Jesus did it. Buddha swore by it.
But I ignored it, for years.
When my fiancé started IF, I rolled my eyes and said ‘That sounds like a middle school eating disorder. Been there. done that. No thanks.’
Like a jerk I thought ‘Another tall skinny white guy, thinking he’s discovered a weight loss trick I didn’t already attempt 300 times,’ (Yes this article is prejudice against white men and naturally skinny people. I hate cause I ain’t, okay?)
I watched IF take the tech bro world by storm, sweeping Silicon Valley and soon, the country. And then, my fiancé magically slayed the #Quarantine15 almost overnight.
Still doubtful, I gave it a try just to prove a point. The first week left me feeling foggy, groggy, and unproductive. I have too many goals to achieve to not be accomplishing an output, so breakfast was quickly put back on the menu. I decided Intermittent Fasting didn’t work for women, and wrote it off as another tall white guy advantage.
It wasn’t until saw a friend of mine twice over a gap of three weeks. Like me, she loves cake. Like me, she’s a petite lady who gets the struggle. The first time, she was her sexy, voluptuous self who taught me the belly forgiving merits of Victoria’s Secret stretchy leggings, size large.
When I went over to her house exactly three weeks later, I couldn’t help but notice her remarkable and dramatic weight loss. ‘What have you been doing?’ I asked. Not eating breakfast? Living off black tea until noon? And still eating cake? Check. Check. Check.
Okay fine. It was time to give in. Even without weight loss on the table, the health and anti aging benefits of IF are intriguing. Like the research nerd I am, I dove head first into every Intermittent Fasting book on Audible.
First, I quickly discovered the reason I failed at Intermittent Fasting the first time round: I hadn’t been fasting clean. I was doing it all wrong by chewing gum, drinking diet soda and bone broth during my fast. After reading up on it, I learned any kind of flavor in your mouth can spike insulin.
The key to success is rely on only water, tea, and black coffee outside of an eating window. After doing this, I quickly adapted to my 16:8 eating window eating from 1-9pm every day.
After tough few days of adjustment, I started to feel clearer and more alert all day, instead of in a state of constant post meal lethargy.
Why IF over Calorie Counting ?
Slower aging and longer lifespan are seeming to become symptoms of fasting and calorie restriction. However, two starvation and weight loss studies in the last century revealed that extreme calorie counting can lower your metabolic rate permanently, and damage long term weight loss goals.
The first is the Minnesota Starvation Diet. The second is the extreme weight loss reality series ‘The Biggest Loser’. If you ever wondered why there wasn’t a Biggest Loser reunion, it’s because all of the ‘Losers’ (winners?) gained it back.
Not only does calorie counting make you cold, hangry, tired, and prone to bad hair days and broken nails, it also causes your body to adjust its caloric rate. Traditional weight loss advice has been so, so wrong. We have been taught to think of our bodies like a machine, or a car. Gas in, gas out. Food in, food out.
Instead, it’s more like a thermostat. When more calories go in, our metabolic rate goes up. When more calories go out, it goes down. Our metabolic rate will adjust according to the calories it is given. That is why traditional calorie counting has a long term failure rate of 99.5%. Yeah.
The hormones that control this thermostat are leptin and insulin. At the risk of oversimplifying, leptin is the hormone that communicates satiety in to the brain. The higher your leptin levels, the more quickly you feel full when eating. The more often your spike your blood sugar, and insulin levels, the lower your leptin levels will be.
I didn’t realize my all-day grazing habit was keeping me in state of hunger and deprivation. Eating food all day means constantly spiking your blood sugar, raising your insulin levels, and impairing your leptin production. You can also control these hormones by eating foods that are high in fiber and protein. Sugary and starchy foods are more prone to spike blood sugar. Low glycemic eating habits are another way to manage your insulin levels.
When you fast, your body begins to cycle through multiple stages. First, it burns the glycogen in your liver. Then, it starts in on fat reserves. Eventually, on hour 22 or so, it enters something really interesting called autophagy.
Authophagy is less about weight loss, and more about disease control. It is a state in which your body starts eating itself (for lack of a better term). By doing this, it is cleaning damaged cells and proteins to clear room for new, healthy versions to grow.
This makes sense. To survive hundreds or thousands of years ago, we needed to be alert when hunting for food, and able to survive for days without it. Hunger should cause us to be more alert.
I didn’t realize my all-day grazing habit was keeping me in state of hunger and deprivation.
Unlike Keto, you won’t immediately drop water weight with IF. Weight loss results aren’t expected to occur until after 30 days.
Over a month in, I haven’t dropped a pound don’t care. I am totally hooked. Why?
- I’ve saved so much time.
Not thinking about what to eat every 2-3 hours is a mental relief. Not to mention, my kitchen is cleaner and I have less groceries and dishes to deal with. Instead of cooking and doing dishes constantly, I have time for cleaning, writing, and more.
- My obsession with weight and food is becoming a distant memory.
Fasting is food minimalism. IF has helped me draw a circle around food. I have control over my hunger, instead of my hunger controlling me. My life no longer revolves around it. When I do eat, it is more pleasurable. The feast is fun.
3. I love the mental clarity I’ve gained back.
Practicing IF has helped me become more disciplined and detached from food. I am no longer in a perpetual state of cravings obsessing over what to eat next.
4. I can indulge.
When I can’t have something, of course I want it all the more. Knowing I can have whatever I want at 1pm each day frees me from rebelling against my own attempts at discipline. I feel unchained from the starvation-binge cycle of deprivation.
I am still trying to get the hang of promptly stopping my eating window. Once I start it’s hard to stop, but at least I can have my cake and eat it too. I am working through that by starting a nightly tea ritual.
I like it so much I switched from 16:8 schedule to alternate day to give this autophagy thing a spin.
Even though I have yet to shed a pound, I have lost my mental obsession with weight and food. To me, that is what feels like so much more of a victory.