The first time I heard of someone doing this, I thought they were crazy and were going to send themselves into starvation. I mentally judged them, immediately, and came up with a ton snippets of “health tips” that would disprove their practice as fallacy! Ha!
Cut to about 3 months later, when I decided to take a quiz from one of my favorite teaching blogs on all things Metabolism (Read: Fat Loss) related, Metabolic Effect, and guess what this quiz advised me to do? The VERY act that I so ruefully mentally judged others in the fitness industry for doing! Typical, right? (God was listening ;-))
So now, every day, I don’t eat my first meal until about 11am. I eat my last meal by 7 or 8pm. Basically, I eat in a 8-9 hour window.
WHAT IT IS:
So, I’m talking about Intermittent Fasting. Let me start by saying that I hate the term “Fasting” because anytime you say that, it makes people think of either a spiritual prayer practice (which is good, but not related), or a detox or cleanse. Which again, those two things can be good for you (if done right), but all these words seem to spark up a lot of “judgey judgertons” just like I admitted to being.
Intermittent Fasting is just a term used to describe going an extended period of time, every day, without eating. We ALL fast every day. This is called sleeping. So, intermittent fasting is a way to just extend the “non-eating” phase of your day because it essentially extends the Fat Burning period of your day.
Studies (and HERE) have actually shown that the TIMING of when we eat can have a bigger impact on our weight that the actual amount of calories we eat! In fact, I talked about this rat study on my blog on NUTRIENT BASED TIMING, HERE. The most recent study published in Cell Metabolism Journal, essentially tested two groups of rats who both ate the exact same amount of calories but one group ate all day long while the other group only at in a 10-12 hour window. The results showed that the group that ate at all hours of the day got obese while the intermittent fasted group of rats stayed at a normal weight. With the exact same amount of food!
The way our fast paced world has been operating lately, we can easily fall into the trap of GRAZING all day, every day. We need a snack at all occasions! I truly believe this contributes heavily (no pun intended) to the deathly serious overweight and obesity epidemic we have on our hands.
WHY I DECIDED TO TRY IT:
So, back to my decision to bite my own judgement and take the advice from the Metabolic Effect quiz I took. First, I have already done a lot of research on the Metabolic Effect website, read their books and know they are Doctors with credentials I trust. This is the most important part about taking advice from any health hack out there (myself included!).
Second, I had already been eating in a 12-hour window for 8+ months at this point. This was something I knew I needed to do not only because I had heard about that rat studies but also just by pure math. I have a large appetite and so if I don’t pay attention to the times and quantities I eat, I can (and have) eaten several hundred more calories than I need to in a day.
Third, the reason why this quiz advised me to push this fasting period back even further is because I had already taken several steps in the (w)right direction for my health and this was just the next best step in the (W)right direction for ME. Meaning, I was already eating a Nutrient-Based diet of clean, holistic foods CONSISTENTLY. I has also already practiced short periods of intermittent fasting first before by eating within a 12 and 10-hour window. I was also already active and healthy. I just had stopped seeing results, so it was time to try something new.
HOW IT’S BEEN WORKING SO FAR:
So, I decided this step would be something worth trying to see if it worked for me!
The way to TEST any new dietary change is to monitor 4 areas *H.E.C.D.* (a modified tool from Metabolic Effect as well): 1. Hunger 2. Energy 3. Cravings 4. Digestion. So as I made the change to move my first meal back to 11am and as I ate my meals, I monitored those 4 categories. I told myself I would try it for a full week to let my body adapt and get a real feel for how it was working (or not working).
-My HUNGER actually went WAY down over the course of the day. I had been used to eating 5-6 meals per day and my body had been conditioned to get hungry when I had been used to eating. So where I thought that I would be building up several more hours of HUNGER from not eating at those times, I was SHOCKED to feel substantially less hungry. I believe this tactic helped to mellow out my hormones (ghrelin and leptin are your hunger and satiety hormones) . I don’t have the exact science as to why, but this is how it turned out for ME.
-Moreover, I actually had less CRAVINGS for sugar and other food items I normally crave as well! My hardest part is still at night more than in the morning, so I do still have a sweet tooth but I manage that with other tools anyway.
-My ENERGY felt about the same! I often found that by overeating so often before, I would put myself into a food-coma and feel lethargic. Now my mornings are my most productive time!
-My DIGESTION is on par. This one relies most on the quality of foods I eat, but going longer between meals helps move things along much better for my body!
On top of all of these factors, the other benefit of doing this is in those months where I was not really being careful about WHAT I ate (I had a ton more sugar, frozen yogurt, and BBQs during the month of July) but I still stuck to this 8-9 hour window, I DID NOT GAIN WEIGHT. At all. So this proves to me that the rat test they conducted is in fact on par with my this human body works too!
Overall, I AM eating enough food (almost the same amount of calories) just in the tighter time-frame. This is VERY IMPORTANT that I’m not starving my body as a crash diet. I am only changing the timing of my eating, not the quantity of food. Since I love big meals, this works great for me too.
There are a few things I had to adjust and some ways to trouble shoot this that are not the easiest.
- I rely more on coffee and caffeine in the AM. I have been getting up by 5-6am to start writing and working, so I’m tired of course, but also that is a pretty long window of being awake without eating. So, coffee (without cream or sugar) and tea are my solutions to keep my stomach calm. If I do experience stomach growls, I’ll drink more water first.
- I had to move back my workout time: I was a morning workout girl for a long time but decided that working out fasted is not the smarted idea for me. This worked out though because I needed my mornings for productivity and writing anyway. It will always take an adjustment period to get hyped up enough for an afternoon workout. It also is harder to avoid the excuses of getting “too busy” to go to the gym. Good thing I only do 30-45 min workouts now!
- Breakfast is my favorite meal: The absolute hardest thing for me is going out for breakfast with friends and family and not eating. Maybe this is the O.C.D, way TOO self-controlled part of my life, but I am just a person that once I commit to something, I commit to it and stay as consistent as possible. So, when in a situation where we are out to eat or my husband and I are traveling and he is eating breakfast, I will have coffee and enjoy the company and order a meal to go if I have to. I admit this is challenging but only because of the social pressure and because I love breakfast food. Not because I’m hungry, surprisingly.
The (W)Right Way Of Intermittent Fasting:
So, if you are interesting in exploring what this might look like for you, I encourage you to take the following steps:
START 12-HOURS: Start with a 12-hour window of Intermittent Fasting FIRST. This is my Nutrient Based Timing strategy that will work wonders for you if you have not already been eating in this window of time. Stick with this FIRST for about 6-12 weeks. See if you get desired results and good H.E.C.D. results.
SMALL STEPS: If you have already been eating in a 12-hour window, push back your eating window by 2 or 4 hours at the most. You can decide if you want to push back your first meal of the day, or stop eating earlier in the evening. Pay attention to the clock and adjust it if necessary according to your plans that day (dinner out, etc).
STAY CONSISTENT: I don’t advise doing just one day here or there of intermittent fasting. I think this is how you start to confuse your hormones and metabolism into thinking you are indeed ‘starving’ on certain days. If your body thinks your starving, it will go into shut-down mode and slow your metabolism. No bueno.
SATISFY YOUR BELLY: Eat well and eat enough! For the above reason, you should make sure you are eating enough food! You reasonably can have 3 solid meals and maybe one snack all within that 8-9 hour window. Eating causes a BOOST in your metabolism because you have to burn calories to digest. So a large BOOST followed by an EXTENDED FAST (Fat-Burning) period is why this science works.
STAY TRUE TO YOU: If your H.E.C.D. is all off after trying this, then I don’t think intermittent fasting is for you and your body type. Some people with higher metabolisms will just have a harder time with this because their bodies need more energy more often. This is GREAT to learn and important for you to listen to! I think intermittent fasting works for me because I have a endomorphic/mesomorphic body type. (More on this another time!).
I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences you have encountered with intermittent fasting! Every body is different and I’d like to hear what you like, didn’t like or if you are going to give it try and why!