I am starting to feel a little bit hungry. I have gone 13 1/2 hours without food, other than my morning coffee with a little bit of cream. I have 2 1/2 hours to go. Then will begin my “feeding period,” from 12:30 to 8:30 PM. Oh my God, she’s skipping breakfast! Doesn’t she know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Doesn’t she know you’re supposed to eat within an hour of getting up? I thought she actually knew something about food and nutrition and here she is eating until 8:30 at night…doesn’t she know you’re supposed to stop eating 4 hours before you go to bed?
How many of you have heard some of those “rules” about when to eat and when not to eat, that you must have breakfast, that people who eat breakfast do not have weight issues, that if you eat past a certain hour at night all the calories will turn to fat? I’m guessing most, if not all, of you. So today I want to introduce you to the concept of Intermittent Fasting, or IF. How many of you have heard of it? I have done some reading about it over the last 6 months, and have wanted to do a blog post about it for some time. Then last week a friend/teammate/client sent me an email and asked me what I thought about it. That prompted me to re-read some of the resources I had checked out in the past, and to read for the first time a wonderfully detailed e-book about one person’s experience with it (links to follow). I had considered trying it before, but given that it’s January and like everyone else, I’m trying to lose a few pounds, I figured now was as good a time as any.
Before I get started, I first want to state that I am not suggesting that everyone (or even anyone) try this. My purpose today is to simply introduce it. Whether you decide to try it or not is totally up to you. I will be the first one to say this is not for everyone. In fact, I am a big believer in different things working for different people. I think there are very few rules about food that everyone should follow (other than limit sugar, cut all processed food out of your diet and eat real, whole foods as much as possible). I was a subscriber for quite some time to the idea that a) you had to eat breakfast and b) you should eat 3 small meals plus 2 snacks every day. The problem was, I was having some trouble with these rules. Weekdays I am up at 5 AM every day, at work at 6 AM training clients. By the time I get home it is usually 8:30. While I have religiously eaten breakfast for years, I never, ever eat within an hour of getting up. I threw that one out the window a long time ago because a) I don’t have enough time before I have to be at work (I am NOT getting up any earlier) and b) I’m not hungry when I first get up. At 5 AM all I want is a big cup of hot java. Mmmmmmm…..
So while I did eat breakfast, it was generally about 3 1/2 to 4 hours after I got up in the morning. I did try (for awhile) to do the whole 4-6 smaller meals spaced evenly throughout the day formula. The theory behind this is that eating frequently will maintain more even blood sugar levels, avoiding a “crashing” between meals; additionally, (in theory) you never feel hungry, which (again, in theory) keeps you from overeating. Two problems for me with this: 1. I found I was constantly having to think about food. When should I eat next, what should I have, what kind of snack could I bring with me…and so on. 2. I am pretty sure I was over-eating (and I suspect this might be true of others). Eating more frequently means you need to spread your total daily calories out over those 4-6 “feedings.” I found I was probably eating “normal” sized meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner (not so easy to change after doing this for 40 some years), and then adding in a few snacks. I like having a real “meal” and I think for me, it was too hard to scale back what I thought breakfast, lunch and dinner should look like. When you are eating say 5 or 6 times a day, each “meal” should be 300-400 calories (less if you are dieting and cutting calories). I found this restrictive and unsatisfying.
So I chucked it. About two months ago I started eating 3 meals, adding an afternoon snack only when I felt hungry (note that this is not IF…I will get to that later). The key here was the word “hungry.” I have heard many nutritionists say you should never feel hungry (as this will lead to over-eating). But for me, I think I need to feel hungry. I kind of like feeling hungry ~ not ravenous, but slightly hungry. By waiting longer to eat, I feel it puts me more in touch with my body. I think to some degree trying to constantly prevent feelings of hunger has gotten us into trouble (certainly something is wrong, as this country continues to get fatter and fatter). By eating less frequently it also allows me to have bigger meals, but still actually lose some weight. For me, having a bigger meal and feeling full (not stuffed) is more satisfying than having a bunch of small meals.
So ends part one. I don’t mean to talk so much about myself, but I wanted to give some background on why I decided to try IF, before explaining to you what it involves. My goal is not to convince everyone to try it. In fact, maybe none of you will. I’m fine with that. But by introducing this, whether you try IF or not, I do want you to take away the idea that there are very few food rules. Be open to new ideas and try to understand what might work for you. The human body is an amazing, complicated thing. Why should we think that all of our bodies are exactly the same?
Later this week, I will introduce the different approaches to IF and provide you with some resources, in case you are interested in learning more.
I would love to hear your comments ~ I am curious what others think and what “rules” you might follow (and more importantly, whether they are working for you).