It seems to be a trend these days. Everyone talks about intermittent fasting. And yet, this eating pattern has been around for a very long time! Most naturopaths recommend it to their patients.
In this article, I would like to share with you my own experiences with intermittent fasting. I will combine these experiences, with the facts that have been published in naturopath courses (my father is now a certified naturopath, which is quite handy when you need advice) and medical articles.
Let’s start first by explaining what intermittent fasting is exactly.
There are several methods to do intermittent fasting: you can either fast for 2 or 3 complete days a week, or use the 16:8 method, which is my favourite method. Some people, like my father, like to fast for a whole week to detox their whole body.
Personally, I’m having a very hard time fasting. I’m often hungry and I get cranky and light-headed when I go too long without food. I have an active lifestyle with a lot of physical labour with the horses, so I need food regularly to supply me with energy. So I’m not the type to fast for 3 days in a row!
On the other hand, intermittent fasting works really well for me, and also for everyone who can benefit from its effect, but doesn’t want to go too long without food.
My personal favourite is the 16:8 method, which consists of fasting for 16 hours followed by a period of 8h in which you can eat.
This method is quite easy to apply, as the 16 hours of fasting include your 8h of sleep. So you actually only have to fast for about 4h after your evening meal and 4h the next morning. Between lunch time and supper, you can eat normally, although I advise you to choose healthy whole foods consisting mostly of vegetables, fruit, nuts and low carb meals (replace pasta by rice, for example).
But why would I advise all of you to try out intermittent fasting?
Definitely not because it’s a trend, but because it is so beneficial to our bodies! Even if you are a healthy person, with healthy eating habits, our bodies still amass a great deal of toxins. Our liver has a lot to deal with and we have to digest many things on a daily basis. I’m not only talking about heavy foods, processed foods or sugars, but also emotions, feelings, discussions, events that we need to digest. These also impact our digestive system!
Like every year, the winter period for me and my family is a period of enjoying long dinners next to the fireplace. When it’s rainy or stormy, we like to watch a movie together and give us a sweet treat. The period of the holidays is usually a period in which we eat a bit too much of everything.
When spring arrives, I usually feel a mixture of positive energy, action and also fatigue. I want to do lots of things, but my body might sometimes feel heavy, cluttered or I might experience joint pains. That’s the signal to start fasting!! My body is showing me that it has had to process too much sugar and carbs and that it needs a spring clean!
My plan of action
Whenever I am in for some intermittent fasting, I go the extra mile: that means little to no sugars (definitely no refined sugars!) and less carbs as well.
Since we have busy lives – both my partner and I full time workers and independent + kids with many hobbies and interests – we usually have dinner between 7 and 7.30PM. This is not very early, so if you fear you’re going to be hungry in the morning, I would advise you to eat supper earlier, at around 6PM.
Once you’ve had your supper, you add up 16h. For me that would be 8PM + 16h = noon the following day (12). Then, between 12 and 8PM I eat normally, but I favour healthy food that’s really nutritious.
This week, for example, I had a pasta with lots of vegetables on Monday as lunch and a soup in the evening. Tuesday I started eating earlier, but my breakfast was just a sugar-free organic protein shake. Lunch consisted of some gluten-free crackers and different kinds of hummus. Supper was a light meal as well with fruits and nuts and some cheese (dairy products are not very healthy and not recommended during fasting, but with two young kids, I have to make compromises ! 🙂 After 3 days of only vegetables they wanted their cheese platter, haha)
Then another day of intermittent fasting. Light, healthy lunch, followed by Indian curry of fennel and corn with rice in the evening. Depending on my mood, I either apply the intermittent fasting for the whole week, or I alternate every other day. One day fasting, one day breakfast, one day fasting, etc.
Let’s talk about the benefits of intermittent fasting.
First of all, I would like to say it’s about the energy you have. Even after only 1 day of intermittent fasting, my body feels more alive again. I have more energy, more focus, and there’s less clutter in my mind.
Although you might think that not eating might leave you weak, it’s actually the opposite! The bowels and liver seem so happy to have a break that every part of your body seems to function better. It’s the detox part of the fasting. You finally give your digestive system and all the other related bodily functions a well deserved rest.
Another, non negligible fact is the bowel movement. The fasting gives your bowel and intestines more time to process what you’ve put into your body. This gives improved stools and bowel movement. If you drink enough water, of course! Because water is very important! Your intestines need fluids to operate and drinking lots of fresh water while fasting, has a very cleansing effect.
I also noticed that when my body gets “clogged” (because I ingested too much stuff that’s not good for me, such as gluten, sugar and processed foods), I get backaches and sometimes headaches. I feel tired and 10 years older than I actually am. My brain is all foggy and I feel like taking a nap after lunch. That’s actually something I hear a lot of people complaining about. Especially the part where you feel heavy and tired after lunch with very heavy eyelids. Well, guess what? Intermittent fasting gets rid of of all those symptoms as well!
So personally, I feel a lot more energised after intermittent fasting. I feel fit again and have more a ton of energy. My body feels really good and healthy. My mind is sharp and focused. My belly is flat (instead of bloated), my stools are normal and consistent. And I feel happy, with better control over my emotions or stress levels. Nothing can bring me down! 🙂
But there’s more!
When you fast, insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Your cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express (From Healthline).
Another advantage is that your body will start consuming your fat (that it would otherwise just stock!) So you may lose some weight and get rid of that belly fat.
I’ve noticed that for me and a lot of other people the fasting also redues insulin resistance. In my family there is diabetes type 2, so I have to watch out for that. I’ve had periods in my life where I showed symptoms of type 2 diabetes. With intermittent fasting: GONE!
Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. This will have benefits against aging and the development of numerous diseases.
Other important benefits of intermittent fasting are the effects on the heart health. It will have a positive effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
And the list goes on! That’s why more and more naturopaths and nutritionists advise intermittent fasting. It’s less hard than long-term fasting and has so much positive effects!
The difficult moments and tips to overcome those
Now some tips to help you get started and overcome the difficult moments…
Usually, when we had supper and everything is cleaned up, there’s sometimes this moment where you feel you could enjoy a little snack or dessert to finish off the evening pleasantly. This is normal. Your body is probably addicted to sugar and that’s about the time that your brain will demand its drug.
A very easy way to overcome that, is by setting some herbal tea. Favour herbal tea to make sure you don’t affect the quality of your sleep. (Green tea is very healthy but will keep you awake). Pick a tea of which you really like the scents. Drink it mindfully and enjoy all the flavours. After two cups, your craving should have subsided. If not, then go to bed and sleep it off!
The next morning, it’s sometimes hard not to have a good breakfast before starting your day. Especially if you see your kids eating their cereals or yoghurt! The trick here, is to treat yourself to either green tea (if you need a coffee effect of an energy boost), fresh apple juice (preferably from local farm. Apple juice is the only juice that is ok during fasting and that has a detox effect on the liver), which will give you a “full” sensation of drink lots of water.
Once you are busy, you tend to forget that you were hungry. It’s just the first days that are hardest. After 2-3 days, you feel so alive that it’s easy-peasy to stick to you fasting hours. If you get hungry before the fasting period is over, give yourself small tasks. Tell yourself “I want to finish this task first and then I get to eat something”. If it’s not time yet, give yourself another task, and so on. Phone calls or meetings make time pass by quickly as well. Before you know it’s passed lunch time, and you can now eat.
Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m an IKIGAI Samurai, so I’m very disciplined and I really listen to what my body is asking me. But I wasn’t always like that. I was usually going from one extreme way into another (for example from regular comfort food to strictly vegan and no sugars) and that’s almost wanting to NOT succeed. Because it’s too extreme. What works best, is small steps. And take it one step further the next time.
So choose what your priority is. I would advise to start with intermittent fasting and apply my tips. See how you feel. Experience it. Draw your own conclusions. And then the next month, you can combine the fasting with limiting your sugar intake, and so on.
Let me know how it works out for you. And if you have tips of your own, please do share them in the comments. This way we all help each other get the best out of fasting and out of life!
Respect your body, respect yourself, lead by example and feel great! 🙂