Intermittent Fasting, also known as IF is a simple technique used in the primal and paleo worlds to optimize hormone response, help the body repair and rebuild cells, and aid in calorie management for people who wish to lose weight. Granted, IF isn’t exclusively a primal/paleo technique. Intermittent Fasting is used by other schools of thought as well. But, the idea comes from the idea that our ancient ancestors ate when food was collected, cooked and available. When there was no food available, they simply waited until they found, killed, or otherwise collected the day’s nourishment. In today’s world most people have a never-ending and continuous supply of food. At any given moment the vast majority of us can go to the fridge/pantry and grocery store to grab a quick snack. Our advanced society comes with the drawback of encouraging people to eat more frequently, and in larger amounts than necessary.
The idea of Intermittent Fasting is pretty simple. You decide ahead of time when you will eat, and when you will not. It involves intentionally going at least 12 hours without food. There are many different IF plans/schedules, but the most important thing is to choose the one that best fits into your lifestyle.
Some of the most common IF plans are :
- Alternate day eating
- Eat Stop Eat
- Choosing a time window of 4-8 hours each day when you will consume all your calories and nutrients for the day. This is usually called an “eating window.”
- Fasting for 24 hours or more several times a week.
I’m not going to to into the details of these right now. The purpose of this post is to share my most recent experience with IF.
Most of you know that I was diagnosed with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis about 13 years ago. (wow, has it been that long!) One of the key symptoms of MS is systemic inflammation. Recently I noticed that I was experiencing more noticeable swelling than is typical for me. I took a close look at my diet to see if any known offending foods had wiggled their way back in. Upon close inspection, I realized that I’d been “cheating” more than I should. I decided to use IF to get myself back on track.
Personally, I prefer the “eating window” method because it allows me the most freedom, and more easily fits into our busy lifestyle.
I chose an eating window of noon until 6pm. So, that means I finish eating dinner at 6 pm and don’t eat anything else until noon the next day. This gives me a minimum fasting time of 18 hours each day. I say minimum fasting time because three days each week I eat dinner between 4 and 5 pm. My daughter and I have community band rehearsals on those days. We both eat before we leave for band, and two of those bands start a 6 pm. The third starts at 7 pm, but is an hour away. I do allow myself flexibility here. If I’m hungry at 11:45 am, then I eat. If the person making dinner doesn’t pull it off the stove until 630 pm, I will eat if I’m hungry (or if I think the chef will be upset if I skip dinner). I can always delay breakfast a few minutes the next morning, if I want to keep the fasting time to a strict 18 hours.
I’ve been following this IF schedule since this past Monday. So, it’s been less than one week. So far, I’ve noticed:
- Significantly more energy during the day
- I sleep better at night
- I’ve lost 5 lbs — all swelling
- I don’t get tired in the early afternoon
- I’m not hungry during the evening
- I’m not hungry in the morning
- Honestly, I’m not hungry much at all. The few times I’ve been hungry this week have been during my eating window, so I simply ate something.
- Food tastes different… better,more flavorful. Here’s an example: On Thursdays we usually buy a package of dates rolled in shredded unsweetened coconut. The package is big enough so that split evenly, there are 4-6 date rolls for each of the four of us. Usually, I eat all of my date rolls with lunch on Thursday. This week one was enough. My sensitivity to sweet things has increased. I saved my date rolls and will have one a day until they’re gone.
- Brain fog is noticeably reduced.
- I have an easier time eating all the calories that my Cronometer app tells me I should. (cronometer.com) I struggle to eat my recommended number of calories for my activity level. I wear a FitBit, and my FitBit app is linked to my cronometer app, so it gives a a fairly accurate picture of how much I should eat each day. I’m typically 500 calories or more under my daily calorie requirements.
- I’m losing fat again. My bathroom scale measures fat and water body composition. My fat numbers have started decreasing again. For the past year, my body composition has changed very little.
- Food cravings are gone. Completely gone. I usually crave sweet foods, and chocolate. Chocolate cravings can be caused by a shortage of magnesium. I take two different magnesium supplements most days, but I still experience these cravings most days. Since I started IF, those cravings are gone.
I’m still abstaining from sugar, and I’ve cut my fruit consumption way down, as well, mostly because my sensitivity to sweet has changed, and I’m no longer craving sweet foods.
My plan is to continue IF until it doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t have any set time limit, or restrictions on myself. If I feel like switching to a different Intermittent Fasting plan, then I will. If I need to be flexible about my eating window times, then I’ll do that. (like today.. it’s 554 pm and the person making dinner isn’t done yet. She’s making mussels and I LOVE seafood, so I will eat whenever dinner is ready, and simply extend my fasting time tomorrow. Or not. If I’m hungry at noon, I’ll eat and then simply resume the Noon to 6 eating window from there).