Intermittent Fasting: Getting Started

DISCLAIMER: this post is an account of my personal experiences and is not for self-diagnosis.  Consult with a professional before making changes to your health plan.

alarm-clock-blur-clock-203362Getting a good groove in how and what I eat has been constant  battle for me. Daily we are bombarded with information on what is good, what is bad, when we should eat, how we should eat….but finding the right balance for my body has been elusive.  My primary goal is not to lose weight, but to become the best “me” possible; I feel that weight is a side effect of other things not running the way that they should, and so the focus should be on resolving the problem and not just a symptom. What I do need to tackle are a few other things: anemia, Vitamin D deficiency, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, hypothyroidism.

In the past, I had the most success with a small-meals type of schedule.  I would eat nearly the same thing (because it was easy planning) and would do so every 3-4 hours.

  • 6am: protein shake with spinach
  • 8:30am: oats (no sugar) and a hard boiled egg
  • Noon: whole grain crisp bread with sliced turkey and cucumbers (sometimes celery)
  • 3pm: repeat of noon
  • 6pm-7pm: chicken or beef with rice and a green vegetable
  • 9pm: whole grain toast with turkey or chicken (man, turkey and avocado on some Dave’s Killer Bread sounds awesome right now)

I found this worked well because I could control portions and plan easy, and the theory that consistently eating small meals kept your metabolism running all the time seemed to make sense.  I am a snacker – I snack when I am bored, stressed, or happy.  So spreading meals out like this really worked to keep me eating good things, and over the course of 2 months I lost 20 pounds and felt amazing.

But now I find that my schedule for work and family is in more conflict with a small-meals type of schedule. When following this before, I worked near a great organic grocery, had some back up options for things like protein shakes, and that all allowed me to succeed because I didn’t have to plan early and pack everything every day.  Now I work in an area that has nothing around but industrial buildings and I am far more busy – so to have a small-meals schedule I have to pack everything for the whole day…every day. It’s WAY too easy to fall off if I run out of time the night before, if the blender doesn’t get washed, or I have to spend all day in meetings or out of town.

In the six years since my grand success, I have had some setbacks.  My thyroid is still out of whack, my iron levels are somewhere on the floor, my blood sugar has risen, and my cholesterol just can’t get it together…all this leading to a weight gain of 60 pounds.  That’s 40 pounds over where I started originally. It’s been feeling like a lot of setbacks.

I finally had a good heart-to-heart with my doctor.  She’s a naturopath who is a naturo-MAGICIAN! Not only did we adjust supplements and timing for when I need to take them to help things like my thyroid, but she talked to me about the option of intermittent fasting.

There is plenty of information out there about fasting.  Tons of people have picked it up as a practice and swear by it.  But I wasn’t sure what sources to trust or really know the concept behind it until Dr. Magic and I talked.  The concept relies on thinking of our bodies from a more evolutionary standpoint.  Humans, as evolved predators on this planet, are not built to eat all day every day; hence the ability of the human body to store fat and retain water for later use. As hunters and gatherers, humans would find food, be moving, and be lucky to eat two days in a row. If a person goes more than 12 hours without consuming food, the body taps in to stored fat for energy. Burning stored fat is called “ketosis”. Intermittent fasting is the practice of not consuming food for a period long enough for your body to reach ketosis and burn fat and energy stores; and doing this more often, your body gets more efficient at doing it during fasting and non-fasting periods.

There are several schedules used for intermittent fasting – all based on an persons goals and needs. The 5:2 plan means you eat a normal, balanced, intake for 5 days a week and then for 2 full days a week you consume no more than 600 calories. The 16:8 plan means you fast for 16 hours and have a window to eat for 8 hours every day. Extreme fasting plans may include alternate day fasting where you fast for 24 hours every other day. If you are interested in embarking on an intermittent fasting plan, have a conversation with your health professional and do your research…because there are even more options out there.

I have settled on the 16:8 plan with the option to skip breakfast so that my fasting takes place, largely, while I am sleeping.  I eat from noon until 8pm and fast from 8pm until noon the next day.  I am not over-focusing on what I eat during that window, but I am trying to cut out sugars, maintain a carb/protein balance, and basically be smart.  When I am fasting I drink water (a LOT…like 2-3 liters a day), unsweetened herbal tea, or black coffee.  The black coffee part is taking some getting used to….I was a non-fat-mocha-every-morning girl. But this is my plan, and with this plan I don’t have the stress of making a smoothie or other breakfast if I am running late and I feel ok about having to pick up a sandwich for lunch if I didn’t prep all my meals.  Not to mention the reduced anxiety when I travel!  I am just starting and five days in to it….with already 6 pounds lost and looking forward to my next blood panel in 4 weeks.

Because this is a new endeavor, and might be helpful to others, like me, who feel over-run with information and need help sorting out what’s real, I am documenting my progress and how I feel every week. If there are things you would like to know specifically, drop a comment here, on FB or Instagram, or email me.  My experimentation should provide info for those who are looking.

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