I am not sure of the first time that I read an article on intermittent fasting (IF) but I do know it was rather recent. To say the least I was very skeptical and it seemed very radical and unnecessary. I mean why would a person do that intentionally? Daily or weekly month after month year after year? Of course I knew that many religions practiced fasting as a form of spiritual growth. In fact, my own parents fast twice a week and have been doing so since before I was born. They do it for religious reasons and growing up I put fasting on the shelf with another fanatical tactic that crazy religious people use. I developed the idea that fasting was bad for your body and rather impossible to do if you were pretty active (my parents are not).
With my training as a Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, we were taught many different types of diets and ways of eating and were encouraged to try them all. I played around with a few and fell into a way of eating that worked better for me than in the past. While my diet is good I am always looking for ways to improve and grow. So after my first few articles of reading about IF I kind of forgot about it dismissing it as too radical for me. I began to focus more on carb intake which proved to be frustrating and I always felt limited and hungry. Looking back now I think my blood sugar was spiking and crashing causing irregular eating patterns. What I was looking for and am continuing to look for is that perfect balance in where whatever you eat (healthily of course) you burn fat more efficiently. This seems to be the issue with many people who I speak with about diet and lifestyle. Its like the holy grail of health and wellness.
After the limiting carb diet failed, I personally began to feel like I was beginning to plateau. No matter how I ate or how much I exercised my body was not responding by burning more fat. I was just tired and more hungry. I then looked into the ketogenic diet. I wasn’t really that thrilled because legumes are forbidden and it seemed pretty restrictive for me. Like me I am sure a lot of people like a wide variety of food and fear of becoming bored. Somehow through my ketogenic research I ran across IF again. This time I was much more interested because I was looking for a solution for my carb cravings and belly fat troubles. Like the obsessive information consumer I am, I read and read about IF. The benefits the articles touted about lower blood pressure, more energy, more time for cellular repair, and ketosis (fat burning) seemed so much more appealing. The more I read the more I was intrigued.
I finally decided to give it a one day trial. I was pretty frightened because I do have some emotional dependence around food that I continue to work on. By fasting, I would remove that soft sweet comfort of reaching for some organic peanut butter randomly or making gluten free pancakes with local maple syrup later than I should be. I figured doing it once or twice a week would not be that bad and affect my life too much. By fasting a few times a week I rationalized that that’s one less meal I have to worry about buying and making. So I woke up one day and went for the gold! The first few hours of the fast was fine but then I began to feel a bit empty and hungry. I also felt like I was losing something or losing out on something. It was rather upsetting but I decided to push on. The fast was only for 16 hours so I figured that I wouldn’t die or anything(although your brain tells you that your body has now gone into muscle and organ eating and you will perish in a few minutes)! In the end I was successful in my fast and I felt quite liberated. When I began to process the experience I realized that fasting wasn’t so bad and that maybe I could try it again soon. Guess what? I did. Then I tried it again then again. Soon I was doing a 14-16 hour fasts almost daily(this is called LeanGains fasting). I also began to throw in a few 24 hour fasts every few weeks (Whole Day Fasting). The more I fasted the more energy I had and I noticed that my belly fat was going down a little! This has not happened in a long time. My friends also began to comment on how good I looked. This perhaps is the best validation that an experiment is working.
Obviously, there are a lot of common misconceptions about IF some which I still am continuing to debunk in my own practice. I guess the top misconception is that you are starving yourself. My rebuttal to this is that if you usually eat 3-4 times a day and then go to eating twice a day with IF, naturally your body will go through an adjustment period. Plus it takes many more hours than 16 or 24 for you to be technically starving. I noticed that the more fasts I threw in per week the less my hunger alarm signals went off during the fasting periods. This is partly due to my body adjusting to the new eating patterns and mostly due to my diet during my consumption periods. After a fast I stick to wholesome foods like lamb, salmon, greens and rutabaga. Your body will naturally want more wholesome soul supporting foods. If you gravitate towards binging on all sorts of foods healthy and unhealthy, trying lessening the fasting period until you are more adjusted. I personally struggled with binging initially but found that if during my consuming periods I ate very healthy I was less likely to binge after the next fast. You could also not fast for a few days to regulate and then go back to it. I always play around with things and find what works best for me. Do what works best for you and try and not get too discouraged if you decided to start to practice IF.
Another misconception is that you will look like a freak eater and you are going to be socially awkward. I can honestly tell you that most of my friends don’t even know that I do IF. I just schedule my consumption periods accordingly. I am beginning to realize that if you tell people about IF they get very confused and look at you like you have an eating disorder or that you are going through another radical lifestyle change. I usually just ignore the people who I know would challenge me or make me feel uncomfortable and geek out about IF with the people I know I can trust. The emotional and social connection with food seems like it would be lessened or looked at as more negative through IF. I am here to tell you from my experience I have a more positive connection with food and I relish the time I have with friends eating wonderful wholesome food. I use food less as an emotional crutch because I feel more grounded and spiritually aware in my daily life. I am able to concentrate more on my relationships, career aspirations, and physical activity than ever before.
Starting to do IF may seem crazy at first but I encourage you to read about it and reach out to people who may have tried it and see what you conclude with. So far the benefits for me have been amazing and I am sure that they will continue to be amazing. I also noticed that I drink so much more water. During your fasting periods, I encourage you to drink as much water as you want. This will only help with binging during consumption periods. Start with a 13-15 hour fast first and see how you feel. Tune in with your body. Ask yourself questions about how you are feeling. If you don’t feel well you can always break the fast and try again the next day. This could become a lifelong thing for you so it’s not a race or quick fix. The more you do this the easier it will get, I promise. We are all different and I am sure that you will find your balance. As vain as this sounds, I remember dancing in the mirror in a hotel room in Vegas drunkenly (naturally) and my belly really wasn’t moving! I was shocked and grateful. As I twirled around lightly, or wildly depending on how you look at it and my friends cheered me on saying how good I looked. I realized that I would be doing IF for many years to come.
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