Although I was, until most recently, studying the physiology of pain (see Bring Up Pain for more about this topic), it definitely wasn’t the only topic I was interested in. One topic in particular got my attention in the last couple years, Intermittent Fasting or IF. Its many mentions in multiple media platforms was enough to ignite a spark of curiosity, but it was certainly not sufficient enough to have me follow this trend blindfolded. However, a careful study of the science and its effects from an extensive literature review got me entirely convinced of its benefits. I hate to be a sheep and follow the newest fad, but I have to say that this one might be totally worth trying out.
Being overweight never really felt like a terribly wrong physical state to be in. I like my body and I like that it has led me to have a different perspective on myself. In the last article (Bring Up The Beginning) I’ve mentioned that I was bullied, mainly because I was a full blown nerd, but another reason was my very thin figure. Some people were spreading rumors that I was anorexic. From bad to worst, my family doctor was insisting that I should gain some mass since I was below my intended BMI. However, it was really difficult for me to gain mass. I ate so much, and no, I didn’t purge. Though, I was very athletic, and it was, with hindsight, probably why I could remain so slim.
At the end of high school, I began receiving another type of attention from guys. They started flirting with me. It took me a couple of years to figure out that the only thing they were interested in was my appearance. This realization led me to despise myself, and I then really thought that no one really cared about me. This was definitely the darkest time of my life. Finally, my objective to gain weight finally saw some success and simultaneously I started to date this incredible man that despite my emotionally unstable predisposition was patient and caring. Unconsciously, I started to link gain weight to my potential to be loved and cared for.
We have to face it. Life is not that easy. If only taking weight would be the solution to finding love then everyone would be aiming for it, I am right? Additionally, with knowledge came the realization that being overweight can lead to several health problems. Turns out, even though I don’t have a negative view of my appearance, I came to accept that I need to redefine what acceptable is. I can see that I will never be that very slim beanpole that I was in high school, ouffs! But I just can’t be ok with being 25 kg over my intended BMI. I understand that most professionals would suggest undertaking moderate physical activities, but it was simply impossible for me and trust me, I’ve tried. I am not saying that I’m abandoning the idea of physical activities forever. For now, I have limitations that make those very difficult to perform while aiming for weight loss. Meanwhile I have to say that I’ve tried outdoor running, at home workout and indoor yoga, none of them seemed suited for me, at least for now.
Then one day I fell upon an online post claiming intermittent fasting as a healthier alternative for weight loss than stricter dieting methods. The following research I did surprised me. Not only is there scientific evidence claiming that IF can lead to weight loss, at least temporarily, but there are also plenty of other benefits that accompany the adoption of IF. Contrary to many promoted weight loss methods, IF is more of a lifestyle rather than a specific diet change. First, it doesn’t require you to add or suppress certain food. Second, it doesn’t ask you to keep track of your calorie consumption, and at last, you are in control of when you want to stop it or not. The only major difference with If compared to the usual eating habit is the timing of your feeding. Depending on the IF style you choose, you may have more or less freedom, but that decision is up to you.
I am not claiming here that fasting a revolutionary novelty, but it has been studied very little over the years. Although, recently, there has been a great increase of fasting studies, that may probably have been caused by the reported advantages it could bring to people who have been fasting for cultural or religious reasons. Now, people are intrigued by the fasting phenomena and thus there was the development of a particular type of IF, which got named Time-Restricted Feeding. It is based on a schedule that dictates feeding period over 24-hour days. The most popular TRF are 14:10, 16:8, and 18:6. Those ratios represent how many hours you need to fast next to how many hours you can feed. Thus 14:10 is the most lenient and 18:6 the most stringent of the options mentioned above. The fasting windows might seem harsh, but while fasting requires you not to eat anything, you may still drink as much water, tea, or coffee as you’d like, giving the absence of any sugar or milk addition. There are also many other variations of IF, but it won’t be mentioned here. I personally prefer the 18:6 TRF since it was the technique that created for me the most benefits and the least negative side effects.
So, as I’ve mentioned, feeding is not restricted. You can eat as much or as little as you normally do. Yet, you will probably find yourself eating less overall, since you have a shorter eating window. Also, the hunger pangs that often lead to excessive eating and craving may disappear and get you to develop a more mindful eating. The first time I adhered to IF, it took me four days to notice the complete vanishing of hunger pangs. For you, it may take less or more time, but the idea is to stick with it and see where the process will lead you. Tips: Drinking more water really helps you manage your hunger pangs in the first few days. I usually kept with the program for a week before switching it up to allow me to better evaluate where the lacks where, if any.
As for weight loss, I experienced a loss of 15kg in three months, but I can’t assure you that your loss will be the same, as everyone’s experience will be different. Still, don’t give up if you don’t see the number on your scale dropping. It could simply mean that it could take longer to see any difference. The differences that you will be able to notice are not only pertaining to your weight, but could also benefit your energy level, your concentration, your focus and reduce inflammation. On a more subtle view, it may also have protective effects against many illnesses, like diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, heart diseases, and more. It may additionally help you fight ageing. So even though you might not be interested in losing weight, you could still benefit greatly from adopting an IF approach.
From the negative side effect perspective, IF could potentially lead to malnutrition, the development of eating disorders or mood changes. Those side effects are triggered by either an over-management of your feeding habits by excessively restricting your eating and/or by not listening for what your body really needs. Malnutrition can be avoided by making sure you eat enough vitamins and nutrients from the different food groups. If you have a very negative self-image triggered by your weight, please abstain from adopting IF, and please I strongly recommend you to ask help from a psychologist or a physician before attempting any feeding habit modifications. If your mood becomes the issue, like becoming irritable, angry, etc., those are normally indicative that you are not consuming as much calorie as you should and I would definitely encourage you to either change your intermittent fasting to a more lenient variation, increase your meal size and/or add snacks between your meals. Warning, please never ever fast intentionally for a period of more than 25 hours or more than 18 hours for consecutives days as it may lead to severe health issues.
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