I’m doing Intermittent Fasting – and I think it’s working!
I’ve been seeing quite a bit about Intermittent Fasting (IF) in the media lately – and how it can help keep your weight in check. So I thought I’d give it a whirl.
To be honest, I’m not too concerned about my weight at the moment. But that said, I don’t want to pack on the 10 something kilos I did when I stopped smoking – those saddlebags and thigh jodhpurs took me years to shed.
IF – Option 1
Apparently, there are quite a few ways to do IF – for example, fasting completely for one or two days a week. Mmm, that option comes with history.
I was at boarding school with a girl who was enviably slim compared to our well-rounded selves (the jam roly-poly and treacle tart puds did their damage!).
She was a senior and one dinnertime we plucked up the courage to ask about her secret. She told us that she, like her entire family fasted for one day every week. But it was a bit more radical than that. Day two was a juice-only day and day three was semi-solids only like yoghurt and soup.
So basically, she only ate real food for four out of seven days.
I was seriously impressed. I was also horrified. And clearly, the revelation was seared into my memory.
IF - Option 2
The other option – and the one I’m test-driving – is to fast for 16 hours out of 24. Which is way kinder and a whole lot easier than it sounds.
We eat our evening meal at around 7.00 pm every evening. Aside from my evening glass of wine and morning tea and coffee, my next meal is breakfast at about 11 am the following morning. So I’m doing the 16-hour fast, 8-hour feast routine. (The true bloods even advocate an 18-hour fast, 6-hour feed cycle for best results.)
I’ve been doing this for four weeks now and weigh myself every Friday morning. And each week, I’ve consistently gone down 250 – 500 grams; notwithstanding recent family birthdays which involved sticky treats, chocolates and heavenly cupcakes!
So I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of IF. I have to confess I’m quite impressed and inspired by what I’ve managed to unearth.
Let’s take a look …
IF makes sense
It’s imprinted in our DNA. In the early days, we didn’t have fridges, freezers, microwave ovens and all that cool stuff.
We hunted, we gathered. We ate when we could – not incessantly like we’re able to do now if the mood takes us.
What’s more, circadian rhythm is real. Just as night follows day, it makes sense than we eat and make hay while the sun shines, and then rest and fast when it’s visiting the other side of the world. It’s the natural way of things.
IF can help Diabetes Type 2
When you give the digestive system a ‘breather’ of at least 16 hours or so, you let your insulin levels get a chance to drop, and have a rest.
This allows your insulin to work smarter, not harder.
Insulin is essential in keeping your blood sugar levels steady. It’s also responsible for processing sugars and carbs to give you energy as well as storing them for later use.
Does the term insulin resistance ring a bell? It’s the early stages of diabetes. It’s when your pancreas has to work double-time to produce extra insulin continually.
The poor thing gets exhausted.
IF can lower your blood pressure
Going hand-in-glove with diabetes and insulin resistance is hypertension. IF can help to speed up your metabolism, lower your insulin levels and dramatically lower your blood pressure.
A recent study on overweight, pre-diabetic men showed how IF vastly improved insulin sensitivity and significantly lowered blood pressure.
IF helps you lose weight
I’ve tried this for four weeks and have lost about 1.75 kilograms. I’ve not felt hungry or deprived. In fact, I feel healthier and more alert.
Best of all, I haven’t changed my diet at all. I eat what I normally do. I just do it all in the hours between 11 am and 7 pm.
I do try and eat healthily though. Kinda the Mediterranean diet (I’ll do another more detailed post on that soon).
IF can help many medical conditions
Fancy a heavy-duty delve into some meaty medical stuff? The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article very relevant to us:
This study claims that ”reducing food availability over a lifetime (caloric restriction) has remarkable effects on ageing and the life span in animals.”
It goes on to discuss how IF can elicit a range of benefits on a cellular level. Really important stuff – like how IF improves glucose regulation, increases stress resistance and suppresses inflammation (read arthritis).
Furthermore, it emphasizes how IF can alleviate a wide range of chronic disorders, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and neuro-degenerative brain diseases (read Alzheimer’s and dementia).
Now THAT’s worth our attention.
It continues … “studies in animals and humans have shown how intermittent fasting affects general health indicators and slows or reverses ageing and disease processes.”
Oh yes, please.
IF can’t go it alone
Okay, so IF makes sense on so many levels. Thus far, I’m living proof. But that said, it is part of a bigger picture to give you the best chance of living a healthy, better life.
You’ll still need to do some other good stuff:
- Cut down on sugars and refined carbs. You know that. It makes good health sense to follow a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats. And yes, a moderate glass of wine.
- Don’t snack. Eat your fill at meals without having to top up with in-betweeners.
- Build muscle. Do mindful movement. Go for walks. Take up yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. Dance. No one is watching. Except you.
- Don’t eat before bedtime – ideally for at least three hours.
Nighttime eating is the single biggest cause of obesity.
So how does IF work?
It’s literally a feast or famine situation.
When you’re eating, your body is in feast mode. Your first mouthful takes about 20 mins to digest. The rest of your meal can take 3 – 8 hours to process.
While your system is hard at work to digest and absorb your food, your insulin levels are high, so losing weight is not on the agenda whatsoever.
Eight hours or so after your last meal, your body goes into a dormant phase where the digestive system is taking time out.
At 12 hours or so post-meal, your body enters a fasting state and insulin levels become low. This is the phase when your body is finally able to burn stored fat.
Unfortunately, during a normal eating routine, this is the time when you’re about to start eating again – missing out on this window of opportunity completely.
Just in case you’re not convinced, let’s summarise:
Some of the benefits of IF
1. It makes your life simpler
When you wake up, you can just enjoy a guilt-free cup of herbal tea, coffee or water without having to worry about what’s for breakfast that minute.
Many IF converts have adapted a 2-meal-a-day lifestyle. Less planning, less shopping, fewer dishes, less fuss. Big easy.
2. It’s easier than dieting
With a minimum of practice, it becomes a lifestyle. Once you realize that you don’t need to ‘give up’ much, it’s not hard to adapt.
3. You enjoy your food more
Instead of shovelling down each meal, or eating at whatever time of day or night, you’re somehow more mindful of your mealtimes and what you’re putting into your mouth.
Slow it down. Savour. Enjoy.
Have you tried IF? We’d be interested in hearing about your experiences and views. Please share them with us in the comments below.