Intermittent fasting is a way for our bodies to cycle between being fed with food and fasted, without food. This way of eating has been embraced by most world religions and practiced for thousands of years. While this offers many health benefits, not all in the medical world support this practice.
To clarify, fasting is not starving. The difference between the two is control. Starvation is the ‘involuntary absence of food” that may lead to suffering or even death. In this situation, people typically have no idea where their next meal will come from. Fasting is controlled eating: the voluntary avoidance of eating. Food is readily available, but you are choosing to not eat and when done correctly, fasting should not cause suffering.
To live a healthier life, Adam and Rhoda practice intermittent fasting along with a low carb way of eating. Rhoda embraced this lifestyle over three years ago, as a means to better manage her rheumatoid arthritis and body weight. She can relate to her patients at the Essentia Weight Management Clinic because she follows the recommendations she gives her patients. Adam has found this practice a superior way to maintain a healthier weight, reduce his risk for type 2 diabetes, increase his activity level and improve sleep habits.
At its core, intermittent fasting simply allows the body to use its stored energy. Any time we eat, some of the food gets stored to be used later. When we eat, our bodies release a hormone called insulin to manage carbohydrates which are broken down into sugar. Because the body has limited ability to store sugar or glucose, the liver takes the extra sugar and turns it into fat.
Some of this fat gets stored in the liver but most of the fat gets distributed throughout the body and that’s how people gain weight. When people eat multiple meals and snacks during the day, their insulin levels are usually always high which means their bodies burn sugar for energy instead of fat. When you don’t eat, the insulin levels will be lower which enables the body to burn its stored fat for energy.
There are different ways to practice intermittent fasting but the easiest way we found to fast is to skip breakfast and push the first meal of the day to lunch. If you avoid evening snacks your last meal will be dinner which for us is around 7 p.m.. This means we do not eat for 16 to 18 hours per day and confine eating to a 6 to 8-hour window. During the eating window, food choices should include whole, nutrient-dense, lower carbohydrate foods such as meats, above ground vegetables, nuts, cheeses, eggs, avocadoes, and berries. This has been both of our practice for over a year, and we now find ourselves usually not hungry in the morning.
All previous diets that we’ve tried eventually got broken because of being hungry. This results in weight being regained to pre-diet levels or even increasing. Our low carb meals make intermittent fasting easier for us to consistently practice because we are satisfied and satiated.
There are many benefits from this practice beyond just fat loss and decreased hunger. Fasting may lower inflammation throughout the body and improve chronic illnesses such as diabetes and blood pressure. Carrying less body weight makes it easier to move. This has allowed us to engage in the activities we enjoy including long walks with our dog, hiking state parks, swimming, gardening and skiing. Other possible benefits of fasting include sleeping better, increased energy and improving brain fog.
There are people who should not practice intermittent fasting. This includes those who are underweight, pregnant or breastfeeding, anyone with an eating disorder or children/adolescents who are still growing.
Those with a chronic disease and are taking medicines need to visit a medical professional before beginning intermittent fasting. Medication may need to be adjusted and side effects monitored. If anyone has questions or concerns, they should visit their primary care provider regardless of health.
Some side effects from fasting can include initial hunger, constipation, headaches and thirst. Since fasting uses fat for energy, the body’s fluid needs increase. It becomes critical to drink lots of non-caloric beverages like water, tea, black coffee, sparkling water or broth. It is best to avoid sugary drinks and those with artificial sweeteners.
It takes perseverance to begin and sustain a new habit. Intermittent fasting is easier to adopt with a supportive partner or friend. Adam found Rhoda’s leadership and encouragement very beneficial to adoption.
Lastly, intermittent fasting is effective even when it is not practiced daily, since we can start over again. Life happens! For example, you get an invite for breakfast from a friend. Break the fast, enjoy the fellowship, and begin anew the following day.
Note from Crow Wing Energized: After receiving inquiries about intermittent fasting, we reached out to Rhoda Rees, Nurse Practitioner, Weight Management Center, Essentia Health to share this information with you, our readers. Thank you to Adam Rees, ACR Consulting, who contributed to the article. Watch for additional articles that deal with nutrition. Crow Wing Energized offers Lifestyle Change Classes – the next class starts April 29. Visit our website to register: https://crowwingenergized.org/events/