In the last installment of this series, I covered one simple method that could be used to incorporate fasting into the typical “modern” lifestyle. I’d like to continue by highlighting some important advantages afforded by this type of intermittent fasting (IF), and explain how it relates to another dietary strategy that has gained some popularity. It is called time restricted feeding (TRF). The timing of the IF is often expressed as a ratio of hours in a day spent without eating, such as 18:6. This is interpreted as meaning that you fast for 18 hours, break the fast, and have another meal 6 hours later before starting the 24 hour cycle again. TRF is slightly different. You could choose to restrict feeding to a six hour window during the day and have the exact same ratio as in IF of 18:6. But, in TRF those six hours are treated as a window of feeding which can contain more, as many meals or calories as desired. You restrict the time, but not necessarily the calories. One variant of TRF is OMAD (One Meal A Day) that can, on one end of the spectrum of experience, either pack an entire days caloric requirements into a single mealtime/event, or on the other end of the spectrum, restrict the types and amounts of calories consumed to pursue a specific health outcome.
Now, I want to make a few additional comments relating to the last installment of this series. First, there are about as many ways of incorporating fasting into your lifestyle as there are people alive. No one plan or fast is necessarily right or wrong, good or bad. There are times when one fasting technique will work for an individual, and for the same person later in life, it may not work again as well as it did before. An identical plan will work fabulous for one person, and seem to lack luster for another. That’s expected, actually. Don’t be hard on yourself, or others, if you see this happen. Be confident that you can experiment and learn how your own body responds to various fasting strategies as you seek to learn what works best for you.
Secondly, for those of you who tried the fasting technique described in our last article and felt the need to eat earlier than planned because you just couldn’t go “that long” without eating…it’s okay. You may have felt miserable, but you are not a miserable failure. Think of it as succeeding in stretching your feeding interval by 15-30 minutes, rather than as failing to stretch your feeding interval by 60 minutes. Stretching 15 minutes more for each of the next 4 days will still give you the same one hour needed to get closer to your goal!
Feeling Hungry Is Okay
May I also state the obvious…that feeling hungry is expected when we fast. However, feeling sick, is not. This happened to me once when I was attempting my first 36 hour fast. I was about 28 hours into it when I realized that although I had indeed been feeling hungry, I rather quickly started feeling horrible. What was happening, I believe, was related to my body never before having to attempt to transition from a primarily carbohydrate based metabolism to one nearly entirely drawing from fat reserves. This transition is forced when you voluntarily fast beyond your body’s reserve stores of glycogen, contained in muscles and the liver. In theory, this is predicted to occur for most people between 24-36 hours after they stop eating carbohydrates. So for me, it happened right on time. But, I didn’t tolerate it. Oh well. Whoopee. So what? So… I ate! No big deal! I did make it through that challenging phase successfully the next time I attempted a 36 hour fast. My body was then better prepared to switch to a primarily fat burning metabolism.
So, having related that personal experience, with which many who have fasted for over 24 hours recognize, I highlight the first advantage for the method given in Part 2 of this series. Specifically, that by compressing the time between two pre-existing meals until you can eliminate one of them, you learn to transition from the fed state to a fasting state in a more tolerable manner than going straight for a 24 hour fast. You could argue that there is no transition at all because you never reach a time when you would predict running out of carbohydrate reserves. That’s as tolerable as it gets! And as a bonus, your body has a bit of practice in hearing you tell it “no” when it wants to eat so that you increase your chances of success of pushing through that more difficult barrier if and when you ever chose to go past the roughly 24 hour mark.
The second advantage of the simple method described last time was that it disrupts the typical, Western, daily routine as little as possible. Things that disrupt our current set of lifestyle habits the most, are the things that are least likely to be retained as a new habit over the long term. I tried to set you up for success as best I could in this regard.
Thirdly, that plan for fasting achieves a 16-18 hour fast in about a week’s time. That’s relatively quick, when taken in the context of other typically recommended lifestyle changes. The quicker you experience a success, the more positive feedback you gain and build psychological momentum in the right direction as you accelerate your pursuit of wellness.
Fourth, in sharp contradistinction to diet plans/fads of the past, this technique has long term sustainability. It doesn’t change the food you shop for, prepare or eat and serve to friends or family (especially at the evening meal). It doesn’t arbitrarily restrict caloric intake to a level that creates a longstanding condition of daily hunger and deprivation. Those are some of the main reasons people fail in their efforts to make changes in the way they eat. It’s hard to find new places to shop for better food. It’s hard to learn how to cook differently, and even harder to convince the other people in your life that they should eat it! It’s hard eating just enough to be hungry all the time, but not enough to lose any weight or have a noticeable, positive impact on your health! There are so many things working against you in the traditional dieting model that it is no surprise it doesn’t work for people. It’s just not sustainable over the long term.
Finally, I will point out that once you reach an intermittent fast of 16-18 hours, you can exercise flexibility by switching it around during the day to suit your needs, making it easily adapted for travel or vacation plans, or when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. For example, I was recently traveling out of town for a day trip looking to obtain some garden supplies when the person I was to meet at my destination wasn’t there at one o’clock. I had noticed no restaurants or grocery stores nearby, and I was unsure of when this person was going to show up to meet me. Because I had done it so many times before, I simply said to myself, “Well, I guess I’m not eating any food in this town. I can just eat when I get home.” And so, after about 15 minutes of feeling hungry, my day continued uninterrupted by stress or uncertainty. I simply skipped a meal, no big deal. I’d done it before by choice, and I’ll have days in the future when I’ll have to do it again. Fasting has given me freedom, freedom to say no to myself when I need to. In my opinion, that’s the most beneficial feature of fasting.
Call to Action
So, for fasting to be widely adopted, it must be convenient, relatively painless, and yet also obviously beneficial in a short amount of time. That’s what I tried to do with the “a-la Cobos” intermittent fast. Let us know how it goes for you!
Medical Disclaimer: These articles are for informational purposes and not intended to take the place of a medical professional. Neither the publisher nor the author are claiming to treat or diagnose illness of any kind.