One of the more popular articles on this blog is about intermittent fasting. I still practice intermittent fasting (I.F.) about once a week, so here’s a quick update.
About once a week I don’t consume any calories (or artificial sweeteners) until 2pm or later. I drink water, black coffee, and sometimes tea (black or herbal). Sometimes I fast until dinner (I did so last Thursday, as Kia was observing the Fast of Esther and I tagged along).
I do it mainly for health reasons. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting can help protect against diabetes, dementia, cancer, and other diseases of aging. Since I only practice I.F. once a week, the measurable effects probably aren’t large. But the subjective effects keep me coming back to this simple practice. On fasting days and for a few days after, I consistently notice the following positive effects:
- seasonal allergies (if I have any) go away
- mood improves
- waistline tightens (some fat loss, some retained water loss)
- general motivation and creativity increase
- steady energy
Fasting and Comfort
The first few times I practiced I.F. were a little rough. I was probably experiencing some minor detox. I felt slightly irritable, a little achy, and my eyes got a little bloodshot.
Now I don’t experience any negative effects. I’m not hungry after 11am or so, my energy is steady, and my concentration is very good.
I do notice that my body temperature drops a few degrees in the afternoon on I.F. days. On really cold days I usually choose not to fast.
I prefer “quiet days” when I’m fasting. I don’t feel as social, and my senses and emotions are heightened (so I need less stimulation). I like to take long walks on I.F. days but I usually don’t lift weights or do anything physically intense.
Food can take up a lot of mental space. Not just in terms of thinking about “what’s for lunch,” but as a reward system. Do you “deserve” a treat today? Or a shot of Jameson? (It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.) Taking a short break from food helps me recalibrate my rewards system. What other things do I look forward to in the place of food? Sometimes I read fiction when I would otherwise be eating lunch (for me, good fiction is comforting and reassuring and enjoyable, like good food).
I don’t think skipping a meal or two once a week is risky. A simple precaution if you are just starting out would be to try I.F. on a “light” day where you don’t have much on your schedule. If you feel really terrible, you can always have something to eat. If you have health issues, check in with your doctor first. Some sensible precautions:
- If you are addicted to caffeine (like I am), remember to drink black coffee or tea. Don’t try I.F. and caffeine withdrawal at the same time.
- Drink enough water (so that you piss clear or light yellow).
- Dress more warmly than you would otherwise.
The Next Level
For me, there is no next level. This is as far as I’m going with intermittent fasting. I enjoy eating with my family and friends too much to want to miss out on more than a few meals a week.
Reading articles like this one have persuaded me to stick with three meals a day in general. Restricting the “eating window” on a daily basis may have some benefits, but there are risks of cortisol dysregulation and other hormonal balance issues. My own “once a week” system is the opposite of hardcore, but I still notice clear benefits (without any side effects).