When I first heard about intermittent fasting, I was filled with dread. Fasting has been associated with harsh self-denial and naturally brought to mind images of being forced to starve, deprive myself and count calories, which as you know, I never like to do. Besides, as a kid, I always cheated on the 40 hour famine before Lent.
But recently, I listened to a podcast with Brad Pilon, author of “Eat Stop Eat” on the subject that totally enlightened me as to the many different variations of intermittent fasting.
And here’s the funny thing, it turns out I have been intermittent fasting for 8 years, without even knowing. You see, since the birth of my kids, I always eat dinner with them at 5pm and don’t eat breakfast until 8am, which totals 15 hours where my body has a complete break from eating (I do drink water, green tea, black tea and coffee in between, which don’t count as eating).
When your body adjusts to the fasting period, eating nothing can be far easier than eating little. Then when you do eat, you eat until you are totally satisfied.
What is Intermittent Fasting Exactly?
Here’s a simple definition of intermittent fasting: you eat your normal amount of food in a smaller time frame. It’s not a diet, it’s just a pattern of eating that reduces your eating window each day to about 8 hours.
On intermittent fasting, the longest time you’ll ever abstain from food is 36 hours, although 14-18 hours is more common. You can also opt to simply delay eating. For example, skipping breakfast may be just the thing to get you off a plateau in your weight loss results, especially if you eat dinner quite late.
Eating late in the day is not a good idea if you eat breakfast early, lunch, and dinner, because it takes away the last opportunity your body has to reach a long interval of low insulin. Low insulin levels are good for burning fat rather than storing it. If you’re fasting 14-16 hours a day, it doesn’t matter whether you eat early or late – your body still gets the opportunity to burn fat.
It’s funny, because while living in Paris, the French family I lived with always ate dinner at 8pm and my French boyfriend and his mum always skipped breakfast, and just had coffee in the morning and lunch at 1pm, which means they (perhaps unknowingly) were intermittent fasting as well.
Yes, they did skip “breakfast” as we traditionally know it, but they weren’t grabbing pastries at 10am either. Their break-fast meal just came later in the day and could be defined as breaking the fast or simply their first meal of the day, which happened in the early afternoon. So all morning their bodies are in fat burning mode with no insulin present.
The benefits of taking a long break from eating is that it takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores and after that you actually start to shift to burning fat. However if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every few hours, you make it far more difficult for your body to actually use your fat stores as fuel.
The Biggest Benefits – Fat Burning, Simplicity and Compliance
The biggest benefit of intermittent fasting is simplicity. Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. It’s a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat. The French are quite military about when they have their mealtimes and I always encourage my clients to schedule their meals at regular times to regulate their appetite hormones, rather than graze and snack all day.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat every 2-3 hours in order to lose weight. Eating constantly keeps insulin, the fat storing hormone, elevated and never gives your body a chance to access its stored fat for fuel.
Initially, adjusting to periods of not eating is a big step for many people, so I recommend you to think of it as you would think of climbing a sandy hill. It takes a lot of little steps and you should not approach it expecting not to slip at all. Some people can make the switch in a day, but if you slip, just keep taking little steps that get you to the top of the hill. If you slip, the hill doesn’t get higher. As long as you make a tiny bit of progress each time, you will get to the top and reap the fat burning benefits.
Why is it worthwhile to change when you’re eating?
Well, simply by changing when you eat, it’s a great way to get slim without going on a crazy diet or cutting your calories down to nothing. In fact, I recommend you try to keep your calories the same when you start intermittent fasting. It’s not an excuse to binge or pig out, but you will have a healthy hunger at your first meal of the day. As you know, hunger is the best seasoning, so it WILL taste amazing. Additionally, intermittent fasting is a good way to retain your metabolically active muscle mass, while losing excess weight.
The truth is, the main reason people try intermittent fasting is to lose weight. Fortunately, intermittent fasting requires very little behaviour change, so it makes it simple enough that you’ll actually do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
To understand how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss we first need to understand the difference between the fed state and the fasted state.
Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. Typically, the fed state starts when you begin eating and lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate. When you are in the fed state, it’s very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.
After that timespan, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for your body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
When you’re in the fasted state your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.
If you really want to shift stubborn fat stores, I recommend exercising in the fasted state, which is something that can easily be slotted in, even if it means getting up 30 minutes earlier.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.
I feel that the reason most diets fail when we simply switch foods is that most people won’t sustain the deprivation over the long term. However, with intermittent fasting or effective meal scheduling, it’s remarkably easy to implement, once you train your internal body clock and get over the idea that you need to eat all the time.
Once you have adapted to the new eating routine and understand the benefits of taking a break from eating, intermittent fasting is very doable for the long term.
Is it a good idea to “starve” yourself just a little bit each day? The evidence suggests that yes, avoiding eating around the clock could have a very beneficial impact on your health and longevity.
It’s long been known that restricting calories in certain animals can increase their lifespan by as much as 50 percent, but more recent research suggests that sudden and intermittent calorie restriction appears to provide the same health benefits as constant calorie restriction, which may be helpful for those who cannot successfully reduce their everyday calorie intake (or aren’t willing to).
Unfortunately, hunger is a basic human drive that can’t be easily suppressed, so anyone attempting to implement serious calorie restriction is virtually guaranteed to fail. Fortunately you don’t have to deprive yourself as virtually all of the benefits from calorie restriction can be achieved through properly applied intermittent fasting.
How Does Fasting Benefit Your Health?
While fasting has long gotten a bum rap for being one of the more torturous ways to battle the bulge, it really doesn’t have to be an arduous affair. We’re NOT talking about starving yourself for days on end. Simply restricting your daily eating to a narrower window of time of say 6-8 hours, you can reap the benefits without the suffering. This equates to 16-18 hours worth of fasting each and every day — enough to get your body to shift into fat-burning mode.
Many studies have evaluated daily intermittent fasting, and the results are compellingly positive. Three major mechanisms by which fasting benefits your body, as it extends lifespan and protects against disease, include:
Increased insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial energy efficiency – Fasting increases insulin sensitivity along with mitochondrial energy efficiency, and thereby retards aging and disease, which are typically associated with loss of insulin sensitivity and declined mitochondrial energy.
Reduced oxidative stress – Fasting decreases the accumulation of oxidative radicals in the cell, and thereby prevents oxidative damage to cellular proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids associated with aging and disease.
Increased capacity to resist stress, disease and aging – Fasting induces a cellular stress response (similar to that induced by exercise) in which cells up-regulate the expression of genes that increase the capacity to cope with stress and resist disease and aging.
Is Daily Fasting the Key to Permanent Weight Loss?
One of the most important studies in support of daily intermittent fasting was published just last year. A few biologists fed mice a high-fat, high-calorie diet but altered when they were able to eat.
One group had access to food both day and night, while the other group had access to food for only eight hours at night (the most active period for mice). In human terms, this would mean eating only for 8 hours during the day. Despite consuming the same amount of calories, mice that had access to food for only eight hours stayed lean and did not develop health problems like high blood sugar or chronic inflammation. They even had improved endurance motor coordination on the exercise wheel. The all-day access group, on the other hand, became obese and were plagued with health problems including high cholesterol, high blood sugar, fatty liver disease and metabolic problems.
This suggests that your body may benefit from the break it receives while fasting, whereas constant eating may lead to metabolic exhaustion and health consequences like weight gain. Researchers said their latest work shows it’s possible to stave off metabolic disease by simply restricting when you eat with periodic fasting, or even by just keeping to regular meal schedules rather than “grazing” off and on all day.
But Wait! I Get Hypoglycaemia When I go Without Eating for Very Long…
Hypoglycaemia is very rare in one who is not diabetic. What you feel when you go for more than a few hours without eating is real, but it’s probably not hypoglycaemia since you can sleep 7-8 hours and not have more severe symptoms upon awakening. If you think you have hypoglycaemia, ask a doctor to check and ask whether you should monitor yourself with a glucometer like those used by diabetics. The feelings you attribute to hypoglycaemia should subside as you adapt.
Therefore, time restricted eating is a positive strategy against obesity and metabolic problems.
From my experience, it’s much easier to implement “time restricted eating” if you eat a high protein and healthy fat diet, like I recommend in my Thin For Life Program. Don’t even think about intermittent fasting if you eat the typical American/Australian portions of high glycemic junk food because you will struggle.
With all the health benefits it gives you, giving your body a break from eating and waiting for true, authentic hunger before you eat will really help to sharpen your tastebuds and torch those stubborn fat stores!
Have you ever made apple noodles? They are super easy and fun to make for dessert with the spiralizer (which I use to make zucchini noodles as well). I like to drizzle a little honey and sprinkle some cinnamon and sliced almonds on top and perhaps some Greek yogurt for a delicious, fast and healthy dessert. You could also add some nuts, coconut and yogurt for breakfast. My kids love them for a after school snack as well.
If you want more inspiration for the spiralizer and how to make delicious, healthy meals, check out Ali’s fabulous blog Inspiralized. See how cooking with the spiralizer helped her get healthy and shed over 20lbs!
One of the questions I get asked most often is “Why do I eat emotionally – and how can I stop?”
In my mind, noticing when and why you reach for the cookies as a way of coping is the first step in interrupting the cycle.
Wanting to eat emotionally is because part of your mind converts intense, turbulent feelings into hunger. For emotional eaters, at some point in our life we learned that eating could take away bad feelings. That’s why we eat too much when we’re stressed or depressed.
We all have the natural hunger our body generates when it needs energy. That’s called physical hunger. We also have the hunger our mind generates when we’re seeking comfort, reward and nurturing. That’s called emotional hunger.
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is essentially “non-hunger” eating as a way of coping and when we do too much non-hunger eating with addictive food devoid of nutrients, we get fat, sick and tired.
Truth is, we all have emotional hunger. We all just want to be loved and valued.
Since we were babies, we’ve all learned to equate food with love and comfort to some degree. Eating for love, reward and comfort only becomes a problem when we misuse this quick fix too often.
Reaching for a second helping can creep up on us. Unconsciously, over time it can become so habitual that we’re hardly aware we’re using food as a strategy for coping with anxiety, boredom, stress and anger.
So what’s the biggest mistake emotional eaters make?
In a nutshell, it’s remaining emotional unaware.
This is where self-inquiry and careful observation becomes crucial at fixing the problem.
In her bestselling book Women, Food, and God, Geneen Roth says self-inquiry allows people to be aware of something they don’t yet know but are yearning to find out.
With emotional eaters, often that yearning is to find out “What am I really hungry for?” And is this bag of chips the best way to get it? Here’s the thing, if you eat to manage your emotions, you have likely discovered that it doesn’t work, because food can never satisfy our deep emotional needs.
4 Steps to Interrupting the Cycle
There are several ways to interrupt the automatic, unconscious grab for food;
1) Notice when you are wanting to eat emotionally
2) Feel your emotions
3) Identify what you need: a hug, social contact, stress relief, sleep, letting go of what you can’t control
4) Take another action: call a friend, give your spouse or children a hug or ask them for one, cuddle with your pet, watch a funny movie, say affirmations, go for a walk (even though you may not feel like it), take a nap or go to bed early, meditate or pray, scrapbook, or read a book. Practicing doing something different each time the struggle arises moves you closer to the goal of avoiding emotional eating and toward other coping skills.
It Gets Easier Over Time…
Each time you do something different, your brain builds new pathways that recognize an alternative way of coping. Over time, it gets easier to do, however, it is a process and we must be patient with ourselves, much like we would a young child who is learning something new.
On the occasions that you do eat instead of healthy coping, don’t feel hopeless or beat yourself up. Instead, know that you are making a choice, and you are in charge no matter what. You are not a victim but an individual who had choices. You are strong and you can do this.
If you are ready to experience emotions without consuming them, then food freedom awaits you at the other end.
For most people I know, the thought of giving up sugar fills them with dread and fear. We have been so conditioned from birth to use sweets as a “pick me up”, reward and to celebrate, it’s truly daunting to imagine life without those sweet little pleasures.
So, what’s a sugarholic to do?
In my mind, the secret of letting go is to know that life will still be beautiful without sugar and instead with the healthier alternatives we now have available.
The good news is, we can still enjoy our sweets treats without any detriment to our health, metabolism or weight – we just have to go about things a little differently.
Thanks to the newest sugar substitutes, it’s becoming easier and healthier to bake your cake and eat it too. If you want the sweetness in your life, without the downside, this is what I recommend:
-Use the herb stevia. It has zero calories and has zero impact on blood sugar. I like Stevia in the Raw, which I buy in bulk from Costco. In Australia, I used Natvia. It works well sprinkled over plain yogurt, in tea, coffee or hot cocoa or in desserts as a one for one for sugar.
-Bake treats with erythritol (which has zero impact on insulin). I now use the brand Swerve for baking, but since it has a “cooling effect”, I cut the cooling effect with Sweet Leaf stevia drops, which balances out the taste in baked goods beautifully.
-Use organic coconut sugar in moderation, for a “brown sugar” effect. Coconut sugar has more iron in it and four times the amount of magnesium in it than regular sugar. However, since it is still sugar, it will raise blood sugar, so always consume it with protein and healthy fat to tame the insulin response.
-Use organic raw honey or real maple syrup in the smallest possible quantities. They are both super sweet, and will raise blood sugar, so you only need a dab.
-Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose.
-Avoid agave syrup, since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose. Fructose is bad news because your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose – the entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver. With agave, your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave’s meteoric rise in popularity is due to a great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are processed out.
On top of this, I recommend avoiding the many energy drinks, diet drinks and sports drinks because they are loaded with sugar, sodium, and chemical additives.
Rehydrating with pure, fresh water is always the best choice. Personally, I love mini Perrier bottles that come with a dash of lime in them – my kids love them too.
And when you do eat have it, be sure to eat your sugar with fiber … as in a piece of fruit (natures candy). Personally I love a small bowl of frozen blueberries or tart cherries for dessert. As Dr. Lustig says, “When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote: fiber.” The fiber in whole fruits slows down absorption and minimises the impact on blood sugar levels, which is far better for our health and weight.
I always have some stevia sweetened cookies, muffins or cakes made with nut and coconut flours in the freezer, ready to eat, which really helps me avoid feeling deprived.
If you’ve ever tried, you’ll know that Candida overgrowth is hard to kill off.
Scientists estimate that 70% of us have it, but it often gets overlooked or misdiagnosed. We crave sugar, feel exhausted, have depression, anxiety, bloating, headaches and sinus infections. We may have recurring thrush, nail fungus or athletes foot and difficulty losing weight.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of how to kill the “yeast beast” for good, I would like to enlighten you on a nagging reason why you should take this yeast problem, if you have it, seriously.
The Link between Candida and Cancer
Candida sabotages your weight loss efforts because of the toxicity and inflammation it causes. It’s also a serious threat to your health for another reason – cancer.
According to many leading cancer experts, there is an astounding connection between yeast and cancer.
The Italian doctor, Dr Tuillio Simoncini, oncologist and author of “Cancer is Fungus”, believes that the root cause of all cancer is fungus. His extensive research has lead him to believe that Candida is the leading cause of cancer, that cancer itself is in fact a fungus. What we refer to as a tumour is nothing more than your body’s attempt at protecting itself from that fungus.
Several studies have linked the presence of candida with cancer, showing that anywhere between 79 to 97% of all cancer patients also have Candida.
Dr Simonicini’s explanation of how this phenomenon works is that Candida takes hold in the body and weakens and exhausts the organs.
When Candida roots itself in your deep connective tissue of various organs, this evokes an organic defensive reaction as the connective tissue of your invaded organ attempts to encyst the fungi colonies through cellular hyperproduction, which results in the formation of tumours.
Growths continue as the fungi spreads, both in the surrounding tissue and in other parts of the body that may be weakened also. It is still the same Candida attacking different tissues, but due to its highly adaptive qualities, it is able to mutate and adapt itself to whatever environment it can. Since it’s very opportunistic, it will invade whatever parts of the body are weakened.
As a result, your body becomes progressively more exhausted, which allows the fungi to spread and take over more rapidly. Eventually, you die from “cancer” or in fact a systemic fungal overgrowth.
If cancer is actually a fungus, as Dr Simoncini and others propose that it is, it would make sense that anti-fungal drugs would then treat cancer.
But here’s the dilemma. The problem with anti-fungal drugs is that fungi are extremely adaptive, and can adapt to a new environment in 3-4 days. This makes most anti-fungal drugs largely ineffective.
Although yeast infection can feel like its overtaking your life, your body is more than capable of fighting back, and winning, if you give it the right tools, and make your body an unhospitable host to Candida.
But Candida is hard to kill off. You have to be committed.
So How Do I Eliminate Candida?
The first step is to stop feeding the yeast what it loves – sugar and refined carbohydrates. A word of warning – the anti-yeast diet is not for the faint hearted! It nearly killed me, but I was determined to be done with it.
Usually, I don’t advocate a super strict, deprivation diet, but if you are suffering from Candida, you need to eat this way for at least 6-10 weeks;
-Go sugar free, gluten free, soy free and dairy free (avoiding all grains is recommended)
-avoid yeast and mold containing foods such as peanuts, mushrooms, aged cheeses, alcohol, vinegar and Vegemite.
Along with a diet that aims to starve the yeast, you also need to kill it with specific herbs. You can start the diet and the herbs at the same time.
There are many herb concoctions on the market that specifically target Candida. The supplement should contain all or most of the following; caprylic acid, pau d’arco, oregano oil, olive leaf extract, zinc and berberine. Personally, I like Designs for Health Gi Microb-X. In addition, I also like to take Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract which are potent aged garlic capsules.
But these herbs alone won’t do the trick. To properly kill the microorganism that is causing trouble, you also have to break down the biofilm (the fungal cell wall) that’s protecting it. Biofilms act as a protective shield around yeast and other microorganisms, making it even more challenging to eradicate the yeast, because the anti-fungals/antibiotic herbs cannot get through biofilm matrix. This is how yeast protects itself from being destroyed and why it is so challenging to get rid of.
I do this with InterFase Pluswhich contains enzymes to break down the cell wall. In addition, I recommend drinking food grade Diatomaceous Earth. It’s a bit like drinking clay, but it’s marvelous for targeting the yeast. These old tiny fossils don’t harm the human body, but act like razor blades to the exoskeleton of the candida.
Once you’ve finished killing off the Candida, you need to reinoculate the gut with good bacteria and starve out the remaining yeast. I recommend using a very good quality probiotic. I like Threelac Probioticor Prescript-Assist.
I also recommend taking Bi-carb soda baths daily. Simply add two cups of bi-carbonate soda (I bought a huge bag from Costco) to your bath. It’s incredibly alkalizing, and yeast hates an alkaline environment!
Stay as strict as you can with the diet. I know it’s not fun, but trust me; it’s worth it to be symptom free!
If weight loss is your goal, you’ll notice fewer cravings, more energy and you’ll see the scale start to shift once you build your gut with healthy bacteria.
As you can see, you have to be committed to beat the yeast beast, but there is every good reason to take action and knock it on the head. Good luck!
Sally Asher Healthy Tips
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