I Intermittent Fasted For 6 Months...Here's What Happened
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Intermittent fasting (IF) is as trendy as Zoom meetings in 2020.
Should you try it? How do you do it? Why should you do it? Here's everything you need to know...
What is IF?
IF involves not eating for a period of time or confining your eating to a specific window each day. It could mean you only eat between noon and 8pm or you eat one meal a day. Some even use IF to refer to extended fasts of a day or more.
Although the term Intermittent Fasting is new, the practice is not.
Humans have been intermittent fasting long before "Netflixing" became a verb. It wasn't because our ancestors heard about IF from a Facebook post of that friend who posts a little too much, but because there simply wasn’t always food available.
A few thousand years ago, food was not always readily available. There were days when the hunt was not plentiful or we were unable to gather nuts, berries, and seeds. Yet, we still had to be able to think, move, and socialize. Thankfully, our body is actually REALLY good at operating without food. We have, by design, an incredible ability to pull from our fat stores as our fuel source.
But, when we eat a diet high in carbs (especially when those carbs come in the form of frequent snacks throughout the day), our body effectively loses its ability to burn fat for fuel.
And this is a big problem.
If your body can't burn fat for fuel, you will be reliant on sugar for energy. The more your body craves sugar, the more you will eat and inevitably, some of that sugar is going to get stored as fat. Since your body has a hard time burning fat for fuel, your new body fat will persist as body fat.
IF makes you better at burning body fat for fuel.
The better you are at burning body fat, the more you can use up the extra pudge around the middle or the "reserves" you carry around on your hips.
Much like the claims of the milk propaganda in the 1980’s, Intermittent Fasting “Does The Body Good!”
Intermittent fasting isn't just a tool for weight-loss, although most people do experience weight loss. It's all about metabolism.
When we eat a meal laden with carbs (yes, even the ones with the 'Heart Healthy' label the company paid millions to get plastered on the box) your body spikes levels of the hormone insulin to soak up the carbs and store them as body fat. This keeps you from dying. Yes, dying. If your blood sugar gets too high, as it would if you absorbed all the sugar form a bowl of oatmeal into your bloodstream, you'd be a goner. Blood sugar at a certain level is a medical emergency, which, if high enough, will result in death. Thankfully, we have a pancreas which spits out the hormone insulin to soak up the extra sugar before it reaches toxic levels. But this hormonal spike is not without consequence. Insulin's job is to store sugar as fat and the more often we spike insulin, the less sensitive the body becomes to insulin which is the pathway to diabetes.
So, does your body burn fat or carbs for fuel?
Well the answer depends on what and when you've eaten in the recent past.
If you haven't eaten, ie been fasting, you know your body is reliant on burning its own body fat for fuel. THATS A GOOD THING.
No, your metabolism surely won't self-destruct if you don't eat 6 small meals a day.
If you've eaten a diet where most of your calories have come from fat, you also know your body is burning fat for fuel instead of carbs.
Check out our Village food pyramid below. It's built to train your body to burn fat for fuel.
Below are our 12 Village Principles. As you can see, the "Eat" section is built around getting you to reduce carbs, and instead eat a high-fat diet comprised of healthy fats and well-sourced animal products.
3 Benefits Of Fasting
1. Weight loss
Skip a meal and you're likely to eat a few less calories in a day. Eat less calories and you'll lose weight. Simple enough?
More importantly than less calories, if you train your body to be better at burning fat for fuel, you can burn the fat in your body more readily.
2. Blood sugar/insulin resistance
In my home state of California, it is estimated that OVER HALF of the adult population has pre-diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, or diagnosed diabetes.
Decades before getting diagnosed and treated for diabetes, many diabetics are, unbeknownst to them, living in a state of metabolic dysfunction. Before diabetes, you have pre-diabetes (elevated blood sugar). Before pre-diabetes, you have Insulin Resistance (a body which is producing lots of insulin and is no longer responsive to it). Before insulin resistance, you have dysfunctional fat-burn and reliance on sugar/carbs for energy.
Fasting makes your body better at burning fat for fuel, makes you more sensitive to the hormone insulin, and can be used as a tool to treat diabetes or better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place.
3. Energy stability
Have you heard of "hanger"?
The slightly satirical yet informative Urban Dictionary defines hanger as "a lethal combination of hunger and anger, the result of waiting so long to eat that your blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels, impairing both your mood and your judgment. Particularly manifests itself when you are with a significant other and trying to make decisions about where to eat now that you're both starving."
"Snickers" popularized the term and positioned their candy bar as a cure.
What's sad about this is that eating sugar to cure your low blood sugar creates a greater dependency on sugar for energy. It's a vicious cycle the food industry is happen to have us spin round' in.
If you're running on fat for fuel, you'll have stable energy all day long. Basically, your body fat provides a steady drip of energy into your bloodstream. This means no more mid-morning muffin cravings, no afternoon slumps where you go for the 3rd cup of coffee which ends up keeping you up at night, and no late-night snack cravings. Sustainable energy all day long is a beautiful thing.
My Fasting Journey And Results
6 months ago, I read a great book on Fasting, Dr. Jason Fung’s “The Complete Guide to Fasting”. By page 6, I decided to skip my next meal. What? I'm a health-coach! I try things.
I started off with 3, 24-hour fasts/week. I would eat dinner on Sunday night and not eat until dinner the next night. The first day was tough. I was lightheaded, hungry all day, and grumpy with my staff, kids, and wife. Hanger was in full force!
But it got easier from there. Each time I would fast, I felt a little less hungry, grumpy, and lightheaded.
Well, my body started to rely on fat for fuel instead of carbs. I became better at burning fat.
In the process I've lost about 10 pounds and learned that I can treat patients, exercise, run a business, and be a dad and husband without needing food for fuel.
I've learned that eating in community is really important to me. I love gathering around the table at night with my wife and kids or our friends. Skipping dinner makes me feel like I'm missing out so I don't skip it often. But I noticed I don't dwell on breakfast and dinner much on fasting days. Before I started fasting, breakfast was eaten in a rush before I headed out the door and lunch over my laptop while answering emails.
During fasting days, I don't just drink water. I have a little raw cream in my coffee in the mornings, some bone broth at lunch and lots of water through the day. Some people would say this isn't fasting in the purest sense, but the caloric intake from a tablespoon of cream and a cup of bone broth are negligible.
Today, I am still intermittent fasting 3+ days each week. I determine which days of the week I fast based on what's going on in our lives as a family. If I have the ability to sit down and have breakfast with my family, I will eat breakfast. If I need to be working early, I'll skip breakfast.
How to get started with IF
Before getting started with intermittent fasting, I'd recommend doing a few things to make your life easier.
1. Stop eating vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is picked up and stored by our body as body fat. Yet it doesn't burn like body fat. If you're going to rely on body fat for fuel and you have a dysfunctional fuel stored in your body, you'll feel pretty crummy. Spend at least a month minimizing or eliminating vegetable oil before trying IF.
2. Control carbs
By lowering your daily intake of carbs to around 100 or less, you will allow your body a slow transition to burning fat for fuel instead of carbs. That way, when you start to IF, it won't be such a shock to the body.
When you are ready to start doing IF, start small by skipping a single meal. Just don't eat breakfast one day and make lunch your first meal. Do that a few days a week. If things go well and it fits with your life, make skipping breakfast a daily practice.
To progress, skip breakfast and lunch and make your first and only meal of the day dinner. Try this one day a week and add a few days if you feel like it's the right fit.
From there, you can do extended, multiple day fasts, which are beyond the scope of this blog post.
I'd love to hear how you're implementing IF into you life and how it's helped you.