by Lisa Fischer
I hope you’re sitting down. Because what I have to tell you will blow your mind. Ready?
You may be overweight because you eat too often. You don’t have to eat six times a day to lose weight. That’s an idea put forth by athletic trainers and others concerned that you need to put “another log on the fire” in order to keep your metabolism up. Do you know what actually increases your metabolism? Fasting. Yes, the act of not eating can improve your body’s ability to burn fuel. In fact, the more you fast, the more likely you are to burn fat for fuel.
In the ‘80s, the government told us that “fat makes you fat.” Obesity rates began to climb. We were told we needed to increase our consumption of whole grains. Obesity rates continued to climb. Then we decreased our cholesterol intake and began to eat six times a day. Eating six times a day actually hurts your metabolism. You see, every time you put something in your mouth, even calorie-free foods, your body secretes insulin in order to break down the incoming food. Your body doesn’t know that material is calorie-free; it just knows something is on its way and to get the insulin ready. Insulin ushers glucose to the cells. It’s different from your blood sugar. Remember that. But it’s also your fat-storage hormone. Remember that, too.
Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist who has done extensive scientific research regarding obesity says it plainly and simply in his books The Obesity Code and The Guide to Intermittent Fasting. He says that obesity is a hormonal problem, not a caloric issue. Insulin (a hormone) is part of that problem. Your insulin shoots up each time you eat or drink. If you’re consuming something without calories, you should be okay, right? Nope. The culprit is insulin. Ask a diabetic what happened to their weight when they were put on insulin. The newly diagnosed diabetic gained weight. The constant barrage of insulin is what causes weight to increase and waist sizes to increase. The obvious question: how do we lower our insulin levels? One word: fasting.
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Before you spill your protein drink (which you were consuming because you were fitting in your fourth meal of six for today), let me define fasting not as starvation but as “time-restricted eating.” Eat what you want, just within a shorter window. How do you start? Tonight, after your last bite of food or drink, set a timer. And, for 16-18 hours, drink only black coffee, unsweetened tea or water, and then eat again after your fasting window is up. That’s it. But understand the restrictions: no artificial sweeteners, no gum or mints. Just coffee, tea or water with nothing added. You can add lemon or lime in your water, but if it causes hunger, drop it.
Once you have fasted for a bit, a phenomenon called “appetite correction” kicks in. It’s when the body begins to regulate your hunger and satiety signals. After I began my intermittent fasting lifestyle in November 2017, about a month later, I couldn’t overeat. I’ve been hungry since I was 12, but for the first time, I finally felt my body signal that I was truly satisfied. More than anything, I have enjoyed the feeling of fullness. There is some sadness with it, though. If I know I’m going to have a big dinner or a big lunch later, I have to pace myself because I now eat half of what I used to. I can’t overeat. This is how I know I’ll never battle my weight again. Thyroid disease and hormonal issues certainly contributed to any weight gain I saw in the past twenty years, but I’ll never go back to all-day eating.
Now, start thinking about your eating routine as either insulin-producing or fat-burning. Fat is burned when the glycogen in your liver is used up and your body has to burn fat for fuel. It’s part of ketosis, which is very important in weight loss or weight management. Typically, I fast about 19 hours and feast for five hours. (I started with an 18:6 window; I fasted 18, feasted for six. To lose weight, you often have to shorten your feasting window.) Some days I make it to 20 hours of fasting and four hours of feasting. Once I open my “feasting” window, I eat until I’m satisfied. I eat what I want. For so long, I lived a gluten-free, often grain-free life. I ate six times a day, and I battled my weight. Now I eat what I want, and if that’s gluten or grains, fine, but my weight has dropped about 12 pounds. Yet, because my body is burning fat for fuel, I have dropped one to two pant sizes.
I’d rather be a size 6 and weigh 150 then be a size 8 and weigh 140. My size is more important to me than my weight. But it’s taken me a long time to get there.
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I had my blood glucose and other labs checked recently. I’m a Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patient (among five other autoimmune conditions) so I keep a pretty short leash on my lab work. I had been fasting 16 hours that day and my blood glucose was 92. I had been told all my life I was hypoglycemic. I know now that I was putting “another log on the metabolism fire” for so many years that my insulin was going up and down so often that I might have appeared hypoglycemic when I really wasn’t. Fasting has improved my blood glucose levels. I feel great. I get up at 4 a.m. to host a radio show on B98.5 and don’t eat until noon or 1 p.m. each day. When someone drops off donuts at the station, I don’t pine for them. In fact, I might grab one and eat it later, during my “feasting” window.
Does the fasting/feasting schedule ever get to change? Yes! Every day, if you’d like it to. For me, eating between 1-5 p.m. is best, but on weekends I often adjust it to 3-7 p.m. On days we go out to dinner, it means my fasting window is longer that day. And that’s a good thing. When you’re fasting, you receive the long-term health benefits. Fasting for 16-18 hours allows your body to reach autophagy, which is a fancy word for “cellular cleansing.” Your old cells are cleared out for new ones. It’s the cheapest detox you can do for your body! I’m not a medical professional, so please check with your doctor before beginning a fasting program.
If your feasting/fasting windows do fluctuate, be sure to get a good fasting window in as a priority. Are there some days you might feast longer than your desired five, six or even eight- hour feasts? Of course. Don’t dwell on it. It’s one day in your life. On Christmas Day I feasted eight hours. I went back to my 19:5 schedule the next day.
One of my favorite parts about an intermittent fasting lifestyle? No more meal prep. I don’t have to eat every three hours. I eat when my “feasting window” opens. I eat what I want. Then I close that window four or five hours later. It’s the most freeing approach to food I’ve ever encountered. And let me tell you, I’ve tried them all. Bars, shakes, points to count, calories to count, fat grams to labor over. I’ve said goodbye to them all. Now I eat what I want in a certain time period. And I don’t have hunger.
I’ve loved hearing from my B98.5 listeners about their successes. Gina R. said, “I’ve lost 51 pounds since the first week in January. And it’s the first week in April.” Gina says she eats between 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., but because she gets so full so easily, it’s more like a two-hour eating window. She claims she has 50 more pounds to lose but she’s lost four sizes in three months.
A typical feasting window for me might look like this: I open my window at 1 p.m. Most days, I have a cup of yogurt or some other fat, which helps me feel better and satisfied. In the beginning, I would open it with a carbohydrate, like a dessert, and I regretted it. The fat in the yogurt usually holds me over for a couple of hours and then I might eat something else, like cheese and fruit. And then I’ll eat a small dinner and a glass of wine, if I choose. Or even dessert. But now that I’ve been fasting for five months, I opt for one or the other in indulgences because I get full so easily. Others open their feasting window with a big meal, then close it with something light. My son, who introduced me to this way of eating, says he prefers to close his feasting window with some fat because that provides satiety for a longer period. If you close it with carbs, you might get hungry earlier in your fasting window. Just play around with it and find what works for you.
These are the health benefits people many rave about:
- More energy.
- Needing less sleep.
- Better mental clarity.
- No more GERD and heartburn.
- Skin improves and acne clears up.
- Fitness goals are more easily attainable.
- Increase of human growth hormone (HGH) during fasting.
You might not want to try intermittent fasting if you are breastfeeding, have anorexia nervosa, or have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This program is not for pregnant women or children. Check with your healthcare provider if you have any of these conditions and are interested in intermittent fasting.
DISCLAIMER: The author is not a medical professional and the contents of this article should be considered entertainment, not medical advice. Check with your doctor before changing your diet and exercise habits.