Lately, when I tell people what I do outside of the classroom (nutritional therapy), they want to pick my brain about intermittent fasting. I'm not sure how intermittent fasting and nutritional therapy have become associated, but it's happened and people want to know more.
While I don't regularly practice intermittent fasting, I still believe it can be a very useful tool for weight loss and overall health when done correctly. I'll do it every now and then, but not daily. And I recommend it to some, but not all people. If you've got a lot of weight to lose or a major metabolic disorder to correct, then intermittent fasting may be right for you.
Intermittent fasting is the practice of narrowing your feeding window. Some people fast for 12 hours minimum (this is what everyone should be doing, even though they don't). Some people go 14 hours without food, some go 16 hours, some 18, and some may even just eat one large meal a day. There are also those who choose alternate day fasting or extended fasting. I define intermittent fasting as an extended feeding window. The most common one I've seen is eating within an 8 hour window and fasting for 16 hours in a 24 hour time period.
Intermittent fasting is a great way to cleanse the body of toxins and give the digestive system a break. Some studies have linked extended fasting windows to weight loss, boosted cognitive function, and better immune function. A more recent study has even linked it to diabetes prevention, noting that it's particularly beneficial for improving pancreatic function. It can reduce fat cell build up around the pancreas and improve insulin sensitivity in some individuals.
Some proponents of intermittent fasting say that this is how our ancestors normally ate. So intermittent fasting is completely normal and healthy. Our ancestors did not have fixed eating times. They ate when there was food and fasted when there was none. They may have eaten 1-2 larger meals per day depending on what was available. But they definitely weren't rigid with a breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule.
I like the idea of intermittent fasting. Most people choose to forego breakfast since this is the easiest meal to cut out in most people's schedules. I personally feel like cutting out dinner would be more beneficial. Unfortunately for most, dinner is a more social meal. So cutting it out may mean cutting back on social time with friends and family. There are studies currently being conducted to evaluate whether foregoing breakfast or dinner is more beneficial when practicing intermittent fasting. It'll be interesting to see what those studies conclude.
Do you practice intermittent fasting? If so, have you noticed the benefits? Do you have tips on how to make it easier to get started? A lot of people are conditioned to believe that they need 3 solid meals per day. Breaking them of this can be challenging. But if you know that you are at higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, intermittent fasting may be something you might want to consider trying for yourself.