You will probably have come across intermittent fasting by now. Perhaps you have tried it or have a friend who swears by it. I often get asked what my thoughts are on the subject and they have changed over the years.
There is a lot of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting. As a society, we are prone to over consuming, so giving our digestive systems a break to digest what we have already consumed rather than over loading it with more makes sense.
Intermittent fasting is linked to Autophagy, a process by which the body recycles the structures inside its cells, building new structures and extending the cells lifespan – in short, renewing our bodies.
I have practiced it in the past and I definitely felt less bloated and had more energy. And I agree it can improve your energy, concentration, weight and you can experience a better quality of life. However, there is no one-size fits all, fasting isn’t for everyone.
Before embarking on any fast, you need to consider it carefully. Don’t do it because it’s the latest trend or because your friends are doing it, or to lose weight fast. It’s important to find what works best for you. We are all unique, and fasting affects us differently. It also does not work for every lifestyle.
If you are curious to try it, then it is not something to take lightly. Prepare yourself properly with the knowledge you need, which also means being fully aware of all potential implications and details behind the fast before doing so.
Fasting isn’t for everyone
The following people should not be fasting:
- Children and teenagers
- Pregnant women or those breastfeeding
- People who have a history of eating disorders
- People who have blood sugar problems or diabetes.
If you are on medication, always consult your doctor before embarking on any fast.
What is intermittent fasting?
Fasting means you stop eating completely, or almost completely, for a certain period of time.
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you alternate between periods of where you fast and eat.
There are two popular ways of doing it. The first, and my preferred way of doing it is to fast any time between 14 to18 hours. The other way is by restricting your calorie intake to 700 a day for two days of the week, eating normally for the other 5 days.
The 8am – 6pm Plan
This is the one that works for me and I find it is also good for beginners. You eat between 8am – 6pm, eating your last meal at 5.30pm.
I find it’s less of a struggle, as it gives you the chance to eat your three main meals a day with snacks.
When doing this fast I find it easier as I go to bed early, so much of the fasting is happening during sleep.
The 12pm – 6pm Plan
If you are not a breakfast person, then this way of fasting is ideal for you. It also means you fast 4 hours longer.
Find what works for you.
The 2:5 Fast
This is where you fast for 2 days and eat normally for 5, restricting your calorie intake to 500-800 calories on the 2 fast days.
You can choose what you eat, but I would recommend eat light meals comprising protein rich food and a lot of vegetables to keep hunger pangs at bay – and drink lots of water.
How to be successful at fasting
If you have a healthy diet and are active, fasting will not be a problem. If you eat a lot of processed foods, and drink alcohol regularly, you will no doubt struggle with any fast.
Therefore it is very important to prepare the body. Start by slowly eliminating unhealthy foods like sugar and alcohol and get used to eating a healthy, balance diet.
If you go straight from an unhealthy diet into this process you will experience many withdrawal symptoms and the whole process will be harder to sustain.
I would not recommend long periods of fasting, as it can lead to hunger and are usually not sustainable. This is why I suggest starting slow, easing your way into fasting.
Always consult your doctor before embarking on any type of fast especially if you have any type of medical condition and are taking medication.
Don’t be obsessed with losing weight
Fasting should be done for the right reasons. Always put your health first. It should not be seen as a quick way to lose weight.
I have seen cases where women go from obsessive fasting leading to extreme weight loss to binge eating and putting lots of weight back on. This is an unhealthy pattern and why it’s important to address your relationship with food before doing any fast.
Make sure you are eating well when you can eat
It is important to make sure you are getting all the correct nutrients from your diet by eating nutritious foods; healthy fats, protein and your 30g of fibre a day.
There is no need to starve yourself. In our 40s and onwards, we need to be getting the right nutrition to support our bodies through menopause and beyond. Starving it of the right nutrients now will lead to problems further down the line. And looking emaciated isn’t a healthy look in your 40s.
Restrictive dieting is not something that I recommend to all my clients. It all depends on their relationship with food.
If you feel fasting is for you, then go for it. Always remember to be cautious and sensible, and be mindful of what you are eating and how you are feeling throughout.
If you are unsure or don’t know how to start, then get some support and see a qualified nutritionist such as myself.
I hope you have found this article helpful. I always love to hear success stories so feel free to comment or message me with your experience of intermittent fasting.
And, as always, if you have any questions do get in touch.