Intermittent fasting; everyone is doing it, right?! Is it a good fit for YOU? Intermittent fasting has become extremely popular in recent years and with many people having great success following this structure, others have followed suit. However, there are some things to keep in mind when thinking about, or implementing, an intermittent fasting schedule. Let’s understand what intermittent fasting is first, then figure out if this diet can work for you.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where your day is segmented into a period of eating and a period of fasting. The most popular breakdown is fasting for 16 hours of the day and an 8 hour “feeding” window where you only eat within those 8 hours. This is not the only way to intermittent fast; one can divide their fasting and feeding periods however they choose. For example, another common break-down is a 20-hour fast, 4-hour feeding window.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has been shown to induce autophagy. Autophagy is a process in which the body destroys unnecessary or unhealthy cells, and replaces them with new, healthier cells. Autophagy is necessary for maintaining muscle mass, however, there is also evidence that it plays a role in slowing the deterioration of the body and mind that comes with aging.
It can also boost cognitive function, decrease inflammation, and increase insulin sensitivity, among other benefits.
Creatures of habit
We are creatures of habits and routines. Generally, most people desire structure in their daily lives and enjoy following a schedule and/or routine. This is one of the main attractions of intermittent fasting; it puts your eating habits on a more structured, routine schedule, which works great for some people!
Smaller “feeding” window = less calories consumed (USUALLY)
There’s nothing magical about intermittent fasting as a method for weight loss. But Kurt, so many people lose weight when they initially adopt an intermittent fasting plan...why is this? When you restrict the time that you allow yourself to eat, you are more likely consuming fewer calories. Consuming fewer calories over time can lead to weight loss. One should be mindful of these condensed feeding windows because it can be easy to binge-eat during these shortened periods due to having been fasting for the past however many hours. This binge eating pattern can establish negative relationships with food. One always needs to be mindful when following an intermittent fasting schedule to ensure it does not become a starve-binge cycle.
Who should NOT be following an intermittent fasting plan?
Although fasting can promote fat loss through reduced consumption of calories, that doesn’t make it a fat loss tool. When we don’t eat our bodies are typically in a sympathetic “fight or flight” state which means our stress and hormone levels are elevated. This isn’t inherently bad being in this alarmed, stressed state; for many our bodies are already under extreme amounts of stress throughout our daily lives. Piling on this extra stress can actually slow down metabolism making weight loss and fat loss harder. If one’s sleep, exercise, and diet are not adequate, then fasting should not be your priority. Build a healthy, strong relationship with your sleep, exercise/physical activity, and nutrition first, then we can worry about fasting and weight/fat loss.
Who SHOULD be following an intermittent fasting plan?
Anyone over the age of 18 who is in good health and has a positive, healthy relationship with their sleep, stress, and nutrition can follow an intermittent fasting plan. When done properly the physical benefits of intermittent fasting can be great, but I believe the true benefits of intermittent fasting come on a more emotional/spiritual level. Disconnecting from food for a prolonged period of time can be an amazing practice that strengthens our relationship with our food. When fasting we discover that much of our “hunger” is actually cravings induced by the environment we are in or emotions like anger, sadness, and anxiety. When one fasts, we also see how much of our days revolve around our food choices and you may even find yourself having more spare time in your day to be more productive! Ultimately, get your nutrition on track, get good sleep, be active throughout the day, and have strategies to manage your stress before adopting an intermittent fasting schedule.
Blog by: Kurt Bieniek
14 E Scranton Ave | Lake Bluff, IL 60044