A couple of months ago, I read an article in a newsletter written by an acquaintance about her five-day “fasting” experience. For health reasons, she drank only water for five days. I was both shocked by this news (how could any live for five days without food?!) and curious (she said she felt better and wants to try for seven days next time.) I tucked this knowledge away in my back pocket, with the intent of learning more.
Then a few weeks after that, I listened to an interview by D’vorah Lansky, bestselling author, who interviewed Gin Stephens who wrote the bestseller, “Delay, Don’t Deny.” D’vorah had adopted the “intermittent fasting” lifestyle and Gin was talking about this way of living and her book sales. This interview was so powerful, I hung on to every word Gin said about how the time-restricted feeding pattern freed her from years of dieting. She lost 80 pounds and has kept it off.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is when you choose to not eat anything for at least 12 hours and for as long as 24 hours. It can be done for religious or health reasons.
I purchased her book (ebook for Kindle) and read it in one day. I loved everything about this new way of eating (WOE) and vowed to myself that I would start on December 26, 2018. I was going to start by not eating after supper and skip breakfast, and only consume water and black tea during my 16-hour fast.
It was much easier than I thought! I felt in control. My hunger pains were short-lived and I soon realized that I was not only eating too much but TOO FREQUENTLY. We are a “well fed” society, and the more I learn about this, the more I understand why there is so much obesity and other related health problems (central abdomen obesity, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, and high blood sugar). Metabolic syndrome –– which includes three of the five previously-mentioned conditions –– causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (heart problems) and type 2 diabetes. Increasing age also causes us to have an increased risk in these areas. I realized in order to reduce my caloric intake, instead of “dieting,” I needed to give myself a “window” of time where it was okay to eat. I am learning how to delay my meals, instead of denying them.
As I write this I am on Day 12 of my new WOE. There is a lot of flexibility with intermittent fasting. For example, my usual pattern is 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour window of feasting or eating. This is a good place for most people to start. I “close my window” at 8pm, and I don’t eat anything until noon the next day. This gives my body a good 16-hour break from eating. I can drink all the water or black tea (or coffee if I wanted) during the fast. I found I was closing my window earlier, so some of my days were 17 hours of fasting (or more).
Some people choose this 16:8, others choose 18:6 or 20:4 – or some other variation. There are also other patterns, and “extended fasting” which is what the lady did who I mentioned at the beginning of this article. (I’ve also read any fast over 72 hours is dangerous, so be mindful of that.)
For special occasions, where I know I will want to eat or drink outside of my regular window, I can switch up the fasting time. For example, I went for a 21.5-hour fast before new year’s eve so I could have champagne and snacks during the evening. This weekend, I knew I would be having two different family meals, so I did a 24-hour fast. This is also called “alternate day fasting” (ADF) which is another pattern of eating. There is also one-meal-a-day (OMAD) in which the eating window is very short, which could be anywhere between 2-4 hours. Each person finds their own “sweet spot” and you learn how to listen to your body. The Mediterranean diet is what I prefer, as it has the most research behind it for health and longevity. Oh, and my sugar addiction is being curbed as the fasts force me to abstain.
Many people find a lot of benefits associated with intermittent fasting (IF). Improved health and weight loss are the two biggest reasons why people try it. I belong to a few groups on Facebook, and the success stories and non-scale victories (NSV) are very inspiring and encouraging.
IF isn’t for everyone, however, and there isn’t a lot of research on it as it is quite new. I’ve read Gin Stephens’ books and I am also learning from Dr. Jason Fung and will be reading his books, too. Gin says IF is not for pregnant women or children. For those who have pre-existing medical conditions, they should talk to their doctor. In fact, I’ve heard of a few people now who say their doctor recommended IF for their health! It’s been known to reverse type 2 diabetes. If you are considering trying it, please speak to your doctor first.
I am enjoying this new WOE and I am already feeling less bloated and I am sleeping better. I lost 30 pounds a couple of years ago going through my cancer ordeal, and I put most of it back on. The way I lost it was not in a good way. This time I want to lose it in a way that is intentional and will benefit my well-being. I want to reap the benefits of a healthier body that is well fed –– not frequently fed. I also have my own group on Facebook for women who are 40 and better. If you’d like to join us, please drop me a line.
Age well, my friend.
Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW