Yesterday, I decided to embark on a 7-day Intermittent Fast in which I’ll be fasting from the time I go to sleep until dinner the next day. Much like other popular eating trends, this piqued my curiosity enough for me to actually want to try it for a few days. There are many ways to go about it; 16-hour fasts, 24-hour fasts, 12-hour fasts with 30 minute meal windows, 36-hour fasts, and so on. There really is no right and wrong way to go about it as long as you follow a course that fuels your activity, fits into your schedule, and makes you feel good both physically and mentally. Millions of people have fasted for religious, spiritual, and political purposes for thousands of years and continue to do so uneventfully.
Studies have shown that calorie-restriction can extend the lives in animals, and while we’re not identical to lab animals, I do see a lot of anecdotal evidence from people that have lived long, healthy lives and their tendency to skip meals or fast for an undetermined amount of time. Contrary to popular belief you do not necessarily need to eat exactly three times a day; your body burns the calories whether they are spread out throughout 6 meals or one large meal, it’s all the same. If you have blood sugar issues, however, it may be necessary to eat frequently if that is what your doctor advises. Other than that complication, our bodies don’t function on a perfect 24-hour clock, so eating multiple times a day has negligible effects on boosting your metabolism, if any at all. In fact, if you want to delve into our genome we could say that it’s more natural to only eat once a day (or less often) like many of our ancestors may have when food was scarce. In our lifetime, we have only known plentiful amounts, but our ancestors, even as recently as 100-150 years ago mainly only knew feast and famine and our modern-day metabolisms are a direct result of that lifestyle. I like to eat often, but I also enjoy one larger meal, I can go either way. I find it to be completely natural to have unpredictable meals and snacks, just like I find it to be completely natural to fast for hours or days at will.
We’re extra busy this week, and I won’t have a lot of time to cook—or anything for that matter—until I’m done working later in the day, so this is a good opportunity to try out a little Intermittent Fasting!
Aren’t you worried about “starvation mode”?
No, not at all. Over the past few years I have observed that “starvation mode” is often misused and misunderstood. Starvation mode is basically when your metabolism slows down to a below average rate due to muscle loss and/or hormonal imbalances. It doesn’t mean that you can’t lose weight, it simply means that you would have to consume less calories or burn more calories than someone else of similar height, weight, and age. e.g., an average woman that can lose weight on 1600 calories a day might be maintenance to someone with a slower-than-average metabolism.
Generally, it takes about 60+ hours of fasting for it to have any effect on your metabolism, and then it’s still a process that takes weeks and months to have a significant impact depending on the degree of under-eating. It’s not possible to pop in and out of “starvation mode” as some people might believe. What you eat or don’t eat in one or two days doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you eat over several days and weeks.
Aren’t you worried about bingeing from being ravenous?
Maybe. Anything is possible, and I can’t predict the future, but I do know from my history that I am very disciplined when I want to be. Besides, I don’t intend to eat just a 500-600 calorie meal and be done for the day. I will likely have a large 1000-1200 meal for dinner and a high-protein mini meal before bed, like a smoothie with cottage cheese. My goal is 1500-2000 calories a day, consumed in my window from dinnertime to bedtime. Calorie-free, sugar-free drinks like tea with stevia will be sipped on throughout the day.
Other than waiting until dinner, nothing else is off-limits. I’ll eat what I want while minding portions and calories and keeping discretionary calories, like dessert, to one serving. Of course, I’ll also be somewhat monitoring my macronutrients. I know that carbs won’t be a problem (LOL), but to insure that I am getting adequate protein, I’m going to be sure that is covered first and foremost. Aiming for 80-100g a day even when intermittently fasting. Not going to obsess over it, though! Plus, I’d still like to get in at least 6 servings of fruits + veggies. Not hard to do with a fluffy salad .
So, yesterday was my first day. I had one cup of tea, as seen above, 2 cups water, and that’s all until dinner. The tea really upset my stomach! Lots of burning directly after it. The acidity, maybe? My tummy hates everything. I’ll improve my menu as the trial goes on, I didn’t plan much yesterday. My whole menu focused around soup I was planning to make. Oops!
My “lavish feast” was actually quite simple:
Reduced Sodium Minestrone Soup
I “cheated” a little with this soup; I used Low Sodium V8 (original) for my tomato base
And Goya canned low-sodium beans (110mg sodium per 1/2 cup serving)
BUT I did cook my chickpeas from scratch!
Rinse dry beans thoroughly;
Add to large pot with about 8-12cups of cold water;
Cover and let sit overnight (at least 8 hours);
Drain, add water to pot again (make sure there’s a few inches of water above them);
Boil for about an hour or to desired texture
My pasta of choice: Short penne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cups sliced or diced carrots
1 to 2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 bottle (8 cups) Low Sodium V8 juice (original)
1 can no salt added diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cans no salt added cut string beans with liquid
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 (16 oz) can cooked low-sodium kidney beans with liquid
4oz dry (before cook) small pasta (short penne, ditalini, elbow, etc.)
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP dried parsley
In a large soup pot, add in olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute on medium until softened; add in vegetable broth; cover and let cook until vegetables are cooked thoroughly. (Note: Do not add in tomatoes until other vegetables are cooked; tomatoes will inhibit their progress)
Cook 4oz dry pasta; drain and set aside
When vegetables are tender, add in V8, canned tomatoes, string beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, herbs, water, and salt or salt substitute if desired. Stir well, then add in cooked pasta
Let simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes, covered
Makes at least 12 servings
And then, dinner was served!
On the side: garlic bread x2 ! I cheated with this a little, too. I bought these amazing roasted garlic mini baguettes at Shop Rite the other day, then slathered them with butter and popped them in the oven on 425F degrees until they were toasty. OMG, they were sooooooooo gooooooooooood! And not just because I was starving, LOL. Dustin said they were amazing, too, and he doesn’t even like bread nearly as much as I do.
I had another ladle of soup after this bowl. It was YUMMMMMMMMMMY! Perfect combo with the buttery, crisp garlic bread. You can’t see them in the photo, but there were lots of chickpeas + kidney beans under there that made a complete protein with the pasta.
Intermittent Fasting Day 1 of 7 Menu
I gained 4 lbs from my birthday to Christmas that haven’t come off due to my caloric and activity inconsistency and, reckless sodium intake. I’m hoping to drop those few pounds during this week, but if not, that’s ok, too. I’m not interested in doing Intermittent Fasting every day for life, but would like to incorporate maybe a day or two of it during the week eventually. I believe that is natural, and good for our minds and bodies if done in the right context that promotes health, not jeopardizes it.
Some material on IF:
I don’t think it’s for everybody and, may not even be for me long-term, but I’ll give it a try and hope to learn some things from it that I can incorporate into my life later on. So far I just feel hungry throughout the day. Towards the end of the fast last night, right before I ate, I started to get a hunger headache. It’s all downhill from there; I get cranky, feel nauseated, etc. All of those symptoms were alleviated by eating. It feels good to actually be hungry sometimes. Too often I feel like I’m just eating out of routine. I really like looking forward to dinner again!
Have you ever done intermittent fasting or fasted for religious/spiritual/political reasons or subscribed to the “only eat when you are hungry” mantra? I actually know lots of (healthy weight) individuals that eat just once a day and maintain their weight effortlessly. In fact, my husband was a once-a-day-eater before I met him. I think eating when you are hungry makes sense, but it’s also good to monitor and log your intake to be sure that you’re covering all your needs. Definitely consult your health-care provider before doing it.
I’m eating dinner in a few hours, but I’ve been so busy all day that it [hunger] hasn’t really bothered me. Like I said, great time for me to try it out!