Like most people, I’m overweight.
I’m also one of those normal people without a particularly fast metabolism. When I eat a calorie-restricted diet, I lose a little, but then my metabolism adjusts and my weight loss will plateau. After a week or two of plateaued weight, I quit and hit the hot wings…hard.
In the Fall of 2018, I stumbled across a Joe Rogan video about intermittent fasting. It was pretty intriguing. Here’s the video (28 minutes long). Skip past the video for a brief written explanation of intermittent fasting and its benefits.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
I did more research on it and learned a lot more. Intermittent fasting, or IF, is regularly fasting for short periods of time. There are different kinds of fasts, so to clarify, the kind of fasting applied in IF is a zero calorie fast, but also excludes zero calorie sweeteners. No foods or drinks with Aspartame, Sucralose, or other artificial sweeteners, either. You can drink water, black coffee, and tea. That’s it.
The “intermittent” part of IF is usually set to a minimum of 16 hours. This is important because your body starts to adjust where and how it accesses calories for energy expenditure at around 16 hours. All of the processes in your body, every movement, every breath, and even every thought takes energy to make it happen. Calories are they fuel that’s burned for that energy to be available for those processes and activities.
After 16 hours of fasting, your body starts to shift slowly. Since the calories from your last meal have been used already, your body will seek calories from other places. Your body stores calories in a couple places. One of those places is your fat stores.
In other words, after 16 hours of fasting, your body will start to pull calories from your fat. That means you’ll lose fat. Yay!
To be clear, it doesn’t look like fat burning efficiency jumps immediately to 100% after 16 hours. From what I’ve learned, it simply starts at 16 hours of fasting. And I’d imagine that 16-hour target is pretty general and most people will not start right at 16 hours. People with a naturally faster metabolism will start sooner. I imagine my body will start later.
Such is life…
Why Intermittent Fasting Is Appealing To Me
There’s a lot of reasons that past diets haven’t worked for me.
- I get hungry and grumpy. My body never quite adjusts, so my moods swing drastically more when I’m just reducing calories on a 3 meal/day diet.
- I get caught in situations where sticking to a healthy eating regimen is hard, like when you’re invited to a friend’s house for dinner. I live in the South where not eating what’s on your plate is rude.
- I have to exercise immense willpower to choose healthy food over delicious food.
- Reduced calories on a 3 meal/day diet kills my energy levels and leaves me tired all the time. That means I’ve never been able to have a solid workout routine while on a reduced calorie diet.
The appeal of IF is mainly the following.
- I don’t have to decide what to eat so much as deciding to continue not eating. That’s a simpler decision for me.
- When I go to a friend’s house, I don’t have to worry about what they’re serving. If I’m in a fast during that time, I can just say, “I’m fasting right now” and people get it.
- IF proponents say that fasting won’t kill energy levels, which means I should be able to continue the workout regimen that I established in 2018.
- I should be able to get a little more flexibility in what I eat during my eating window. I don’t think bingeing is allowed, but I won’t have to be quite as restrictive when I do eat.
Designing My 2019 Eating Plan with Intermittent Fasting
When I started making my plan for 2019, I knew I wanted to make intermittent fasting part of it. After all, I’ve tried lots of other eating plans and nothing has worked…aside from that one year when I was also severely depressed and had no appetite…which, if you think about it, was most closely related to an intermittent fast.
Since IF is so simple, it doesn’t take much design or planning. In fact, all you have to “plan” is to plan to do nothing related to food for a minimum of 16 hours a day. Eight hours of that is sleep. Four hours of that is post-dinner satisfaction. So the other four hours to cover is the morning, which is just skipping breakfast and eating a late lunch.
Time Restricted Eating, The Other Part of the “IF” Equation
If you are fasting for 16+ hours daily, that means you’re only eating during a short, specific window each day. That’s the essence of Time Restricted Eating. Since you are only taking in calories during a short window of time, your body can run its food processor more efficiently. Your body isn’t processing the last meal still when you put new food into the system.
The other benefits of Time Restricted Eating are:
- I should save some money by simply eating fewer meals, even if those meals are generally a bit larger than a typical calorie-restricted diet. After all, eating three 500 calorie meals is more expensive than a single 1500 calorie meal. It’s the same energy input for your body, but one meal is cheaper than three.
- I’ll save time throughout the day by not spending time eating. I typically spend about two hours total eating breakfast and lunch. That’s two hours I’m reclaiming every day when I choose to eat fewer meals.
I’m Curious About Regular, Prolonged Fasting
Most of my research has been around IF, but prolonged fasting is also something I’m interested in. Apparently, prolonged fasting has some amazing health benefits.
A prolonged fast is considered any fast that lasts longer than 24 hours. Many people fast once a year for a week or more as a cleanse or a spiritual commitment. The longest water fast, when you only drink water and nothing else, is over 380 days.
Some of the purported benefits of prolonged fasting are:
- Significant fat loss without muscle loss
- Decreased inflammatory responses in the body, like arthritis or migraines
- Increased mental focus
- Prolonged ketosis, where your body is burning fat cells for energy exclusively
- Increased production of stem cells
- Increased immune system response
These benefits aren’t entirely proven…at least not all of them. However, fat loss without muscle loss, prolonged ketosis, and increased mental focus are very real benefits.
So, that’s my 2019 eating plan. I’ve already begun the IF regimen and I’m looking for a chance to commit to a prolonged fast in a safe way and at a time that I can maintain the fast. Since we’re doing a good bit of travel in the first half of the year, that might be tough.