Give your Body a Break from Food
I often get asked my opinion on fasting. Intermittent fasting is something we have been looking at in some depth in the Healthy Whole and Free Forever programme, which is the membership program that runs after the Healthy Whole and Free course. The video and blog below explain what intermittent fasting is and what the benefits of giving your body a break from food might be.
Intermittent fasting can offer real benefits for your body, your spirit and your soul, but it is not the same as spiritual fasting. Intermittent fasting focuses on the benefits for our body and brain, and of course, when we look after our body and brain better, that impacts our spiritual life too.
What is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where you switch between periods of eating and not eating. You might have heard of the 5:2 format, where you eat normally for 5 days and then you fast for 2 days. Often with 5:2 the fasting days are days where you eat just 400 or 500 calories. You also may have heard of 16:8, which is where you fit all your eating into 8 hours a day and then have a break from food for a 16 hour stretch. You might have heard of eat-stop-eat which is a bit more random and periods of fasting more sporadic and it depends what you’ve got going on, but you might eat normally for a few days and then stop for 24-hours, then eat normally for a week and stop for 30 hours, for example.
Is intermittent fasting right for you? I would only advise exploring intermittent fasting if you’re already in a good place with food and are feeling free in that area. If you’re free, you eat relatively healthily most of the time and you don’t beat yourself up and if you eat something less healthy once in a while; you’re not limited by any kind of dieting mentality and you’re not thinking about food all the time. If this describes where you are in your healthy journey, then intermittent fasting might be something to consider as your next step. I would not recommend it if you’re pregnant, if you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding. And if you ever experience any ill effects from fasting, then you must stop.
What are the benefits? There is still a lot of ongoing research on intermittent fasting. There have been lots of trials but some of those still only on animals, and we are yet to reach the volume of research that would bring it fully into the public domain. But it has been talked about a lot; you might have seen programmes or read books by Michael Mosley, who has popularised this approach to eating. And all the research that’s been done so far points to intermittent fasting being really good for us and for us.
Early evidence suggests it may help to lower blood sugars; reduce inflammation in our cells (inflammation is bad for us in many ways); get rid of free radicals (those things we pick up in the atmosphere around us and the things that we consume); and improve our insulin response, reducing insulin resistance. It can help to repair your cells; it might prevent cancer and the more serious impacts of Alzheimer’s. It might help if we have to have chemotherapy and our body’s response to that. it could help our brain function; it could lengthen our lifespan and it could help to reduce body fat.
There are potentially loads of benefits, so you should take it as a little bit of a warning sign if you just are interested in intermittent fasting to solely to reduce body fat or tackle weight loss. If you’re living a balanced life, you should want it for all the other health benefits as well! Having said that it, has been shown to reduce fat around your waist area which is very important, because carrying fat in that area can be more dangerous for us.
How does it work? I tried 5:2 few years ago, when I was wondering whether to recommend it as part of ‘Your Plate of Plenty’, the personalised healthy eating plan that Fitfish has developed. Personally, I found that doing 5:2 made me think too much about food on the days I was fasting, and rather than eating healthily and normally on the other 5 days, I felt I was going a little bit crazy and perhaps eat things I wouldn’t normally eat. I also found that having just 400 or 500 calories a day on the 2 fasting days made me have to weigh things like spinach and celery. This just felt unnatural and felt like it might lead back to some of the behaviours I’d had before Fitfish, where I would binge and overeat and think about food too much. So, it did not work for me, but it could work for you!
I also felt that I would find stop-go-stop approach with longer periods of fasting would be too hard to stick to as I think I would get too hungry! However, I find a 16:8 approach can work really well, and it can fit into your lifestyle. And it doesn’t have to be 16:8, it could be 14:10 or 12:12; you can just start by giving your body a little bit more of a break from eating than it’s had before. For me, 16:8 ratio doesn’t quite work as I don’t want my son to see me skipping meals or to be sat with him while he’s eating and I’m not. So I find 14:10 works better for me.
And you can tailor it to suit your lifestyle too. Are you normally a ‘breakfast person’ or are you quite happy to miss breakfast and go until 10, 11 or even 12 o’clock before you eat? If so, you could eat a bit later in the evening and have that gap in the morning. If you eat dinner quite early, for example if you have younger children and eat by 5:30, you could make that your break and start again at breakfast. So, it’s a lot easier and can more flexibly fit into your life.
But only do it if it’s really easy and natural for you. Don’t let it become a rule or restraint, because that’s what we want to get away from. If it’s easy and natural, go for it! You don’t have to do all the time either, and even if you did it once every now and again it would do your body good!
We have recently launched a new Fitfish shop selling a new range of Fitfish T-shirts and hoodies in lots of great colours. And next week the Fitfish Bookclub is starting up again and we will be reading ‘Digging for Diamonds’ by Cathy Madavan. You can find all the details and join in on Facebook – we woud love you to come and join us there too.