Everything you need to know about intermittent fasting before deciding if it’s right for you! The basics of intermittent fasting including the what and why behind this popular diet trend.
I am NOT a proponent of the notion that there is one superior diet or way of eating. Everybody and every BODY is so different. So what works for one person could be detrimental to another person’s health.
However, I do like exploring different styles of eating that become popular in society and enjoy doing research on topics that are up and coming in the healthy living world. So, today we’re talking intermittent fasting. It’s been around and popular for a while now…and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Some people see it as a controversial or extreme way of eating…and maybe that’s true. But interesting and highly debated nonetheless.
Let’s get into it…
What is intermittent fasting?
The basic definition of intermittent fasting is that it’s a cyclical eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and eating. It’s not technically about WHICH foods you consume during your chosen ‘eating window’, but rather WHEN you choose to eat them. So it’s not a conventional or typical “diet”. I would call it more of a new “eating pattern” that is gaining popularity in the health and fitness community. Based on people I’ve asked and had discussions with about the topic, common intermittent fasting practices vary from daily 16 hour fasts to 24 hour fasts for one to two days a week. It all depends on the person and their lifestyle overall.
Why do people choose to do it?
From what I’ve read and researched, it seems to be completely individual based on people’s lifestyles! Some people use it to lose weight, for some it just works with their schedule, and for others they like the health promoting benefits that come with it.
If done properly, intermittent fasting can help teach your body to use the food it consumes more efficiently and effectively. Your body can learn to burn fat as fuel when you deprive it of new calories to constantly pull from (basically if you eat ‘normally’…as in all day long or every few hours).
Here are some additional benefits that have been recorded…
- reduces insulin resistance and can decrease your risk for Type 2 Diabetes
- reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
- induces cellular repair processes more quickly
- has beneficial effects on metabolism
- increases growth of nerve cells in the brain
- increases fat burning and cell turn over
- improved appetite and blood sugar control
- can improve effectiveness of chemotherapy
- offers protection against neurotoxins
What are people saying about it?
I reached out to my community and asked what other people’s experiences with this dietary lifestyle are. Here’s what they said…
For me, waiting to eat breakfast until 11-12 works best for my schedule. It lets me work out, do chores and even go to my morning college classes without having to worry about food until later. I also enjoy eating fewer, bigger meals instead of snacking throughout the day, and doing fasted workouts in the morning seems to work best with my body. I don’t think intermittent fasting is the way everyone should eat, and I don’t follow the traditional intermittent fasting “rules” to a T. However, it works for me and I think that’s what is most important – finding the diet that works for you and your lifestyle. | Casey the College Celiac
I do it for about 13 hours…not as extreme as others, but it works for me. I usually start after dinner till the morning! So if I’m done eating dinner at 7:15, I will wait until 8:15 the next day to eat breakfast. Sometimes longer, depending on how I feel. It helps me stop snacking after dinner and the biggest benefit I have seen is I don’t get up to pee in the middle of the night anymore! I was suggested it try it from someone so I figured why not. | Kelly from Eat the Gains
I’m actually doing it for the first time these past few weeks. I’m not eating after 8 pm till 12 pm. I only did a little research on it. I’m doing it more as a way to set aside time to pray (my church is doing a 21 Day Fast). So far it’s going well but I have noticed that doing my late morning afternoon workout I don’t have as much energy | Mikki from The Not So Perfect Housewife
I typically fast 16 hours and eat between 11 am-12 pm to 7-8 pm, but I am typically less strict with it on the weekends. I feel less bloated throughout the day, and still eat a normal day’s worth of calories. It’s satisfying to me to eat a lot of food in a shorter period of time. I have tried a 24 hour fast once, where I stopped eating at 2 pm on Sunday and didn’t eat again until 2 pm on Monday. It wasn’t as hard as it seemed! I’d like to start incorporating this every 1-2 weeks. | Alysia from Slim SanityWhen I did intermittent fasting earlier this year, I started eating at 12 and stopped at 8! So I guess I had a big window of eating? I’m sure others are much more extreme. I did it to burn fat fuels more for running, but then I needed to learn how to train my stomach how to run and exercise with food in it and that’s why I stopped. I now like eating before I workout because it gives me a mental boost that I have energy to use. | PJSo I’m weird when it comes to intermittent fasting. Whereas most people skip breakfast and have a late dinner, I have to get up really early. So I eat my first meal around 8 then have my last meal between 4 and 5. 6 at the latest. My normal window is 8-4 or 8-5 and 8-6 for social situations. I didn’t really decide to start, I just naturally was hungry at those times because I always had early morning practice/exercise sessions. Then I’m hungry for my last big meal by 4 or 5 and I go to bed early.After doing this for a while, I read the research and that made me stick with it, and now my husband does it with me. So we are 8-10 hours of eating and 14-16 hours fasting.Basically, exercise/scheduling of hunger made me start and reading research made me stick with it even if I don’t have an early morning exercise session. | Kelly
So now the question on everyone’s mind…
Do I myself practice intermittent fasting?
The answer is: Yes. While I don’t do dietary labels, Intermittent Fasting is something I’ve practiced for 3+ years now. As I’ve said in the past, my diet has no label (i.e. why I prefer “plant-based” to “vegan”) and that’s because it’s always changing and evolving as I change and evolve as a person. I also don’t believe in restrictions. I eat a plant-based, whole food diet, but I don’t call myself vegan (except out of convenience to strangers sometimes to quickly communicate how I generally eat) and don’t rigidly follow intermittent fasting. I focus on eating whole foods as often as possible and adjust my eating schedule depending on hunger and what my daily routine entails (example: vacation vs. a regular work day).
Why did I start Intermittent Fasting?
Well the truth is…I didn’t consciously choose to start IF. It kind of just happened over the years. I’ve never been a huge breakfast person (love breakfast foods, just not hungry in the morning), so waiting until I am actually hungry (usually in the afternoon) just frees me from having to cook/think about/make food for the first half of my day. This allows me to wake up, workout, and get tons of work/productive things done, all before having to even think about food! My energy levels are still high and I feel great physically (I am actually the healthiest, strongest, and fittest I’ve ever been). So it’s just something that has naturally made its way into my daily life.
Like a few of the ladies mentioned above with their own intermittent fasting practices, mine are a-typical too. A few characteristics of my day of intermittent fasting…
- Just because I don’t eat first thing doesn’t mean I don’t DRINK. I stay WELL hydrated all day with lots of different beverages no matter when I start consuming food.
- I am not on a rigid schedule. I don’t break my fast at the same time everyday and never end at the same time either (it’s different day by day depending on how I am feeling mentally and physically). Same goes for vacation or if someone invites me out to breakfast! There are no strict rules here and I go with the flow as needed.
- I still consume a proper days worth of calories in my “eating window”. Despite eating for less amount of time during the, I am still consuming the same amount of calories I need to fuel my body and my activity, so there’s no lack of nutrition or restriction.
This is not something I’ve done for weight loss, to be trendy, or because I think it’s a cure-all for health ailments. Like I said, I sort of just fell into it unexpectedly and have continued with it because it currently works for my lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I’ll do it forever or that my eating pattern won’t continue to change. I am flexible and open to new ideas as they come about.
As you can tell, so far this way of eating is really working for me. With that said, this post is NO WAY intended as medical advice or to influence you to start intermittent fasting in your own life. I only wrote this to share my own experience and shed some light on the trend in the healthy living world that you may or may not have heard of already. That’s it.
So please take this post as just a personal statement on my thoughts of intermittent fasting and consult with a medical professional before making any changes to your own lifestyle.
As the saying goes, “you do you”. This way of eating is certainly NOT feasible or healthy for everyone. But if it works for you, great! Either way, thanks for letting me share my experience with it so far.
As always, Healthy Helper is a place of open discussion and differing opinions! So I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on and experiences with intermittent fasting….good or bad. Let’s just keep things respectful and tolerant of each other!
If you’re looking for more info on the “why” behind IF and how it can improve longevity, I highly recommend checking out the podcast, LIFESPAN by Dr. David Sinclair.
Have you heard of intermittent fasting?
Would you ever consider trying it? Why or why not?
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