Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (psst, it's not just for weight loss)
The concept of going without food can be scary. I found that through fasting, "going without" created space for me to think about what I needed or depended on, and how my habits of eating had become just that: habits. Shifting my eating window did not cause the pain and suffering I anticipated, but I am very mindful as a mother of two teenage girls (age 13 and 14) about the need to communicate that fasting is not starving yourself to lose weight. I used to be very rigid with my intermittent fasting, but I have now afforded myself some flexibility. I believe there is a grace and awareness to wellness and my intermittent fasting practice lives within the space of those concepts.
I used to think that we needed to eat 6 small meals a day. Don't let yourself get too hungry or your body will go into starvation mode! We now know that that is not true. Historically, people fasted for long periods of time as access to food became scarce. People did not always have access to food and the ability to eat on demand.
Intermittent fasting, also called time restricted eating, is about eating during a certain time frame and the rest of the day going without food. There are many methods of intermittent fasting. Commonly you have probably heard the 16/8 (eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16) or the 5/2 (eating for 5 days as your normally would and limiting calories to 500-600 calories per day). At its heart, fasting is really going without food for a period of time. When I started, I first stopped eating after dinner. As that became easier, I pushed out my breakfast later, and later until it just naturally became lunch time to break my fast. I was surprised that I could quite easily work out lifting weights in a fasted state. My preferred method is 18/6 which I do most days of the week.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
I'll have to admit, when I started intermittent fasting, I did it for weight loss. I have spoken with so many women who have done that as well. The benefits of intermittent fasting go far beyond weight loss to include:
Improve blood sugar control
Helps the gut heal itself
Decrease inflammation in the body
Boost brain function
Aid in cancer prevention
Aids in weight loss
Helps to control sugar cravings
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about fasting is the benefit that it triggers the process of autophagy. Autophagy is a self-cleaning process that happens within the body. Think of it as a cleaning up of the old cells in your body that allows for the regrowth of new cells. This can help with increased energy, focus and slowing of the aging process. Think of it as a breaking down and rebuilding of a garden.
I am often an all or nothing kinda gal which is why I was so rigid with my 18/6 fasting time. I have learned to give myself grace and now will eat breakfast on some days. That, said, eating breakfast for me is probably around 10 am. I am rarely hungry before that. As someone on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP Diet), I find that I need to nourish my body earlier on some days. I have learned to be a bit more intuitive with my fasting and take the time to check in with my body. I would certainly encourage you to check in with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting to discuss if it is right for you.
Let me know if you have tried intermittent fasting. If not, what are your fears around fasting?