By Guest Blogger Tracy Huneycutt
I have read several articles in recent weeks contesting the success of intermittent fasting, a dietary lifestyle which has gained momentum in recent years. As someone who is actively participating in intermittent fasting and enjoys sharing my journey with others, I wanted to outline my own personal experience with this timed-meal dietary plan.
I am 41 years old, and have struggled with weight as far back as I can remember. I have loved food since I was little, and carried extra weight from my elementary years through middle school. In high school, despite an active schedule and playing sports, I essentially ate processed foods from sun-up to sun-down, and began to notice a sharp rise in my weight. I spent the decade of my 20s on a continuous cycle of losing weight through low-calorie or low-carb dieting, only to regain all of the weight and then some. Despite my best efforts, I stayed hungry and my mind always concentrated on when and what I would eat.
I met my husband at the age of 30, and the next decade of my life was spent delving into marriage and motherhood. My health and weight worries took a back-burner, even though I was disappointed to see the number on the scale slowly rise every year.
I decided that my 40s were going to be the decade when I finally took control of my weight. I tried to exercise, eat healthier and eat smaller portions, but to no avail. Last year, I visited my primary care doctor, eager to discuss how to successfully accomplish my health goals after years of failure. After reviewing my health history as well as my weight loss and weight gain history, she recommended I read materials and books written by doctors on the subject of intermittent fasting. Before starting the plan, she checked my heart rate, blood pressure, thyroid, and labs, to make sure my health was as such to start the journey.
The concept of intermittent fasting was revolutionary to me; it challenged everything I had been taught about food and eating since growing up. Since the 1970s, we have been trained and triggered to eat constantly, and for the most part, by consuming soft drinks as well as sugary, refined, and processed foods. For many of us who have eaten this way for years, this pattern has set our insulin-resistance at a high level. Low-calorie or low-carb dieting may be successful initially, but our bodies always fight to return to the weight in which our insulin-resistance is most comfortable. Through extensive research by doctors and nutritionists, intermittent fasting has been discovered as a key to breaking our insulin-resistance. When we eat helps our bodies to reset, as we begin to pull from our fat reserves for energy, instead of the glucose we receive from food when we are constantly eating.
Intermittent fasting has been safely practiced for centuries by many societies, cultures, and religious groups. It has numerous health benefits, more than I can write in this blog. Since beginning intermittent fasting, I have healthfully and slowly lost forty pounds, have moved from the “obese” to “overweight” category (based on BMI,) have noticed improved energy and focus, and do not obsess or think about food as often.
Though the initial weeks of intermittent fasting were difficult, especially for a self-professed foodie like myself, I have found over time that my appetite has naturally slowed. It has overhauled my approach and outlook towards food and eating. I am learning to trust my body, and only eat when I am truly hungry (and not bored or prompted by a food trigger.) It has grown in me the desire to make healthier food choices in the process, although I still enjoy treats as to not feel deprived.
There are three main types of intermittent fasting:
- Alternate-day fasting – alternating between a 24-hour “fast day,” followed by a 24-hour “non-fasting day”
- Periodic or whole-day fasting – choosing a period of time, whether 24-hours, 36-hours, 48-hours, (or in some cases, seven to 14 days,) in which only water, bone broth for sodium, unsweetened teas and coffees are consumed
- Time-restricted feeding – eating only during a certain number of hours each day, such as 4-hours, 6-hours, or 8-hours
Since the start of my journey, I have participated in alternate-day fasting (namely, trying to wait as long in the day as possible to eat my first meal,) as well as time-restricted feeding. Many of the books I read encourage setting up your intermittent fasting patterns around your schedule, and not the other way around, which helps to make this dietary plan very adaptable and easy to follow. It allows and encourages “feasting” during the times in life when we are meant to enjoy food to the fullest – parties, celebrations, vacations, family get-togethers – and then “fasting” to help reset our bodies. Because of its success in my own life, as well as its attainability and healthfulness, I know this will be a plan that I can maintain for life.
*** Since I am not a physician, meeting with one’s doctor before beginning intermittent fasting is recommended. Medically, there are some people who should not intermittent fast without the direct supervision of a doctor, including individuals with diabetes or chronic diseases. Individuals with low percentages of body fat, individuals with eating disorders, women who are pregnant or nursing, and children should absolutely not participate in intermittent fasting. ***
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