glowing references to something they did called “IF” and every reference to this “IF” was followed by declarations of “16-8” or “23-1” or “14-10”. Huh? So I googled IF and saw that it stood for “Intermittent Fasting”. Just the inclusion of “fasting” was an immediate turn-off for me. Go without food? Whatever for? And why? And HOW?
So having cut out carbs and alcohol and I was losing weight. But slowly. I figured that as I was approaching 50, my body decided to hold on to every pound of fat for dear life and so removing a single pound was akin to a battle of epic proportions! And to be quite honest, even though I was eating low-carb, I was still struggling with portion control. Mi love food!
At the same time, a friend of mine an ocean away who had embarked on his own weight loss journey around the same time that I did called me one day. “Kell!” he said. “Look here. I’ve discovered the remedy to slow weight loss. Check it out. It’s Intermittent Fasting.” I said I’ve heard of it, Ric, but I can’t go without food!” He advised me not to knock it without first doing my research.
“Check out the science behind Intermittent Fasting and then with that understanding, decide if it is something that could work for you”
My friend Ric
So I did just that. Once I understood what was going on in my body during any fast, I was able to intellectualize then visualize, resulting in my being able to rationalize and simply do.
So what is Intermittent Fasting?
It is depriving your body of food for a defined period of time, usually a day or less. If you’re depriving your body of food for days at a time, that’s called Extended Fasting. The 16-8 or 23-1 nomenclature popular among IFers simply refers to the number of hours in a day that they don’t eat and defines the eating window. So someone practicing 16-8 IF doesn’t eat for 16 consecutive hours and allows themselves to eat during a defined 8 hour window. So imagine it’s Sunday evening. Someone practicing 16-8 IF will finish their last Sunday meal by 6 pm. They won’t eat anything again until 16 hours after 6 pm, which would be 10 am on Monday. Their eating window on Monday would be 10 am to 6 pm. Your time sleeping counts in your fasting period! How good is that 🙂
Why Intermittent Fasting?
Weight loss:you’re eating less food, and your body will burn its fat stores for energy.
Enhanced immune and brain functions:not taking food into the body prevents secretion of the hormone insulin. Reduced insulin in the body forces the body to burn fat stores for energy. Did you know that excess insulin in the body interferes with feelings of fullness so you end up eating more that you really need? Excess insulin in the body triggers inflammation and the body responds to inflammation with a triggered immune system. Sometimes it gets so bad that the now stressed out immune system literally turns on itself and you get the onset of auto-immune diseases. So many of our ailments (think arthritis, Lupus, etc) have inflammation at their root.
Self cleaning and repair:Your body uses the time when its not secreting insulin in response to food in the body to repair cells and flush out toxins and build up around the cells. Simply put, fasting gives the body some down time to clean up.
More energy and focus:Yes, this is a fact. As your body is forced to burn its own fat for energy (instead of the carbs we typically feed it) ketones are produced as a by-product of this new metabolic pathway. Ketones are used by the brain for energy, they suppress appetite and they signal your cells to clean up and repair.
How I did it
I eased into Intermittent Fasting. I was already on a low-carb regime which sort of mimics what happens to the body in the fasted state. I was already fat-adapted so I was burning my own fat for energy and releasing ketones. Fasting is less painful when you’re fat adapted. I started by delaying breakfast. Eating at 10 am instead of 8 am wasn’t so bad, I discovered. Sure I missed the camaraderie of my colleagues at breakfast, but they weren’t fat, I was. I also tried not eat anything past 7 pm. When I saw that I could do this, I gradually stretched out my eating window until I was consistently following a 16-8 routine. I visualized my body NOT secreting insulin and burning up my fat stores. I visualized my cells using this down time to repair and clean. Don’t laugh…it worked! It became easier to go without food because I knew why I was doing what I was doing and how it was working.
After a few months of consistently adhering to a 16-8 window (I’d sometimes have breakfast or heavily creamed coffee on a Saturday/Sunday) I came across the concept of Super Fasting. This is simply two consecutive days of 23-1 fasting. I do this on a Monday and Tuesday. After my last meal on Sunday, my next meal is Monday evening, and after that Monday evening meal, my next meal is Tuesday evening. Thereafter I revert to 16-8. It’s a great way to reset after a weekend when I’ve probably consumed more food than I really should have.
Absolutely no food in the fasting window?
No food. Even artificial sweeteners can trick the body into thinking that it should secrete insulin and once insulin is triggered, you’re no longer burning fat. So its water, lots of it, and black coffee or black tea.
The benefits of Intermittent Fasting for me
Apart from what the science told me was going on in my body (cell repair, ketone production, reduced insulin release and so on), here are the changes that I personally experienced:
Heightened mental ability
No negative impact on my workout regime(you’re not Bolt. You don’t need any pre-work out snack to fuel you. Trust me on this. Let your body fuel itself from your own fat!)
Suppressed cravings (the low-carb eating regime had already resulted in reduced cravings and fasting only reinforced this)
A sense of control and mastery(for someone who struggles with portion control and self control when it comes to food, winning the psychological battle is probably more important than anything else in my weight loss journey. To know that I can NOT eat based simply on a decision taken puts power and control back in my hands. There’s no better feeling or realization.)
How to keep on track with Intermittent Fasting
Go low-carb and become fat adapted. Your body takes a few days to get there. When your body is already burning its own fat for energy, it makes going without food easier and less painful
Drink water. Lots of it.
Stay active. Go for a walk when you’d normally eat. Run errands. Schedule meetings during your fasting window.
Visualize the good instead of obsessing on what you’re not eating
This blog post is not intended to be followed as medical advice. Do your own research and check with your doctor, especially if you’re pregnant or diabetic or have some form of illness that you’re dealing with. If you do decide to fast, monitor your body and respond to it appropriately.
There’s a book that I found to be a very useful resource in terms of information and tips re: Intermittent and Super fasting. Check it out if you’re so inclined: “What the Fast” by Grant Schofield, Caryn Zinn and Craig Rodger.
So have you done or are you doing Intermittent Fasting? What has been your own experience with it? Do you think this is something that you could and would incorporate into your own lifestyle?