Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner's Guide to a Healthier Life

If you are a living, breathing, human, you have fasted before at least once in your life. Whether this means you fasted for eight hours while you were sleeping between dinner and breakfast, or whether you fasted for several days for a religious reason (or just the experience), you have fasted. For most of us, our typical fast is anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, and it is usually broken by us eating breakfast (yes, that is why it is called breakfast: you break your fast). However, intermittent fasting is a growing craze that is helping people all over the world lose weight, save money, and even avoid health issues like heart disease and cancer. If you are looking for a new lifestyle diet for this semester, consider intermittent fasting. It is a game changer.

 

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and eating. It is a lifestyle diet that doesn’t focus on which foods you should eat (like most traditional diets), but rather when you should eat them. Most people who fast intermittently will fast for 16 hours a day and allow an 8-hour window for eating, but really, you can do whatever works best for you. If you want to fast for 24 hours twice a week, do it. If you want to alternate days, follow your heart. IF is very forgiving and will give you some sort of benefit no matter how strictly you apply it to your life (unless you gorge yourself during your eating window).

 

Many people today believe that fasting is not natural for humans, and is a ridiculous way to lose weight. They believe it negatively affects your metabolism and is basically selective starvation. However, intermittent fasting has been around since the times of our earliest ancestors. If you think about it, ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have the access to food that we do today. They didn’t have supermarkets, fast food restaurants, refrigerators, or even year-round access to food. Sometimes they simply couldn’t find anything to eat, so they would fast. As a result, humans evolved to be functional without food for long periods of time, and because of this, fasting is probably more natural than always eating 3 meals a day.

 

There are many popular methods that people prescribe to when it comes to fasting. Some people do the 16/8 method: this involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours (e.g. 12 pm - 8 pm). As a result of skipping breakfast and ending your caloric intake at 8 pm, you fast for 16 hours a day. Others try the ‘Eat-Stop-Eat’ method: this involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice every week and eating normally every other day. There are thousands of other methods you can try when it comes to intermittent fasting, but sometimes it is just easier to let yourself decide at the moment rather than trying to stick to a strict schedule. As long as you are reducing your caloric intake by fasting, you should see health benefits relatively quickly with this lifestyle.

 

The benefits of IF include increased levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) (which causes fat loss and muscle gain), cellular repair (which removes old and dysfunctional proteins built up within cells), gene expression (which can help fight against disease), an increase in heart and brain health, and even cancer prevention. That being said, intermittent fasting should not be utilized by people with diabetes, low blood pressure, a history of eating disorders, those who are breastfeeding, or those trying to conceive.

 

Because I knew I would be researching this topic, I started intermittent fasting, and I think it is a valid and useful lifestyle with incredible benefits. Simply skipping a meal or two a day is a very easy process I have found makes my body more energized and oddly enough, brings a newfound significance to food. Before trying IF, I was already pretty connected to food. I would cook every meal I ate, I tried to bring variety into my diet, and thought my relationship with food was, overall, pretty great. However, intermittent fasting gives you a newfound respect for food. Knowing that you are only going to get one meal a day makes you want to be creative with that meal and make it a good one. Intermittent fasting can be difficult the first few days, but once you are about 3 days in, you really start to enjoy the process. Overall, you are less focused on food, you feel inclined to drink more water, and actually forget that you are even fasting in the first place. Because of this, you may kick yourself for breaking your fast earlier than anticipated and eating that donut hole that your professor gave you on the last day of class without a second thought (true story). No matter the struggles in the first few days, or my forgetfulness in class, I have come to really enjoy intermittent fasting. I already feel healthier, and it is also saving me money because I don’t have to buy as much food as I was before.

 

I would definitely recommend this lifestyle to anyone looking for a change in their life. You don’t need to follow a structured plan to experience some of the benefits, and you can really experiment with all of the different approaches and find something that you enjoy and fits your schedule. IF is a great way to feel healthier, and it could just be the thing you need this semester.

 

 

 

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