So, you’ve heard about intermittent fasting and are wondering what all the buzz is about?
Or maybe you’ve never heard anything about it, and it’s totally foreign to you.
Either way, this article should put your mind at ease and answer some of the commonly asked questions about intermittent fasting, especially for women.
So, whether you are interested in fasting for weight loss, or for any of the other intermittent fasting benefits, it is absolutely worth knowing about first.
You will probably know if intermittent fasting is for you or not, once you take a look at how fasting can work for you!
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First things first—what is intermittent fasting?
Well, let’s break it down a little bit, with the help of a good old-fashioned Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Intermittent – coming and going at intervals; not continuous.
Fasting – to abstain from food.
So, taking the two words at face value, we can see that intermittent fasting is literally abstaining from food at intervals of time. It’s a little more complicated than that though…
Intermittent fasting is not simply avoiding snacks.
If that were the case, then it probably wouldn’t be hard at all to join the intermittent fasting club!
The entire idea of intermittent fasting is to avoid eating food for a prolonged period of time, usually 12 to 16 hours. Not eating for that period of time may not sound like a whole lot of fun.
So what’s the catch? What are the benefits?
First and foremost is the most obvious; weight loss.
It’s no surprise that avoiding food for an extended period will help you lose weight. In fact, many people do this kind of fasting for weight loss and many of them have incredible results.
It doesn’t stop there though.
These are just a few of the intermittent fasting benefits that people are reporting:
- Lower blood sugar and insulin levels
- Improved energy and concentration levels
- Reduction of inflammation
- Better cholesterol levels
Let’s dive in and see how fasting can help you lose weight and what your body really goes through during a fast.
Let’s take a look at how fasting works!
Let’s admit it, most of us eat too much. We eat way more than we actually need too. And when we eat, our body produces insulin, a hormone responsible for the storage of food energy.
Much of the food gets broken down into glucose, which chains together to make glycogen. Glycogen then gets stored in the liver or in muscle. All of this happens when our bodies are enjoying and storing food in our fat reservoirs.
During this process, this is where things can turn sour. When the body is reserving fats for our bodies, the body…
Can’t handle too many carbohydrates at one time.
If we consume too many non-nutritious foods the body gets overloaded easily and then that leftover glucose gets transformed into fat. So this is why intermittent fasting has gained a lot of popularity.
When we do intermittent fasting and refrain from eating for 12 to 16 hours, our insulin levels will naturally lower.
This means that the body begins to burn our stored sugar and fat because we are allowing them time and space (during our fasts) for our body to eat away at those fat reservoirs.
In short, intermittent fasting basically gives the body a rest by allowing it to use up some of that stored up fat energy your body saved for you.
When it does this, here’s what your body goes through during an Intermittent fast…
Maybe there’s an explanation of why most of the major religions in the world call for periodic fasting because intermittent fasting at its very heart is about maintaining mental control over hunger.
This requires ignoring the body’s signs of hunger which, incidentally, is caused by a hormone called ghrelin, the hormone we talked about above.
So when you are in a fast and ignoring your body’s hormone, that is basically telling you to eat, in doing so, this awakens the senses and even can enhance your brain activity.
You can think of it as a mind over matter challenge.
To some, intermittent fasting can lead to a breakthrough, that is conquering the mind and taking control.
To others, it can lead to feelings of tiredness and mental fatigue, particularly early on.
And although, fasting can be a magical elixir for your anxiety and depression because you are retraining how your mind responds to a lack of food it is still something that you should ease into instead of suffering through.
Your mentality and how your next “hangry” episode is handled, could be handled with grace or stress, it really depends on if you are fasting properly.
Positive side effects:
Most people who take part in intermittent fasting reported increased well-being in their gut.
Fasting allows your body a chance to relax and reboot since your digestive tract does so much, it doesn’t have to deal with some painful food symptoms such as gas, irritation, and bloating.
Plus it physically reduces your blood sugar, decreases your insulin levels, and helps you lose weight by decreasing your overall calories.
But it doesn’t stop there for the physical body…
According to recent studies, intermittent fasting is also associated with a reduced risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is because fasting actually physically decreases inflammation and reducing inflammatory helps our cells battle multiple chronic inflammatory conditions such as obesity, hypertension, cancer, and irritable bowel conditions.
So you might also minimize the risk of physical chronic illnesses.
To top it off research also suggests intermittent fasting will help the body more efficiently maintain lean muscle.
Negative side effects:
Long-term fasting can cause anemia, a weakened immune system, liver and kidney disorders, and heartbeat irregularity. Fasting can also lead to vitamin, mineral, muscle deficiencies. So for those who are new to fasting, they can also expect to feel dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, muscle aches, exhaustion, or fatigue during their first fast.
Fasting is all about listening to the body, which is explained further below…
Fasting for some can be really difficult when emotions are getting involved but if you can stick with it, you could reset your emotional negative habits too.
In life, we can get all caught up in odd emotional loops, and fasting may break you free from them — helping you to experience the world in a much clearer way.
The reason for this is because the gut also plays a vital role in our emotions, so naturally, when fasting gets introduced to the body, it can help you clear unnecessary emotional baggage that the gut previously used to carry on to.
And as you can tell it’s not all positive as explained in the negative physical side effects above.
Because when it comes to emotional eating, the diet can also cause “fear of loss of control (with food)” and “overeating during uncontrolled days”.
These are key indicators of an emotional state that is classified as binge eating disorder. So whether you are fasting for the first time for weight loss or you are fasting just to clear out your nervous system, know that fasting can lead to severe emotional eating if you don’t pay careful attention to your safety.
Many people also get really emotional during their first intermittent fast.
This also may have to do with a lack of nutrients if you are fasting improperly (which is also further explained below, keep reading!).
This is a big question that a lot of people ask and wonder about.
Is this type of eating schedule really for you?
So, how exactly do you do intermittent fasting effectively if you are worried or excited about what you read about the process?
Well, for starters, health practitioners recommend that most people tend to follow what is called the 16/8 method.
This means that your fasting window is for 16 hours, and then you give yourself an 8-hour window to eat.
Many people doing the 16/8 method skip breakfast and eat their first meal around lunchtime. So if you eat your first meal of the day at 12 PM, then you have until 8 PM to have your last meal. After your 8 PM meal, you would refrain from eating until 12 o’clock the next day, giving you 16 hours without food.
The good news is, you can eat whenever you want during this 8-hour window but this doesn’t mean however that you can gorge yourself with all kinds of junk food.
But during your time intermittent fasting, you’ll want to eat highly nutritious foods. And of course, you should always be eating these kinds of foods, but they’re especially important during intermittent fasting.
Decide for yourself if fasting is for you, but keep in mind these two key points...
1) Fluctuating Mood and Energy
You may experience mood swings or changes in your energy levels.
Many people also get emotional during intermittent fasting. This mostly has to do with a lack of nutrients, so as said earlier, it’s important to eat nutrient-rich foods during the process.
Over time, your body will adapt to the eating schedule and your energy and moods will most likely even out.
You can even expect to possibly be in a better mood.
That’s because when you’re doing intermittent fasting, your body releases a chemical called ghrelin, which is known to lift moods.
On the other hand, if you find yourself emotional during intermittent fasting, you may want to take a step back.
2) Hormonal imbalances
It’s also not uncommon for women to experience hormonal issues and imbalances while intermittent fasting.
Some women lose their periods and have issues with thyroid hormone production.
The menstrual cycle is closely tied to calories intake, so calorie restriction could lead to a host of other issues.
If you think you may have an issue with these things, then try a less intense fasting schedule.
For instance, you could choose a few days out of the week and do intermittent fasting on nonconsecutive days for 12 or 14 hours.
Another popular method of fasting for women is to do a 24 hour fast once or twice a week to see how your body feels.
You would still be able to get many of the benefits and mitigate any side effects because many women have found success in using these types of fasting methods.
Lastly, don’t forget to include your health care provider on your fasting journey.
Before you start a fast, or if you’re currently in one, make sure you stop if you believe this wellness approach has a negative effect on your body and your life.
Talk with your doctor if you are a woman experiencing any of the following…
- Diabetes or low blood sugar
- Fertility problems or missed period
- Any history of eating disorders
- Pregnancy, currently breastfeeding or attempting to conceive
Whether you are interested in fasting for weight loss, or for any of the other intermittent fasting benefits, it is absolutely worth a try!
At the end of the day, the only way to know for yourself is to try it and you see how you feel.
Try to ease into it and enjoy yourself and stay healthy.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you to get a clearer picture of intermittent fasting is all about.
If you would like some more pointers? Here’s another article with 8 extra helpful intermittent fasting tips, if you do decide that fasting is what you would like to try.
For more tips check out 8 More Intermittent Fasting Tips for Beginner’s
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Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am the face behind Everything Abode! I am a lifestyle and wellness writer based out of Vancouver Island. When I’m not writing or exploring mountains and beaches with my furry rescue, I love spending time learning creative ways to manifest a healthy home. Thanks for stopping by!
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