You’re going to appreciate reading this before you decide to try intermittent fasting as your next weight loss strategy.
Intermittent fasting basically consists on eating only during a short window during the day; for example: you skip breakfast, eat your first meal at 12 noon, then maybe have a snack and have your supper at 6pm as your last meal. After that meal, you are not supposed to have any food, only water, or tea. That way, your eating window is only 6-7 hours, while the other 17-18 hours of the day (including your sleeping hours) you are not eating any food and your body is “burning it’s own fat for fuel”.
There are many ways to fast, and the above example is just one of the easiest ones.
Another popular way to do this is by simply skipping breakfast, and eating normally the rest of the day. By skipping breakfast you’re prolonging the fasted state that happens during sleep during sleep
Some people prefer to fast for a day or two per week, and only drink water during those days, while eating normally for the rest of the week. This however can be quite drastic if you have never fasted before, so exercise caution.
The idea is that by not grazing, all day long, you allow your body to use it’s own fat for energy during the long hours when you’re not eating. You also allow your body to repair, and take a rest from digesting food, which takes up a lot of energy.
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Some of the claimed benefits of intermittent fasting according to science are:
– Better detoxification
Your body detoxifies on its own, but often, our lifestyles and exposure to different kinds of toxins in our food and environment, cause our systems to overload with toxins, so much that the body can’t keep up. When you fast, your body is not busy digesting food all the time, and can use this energy for detoxification.
– Anti-Aging Effects
The scientific literature indicates that intermittent fasting increases Growth Hormone levels, the anti-aging hormone. THis hormone stimulates cell reproductions, and cell regenerations in humans.
– Weight loss
Intermittent fasting can work for weight loss. The natural sugars in any meal that aren’t immediately needed for energy are stored in the liver as glycogen. When maximum glycogen storage has been achieved, the body then stores this energy as fat. Glycogen stores are the first fuel source the body will turn to for energy. In general it takes between 6 to 8 hours for the body to burn through its glycogen supply, unless you are exercising. When glycogen is depleted the body will then turn to the energy stored in fat cells.
Eating throughout the day, or even the basic three square meals a day format, makes it much harder for the body to burn fat. Extending the time between eating will force your body to tap into the fat reserves, thus reducing your dress size.
- Improved Brain Function. Recent studies indicate that practicing intermittent fasting, can increase BDNF, a protein involved in cognitive function , and the production of new brain cells.
– Consuming Less Calories per day
By reducing your eating window you’ll likely unintentionally end up consuming less total calories per day, simply because you’re not going to be snacking and grazing all day long. This might be a good thing, as long as you don’t go into starvation.
According to scientific research, Under-nutrition without malnutrition is the only approach consistently shown to prolong survival in animal models.
According to these theories, to improve health, the goal should be to lose weight by reducing the total amount of calories consumed, rather than focusing on when those calories are consumed. However, it’s not as simple as cutting calories, since many diets out there focus on consuming less calories, and this hasn’t solved the weight loss issue most women deal with.
In my personal experience as a former anorexic, the difference between a low calorie diet that provides permanent weight loss, and lots of health benefits, and a low calorie diet that leads to binges, more weight gain and health issues is in the approach, aka “The Mindset”. I’ve written several articles on the topic of the mindset, as it relates to weight loss. For this post, let’s focus on Intermittent fasting.
Will Intermittent Fasting work for you in helping you lose weight though? Let’s find out
Because one of the major effects of fasting is to reduce blood sugar, if you are dealing with adrenal fatigue, and/or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) you’d be wise not to implement a fasting routine until your glucose and insulin levels are well managed. Restoring your adrenal health, working on your overall diet, limiting sugary foods and processed grains while increase fat, fiber and eating moderate protein, should be your priority.
While healthy women should certainly consider the many benefits fasting offers, you should be aware that fasting can become a source of stress if you practice it with the “wrong” mindset. If you purposely limit your appetite because of fear of gaining weight, and force yourself to wait until you “can” eat, you’ll likely not get the results you expect . As in all prolonged stressful situations, cortisol rises (more fat storage) and your adrenal glands can become weakened over-time. The result can be fatigue, cravings, anxiety, and irregular periods due to the hormone disruption.
The effects of stress on hormones happens faster in us women, because of the way nature designed us. Fasting can send a stress signal of “famine” to the body, and this can disrupt your hormones in more ways than you can imagine. For women, the risks of reproducing during times of starvation are severe, thus the more dramatic physical/hormonal changes as a response to stress.
That said, if you’re a woman who is already chronically stressed or dealing with irregular cortisol levels, you should carefully consider your current state of health and all your options before you try a fasting regime. You can still lose weight by using a different strategy like eating regular meals every 3 hours, which will keep cortisol and insulin at bay.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, but the priority should be to build your health, because in the end what heals your body slims your body. The healthier you are in body, mind and spirit, the less weight issues you will have. I promise.
So, if you are curious about whether Intermittent Fasting can work for you, give it a try and pay attention to your body. Before you try any weight loss strategy, I recommend that you first think about the health implication that such strategy could have in your body.
Have you ever tried intermittent fasting or any other form of fasting? What was your experience? Would you recommend it to others?