The Holidays! Such a loving, busy, and delicious time of year–crisp weather accompanied by cinnamon-spiced apple cider and juicy dry-rubbed roast turkey to follow. Of course, finishing a holiday meal with a slice of homemade pie and a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream makes for a perfect celebration.
However, there is one downside to the holidays: weight gain. Nobody likes to feel like a puffy marshmallow after overindulging in irresistibly scrumptious food, including marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes.
Well, folks, I’ve got a solution for you, and it’s something I wish I knew about years ago when I struggled with resisting food and the resulting weight gain. This is a powerful weight loss technique that has more benefits than just losing inches. A couple of those benefits include preventing and treating neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease), increasing the body’s ability to cope with stress, and extending the lifespan. It’s called intermittent fasting. Don’t click away just yet! Yes, I said it–the dreaded, screeching, nightmarish word–fasting. But, it’s probably not what you think it is…
Here’s what intermittent fasting is NOT:
1. An extreme resistance to food and drink
2. An unnatural bodily function
3. Something difficult to integrate into daily life
5. A change in diet
If that pleasantly surprised you, you’ll be happy to know that the majority of intermittent fasting, though an umbrella term, takes place while you’re sleeping. We naturally fast during sleep; this is when the body cleanses and repairs itself from stress and food from the previous day and rebalances itself in preparation for the next. Instead of adding supplements and health foods to promote the body’s automatic detoxification process, it is highly beneficial to leave your body enough time to do its job by fasting intermittently. It is a change in when you eat, not what you eat.
So, here is what intermittent fasting IS:
1. A natural resistance to food and drink:
Usually, those who fast intermittently begin with 12 hour fasting windows and can work up to 16-18+ hour fasts, if so desired. It may be challenging at first, but soon it becomes habitual. Having an early dinner or a late/skipped breakfast is all it requires. Even fasting only on weekdays can reverse metabolic disorders and reduce obesity. I find that it takes about a week to get used to it.
2. A natural bodily function:
The majority of the fast takes place during sleep, but one chooses to extend the fast by a few hours either before or after bed. After fasting becomes habitual, simply eating only when you experience hunger results in natural fasts of 12+ hours, in my experience. After all, it is only a recent phenomena in our history to have food at our fingertips at all times. Our bodies were meant to fast.
3. Something easy to integrate into daily life:
There is no meal plan, calorie counting, or bizarre lifestyle change necessary to reach intermittent fasting success. It’s really just as simple as eating dinner at whatever time (at 7 pm, for example) and breaking your fast the next day (at 7 am or later, for a 12+ hour fasting window). Easy peasy!
As previously mentioned, intermittent fasting carries benefits far beyond weight loss. A few more advantages intermittent fasting has are reducing oxidative damage and inflammation, optimizing energy metabolism, bolstering cellular protection, reducing hypertension, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lowering risk of cardiovascular disease. Animal studies have also shown that it protects against certain cancers and diabetes. So, why wouldn’t you do it?
5. A change in timing:
Continue with life normally, but save that tasty breakfast smoothie for brunch.
So, there you have it: an easy solution for holiday, or any day, digestive sluggishness, bloating, diet-related guilt, and unhealthy weight gain. Of course, pairing intermittent fasting with a nutrient-dense, real food diet will yield the best results.
Those with diabetes, adrenal fatigue, who eat a diet low in electrolytes (sea salt, for example), are female, or are pregnant/breastfeeding should approach fasting with caution. Attention women: males who fast generally experience all positive results, whereas females can have negative results from extended fasts. Here is an article explaining these details. Doing your own research on fasting is essential to understanding it, and listening to your body is essential to fasting safely. If you feel clear-headed, light, and not distracted by food, by all means, continue your fast. 🙂
If your fasting results in light-headedness, anxiety, or any sick-type feeling, please break your fast. Adding a pinch of sea salt and lemon juice to a tall glass of water can usually resolve these symptoms, but here is a recipe for quick electrolytes to resolve any weakness experienced from fasting. I enjoy this drink 1-2 times a day.
In hopes of inspiring you, I’ll share my personal experience with fasting. In 2015, I did my first Lenten Fast, which requires two small snacks (that do not add up to the size of a meal) and one normally-sized meal each day for 40 days, with the exception of Sundays. For a college kid, this meant I could eat something like an apple for breakfast, a banana and peanut butter for lunch, and cabbage soup for dinner (don’t judge…I didn’t know much about nutrition back then). The first week was hard, but I quickly learned that I did not need as much food as I previously thought. I lost weight and I felt fantastic!
It has been over two years and I now habitually fast because I only eat when I’m hungry. Thankfully, I now eat more nutritious food than just fruit and cabbage soup! Learning how to fast allowed me to become in-tune with my body and recognize the difference between boredom/stress-eating and actual hunger. Though fasting is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, I just go by what my body tells me. I don’t feel hungry until after 13-14ish hours, which is when I make myself scrambled eggs or have a banana milk kefir smoothie.
In this time, everything from fasting to being a spouse and mother has showed me the importance of willpower. Willpower is a muscle, and exercising it is necessary for self-control. It is dangerous to let whatever whim you’re feeling dictate your life. Exercising willpower gets easier over time and if you’re like me, you’ll love taking back a little control in your life and feeling empowered. You may be surprised at how simple it is to feel better about yourself. So go and enjoy a plateful of holiday food and don’t feel bad about it. 🙂
Do you enjoy fasting? I’d love to hear about it!
Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed medical professional. Please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes, supplements, or medical questions with your doctor.
Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.
She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and daughter Jane, and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.