Intermittent fasting has been a rising trend the last few years – but is it really new? If we look at various cultures, fasting has been a part of many old traditions in one form or the other. Some fast for a few days, some even for a whole month.If we go even further: wasn’t fasting always something we all did? Imagine our ancestors in the cave: food was scarce and they only got something to eat if the women gathered enough roots and berries or if the men hunted down some animals. Then there was food for a bit – and after not much to eat for maybe even longer.
But can fasting lead to binge eating?
As the food industry grew, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day were the gold standard, with breakfast was a must if you wanted to stay healthy, and fasting was not recommend. Fasting was not only regarded as difficult, but it was even said that most people binged after a fasting period (aka diet) and therefore gained the weight back even faster. On top of this metabolism was said to slow down with calorie restriction (which made gaining back weight even easier) and people got fixated on food which resulted in an unhealthy relationship with food in the long term. Today we know some of this is true, but for many they are able to view things differently.
Fasting is usually a period where you reduce your calorie intake or don’t eat at all. Most people go into such a period thinking of what they can’t have and end up just torturing themselves thinking about the food they are not allowed. This can definitely result in binging once the fasting is over. But what if we could change our mindset and focus on the benefits of fasting and approach it from a more spiritual side? What if we don’t see it as black or white?
The return of fasting
While fasting has always been around, it’s only in the last few years that it has been popularised again. It started with “dinner cancelling” and in the recent years various forms of alternate day, whole day and time restricted fasting appeared.
In animal studies amazing effects were achieved: weight loss, improvements with blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol and even increased life span. In humans more studies need to be conducted but for sure its safe in healthy humans and effective for weight loss. There are also indications that it does help with diabetes and makes our metabolism more effective.
How to incorporate intermittent fasting into your life
The fact is — our bodies need time to get used to fasting. By nature our body can deal with fasting very well, but with the 24 hour availability of food, we often need to retrain our bodies and minds. If you are a constantly thinking about food and eat every few hours, it will be more challenging for you than for someone who can easily go hours without food. It will get easier with time and our bodies will adapt and become more flexible.
My approach has always been that we are all different, with a different genetic makeup. So how can there be a one-size-fits-all solution? Who says it should be one way or over another? So I invite you: Make intermittent fasting your own.
If intermittent fasting is something that appeals to you, try first to extend the hours you don’t eat during night and then between meals and find the amount of hours that work for you.
My recommendation has always been to try for minimum 12-14 hours during night (meaning for example dinner at 7pm and then breakfast only at 9am the next day) and around 4 hours between meals where you only drink water. This gives your digestive system a bit of rest and also gives your body the chance to use up energy fuel (aka fat).
If you feel okay, you can even try to go longer without food overnight and limit the window where you eat during the day even more. I feel at my best when I don’t eat 14-16 hours overnight and leave around 4 hours between meals.
Give it a try, experiment and find your own preferred way of intermittent fasting and see how it makes you feel.