Should you do it and if so, HOW?
Fasting is the rage these days. And if that’s not enough, piggybacking fasting along with other dietary modalities is the ultimate bootcamp for your waist line and your tuff mudder body. Athletes from all aspects of fitness are engaging in more and more restrictive ways of eating in an attempt to optimize their performance. We hear it within the ketogenic diet community, the Paleo and X-Fitters, and even those who follow the basic lower fat higher carb approach to eating are skipping meals, shortening their eating windows, and significantly cutting calories in an attempt to either lose weight or “correct” some sort of metabolic imbalance or health condition. But is it healthy? And more specifically, is it healthy for you?
The answer is——Maybe. And——Maybe NOT!!
There’s another answer as well——Sometimes——Sometimes NOT!!
I believe in the power of fasting. I believe fully that it has its merit when done properly. “Proper” being the —er—proper term. “EVERY-BODY” is different so “everybody” is going to either apply it differently or experience it differently. Either way, you simply have to find where it fits in to your lifestyle. So let me start by saying, I AM NOT A SCIENTIST and other than general research and what I know about working with clients for 15 years and living in my own body for 44, I feel that science has it’s place, but its application is different to each of us sapiens . And as such, we should honor our individuality when it comes to anything that affects us physically. Especially dietary and lifestyle protocol. That said, I do fast——Intermittently that is. Most days—that is.
I usually will eat my last meal of the day about 5:30 and not eat again until AT LEAST 9 or 10 the next day. I have tried many times to extend that window to noon, but truly I do not feel well. And after all the personal research that I have done, I have come to learn that not only do I respond differently than so many of the hard core fitness beasts out there who can power through, but most women in my age bracket seem to experience challenges in the fasting as well -- especially when it’s applied to other restrictive eating patterns.....like a keto, vegan, carnivore, whatev--
When you Intermittent Fast, you are skipping meals and by default you simply may, if not done properly, be cutting your calories too low—specifically your fats which are critical for women—especially us gals who are teetering on the big changes in life. In my experience and journey with IF, I have noticed that in some areas I feel like a rockstar while in others, I feel drained, depleted, and dare I say, stressed and anxious. I’m not hungry though. And for many, that’s what they are going for. But lack of hunger isn’t necessarily a good thing if your reasoning for IF is to correct a hormonal, glandular, or autoimmune condition—of course it’s relative.
Intermittent Fasting has it’s definite pros as far as I'm concerned. I will continue on this WOE because I simply cannot get my head around the whole 3 meal and snacking throughout the day eating patterns. I find it to be harsh on the gut and just inconvenient in time management. Some will disagree and that’s their prerogative. You do You!! But for those who struggle with chronic digestive health issues, simply reducing the timing that you eat may help to calm the gut down a bit. It may also help to reset the micrbiome, blood sugar, and insulin response. Fasting has it’s applications for many health conditions but the truth is that when combined with other restrictive WOE, you may be pulling too much from a source that is already depleted. So here are a couple of ways to start of to make sure that you don’t go all barbaric on your health and create yet another imbalance in your body:
- Check in with yourself? What are you eating? How often are you eating? WHY have you decided to fast? Be clear in your intentions. DO NOT start fasting because your best friend is doing it and lost 5 pounds in 3 days. You need to be clear. Clarity will always be your best guide when it comes to micromanaging your health.
- Do not take on too much at once. It’s easy to go all in with, say, oh, a keto diet and intermittent fasting and then cut your source of energy too much. I love Keto. I love IF. But those are two very restrictive patterns of eating. You need to make sure that although you are working towards a goal, you don’t get into the water without your floaties. You will drown. TRUST ME!!
- Do your research. And by research, I do not mean YouTube. There is simply just waaaaay too many opinions on fasting and too many varieties, supplements, and “experts” regarding the topics. I have my go-tos for said subject matter—find yours.
- Slow application. By this I mean....DO NOT just jump into OMAD (one meal a day) Gosh I wish I could eat this way. But it doesn’t work for me for many reasons. Chances are you need to, like anything else, go slow. When training for a marathon, you don’t just go and run 10 miles on your first day out. Well, some do—but we know how that turns out .
Fasting isn’t necessarily about just not eating. It can be as simple as removing specific foods that are causing you problems or inflammation. That personally is where I would start. Tap into what your goal is, look at the diet as a whole, and remove the culprits contributing to your health challenge. Stay there for a few weeks. Don’t just jump into the deep end. You need to make sure that for whatever it is that your remove, that you’re bookending your diet with nutrient dense foods and “possibly” some supplements to carry you through. Take note that some of us actually just need to fast from our SELF. You may not need to go so dramatic. Imagine that?
Knowing what is causing your issue and being clear on what your true health goal actually is can make this so much easier than just doing something because you heard it was good for you. I have seen this within my own practice where clients come in for a colonic, they know Cleansing and having a healthy digestive system is the gate keeper for an optimal immune system, and so they make it the key note speaker for their diet and lifestyle implementing regular colonics, enemas, extreme fasts, and a life of cleansing diets and practices. Just like cleansing, fasting, in my opinion, is a tool to help you get to where you’re going, but not necessarily the driver. It’s simply a tool. To rely on it solely can take you away from the vehicle that can really drive it home.
As a woman in her 40s who has experienced years of digestive health challenges, autoimmune conditions, and has worked hands on with women and men for over 15 years in the nutrition and cleansing field, any one thing taken out of context will ruin you. That especially goes for diet, nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle.
Fasting, whether it be an extended fast or an intermittent fast, is a fantastic tool to allow the digestive system an opportunity to rest, reset, and digest. No we should not be eating all the time. It limits our ability to absorb nutrients properly. Personally I like to go a good 15 hours without anything solid. That doesn’t mean I do not drink coffee, tea, and water.....just nothing solid. I feel better in the gut. But again, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration. Thyroid, adrenals, bowel movements, sleep, energy, etc. How these aspects are reflected determine my fasting window. But above all.....don’t push through just because your cronies are able to do it with ease.
Again, should you fast?
Get informed. Learn. Apply. Adjust.