Intermittent Fasting and Listening to Your Body

Have you heard about intermittent fasting? Though it may sound like some prolonged food restriction, it is truly much simpler. The amount of time you “fast” depends on your body and gender and just how you feel, but is generally somewhere between 12 and 18 hours over the course of a day. The easiest way to practice this is over night. We all do this unconsciously already: eat dinner, go to bed, and not eat until breakfast. This is already potentially a 12 hour fasting window. Intermittent fasting simply suggests stretching that window a bit longer.

For example, say you eat dinner at 7. Instead of waking up and eating breakfast around 8, you may wait for a few more hours and eat around 11 or 12. This creates a 16-17 hour window where you are not eating. This leaves you with a 7-8 hour window where you do eat. I prefer practicing about 16 hours of fasting, but some find they thrive on 18 hours.

I tend to eat breakfast around 11:00, lunch around 3:00, and dinner around 7:00. This is a 16 hour fasting period and 8 hour window of eating. I like to eat 3 meals a day usually and each meal is roughly the same size. If you prefer to only eat twice, that is fine too. Feel it out and see what works best for your body.

Intermittent fasting gives our body a much needed break, as we tend to over-eat in general. To me it means re-connecting with our primal selves. Have you ever gone on a camping trip, and needed to make a fire in the morning to have breakfast? Doesn’t it feel good needing to work for our meal a little? This natural fasting; getting a little hungry before eating, just feels right.

Not so long ago we hunted and gathered for food. We built a fire to cook our food, or needed to go out to gather nuts and berries, but most definitely did not eat breakfast immediately after waking up. This gave our bodies time to fully digest our previous meal, and then even more time to burn the fat that gets stored.

Some people have a fast metabolism, or just wake up really hungry. That is fine! Eat if you feel like your body needs it. But so many of us, myself included, mindlessly eat just because it is “time” without really tuning in to how our body is feeling.

In my younger years, intermittent fasting was something I did because I just wasn’t ready for breakfast first thing in the morning. I didn’t know there was a name for it, I just listened to my body. I rarely ate dessert, so my last meal was around dinner the night before. Breakfast for me consisted of a cup of coffee with milk, and I didn’t really eat until a couple hours later. This always felt right for my body type, but somewhere in the mix of life, that routine changed.

As my hormones changed, I read that to help balance hormones, cortisol specifically, you needed to eat within 1 hour of waking up. Perhaps for some this is absolutely necessary. But I’m not sure if this really benefited me. When I did eat breakfast early, and then have some coffee, I would feel….tired. Like I needed to take a nap. But didn’t I just wake up? It just didn’t feel right. Though without listening to my body, I continued this routine not realizing it was probably not best for me.

What I have come to realize is I do better without eating immediately. Instead I will start my day with a cup of warm water, perhaps with lemon, and then indulge in a cup of coffee with homemade almond milk, coconut cream, or some raw cow’s milk. Personally having some fat in the morning with my coffee is ideal. Not only is it delicious, I believe it helps to give my body a little boost, as well as help digest and metabolize the caffeine, without the weight of a full meal. When it comes time to sit down for my first meal, I can fully enjoy it and savor it.

I have practiced intermittent fasting on and off many times now, and currently really enjoy it. If ever there comes a time where it doesn’t work, I will honor that change without feeling the need to maintain this specific routine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with changing up your habits to suit your needs in that moment.

In general, I like to feed my body good food. And I would definitely not want to break my fast with high sugar or highly processed food. But hey, if that works for you, go for it. For me, good saturated fats, some protein and fiber (like veggies or berries) are ideal. Grains tend to weigh me down first thing in the morning, unless it’s some oats in my granola. But my body is always changing. Maybe in the fall and winter my body will crave the heaviness of oatmeal or porridge, and so I will indulge. In the spring and summer perhaps my body asks for lighter options like raw fruits and veggies. No matter what, I try to tune it and listen. She always knows what’s best.

If you want some inspiration, some of my favorite breakfast combinations are:

Sauteed greens (or other veggies), avocado, sauerkraut, and an over-easy egg. Sometimes I skip the avocado if I feel I don’t need the fat. Alternatively, I may skip the veggies for a quicker, more satiating option.

A bowl of homemade yogurt (coconut or regular) with seasonal fruit and some granola, raw nuts, or nut butter.

Roasted sweet potato with yogurt and nut butter.

Paleo pancakes like these easy sweet potato ones, or a little more involved banana pancakes.

If it’s warm out, I’ll throw together a smoothie with lots of veggies and fruit, or a light salad with an egg on top.

Breakfast is honestly my favorite meal because it is so versatile. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m sure you already know this!

So how often should one practice this? Well that is up to you to decide. Maybe start off just doing it a couple days out of the week. Pause and see how you feel. Perhaps you will find every other day is best. Or maybe you will feel so good on this regimen that you will want to do it every single day. The ball is in your court, but be sure to check back in with yourself. Are you feeling more energized? Are you feeling lighter? Or are you getting lightheaded and nauseous?

There are some people this will not work for. But overall, listen to your body and do what feels right. In the end, only you will know what works best for you. Practice being mindful of how you feel, and tuning into your intuition instead of relying on someone else to tell you what is best for you.

You’ve got this!

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