Let’s talk…intermittent fasting (IF). Have you heard of it? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until one night while mindlessly scrolling through social media. I came across a live video by a fitness influencer. I paused for a moment to listen as she threw out words like ghrelin and leptin. Ever the research junkie, and someone ALWAYS willing to try the next great thing, this grabbed my attention. I immediately went to multitasking, listening to the video while googling these hormones. I mean, it is social media after all. How do I even know this woman is telling me correct information?
As a mom of 4, a nurse, and someone who has spent the last two years working on a second Bachelor degree, time is not something I seem to have a lot of. I’ll be honest here, figuring out a new diet, what recipes call for what foods and putting together a shopping list and schedule is just more work than I care to make time for. I also have super picky eaters; this makes trying new diets even more difficult because I just end up cooking one meal for myself and something else for my family. But I still want to be healthy and set good examples for my children. I needed something that was easy to follow and didn’t require much prep or guess work. This makes Intermittent fasting a great option for me.
What is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting, in short, is timed eating. You eat during a set window of the day and you don’t eat during a set window of the day. Sounds simple enough, right? That is what we all do every day: we eat dinner, then go to bed and wake up to eat, hence the name “break-fast” for the first meal of the day. Perhaps the easiest explanation for how intermittent fasting works, was by another fitness influencer I follow on Instagram @drlaurenfitz. Dr. Fitzgerald described it something like this: Food is fuel, right? Imagine a refrigerator and a deep freezer. When we eat, we are stocking the refrigerator. That refrigerator stays stocked with fuel after we eat for about 12 hours. Every time our body needs a boost of energy during that 12-hour period, it just goes to the refrigerator and gets it. Fat on the other hand, is kept in the deep freeze. If you want your body to get that fat out of the freezer, you have to first use all the contents of the refrigerator. Wait, did you say don’t eat for longer than 12 hours? Yes, yes, I did. It is not as hard as it sounds, I promise. The method I chose is one of the most common methods/intervals, often referred to as 16:8. A 16 hour fasting window, and a window for eating that is 8 hours long. The easiest for me was to fast from 7pm to 11am and then eat from 11am to 7pm. Going by Dr. Fitzgerald’s explanation, this meant that when I stopped eating at 7pm every night, every minute from 7am to 11am, was a minute I spent burning that stored fat from the freezer.
Remember those hormones I mentioned earlier? Ghrelin and that other one? Well, ghrelin is the hunger hormone, you know, the one that makes your body want to eat. You are probably thinking, “Wouldn’t not eating for a period of time make this hormone increase?” Actually, it doesn’t! “Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, rises and falls in a natural circadian rhythm, with a low at 8:00am and a high at 8:00pm. Correspondingly, hunger typically falls to its lowest level at 7:50am and peaks at 7:50 pm.” (Fung, 2016) I won’t bore you with all the other hormones affected by fasting but if you are someone prone to type 2 diabetes, I highly recommend “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Jason Fung, MD. Or if you are just like me, and need to know the science behind everything.
You probably want to know if it has worked for me, right? I did mention that I am always up for trying whatever the latest fad is after all. I met with my endocrinologist to discuss my plans and got serious about my intermittent fasting in May. I am currently down about 15 pounds. I also have before and after pictures I am willing to show you. So, next time you are in the studio with me, just ask. I hope I have encouraged you to look into Intermittent Fasting. If you have questions, or if fasting for 16 hours seems like a daunting task, let’s talk. The good news is, 16:8 it isn’t the only option. There are many methods of Intermittent fasting and there may be one just right for you too.
Written by Crystal Devilbiss, Vessel Pilates Member, Mother to 4 beautiful children, and NICU Nurse
Fung, J., & Moore, J. (2016). The complete guide to fasting: Heal your body through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting. Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing.