About two months ago, I started a new way of eating, called "Intermittent Fasting".
I had first heard about it years ago from this crazy Crossfit girl who seemed extreme in everything she did. It didn't seem like something I could actually do. Fast forward a few years and I am realizing that not only can I do it without much trouble, I really like the way it makes me feel.
There is a lot of research out there that shows that reducing the amount of food we eat has a lot of health benefits including, of course, weight loss, but even more importantly, mental health, like depression, mental clarity. Scientists studying fasting on lab animals and finding that there are great health benefits---specifically, it helps to deplete the glycogen stores in the liver. With the typical diet of three meals a day, plus snacks, the glycogen stores in our liver are never depleted (unless we are athletes doing vigorous exercise). In the video, I posted below, the researchers indicate that the idea of intermittent fasting may really help with brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's because the ketones released are quite good for your brain and help your neurons work more effectively.
All of this is fascinating stuff to me!
There are different ways to go about IF--some people do a 5:2 approach where they eat very minimal calories for two days (less than 500 calories) and then eat regularly the rest of the week. Others do a complete fast (24 hours or more) every few days.For me, I have just shortened my eating window. Before my "normal" pattern of eating was breakfast at 7:00, dinner around 9:00 pm and lunch and snacks in between, for a total eating window of 14 hours per day.
With IF, I have basically switched to an eating window of 8 hours per day and fasting for 16 hours each day.
I begin eating each morning at 11:00 am and stop eating between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm each evening. The trickiest part of this for me has been ensuring that I stop eating at 7:00 pm each day. It hasn't been difficult because of hunger but more because of the societal pressures and just fitting everything into my day.
- I usually work out at 6:30 three times per week and so I have to really plan well to ensure that I eat dinner around 4:00 on those days. This means dinner needs to be done by 4:00 each day and to do that takes lots of planning. After my workout, I am not normally hungry anyway, but eat something small like a banana with almond butter to sustain me through the night.
- I also really like the whole family sitting down to dinner each night and because of the craziness of the kids activities, this just isn't possible before 7:00. To get around this, I still sit down with the family for dinner but instead of eating with them, I sip my tea and just enjoy their company. They understand that I feel better if I don't eat late in the evening and they support me.
After a few days of IF, I realized I was sleeping better and seemed less grumpy each day. I was able to wake up and get out of bed without the normal feeling of depression and sadness that I would feel each morning. I cannot say definitely that IF has been the cause of this mental improvement but I think they are tied together.
I haven't noticed "weight loss" but I do feel my body adjusting. I feel my clothes are fitting a bit looser and my belly seems to be shrinking. This seems to be a very typical pattern from others I have talked to who do IF.
Interested in learning more? Here are some great resources:
Marks Daily Apple (great website with lots of information on Paleo and IF)
For a good, scientific view of why intermittent fasting works check out the following TED talk: