Editor’s Note :: this post is one mom’s personal journey with intermittent fasting. If you are interested in implementing intermittent fasting into your own lifestyle, please consult a medical professional.
Intermittent fasting seems to be the new trend in dieting. It sounds so amazing: eat anything you want during a short amount of time and voila you lose weight.
Except it isn’t a trend.
And it isn’t that simple.
Fasting has been around, well, forever. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. It ain’t no trend, yo. It is a major component of major religions throughout the world. It’s spiritual benefits have been touted for thousands of years, but there are also physical benefits too.
I was introduced to intermittent fasting by my doctor in June 2017. I had been following the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan for 9 months following the birth of our youngest because it was a plan that worked for me in the past. I saw a significant initial weight loss, but played with the same two pounds every week — and I needed to lose a whole lot more than those pesky two pounds. Up two, down two. My doctor did a complete blood workup and hormone panel, and everything came back perfectly normal. She suggested I read The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and give that a try.
It was a total eye opener. It basically discussed the HUGE influence insulin sensitivity has on weight loss, and how our Western diet reduces our body’s sensitivity to the insulin response. He discusses the importance of blood-insulin levels and their disconnect from blood-glucose levels and what foods trigger a rise in blood insulin levels. In addition to eliminating processed sugars and eating more whole foods, the book recommends increasing our intake of fiber, vinegar, and fermented foods. These were things I was doing, but not seeing results.
For me, the kicker was the actual fasting.
Intermittent fasting means reducing your window of food intake to expose your body to very low insulin levels thereby allowing your body to re-sensitize itself to insulin.
There are various fasting intervals discussed in the book:
16 & 8 intervals: 16 hours of no food intake and 8 hours of eating.
Alternating days: 24 hours of no food intake, followed by 24 hours of regular eating.
36 hour intervals: 36 hours of fasting followed by 24 hours of regular eating.
Regular eating consists of three meals approximately 6 hours apart.
And that’s it! It is very important during your fasting to maintain adequate hydration levels. In fact, I am often more hydrated during those intervals because drinking distracts me from hunger.
The hunger. It’s probably what most people fear when starting an intermittent fasting eating pattern. But hunger is not scary, unless you have difficulty getting food. Am I hungry? Yep. But hunger passes.
I personally have found success with the alternating days pattern. But fellow LAFMBloggers have had success with 16 & 8! You find the pattern that works for you.
Here’s our LAFMBlogger Q&A session:
Did you have to work up to the 24 or just jumped in?
I started off with the 16 & 8 because I am sleeping for 12 out of those 16 fasting hours, but after a month of no change, I decided to try alternating days and I have been losing slowly but steadily ever since.
How do I not eat my own hand for breakfast when I am HANGRY?
I have never been a big breakfast person, so this hasn’t been an issue for me. That being said, there have been days when I chose to end a fast at 3pm because I felt I needed to. You make this eating pattern work for you. You can have unlimited water and unsweetened tea unsweetened coffee with milk, half and half, or cream, and bone broth on fasting days. My fasting day treat is a LaCroix.
Do you really eat whatever you want or are you restricted in the hours you eat?
So, according to the book, no you cannot eat whatever you want. You are changing your eating pattern while eating a healthy diet. Coming from such a strict diet plan where I often had “Mommy’s food” and then a meal for my family, I have less stress because I am cooking one meal and eating what everyone else is eating. I am always sure to have at least one non-starchy veggie and one starchy veggie with every meal #babysteps, so I load my plate with those and maybe just have a spoonful of mac and cheese or a few fries, if that is part of the menu for the evening. But I certainly am not eating pizza and cake every day and losing weight.
Can you workout on fasting days?
Absolutely. Just be sure to stay hydrated.
Do you feel like you have more energy?
I honestly do, until around hour 20. Then I am truly hungry and feel fatigued and brain-foggy. Now that I know what a real hunger cue is (and not just an envie because the kids are all napping and I can sit down for a minute), I feel empowered to decide if I can push through one more time until we eat supper, or break my fast early with a handful of nuts.
What do you do if a surprise dinner date happens when you’re fasting?
I go on the dinner date. This is about options and setting it up so that the pattern works for YOU! There have been times when we have visited family and I politely declined to eat because it was a fasting day, but no one seems to have had an issue with it. My pattern is that I would fast from after dinner up to dinner the following day, abstaining from breakfast and lunch. Most of my social eating situations center around dinnertime, so this works with my pattern.
Since starting this eating pattern, I’ve lost 23lbs in addition to those pesky two I played with for months. I am generally so distracted on fasting days that I pass through my hunger phases quickly and easily. I have also learned more about my unhealthy eating habits, like eating out of boredom, while using this pattern. I learned that I am an abstainer, not a moderator (I cannot just have one cookie and be satisfied; I want to eat them until they are gone), so maybe that is why this works so well for me. I am more conscious about what I am eating and choosing to fuel my body with and way more concerned with hydration than before. It helps me to keep my mind in control of my body. My most difficult fasting days ALWAYS follow over-indulgence … or PMS. Lordy PMS fasting days make me angry. I feel like intermittent fasting has given me control over my sugar / food addiction while eating the same foods as my family.
I was most concerned when starting this that my kids would wonder why I wasn’t eating all of my meals with them. I didn’t want to set them up for unhealthy expectations of how a grown woman should eat. They. haven’t. noticed. There are so many “food opportunities” that I choose to abstain from that additional ones aren’t noticed. The kids don’t expect me to snack with them or eat a popsicle with them after school, so not eating lunch isn’t a big deal. Also, I am basically waiting tables for them during meals, so they don’t notice even when I do sit down to eat because I will be up again in two minutes to refill a water cup or mop up spillage from said water cup or get more apples or another cheese stick. Our “social meal” is always supper, and so my pattern is centered around that meal.