With the food-centered holiday season behind us and the new year just starting this may be a good time to educate yourself on intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a general term referring to diets that cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
Fasting is not a new concept and the idea of dietary restriction has typically had a religious association. Closer scrutiny of history records reveals fasting for therapeutic reasons or the application of fasting for health reasons.
The modern idea (last hundred years or so) of dietary restriction has undergone close experimental and scientific scrutiny which was probably initiated by the famous physiologist, Dr. Francis Gano Benedict, in his book, The Study of Prolonged Fasting. More recently, in the documentary, Eat, Fast, and Live Longer, British author and journalist Dr. Michael Mosley documents his journey with fasting in an attempt to see if it might improve his health (he was borderline diabetic, his cholesterol was high, and his doctor wanted to treat with medication).
Fasting, as it turns out, has long-term health benefits most are already seeking; reduced cancer risk, cardiovascular health and longevity. What Dr. Mosley discovered was what appears to be the driving force behind most disease is we eat too frequently! In other words, when our bodies are in constant “feast mode”, we forgo much of our natural “repair and rejuvenate” programming.
Intermittent fasting, however, is not about severe calorie restriction rather promoting regular eating on some days and dramatically cutting calories on others. Newer research shows that intermittent fasting has the same benefits of more severe fasting practices.
So how do you start an intermittent fasting program? Some people naturally eat this way; i.e., my brother has never been a breakfast eater and regularly has his first meal at lunch, usually 1pm, and will be done eating by 9pm. But for most of us, it takes a little practice, discipline and seeing if this dietary restriction can even fit into your lifestyle.
I am a morning exerciser and usually need some calories to get me through an intense workout or endurance run so I practice intermittent fasting on the weekends or days when my workouts are less intense. Eating within an 8 hour window is manageable for me on these days, usually having my first meal around noon and having my last meal before 8pm. If a weekend evening get together is coming up, I may need to stretch my first meal out to 1pm if I know I may be nibbling away until 9pm or so. For me that is the beauty of this version of fasting, it is so flexible and it’s not all or nothing.
While I could keep writing on different ways to start intermittent fasting, I defer to Dr. Mercola’s article on different types of intermittent fasting as well as his own personal experience, cautions for some individuals, and other great info on the dietary plan.
He refers to Mark Sisson, the paleo/primal guru who’s website The Daily Apple is one of my favs on all things nutrition, health and fitness. Sisson is just as much an advocate as Mercola on calorie restriction for good health, weight loss and/or maintenance. He wrote a great six part series on fasting and here is Part 1-Weight Loss. If you scroll to the bottom of the article you’ll have easy access to the rest of the series.
Now that you are armed with a boatload of information/plans for intermittent fasting and faced with a new year, new visions and plans for yourself, add in intermittent fasting and you just might find it may become your new lifestyle. If anything, you’ll be exploring a new way food can impact your life vitality which is always a good thing.