I am sure by now, you have heard of Intermittent Fasting, or IF. It is a prescribed time frame when you do not eat. For example, you eat from 6 am to 6 pm, then fast for 12 hours. Another option is to only eat from 10 am to 6 pm, you are fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8. This coincides with the thought that humans are very well adapted and historically we have used fasting out of necessity to survive winters, and famines, heal from disease, and religious ceremonies.
Fasting has proven to be beneficial for autoimmunity or other chronic diseases. Some people swear it is the answer to all of your weight woes. They swear eating only one meal a day is the answer. You hear things like, I have clearer focus and attention, the brain fog is gone, I work like a rock star. I am not discounting any of these claims, and for that "particular individual" it may be true. This is where you need to be empowered in knowing, it may NOT be the right answer for you!
We are all unique and different. Men and women are different and how they react to IF is just as unique. According to Esther Blum, RD of 71 peer-reviewed studies on intermittent fasting, only 13 of them were done on women. Woah....what?? Women are not little men, and our hormones play a leading role in our metabolism.
The hormone fluctuations of women on a daily and monthly basis can directly affect how well IF could work for you. Depending on where you are in your life cycle, IF could be a dream maker or dream taker. Women who are still cycling may want to consider IF during the first half of their cycle only or not at all. Post-menopausal women typically have the best success but assess your body and lifestyle before jumping on the IF bandwagon.
Questions to ask yourself before trying intermittent fasting:
Do you lose weight if you practice IF?
Do you have good energy all day, even if you don't eat?
Can you skip meals, and not binge eat later in the day, or become hangry?
Do you wake up hungry?
Do you have evenly balanced blood sugar and do not get lightheaded or irritable without food?
Have you struggled with an eating disorder? This could be a trigger.
Do you cycle regularly without pain or moodiness, and your hormones are balanced?
Assessing your current mental and physical state is key. We live in a world where many of us are overfed and undernourished. We are in a calorie-surplus state on our bodies, but due to stress, the environment, or choosing the convenient processed choice our bodies are screaming for food. Our cravings are often signs that we may be missing key nutrients, or we have used food as a "fix" for our problems and our bodies are in a state of confusion.
Intermittent fasting from 6 pm to 6 am, is a safe place to start. Our bodies are designed and primed to do most of our digestion earlier in the day. Eating larger meals in the morning, and eliminating the late-night snacking is an easy point of entry since most of the fasting is being done while you are sleeping. If this triggers sleeplessness, or waking in the middle of the night due to hunger, then adjust the time frame. Uninterrupted deep sleep beats intermittent fasting every time.
Some of us are stuck in flight or fight 24/7. Our bodies are operating at such a high level of stress that adding the restriction of food is just one more stressor, we cannot take on. An honest assessment of your life, and a belief that you can do what is best for it, leads to empowerment. You may need food more frequently to make your nervous system feel safe and regulated, not less. Changing the script to honor your journey and embracing that you can do what is best for you is a great place to start! You are meant to thrive!