This topic is near and dear to my heart and a perfect example of a time when I ignored what my body was telling me.
For years I forced myself to eat in the morning because you’re ‘supposed to eat breakfast’. Although, as a child, when our bodies are growing it is important to eat when we are hungry. As I went into adulthood bound by ‘shoulds’ and ‘supposed to’s’ my body was sending the signal of not being hungry, but I ignored it.
From all the information I’ve gained now on intermittent fasting, I can see major impacts to my sleep, overall energy and maintaining weight.
There are two types of proteins in the body regulate how the cells function. Think of them as the yin and yang of our bodies. These “yang” proteins build cells and allow for proliferation and growth and are also what’s responsible for inflammation. The “yin” proteins encourage our cells to produce energy efficiently and allow for detox, repair and studies show their anti-cancerous effects by allowing for cell death of cells that are not beneficial to us.
And as yin and yang go, they should be in balance with each other. The problem is when you wake up and eat your breakfast early in the morning and then eat late into the night you are unknowingly preventing the proper breakdown of potentially harmful cells. This often has no symptoms and without our knowledge, our bodies compensate over the years.
Studies have shown the benefits on a molecular level from regulating blood sugar and an improvement in overall health. This is shown in the benefits to our metabolism and studies also show that once regulated the participants don’t report hunger (which is a common fear of those wanting to try intermittent fasting) and feel satiated. The hope is to find a manageable, realistic, sustainable plan to incorporate in your lifestyle with the aim of optimal health.
What does Intermittent Fasting mean?
Popular today is intermittent fasting 16/8 means that for 16 hours each day we should not be eating (fasting) and we eat within the 8-hour window. Common is eating between 11 am- 7pm, noon- 8pm. Another intermittent fasting schedule may be within a week two 24 hour fasts. So, eating dinner on Sunday say at 6 pm and then not eating again until Monday at 6 pm. A third common schedule would be fasting for 3 days on water only every 3-4 months. However, research shows that after about 48 hours the benefits of fasting peaks within the cells.
Another way to ease into it, try the 5:2 method where you consume 500-600 calories on two separate days in the week but eating normally the rest of the week.
The bare-bones is fasting is highly beneficial to our long-term survival whether it be intermittent fasting, 5 and 2, or quarterly 3-day fasts. As humans, we have not evolved fast enough to change to this consistent eating throughout the day. In the past, there were periods of feast and famine where food was unavailable and we have adapted to this lifestyle. What works best for you and is sustainable is vital.
Let’s Talk Hanger
Hanger is real. I can attest to this. Urban dictionary jokingly defines it as: “A lethal combination of hunger and anger, the result of waiting so long to eat that your blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels, impairing both your mood and your judgment. Particularly manifests itself when you are with a significant other and trying to make decisions about where to eat now that you’re both starving.”
It’s caused by blood sugar swings. These blood sugar swings can be very detrimental to our health and stabilising our blood sugar promotes health and longevity which is what intermittent fasting allows.
Where Do I Start?
Like any big change, it can be very important to start slow to ensure sustainable results. Say you’re used to eating breakfast at 8:00 am, start with a small half-hour shift to 8:30 am when that feels manageable stretch it to 9:00 am, and so on until you reach your desired start time.
This doesn’t mean you have to eat less than your normal intake of food. You can still eat the same amount as you normally would– you just eat it in a shorter period of time. The odd time I break this and eat quite close to bed I find it significantly affects the quality of my sleep as our bodies aren’t designed to eat late into the night. This has been a reminder that intermittent fasting has been an important part of my healthy lifestyle.
Due to the restrictive nature of the time eating window, it can cause some overeating to make up for the time that you are fasting. However, as studies show once you get into a rhythm the vast majority do not report massive hunger swings. Keeping this knowledge in mind may be beneficial.
It is also important to ensure you are eating a well-balanced whole food diet, with nutrient-rich foods. Often when we eat foods that don’t give us proper nutrients, we feel more hungry more often. So, skip the packets and head to your local produce market! Overall, the huge benefits to intermittent fasting include improvement in blood sugar control, boosts your brain function and has the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) working efficiently!
- Start gradually!
- Try to at least stop eating 3 hours before bed.
- Unsweetened tea & water are allowed while fasting.
- The main thing is to just feel if this is right for you, find your own time window!
- Ride the hunger wave — it will pass!
- Be flexible- the odd time is okay to ‘slip-up’, be kind to yourself.
- Remind yourself why you are doing it- if there’s a delicious snack calling your name late in the evening but you remind yourself of the benefits it might be easier to resist (plus you will enjoy it more the next day)!
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