Insights: Intermittent Fasting


Intermittent fasting is something that I have become aware of very recently, not knowing that it was a ‘thing’. In the month of January, I have been on a health kick (who isn’t, right?!), so I have been cutting out all the bad stuff, eating as much of the good stuff as possible and exercising more than I normally would. Due to my personal routine, I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is have a cup of hot water with lemon and/or apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach to start the cleansing ritual of my body. As I work mostly from home, I will do a work out in the morning after spending an hour or so checking emails and dealing with urgent things. So, by the time I have allowed my water and lemon to take effect, done a little work and then done my workout, it is quite often 11am before I get as far as making breakfast, which for me is always a smoothie (mostly green). I will follow with my lunch at about 1.30pm/2pm and then I will have my dinner at 6pm.

It started to occur to me that I was eating all of my daily meals within a time frame of 7 or 8 hours and then not eating any other time. I must say that I did wonder if this was a healthy way to eat. I wasn’t doing it deliberately, it was just a way of eating that I happened to fall into and coming from someone who strongly advocated not missing breakfast, I was somewhat concerned that not eating until 11am was not the most healthiest thing to do.

That is until, very coincidentally, last week I discovered the term ‘intermittent fasting’ and was quite intrigued to read up on it as this was, unknowns to myself, what I was doing. This happens to be, despite its current trend, a very healthy way to eat. And this comes from proper qualified nutritionists (it’s not always easy to define the specialists from the non-specialists). In my case, I heard the term from a respected and experienced nutritional therapist called Ian Marber (check out his website).

So, intermittent fasting is a way of eating. It is not a diet but it can help you to lose weight, so long as when you do eat you are doing so sensibly. There are three ways in which you can eat intermittently, the most popular one being the way I am now eating, i.e. eat within an eight hour period and fast the other 16 hours. It can actually fit very nicely into todays busy person’s lifestyle, as you firstly don’t need to worry about making and eating breakfast. Although do be careful that when you have your first meal, it is a healthy one, so you may need to be prepared the night before and take the right meals/snacks to work with you.

Remember, intermittent fasting will tell you when to eat, not what to eat, you have to figure this bit out for yourself and know that stuffing your body with too much food and the wrong kind of foods is not healthy and certainly won’t help you lose weight if this is your goal. The reasoning behind this way of eating comes from human evolution and the days when humans quite often had to go without food for longer periods of time until hunter-gatherers found more. So, humans have evolved to be able to function with long stretches of no food.

This was a complete revelation to me and one that I was very happy about because I naturally fell into this way of eating and was actually believing it couldn’t be good for me. The other two ways of eating intermittently is by fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week or by the 5:2 diet (which incidentally I had heard of) whereby you eat 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and then eat normally the other five days.

Calorie intake will naturally be reduced by only eating within a shorter time frame. When I wasn’t eating like this, I would have a smoothie first thing in the morning but it would never be enough to see me through until lunchtime so I would need a snack in between. By eating at 11am, 2pm and 6pm, you never go hungry in between. It does take a bit of getting used to not eating as soon as you get up if you’re used to early breakfast. However I didn’t find this because I couldn’t manage to eat before 11am due to all the other activities I had on. If you are not a breakfast person, then you are half way there to achieving this way of eating. I guess the easiest things to do is work out what time you have your evening meal and count back eight hours to your starting point.

There are many other benefits to eating this way. I’m not an expert, so I am not going to get too technical but it can help hormone levels, insulin levels, cellular repair, inflammation and it can increase your metabolic rate.

Intermittent fasting may not suit everyone, so be careful if you want to embark on this way of eating, do your research. For example, it wouldn’t be good for someone with diabetes as they need to eat often to keep blood sugar levels regulated, or if you are pregnant.

At the end of the day, how you eat and what you eat is entirely up to you and is all about what works for you. Personally, I have, albeit accidentally, totally embraced this way of eating and I will continue to do so now that I researched it and know that it is a healthy way of eating. It just seems to work for me.

lifestyle, food, editorBy Regina Turk