I get asked about Intermittent Fasting a lot and I am sure many of you have heard of this being thrown around recently which sounds a bit scary right? Well no, not really when done correctly! But how can you do it safely, get the most benefit and not feel like you are restricting yourself of beautiful tasty food?
As a society, we are generally overfed and undernourished. We have so much food available at any given time, that our bodies are in a state of confusion. So many people are trying to lose weight, get fit, get healthy and just generally want to feel the best that they can but there is so much confusing information out there that it can be overwhelming! Most people don’t even know what true hunger feels like anymore.
So how can fasting help? And will it ‘re-set’ your metabolism, and get you feeling better?
In short, yes. By changing what and when you eat, you can rather dramatically alter how your body operates. And that's great news!
Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways to eliminate stored fats, sugar cravings, toxins, bacteria and to give your poor, overworked digestion system a break.
Think about when an animal is unwell. They go off their food. It is their instinct to reject foods to allow their body to focus solely on recovery, reduce inflammation, fight disease and sickness and recuperate in the quickest possible time. This is what fasting does for our bodies as well.
Some benefits of Intermittent Fasting (for 14+ hours)
- Increased fatty acid oxidation (body burns more fat as energy, leading to weight loss)
- Increased cell resistance (slowed down ageing process, improved immunity)
- Increased insulin sensitivity (less fluctuation in blood sugar levels, more constant energy and mood levels)
- Reduced cortisol production (lower stress levels)
- Reduced inflammation (faster body healing, repair and recovery)
So how do you do it safely and effectively?
I personally fast twice a week for approximately 16-18 hours, with my last meal being at 7pm the night before and my next meal is between 12pm and 1pm the following day. I occasionally do a 24 hr fast as well! (When you are asleep this counts as fasting hours. So if you sleep for 8 hours a day you are fasting for the other 8 hours for a total of 16 hours).
What ‘A day on my Fasting Plate’ looks like.
On waking – cup of Kombucha (homemade or store bought) with a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar, just for some added health benefits! If the thought of Kombucha makes you gag, you could also do Lemon and Hot Water, or Green or Herbal Tea. This will help to get some good bacteria into your gut, while stimulating the release of toxins and stagnant food build up.
Throughout the day – lots of zazen Water of course! And unlimited Herbal/Green tea.
When you start to get hungry, have a Herbal Tea, Lemon and Water or do something that will take your mind off food, like going for a walk! Research has shown that those who exercise in a fasted state lose more body fat than those who eat prior to exercise.
When you have decided that the fast is complete and you want to eat your first meal, make it healthy. Good quality protein and vegetable/salad or even a soup is ideal!. Filling up on junk food will not only negate the benefits of fasting, but it also will not provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function. Eating lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables will provide your body with energy to sustain you through periods of fasting and you don’t want to undo the work that you have just done!
But what about putting my body into starvation mode, won't I end up gaining weight I hear you say?
This is another very common myth. The initial response of your body to a reduction in calories is to increase your metabolic rate. This is because, in our hunter-gatherer past, survival in times of food shortage would have depended on our becoming more active, going out to hunt and look for food. Only under conditions of extreme calorie deprivation, when we have been for weeks without enough food and our body fat has fallen dramatically does the body go into “starvation mode”. Intermittent Fasting is not the same as crash dieting. Starvation mode does not happen if you cut your calories for a day!!
Remember you are NOT depriving your body, you are helping to heal your body and get it functioning at an optimum level, with some amazing health benefits!
Please listen to your body while undertaking a fast and if you are concerned prior to starting consult your Natural Health Practitioner. Intermittent fasting is appropriate for most people, but if you're hypoglycemic or diabetic, you need to be extra cautious. People that would be best to avoid fasting include those living with chronic stress (adrenal fatigue), and those with cortisol dysregulation. Pregnant or nursing mothers should also avoid fasting. Your baby needs plenty of nutrients, during and after birth, and there's no research supporting fasting during this important time.