Intermittent fasting may sound like another hoax trend, but in actuality it comes with a number of benefits toward better health. Defined as an eating pattern cycling between eating and fasting, I.F. is concerning less with what you consume but rather when/how often you consume. If you’re the type to skip breakfast, waiting until noon or later to eat your first meal, or you typically don’t eat after, say, 7 PM, there’s a good chance you already partake in the cycle without even realizing it.
The most popular cycle is known as the 16/8 method. That’s when you go 16 hours without eating and allow an eight-hour window of time to eat whatever you want. During the fasting period, you can drink anything you’d like, such as water, simple coffee/tea, and other non-caloric beverages. In the beginning, this may seem daunting, but once you begin, the hunger dissipates, and it becomes quite easy to adjust. Other popular types are the 12/12 method or the 5:2 Diet, when during two days a week only, you consume 500 to 600 calories. There is also the Eat-Stop-Eat cycle, in which you fast for a full 24-hour period from dinner one day through the next. (To learn more about Eat Stop Eat, you can visit the website at www.eatstopeat.org.)
Since I was roughly 10 years old, I’ve fasted on the Jewish high holiday, Yom Kippur, for a startling 25 hours. Although it’s difficult, it does get easier as the years go on. However, my Italian side of the family still doesn’t understand how anyone could give up food.
As an adult, I hear more and more people partaking in voluntary fasting for health purposes. They don’t forgo food to lose weight, but rather for all that they gain.
Tackling the simplest idea, weight loss makes sense. Fasting between meals allows insulin levels to go down. Lower insulin levels lead to steady blood sugar levels, which bring the sugar broken down from carbohydrates into the fat cells. Once insulin goes down, the fat cells take that stored sugar and release it as energy, allowing us to burn off fat. As body fat is being lost, lean tissue remains at a healthy level.
Another benefit is that you may increase your lifespan. When you partake in I.F., your cells restore themselves for optimal performance, ridding whatever isn’t working properly. The cells are looking elsewhere for alternative sources of energy, forcing the body to go into survival mode by replacing bad cells with healthy ones. Therefore, the cells are producing less free radicals, which help cause stress, and thereby slowing down the aging process.
Intermittent fasting can improve your immune system, as cells begin to regenerate, essentially cleaning out your system. These regenerated cells also aid in clearing our skin, another way to prevent the signs of aging.
In short, fasting for periods at a time jumpstarts the body to focus on other functions aside from digestion, taking energy from other sources not related to food consumption. When there’s no food to break down, the body will naturally tap into fat and dead
tissues, replacing the old with the new.
December 1 is World Fasting Day, a stand against hunger to recognize all of those throughout world suffering from starvation. In light of this global effort, it could be a great opportunity to jumpstart your introduction to intermittent fasting. You can say you’re doing it for yourself and those in need.