Intermittent fasting

Okay, here I go with another of these wacky experiments that I periodically try! This one is intermittent fasting. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about it since listening a podcast that introduced me to the idea and here’s the scoop: your body has a lot of real estate to try to maintain and digesting food uses up a large portion of its resources. Taking some time off from eating gives your body the chance to catch up with the other work it needs to do without interruption from food.

There are a whole host of benefits to intermittent fasting. They include:

  • Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Inducing cellular repair processes
  • Improving metabolic features that are good for brain health, prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Helping you lose weight and belly fat
  • Reducing insulin resistance, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing risk factors for heart health
  • Extending your lifespan

(I riffed off of this Authority Nutrition link to come up with that list. There’s some great evidence based information on that page.)

So, what is intermittent fasting?

Put quite simply, it’s the act of not eating for a specified amount of time, usually 16-24 hours. Yuri Elkaim is the person who introduced me to intermittent fasting (in a podcast, not actually in person) and I’m going to reference him for the information on the three different ways to approach it.

They are:

  1. Alternate day intermittent fasting – 24 hours of fasting every second day
  2. 16/8 fasting – 16 hours fasting, 8 hours of eating every day
  3. The 1-day fast – 24 hours fasting one day a week

While fasting, it’s recommended that you drink only water and herbal tea. While not fasting, there are no restrictions outside of your normal diet.

Read through these 19+ Q&As about intermittent fasting. It’s the best online reference tool that I have found.

my fasting experience

I’ve fasted once before, as part of a cleanse I did years ago, but I put intermittent fasting on my list of things to do this month basically just because I was really curious about its effects. After doing my research, I opted for the 1-day fast to start with and we’ll see how it goes from there. I thought that Tuesday would be a good day to fast since it’s into the work week, but not close enough to the beginning or end to be too disruptive and my dinner date plans generally happen between Wednesday and Saturday. I was really conscious of making sure that I did it on a day when I would almost always be working since I knew that a hectic day in the office would be good distraction from and hunger pangs and/or mental anguish I might feel.

I followed Yuri Elkaim’s tip of starting after dinner on Monday night and continuing through until 24 hours later. It’s a good trick because by the time you wake up the next morning, you’ve already survived a good chunk of your food-free time.

Here is how my fast went…

8pm – About an hour after we finish dinner, I eat my last little snack before the fasting begins. Feeling fine.

10pm – Bedtime. Two hours in. All good.

7am – Wake up and remind myself that I am fasting today. I was worried about this because I thought I might forget and I’ll admit that I did for a few minutes. Then I realized that I had already knocked out eleven hours. Yay me!

8am – Halfway there. Keeping the positive vibes and the water bottles filled.

10am – I’m drinking a lot of water and thinking about how they say that people mistake thirst for hunger so much of the time.

11am – Start to feel a few hunger pangs, substitute tea for water – notice that I am feeling very distracted – bounce between tasks without ever following through completely.

Noon – Eight hours to go and going strong! A little chilly, but strong nonetheless.

2pm – I have a chat with a coworker about my fast. He forgives me when I actually pick up and smell his Bounty bar. (Can you blame me? I mean when was the last time you even saw a Bounty bar?!?!)

3pm – This is probably the lowest point of the day. It’s the first and only time I think seriously about being without any food. I drink another mug full of water and I realize that even though I’m nineteen hours without food, my craving was more related to habit than it was actually related to hunger.

4pm – I text Kevin to talk about what I’m going to eat tonight. I fantasize about it a little and decide to hit up my favourite restaurant for some takeout.

5pm – I decide to stick around the office a little longer for some added distraction then hit the streets and take the long way around to pick up the order that Kevin called in.

7pm – I grab my laptop, sit down on the couch and review the day. It really wasn’t bad at all.

things i learned

  • Giving myself time to mentally prepare myself was definitely a good idea
  • Aside from some minor discomforts (unable to concentrate, chills) it wasn’t too tough at all
  • I didn’t notice any changes in my mood (no hangry outbursts)
  • Water and tea were enough to rid me of any feelings of hunger
  • Fasting on a work day was a good call – I can tell that it would have been a lot tougher if I’d been at home
  • It felt good to have something healthy and delicious to look forward to eating
  • I probably should have started earlier – I could have forgone my post-dinner snack last night so that I could eat tonight’s dinner earlier

But now, it’s almost 8pm and I’m getting ready to dive into this bad boy. My first intermittent fast is coming to a close.

Note: this is the kale caesar salad from Wild Rice. It’s literally the best salad that I have ever had. (I don’t even really like salad, but I’d take this over many other non-salad meals.)

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? Would you?

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