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Growing up in southern California, for me, fasting always had a bad connotation. The term was thrown around to mask starvation and crash diets and it was always centered around rapid weight loss.
It wasn’t until I heard about intermittent fasting from a friend who celebrates Ramadan that I realized fasting can not only be healthy, but often times it comes with rich cultural tradition and is based in practices celebrated for centuries.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting just means altering your eating pattern to cycle between periods of eating and periods of fasting. There are tons of different ways to partake in intermittent fasting and many different eating/fasting patterns you can experiment to see what works best for your body and daily schedule.
Aside from the Muslim practice of Ramadan, religions and cultures all over the world have made fasting a ceremonious tradition because of its health benefits. Almost every religion has a form of fasting in their roots, whether or not it is practiced today.
Benefits of Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has also become popularized with the introduction of new diets like Keto and Paleo. The theory here, is that if we examine our genealogical roots and think back to the paleolithic era the human diet was based on hunting.
Our ancestors would go long periods of time with no food or very minimal food and then feast when they were able to take down a large animal in a hunt. It is believed that our bodies adapted to this lifestyle of feast or famine and learned to store fat accordingly and use the fat as energy during fasting periods.
Recently, there have been studies showing the many benefits of intermittent fasting.
Insulin levels in blood drop
This means your body is in a better state to start burning body fat. Intermittent fasting also reduced your body’s insulin resistance which lowers blood sugar levels, lowering your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Blood levels of human growth hormone (HGH) increase
This hormone facilitates fat-burning and muscle gain, so a natural increase is always welcomed.
Cells carry out important maintenance
Periods of fasting induce the cell repair process and are able to remove waste from the cell.
Gene changes occur
Through gene expression several important changes in genes and molecules related to longevity and disease protection are carried out.
Intermittent Fasting is not for everyone
Before we jump into the ins and outs of intermittent fasting I want to take a minute to discuss the relationship between intermittent fasting and eating disorders.
I’ve watched people who are close to me who have battled eating disorders try intermittent fasting and it is a very triggering experience for them. If you have a history of eating disorders you should not intermittent fast.
If you choose to try out intermittent fasting here are some safe methods for doing so. Please be sure to consult with a medical professional before taking on a fast.
1. The Double Your Time Method: Fast for 16 hours and eat for 8
Out of the intermittent fasting methods I’ve tried this is by far my favorite and, in my opinion, the most manageable. When you break down the numbers in 16 and 8 it seems like a long time to be fast daily, but the beauty of it is you’re asleep for most of it.
Break it down:
You wake up 8 am and give yourself an 8-10 hour window to eat. That means shutting down the kitchen somewhere between 4-6 pm. Normally, I’m able to fit 2-3 meals into that time frame. It also helps me be conscious of late night snacking.
When I finish my meals early, around 5 pm, I wake up feeling lighter (not starving!) and ready to take on the day.
2. The Refresher: A 24-hour fast once or twice a week
I enjoy this method of intermittent fasting after I feel like my diet and health has been derailed and I need to get back on track. I use the 24-hour fast as a refresher to kick start my healthy eating mentality.
During the 24-hour fast I drink lemon water to curb my appetite and keep me hydrated and less hangry throughout the day.
3. The Warrior Diet: Fast during the day and eat a large meal at night
I liked this form of fasting least, mostly because I don’t like to go to bed feeling full. But I figured I would try it since it was became so popular after its introduction by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler.
In this method you lightly snack of raw vegetables and fruit throughout the day and then eat one large meal within a 4-hour window in the evening. The meals are structured very similarly to the paleo diet, emphasizing unprocessed foods.
I recommend trying each method and deciding which, if any, feels right for your body and fits into your daily routine.