Intermittent Fasting-Not Nearly as Scary as it Sounds

It’s OK.  Don’t click away yet.  There’s nothing to be afraid of, I promise.

Fasting.

Didja jump out of your chair a little bit?

That just doesn’t sounds good, does it?

Here’s the facts.

Fasting by definition: to abstain from food, to eat sparingly or abstain from some food.

I think we’ve all done some form or fashion of fasting at some point in out lives.

Sleep much?  Yup, that’s a fast.  Ever have to have surgery?  You had to fast prior to the surgery.

Spend the day really busy running around, working on the house, or outdoors?  Fast.

Now, these are unintentional for the most part, but they are in fact, fasts.  You’ve already done them!  Less scary already, right?

So why do I care about fasting at all?

As many of you know, I am a fitness enthusiast and have competed in figure shows in the past.  It’s been fun, for the most part.  The commonly accepted eating pattern in this type of fitness circles is that eating small meals every few hours is the best way to maintain a healthy metabolism and lose weight if needed.

For years, I followed that idea, eating 5 or 6 times a day, feeling certain that my tiny little muscles would fall off if I didn’t eat exactly every 3.2 hours, or that my blood sugar would plummet and I’d fall into a brain fog, or that (oh noes!) my body would go into the dreaded starvation mode.

Horrors, all.  So I was a good girl and packed my meals ahead of time, toted a cooler, and revolved my life around my meals.  To others, it looked as if I was very dedicated, but more than a little weird, and maybe even a bit fanatical.

Over the past 2-3 years or so, research began coming to light that there really is no advantage to eating so frequently at all.

But I was so accustomed to eating this way, I thought it was the only way.  The truth is, I was too scared (read:wimp) to try anything different to see.  Plus, I was working in an office where I was stuck at a computer all day, sitting, and used the meals as an excuse to get up.  I also knew that boredom would be an issue, and at least with having meals so often it kept me from mindless snacking.

I had been reading more information about IF, or intermittent fasting.  There was a very smart dude, Martin Berkhan, who was posting really intelligent content as well as awesome success stories.  My friend JC has used Martin’s IF protocol (aka Leangains) and had great success with it.

Then, the heavens opened up, and angels sang.

OK, not quite.

But, I did change jobs, and I now work from home in a more mentally stimulating and rewarding position.  This allows me to have more flexibility in my meal times, and also I have set up a treadmill desk, so I am walking slowly instead of sitting on my butt all day.

(Side note-there are many different types of IF out there, because intermittent fasting is just alternating periods of eating with periods of not eating.  JC covers them, so I am not going to here, and for my purposes we will be discussing Leangains specifically.  Also, there are many different viewpoints on WHY IF could be positive, varying from ancestral eating patterns, to mental acuity, to life extension.  I will be focusing on the mental and body composition aspects only.  For now, at least.)

I had noticed that my mental relationship with food wasn’t the best.  Because of the spacing of my meals, I was always thinking about when my next meal was, what I would be eating, where I would be, if I had to pack food, etc. and so on.  To be fair, I still believe in keeping a healthy snack with you if needed, and packing/making your own food whenever needed, but that is because you have control over the quality and composition of your food that way, not because I feel like I have to eat or something very bad will happen.

When I changed jobs, I decided there was no time like the present to try a new meal pattern as well.

So I read Martin’s entire blog (not even kidding) and set up a meal plan for myself based on his Leangains guide.

I also utilize the fasted training protocol since I exercise in the morning.

My personal feeding window is 10AM to 8PM.

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what I noticed in myself since I started eating this way:
  • I used to think I HAD to eat breakfast very soon upon waking, because I woke up hungry.  I’ve learned that is really not the case, that we adapt to whatever patterns we use.  If I feel hungry now early in the morning, it goes away quickly.
  • I was always hungry before.  Even though (or because) I ate often, I never felt full and always had a low level of hunger, even when eating at a maintenance calorie level.  Now, instead of eating 6 small meals a day, I eat 4 larger meals, and have a much greater sense of satiety (fullness.)
  • I was obsessed with food.  Now, I realize that there will be no negative implications if I go a bit longer without eating, and my life does not revolve around my meals.  If we want to go out, or do something, we go, and I don’t panic if I don’t have a meal packed.
  • I can get away with eating a little more without a negative consequence on body composition.  Now, I also started my desk-walking, so can’t really differentiate what is making the difference here.  Obviously the walking is burning some extra calories.  There is some yet to be fleshed out indications that IF can have positive effects on body composition, all other factors being equal though.
  • I can maintain a body composition and weight that I am very happy with quite easily, without obsessing.

I just recently consulted with Martin to try a recomposition/fat loss phase-that is, fat loss with muscle gain (hopefully.)  This is notoriously difficult to achieve, and being female, muscle building is tough enough.   I’m giving it a good go though, so we’ll see what happens.

Bottom line-IF can be a very easy, non stressful method of maintaining or improving your weight, body composition, or mental relationship with food.  It is not for everyone, just is nothing works for everybody.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you head on over to Leangains.com and read Martin’s stuff.  As a matter of fact, start with the “Top 10 Fasting/Diet Myths Debunked.” Then the Leangains guide, and you’re on your way!

(Side note: Martin has been saying he is working on a book for years now.  As far as I can gather, that would be 2 more weeks from Froosday.  Whenever it happens, I’m sure it will be a worthwhile read.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Remember, IF is simply meal pattern timing, and you can put any type of eating in there.  If you’re totally confused, try my free nutrition guide, and combine that with the ideas of IF.

Need more gluten free info?  Check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.

Have you tried IF?

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  1. JC says:

    I’m really glad you gave it a shot. It’s helped me tremendously as well as various people I’ve had the chance to work with.

  2. Erin says:

    Thanks JC :) Just like anything, it’s not going to be helpful for everyone, but for those it does help-it helps quite a bit.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JC and Rhonda Peters, Gluten Free Fitness. Gluten Free Fitness said: Do you have to eat 6 times a day? Fasting-not as scary as it sounds http://t.co/bvaltcZ [...]

  4. Hey Erin,

    I am so glad you decided to verge into IF territory. Life is so much easier now right? lol.

  5. Erin says:

    Hey Jon!
    Big thanks to you and JC for being so positive about it and helping me get over my fears. You two are my “brothas from another mother” for sure.

  6. Dan says:

    Great write up… I found your page from Martin’s posting on Facebook. I will be book marking it.

    I have been following Martin’s advice for a while now and love it.

    Dan

  7. Erin says:

    Thanks Dan and welcome!
    Using an IF protocol has been immensely helpful for me in simply looking at food as fuel, and not something to be as worried about or obsessed as I have been in the past. You can be very healthy and in great shape and not eat 6 times a day :)

  8. Dirk says:

    Fasting for 16 hours between my last meal of the day and my first of the next has become second nature to me these last few months. I’d never go back to eating 3 + meals daily again. I have a simple high fat, low carb meal at 1 pm which satisfies me until dinner at 7 pm which is always a piece of fatty meat with fresh organic vegetables. How simple life is when one is no longer trapped in the culture of eating, eating and more eating.

  9. JC says:

    @Dirk: I can wholly relate, good sir. It’s not nice not to worry about eating anymore. time to focus on what’s important in life.

  10. Jarret says:

    Hey Erin, wow, it is a small world after all isn’t it? Doug spoke with Martin and he’s just recently joined Hive Health Media. It sounds like both Doug and yourself have known Martin for awhile. I’m going to spend some more time reading over his site.

  11. Erin says:

    Dirk,
    I think you chose the exact correct word when you said “simple.” IF certainly does simplify things with eating. I’m glad to hear that it is working so well for you. I have no problems indulging in the eating culture from time to time, don’t get me wrong. But simple is a perfect way to describe it.

  12. Erin says:

    Hi Jarret,
    Yes, I saw Martin’s post today. (He had mentioned to me he was thinking it over a couple weeks back.) Martin is a sharp dude and an awesome addition to Hive Health.

  13. Erin says:

    x2. Thanks JC for encouraging me to give it a go. <3

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