I mentioned a few days ago that I had begun experimenting with intermittent fasting, and that I was really liking it.
Before I begin sharing my limited experience with you, allow me to make a disclaimer: This post will be about my personal experience with intermittent fasting. Please do your own research before embarking on fasting, and consider consulting your health care professional for advice.
If you are a woman, intermittent fasting (IF) may not be for you, especially if you are in your reproductive years and planning on conceiving, or are already pregnant. In addition, if you are chronically stressed, have sleeping issues or disordered eating, you may want to avoid IF. I realize that most of my readers are women so let me guide you to these two informative posts for women, regarding intermittent fasting.
That said, if I had read the articles I've recommended, I almost certainly would have passed on trying intermittent fasting. I'm glad I didn't, because so far I'm pleased with my results.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
- Eat low calories (500) on some days of the week
- Eat only one meal in 24 hours one to two days a week
- Fast 14-16 hours and eat only within an 8-10 hour window every day or some days of the week
Possible benefits of intermittent fasting
- Insulin levels: Helps promote insulin sensitivity – Optimal insulin sensitivity is crucial for your health, as insulin resistance or poor insulin sensitivity contributes to nearly all chronic diseases. Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
- Normalizes ghrelin levels, also known as your “hunger hormone”
- Increases the rate of HGH production, which has an important role in health, fitness, and slowing the aging process.
- Lowers triglyceride levels.
- Cellular repair: Helps suppress inflammation and fight free radical damage. The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
- Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
- May prevent Alzheimer's Disease.
- Bolsters brain power.
Two articles with information:
Why fasting bolsters brain power by Mark Mattson at TEDx John Hopkins University. Mark Mattson is the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University. Mattson is one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Which IF method did I choose?
I knew I would have great difficulty eating only 500 calories in one 24 hour period, or just once in 24 hours, so I nixed those options and opted for the 14-16 fast and eat within the 8-10 hour window.
Skip breakfast or dinner?
It is recommended to skip either breakfast or dinner. I knew skipping dinner was impossible since I cannot sleep if I'm hungry, so I decided to try skipping breakfast. It occurred to me that the as a young slender person, I had terrible issues with breakfast. For one thing, I had daily weekday stomach aches (I believe due mainly to being bullied in the 1st and 2nd grades), and it was very difficult for me to eat breakfast. I remember hating oatmeal, which my mother made often.
If memory serves, once I got out on my own in my 20s, I continued to eat a sparse breakfast for the next 20-something years until I became militant about eating breakfast while experimenting with Dr. Jack Kruse's Leptin Reset back in fall 2011. Dr. Kruse recommends eating 50 grams of protein for breakfast so I have done that almost every morning for these past few years. In the last year I have become less dedicated, but it did seem like eating that amount of protein would allow me to wait five hours for lunch.
While contemplating intermittent fasting, I thought could it be possible that skipping breakfast as a young person had something to do with my natural slenderness? Maybe my body just doesn't like breakfast? We are all different, and it takes experimentation to see what works for each one of us.
Reasons to avoid IF?
As I mentioned in a recent post, I've been having some disordered eating issues. One of the articles I read said if you are chronically stressed, have sleeping issues or disordered eating, to avoid IF.
Well, I experience all of those as far as I am concerned. My life is stressful, my job is stressful. The disordered eating had reared its ugly head and I had gotten to the point where I was feeling awful for almost anything I ate. A constant conversation was going on in my head regarding the fact that I “shouldn't” be eating this particular food, or I was eating too much of it. My relationship with food has really deteriorated in the last year or so. I'm glad I didn't read the article before beginning as it may have deterred me from trying.
I want to do anything I attempt perfectly from the second I set my mind to it. I have had to teach myself to be patient, and continue to remind myself that I must give myself a chance to work things through and figure out how it will work for me.
Don't eat three hours before bedtime
So, I decided to try fasting for 16 hours a day. But it nagged at me that one of the firm rules states we should not eat for three hours before going to sleep.
Dr. Jack Kruse also had a rule with the Leptin Reset that we could not eat past 7pm or just go to sleep without eating. (I cannot sleep if I'm hungry. I cannot function if I'm sleep deprived. I fall apart at the seams trying to manage my stressful life).
So, I decided to ignore that little rule, even though while reading Dr. Mercola's site, in reading about IF, the article went into some detail about how one is harming one's mitochondria when they eat too close to bedtime. Which threw me for a loop for a few days. Basically the way my life is right now, I eat right before I go to bed. The schedule I'm on allows me to have a 2-3 daily commute. If I were to try to get to get to work earlier, due to rush hour traffic that time would expand into 3-4+ hours. The other option is getting up at 4am to get to work by 6am and I can't get up that early any more. I just can't tolerate it.
Jumping in feet first
So… even though I had a few strikes against me, I decided to stop worrying about all the little details and just jump in feet first. I told my husband I was going to start skipping breakfast, because he would often make me my requisite 8 ounces of meat in the morning.
I hate to admit it, but I was keen on testing this method of eating to see if I could lose weight or at least stop the weight gain.
I've been intermittent fasting for two weeks. As I said, I started out to fast 16 hours a day, and eat with an 8 hour time period, but an article I read said that women sometimes benefit from a shorter fasting period of 14 hours. Some days I can wait 16 hours, and eat only during an 8 hour window, while other days I only wait 14 and eat within a 10 hour window.
Here is what I like about IF so far
- I am just not hungry in the morning. The first few days of skipping breakfast I felt a little bit on edge because I was worried that it was going to be an issue, and I did notice that I was slightly short tempered and agitated easier than usual. But just for the first few days. My body adapted quickly to the new routine.
- I can actually do this! I can put off eating until noon or 2 or 3pm for that matter, without much difficulty. The fact that I can actually go for 16 hours without eating makes me happy, because I remember a time not too long ago when I had to carry a food bag with me since I couldn't go more than 3 hours without eating.
- I have regained at least 30 minutes each morning that was previously devoted to cooking and eating. I really like being able to get out of bed, jump in the shower and leave for work within 1/2 an hour.
- Less kitchen cleanup.
- Previously I ate ~8 ounces meat every morning, so I'm eating 3.5 pounds less meat every week, which means a reduction in grocery costs.
- My relationship with food has improved. I am not badgering myself about every morsel I put into my mouth. This is huge.
- I like to eat large meals and eating only two meals a day makes this possible (still working out what is enough, but not too much).
- No calorie counting or portion control. Yes!
- My weight is fluctuating slightly but hasn't gone over 195 pounds, which is where I started. I'd rather stay at 195 than keep on getting heavier. I am not happy that I'm so close to 200.
- I am sleeping really good, 8-9 hours a night.
- No night waking to urinate!
That last one is really amazing to me. I have long been disappointed by the fact that I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, to urinate. I have never really been able to retain why this is an issue, but when I was more closely following the Stop the Thyroid Madness groups, it was a big topic. In a quick Google it seems one of the big reasons is diabetes/high blood sugar issues.
I felt powerless to stop the night time urinating/waking so tried not to worry about it, yet still felt some annoyance/concern every night when I woke up. Now I wake up at 5:30 or 6:30 and I'm so surprised that I slept for that many hours!
I have also been sleeping consistently for more hours each night than I have in years. I have an app on my phone called SleepBot and it tracks my sleep. In the settings I indicated my goal is 8 hours sleep and I am often running a sleep deficit. But since starting IF, I am sleeping so well that I am right on target, and even have had a surplus of sleep (as opposed to a deficit) some days.
My weight has been down by three pounds, but so far is still going back up to 195. I feel part of the reason is that I do eat too much food. But another reason I feel is to blame is that I am still eating foods which are most likely allergens for me. I never eat gluten, and try to sugar and dairy, but have given myself permission to have corn. I am very curious what will happen if I cut out those foods which are possibly allergens for me. I suspect I will eat less and will lose weight.
In the meantime, I feel it is benefiting me, and I am going to continue experimenting.