Intermittent fasting has been practised by people on all major spiritual paths throughout the ages. Intermittent fasting has many mind-body-spirit benefits and doesn’t have to be complicated at all. I break it down for you in this post.
I am not a medical professional and you should always check with your own doctor and other medical professionals responsible for your treatment/therapy before implementing any serious changes to your eating habits, especially if you are on any medication that should be taken with food.
You may need to avoid intermittent fasting completely if you are nursing, pregnant or suffer from certain types of mental health issues (check with your healthcare professional if this applies to you).
Seven Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
To a lot of people who have never attempted fasting, the word itself carries connotations of uncontrollable hunger and starvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fasting is actually totally natural and we do it every day, without thinking about it… when we sleep.
The word ‘breakfast’ indicates a breaking of the fast. In medieval times, it was common to break fast closer to noon. People simply got up, said their prayers and worked for a few hours before breaking their fast.
Did you know that the more we snack (constantly spiking our insulin and putting the hunger hormone ghrelin out of whack), the hungrier and less satisfied we feel? The advice given by ‘fitness professionals’ to eat little and often is the worst advice ever. Not only is it bad for your teeth to snack constantly – It is also likely to lead to brain fog, increased hunger and weight gain… along with a host of other health issues.
I’ve put together the list below with some of my favourite benefits of intermittent fasting that I have discovered for myself.*** These are not the only benefits of intermittent fasting. You can easily find many more through a simple Google search and there are tons of videos on YouTube about this topic as well. Arm yourself with the science behind the concept and it will totally motivate you to get started!
- More time. Eating fewer meals and having to spend less time preparing meals/thinking about what to eat is a godsend for increased productivity or just more time to chill when I need to.
- Increased mental clarity. Fewer insulin spikes lead to less brain fog and ‘hanger.’
- Weight loss. As of writing this, I have lost 10.7 kg (23.6 pounds) since I started my intermittent fasting journey 9½ weeks ago.
- Improved sleep. This is almost my favourite on the list, as someone who struggled her whole life with terrible sleeping patterns, constantly waking up through the night and feeling totally drained in the morning. Now I wake up feeling rested and energised most days.
- Improved autoimmune issues. Symptoms from my asthma and Crohn’s have been massively reduced. I also haven’t a single cold since I started, which is a good record during the winter months!
- Break-throughs in other areas of my life. Life is like a big jigsaw puzzle. Food is a bit like a frame we place around that puzzle. When we shift that frame, we free up so much energy and make room for growth in many other areas too.
- Feeling more in control, younger, more creative, lighter and more optimistic. Feeling this great is also making it easy to see what in my life is not truly a good fit in terms of my wellbeing, so a lot of stuff is being cleared out now.
***Again, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to list all the many medical benefits of intermittent fasting but you can easily find them if you do some research online. I suggest studying up on autophagy in particular. Check out Dr. Bozworth’s YouTube channel for more on this.
What is Intermittent Fasting and How Do I Get Started?
Intermittent fasting (IF) includes many different types of time restricted eating (TRE). You can have an eating window that is 8 hours for instance, which is what many people do and this is known as 16:8. This way of eating was popularised by Hugh Jackman who used it to get in shape for his role as Wolverine.
Another popular type of IF is eating just one meal a day (OMAD). There is also 18:6 (six-hour eating window), 20:4 (for-hour eating window) and alternate day fasting (ADF), where you fast completely every other day.
If you are new to IF, I suggest starting with 16:8 and if that starts feeling really easy, you can shrink your eating window after a week or two. Alternatively, you can ease yourself into IF by simply not snacking after tea/supper time and then not have breakfast until you are hungry. You may find that you simply don’t need to eat breakfast.
Some of you may be tempted to dive in at the deep end and go straight for OMAD. That’s OK too, just be prepared for a more difficult period of adjustment which may last as long as three weeks (the duration of the challenge). However, usually, people fully adapt to OMAD in about two to three weeks. I suggest watching some videos by OMAD YouTubers to learn more about what to expect if this sounds like a good idea to you. I like Six Miles to Supper on YouTube because of how simple she keeps it – Definitely one to check out if you don’t want a lot of rules for your eating!
Personally, I was only brave enough to attempt OMAD after I got my eating window down to 18:6, by which time it was relatively easy to make the transition. I stuck with OMAD for about a week and a half and am now back on 18:6. Compared to to doing two meals a day, surprisingly, OMAD did not speed my weight loss up but it had other benefits. This video is great if you want to know more about the many sciency benefits of OMAD.
While I loved OMAD for the simplicity and how much time it freed up, I found that I couldn’t sustain it once I decided to start lifting heavy weights again. Interestingly, once I moved to 2MAD on 18:6, my weight loss sped up – presumably because working out more increased my metabolic rate.
20:4 is another great way of doing IF because you get quite a lot of autophagy in your daily fasting schedule this way (provided you stick to a ketogenic/low carb diet) but even on 18:6, your body can go into self-cleaning autophagy mode if you cut out the carbs.
Still, the most important part of choosing your eating window is that it fits with your lifestyle and doesn’t make you (or your loved ones) miserable!
What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting
You can totally do Intermittent Fasting and just keeping eating what you normally eat. It will still have many benefits. However, if you consume a lot of sugar and eat highly processed foods, along with wheat, which is not the grain it was 100 years ago (read Wheat Belly for more info on this), you may struggle a lot more with cravings and hunger pangs than if you go low carb or stick to a ketogenic diet while fasting.
If you are interested in trying a low carb/ketogenic diet in combination with IF, I recommend this guide to get you started.
For those of you who are not interested in a complete diet make-over, I still strongly recommend cutting out sugar, wheat, processed foods and alcohol. It will make things so much easier for you and you will no doubt notice many dramatic health benefits in a very short space of time by simply eliminating these four.
Do I Need to Count Calories While Intermittent Fasting?
It really depends on what your goal is. If it is mainly weight loss, you do need to ensure that you have a calorie deficit. You can calculate your TDEE HERE and then make sure that you consume at least 20% calories less than your maintenance level. Rather than counting, you may simply wish to implement some portion control by, for instance, using a smaller plate.
Do bear in mind that long-term severe calorie restriction is likely to impact your metabolic rate by slowing it down so try mixing things up and taking breaks from restricting your calorie intake.
Can I Exercise While Doing Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, and there is nothing to prevent you from doing fasted workouts. In the beginning, before your body adapts, it may feel tougher than normal but there are huge health benefits to working out in the fasted state. For instance, a fasted workout stimulates human growth hormone (HGH), which is why you don’t lose muscle mass on IF the way you do on a calorie restricted diet.
If you are not currently taking any exercise, it is probably best to not start a vigorous exercise program right at the start of your IF journey, especially if you carry a lot of extra weight. However, you can definitely start walking and gently/gradually introduce more exercise once your body has adapted to the new way of eating. This may happen quite naturally once you start feeling more energised thanks to the effects of intermittent fasting.
What Can I Drink During Intermittent Fasting?
You can have zero calorie drinks such as water, mineral water, black coffee, green tea and herbal teas. If you absolutely cannot drink your coffee black, you can have a splash of unsweetened Almond Milk in your coffee. As long as you do not add more than 50 calories this way, you are not breaking your fast.
Adding normal cow’s milk is not recommended due to the presence of lactose which can spike insulin/break the fast. Double cream (heavy whipping cream), on the other hand, does not spike insulin if used sparingly.
Adding apple cider vinegar and/or lemon/lime juice to your water is OK and does not break the fast. However, you may wish to consider using a straw, especially if you drink ACV in your water as it is highly acidic and may erode the enamel of your teeth. ACV has many health benefits (including accelerated weight loss).
What Snacks Can I Have During Intermittent Fasting?
Sorry, no snacking between meals! Anything you consume will break your fast and spike your insulin. If you start feeling deprived, remind yourself that you are delaying rather than depriving yourself of the things you enjoy, so that the body has time to heal, the mind can stay clear and the spirit can soar.
Fasting for Mind Body Spirit
How is fasting for Mind-Body-Spirit different to just normal intermittent fasting? It’s all about the intent. We are digging a bit deeper in the potential for transformation that comes with fasting by choosing a clear focus on an area of our lives that we wish to transform (other than weight loss which will happen anyway).
‘Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone’
When you fast for Mind Body Spirit, your daily quiet time will become more of a focal point. This is how you start and end each day. Because you will free up some time this way, you may wish to choose an area of study that will benefit your personal/spiritual development and add that to your daily quiet time or create a separate window for that.
Ideally, you would combine your intermittent fasting with a daily meditation practice. If you are new to meditation and interested in finding a method that works, is easy to learn and has instant benefits for mind-body-spirit, I recommend the book ‘Stress Less, Achieve More‘ by Emily Fletcher.
Love and Light,