On my quest to get skinny for my wedding, I thought back to what I had done in the United States that gave me a handle over my love handles. I was racking my brain,
because to be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to what I was eating when I was living in the United States.
Finally it hit me. I pretty much never ate breakfast when I was living in the United States. I have never been much of a morning eater, so I would head to work in the mornings without eating, and then have lunch around 11 or 12. I would usually have a snack at around 3, and then eat dinner at 6 or 7. Without even realizing it, I was doing intermittent fasting!
Other than making sure I was consuming a couple of greens and maybe an orange, the rest of my day was basically a free for all. Doughnuts at the office? Yes, please. I’ll take seven. One of the highlights of my corporate working life was when my company got a snack bar in the office. I was munching on snacks ALL DAY. Now that I think of it, my body was a little jigglier after the snack bar was installed. Correlation isn’t always causation though! At least that’s why I told myself. Intermittent fasting is good, but it doesn’t work miracles. If you are stuffing your face with processed chips, cookies, and iced teas all day, you would have to fast a lot more than intermittently to lose the weight.
Fast forward to living in South Africa, I am feeling pretty pleased with myself that I have discovered one of the main differences in my American diet vs my South African diet. South Africa was not actually poisoning its water with calorie retention minerals, as I previously tried to convince my husband was the case. “It can’t be MY fault that I gained 20 pounds. What the heck is wrong with your country?! I think the foods are just more caloric in general…I think it’s something in the water… It’s South Africa’s fault, NOT MINE!” My sweet husband would just shrug his shoulders and act confused with me. He never even insinuated that my weight gain might, shockingly, have to do with me. That’s why he’s the best.
Armed with the newly acquired knowledge that skipping breakfast might be the cure to my rubbing thighs, I wanted to chat things over with my best and only friend in South Africa – Google! I had so many questions, and sweet Google provided so many answers, but I had to sift through a LOT of information. It went a little like this.
Addison: Ok Google. So everyone in my life that told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day was basically lying to me??
Google: Pretty much, yes. It is different for everyone, but most people do not need breakfast. Some sources say that breakfast as the most important meal of the day is the biggest nutrition myth.
Addison: Are there any health benefits to intermittent fasting?
Google: Lots of health benefits. Routine periodic fasting is good for your heart and your health. This study found that fasting not only lowers one’s risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person’s blood cholesterol levels. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110403090259.h
When you are fasting, the body induces important cellular repair processes and removes waste material from cells. Your gene expression also benefits in relation to longevity and protection against disease.
Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/
Gene expression: There are beneficial changes in several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
Addison: What is the best way to start intermittent fasting?
Google: It depends on what kind of eater you are. If you typically graze throughout the day or have 6 small meals a day, you want to start gradually so it doesn’t shock your system too much. You can start by narrowing your meals down to 3 meals a day. If you are already at 3 meals a day, try pushing off breakfast to a later time, even if it is only 30 minutes. Then you can work your way to a narrower eating window. If you are more of a morning eater, have your eating window start earlier and end earlier. Eating window examples include: 7am-3pm, 10-6, 1-9 etc.
*Side note: I have never been much of a morning eater, and I love going out to eat at night, so it made more sense for me to push off eating as late as possible. My ideal window now is 11:30-7:30. If it’s a weekend, I try to push off eating to around 12 or 1, because it is more likely that I will be snacking into the night. There are definitely times where I eat past the 8-hour allotment, especially on weekends, but I try to do at least 5 days a week in an 8 hour window.
Addison: Can you still workout when you are doing intermittent fasting?
Google: Definitely. Studies have actually shown that it improves results when you complete your workouts in a fasted state because of your insulin levels and Human Growth Hormone. Your blood levels of insulin drop significantly when you are fasted which facilitates fat burning. This is super charged when you are working out so you will burn fat more efficiently in a fasted state. The blood levels of HgH may increase as much as 5-fold when in a fasted state. When your human growth hormone increases, so does your fat burning and muscle gain.
Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning. This is supercharged when working out https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640462
• Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
Addison: Can I drink water, or tea or coffee during the fasted state?
Google: It is highly encouraged to stay well hydrated during your fasted state, but make sure to not add ANY caloric additions to your drinks. No creamer in your coffee, even if it is just a little bit! You need to stay in a completely fasted state to reap the benefits.
Addison: Does intermittent fasting work if I wait a long time between my meal or have small meals? For example, if I have just a small breakfast and don’t eat lunch until 2 and then dinner at 7?
Google: Every time you have calories in your system, you spike insulin regardless of what you eat. This includes healthy snacks. If you are eating several small meals throughout the day, even if it’s healthy, your insulin is constantly spiking which makes fat loss much more difficult. It is a myth that several small meals throughout the day improves your metabolism.
After doing the research, I decided that intermittent fasting was most definitely something that I wanted to try! There are a few different types of intermittent fasting that people do, but the 8 hour eating window is what works best for me and my lifestyle. I am interested in trying the 24 hour fast, but I plan on trying it and writing about it in the future.
Here is my personal advice and takeaways with 8:16 intermittent fasting:
– I was able to drop weight REALLY quickly. I noticed results in the first couple of days. When I woke up, my stomach wasn’t bloated anymore because it had longer to metabolize the food I was eating without being constantly bombarded with more food.
– At the beginning, I would crave more processed junk food after my fast and felt like I “deserved a reward for fasting for so long.” This is counter-intuitive. I don’t calorie count at all during my 8 hour eating window but if you are stuffing your face for the whole 8 hours that you are able to eat…Plot twist! You won’t lose weight. The best method I found was eating mostly plant based foods in my 8 hour window, and eating a small meal (like chia seed pudding or an apple with peanut butter) to break my fast and then waiting about 20 minutes to see if I was still hungry and going from there.
– If there is a day when you are just really hungry, or your friends are all going to brunch or something, don’t sweat it. You will get benefits from following intermittent fasting even a couple of times a week. You don’t want to feel like you are constantly hungry and with repetition, your body will get acclimated to the new schedule and you won’t feel any type of hunger pain.
– I like to get in a workout in the morning before I eat. There are lots of fat burning benefits of working out on an empty stomach, AND it takes up a chunk of time out of my day where I literally can’t eat. Win win. After I work out, I am usually not ravenously hungry, so I can squeeze in a few more minutes and usually eat around noon. That leaves my window for eating noon to 8, which is perfect because I can have a little post dinner snack or a later dinner and stay in my window.
– After you have implemented intermittent fasting for a while, your body will acclimate. Now that my body knows I don’t eat in the morning, I don’t even get hungry until around 11 or 12. I could honestly push it back even longer on most days. I feel more alert and less lethargic in the mornings than I used to.
Doing intermittent fasting coupled with a mostly plant based diet during my eating window gave me the exact results I was looking for! For the first time in the year of living in South Africa, I was actually LOSING weight. I feel much more alert and energetic, less bloated, and SUPER focused for my workouts. What I love about this way of eating is that it is not about calorie counting, or any other type of restriction besides timing. There are no points to add or forbidden foods when you are doing intermittent fasting (although I personally choose to eat mostly plant based) so it is something that everyone can try.
However, as with most things in life, this isn’t a one size fits all solution. Try it out with your body and see how it goes for you. It is common to have some type of discomfort and hunger at the beginning, but it should not be debilitating and always listen to your body if something doesn’t feel right! Let me know if you try it! I would love to hear about your results.