Intermittent Fasting Update

Breakfast and lunch, some days.

Breakfast and lunch, once a week.

One of the more popular articles on this blog is about intermittent fasting. I still practice intermittent fasting (I.F.) about once a week, so here’s a quick update.

How

About once a week I don’t consume any calories (or artificial sweeteners) until 2pm or later. I drink water, black coffee, and sometimes tea (black or herbal). Sometimes I fast until dinner (I did so last Thursday, as Kia was observing the Fast of Esther and I tagged along).

Why

I do it mainly for health reasons. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting can help protect against diabetes, dementia, cancer, and other diseases of aging. Since I only practice I.F. once a week, the measurable effects probably aren’t large. But the subjective effects keep me coming back to this simple practice. On fasting days and for a few days after, I consistently notice the following positive effects:

  • seasonal allergies (if I have any) go away
  • mood improves
  • waistline tightens (some fat loss, some retained water loss)
  • general motivation and creativity increase
  • steady energy

My once-a-week partial fast feels like I’m giving my body a chance to “clean house” through autophagy. For more on the health effects of autophagy, here’s my original post on the topic.

Fasting and Comfort

The first few times I practiced I.F. were a little rough. I was probably experiencing some minor detox. I felt slightly irritable, a little achy, and my eyes got a little bloodshot.

Now I don’t experience any negative effects. I’m not hungry after 11am or so, my energy is steady, and my concentration is very good.

I do notice that my body temperature drops a few degrees in the afternoon on I.F. days. On really cold days I usually choose not to fast.

I prefer “quiet days” when I’m fasting. I don’t feel as social, and my senses and emotions are heightened (so I need less stimulation). I like to take long walks on I.F. days but I usually don’t lift weights or do anything physically intense.

Psychological Effects

Food can take up a lot of mental space. Not just in terms of thinking about “what’s for lunch,” but as a reward system. Do you “deserve” a treat today? Or a shot of Jameson? (It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.) Taking a short break from food helps me recalibrate my rewards system. What other things do I look forward to in the place of food? Sometimes I read fiction when I would otherwise be eating lunch (for me, good fiction is comforting and reassuring and enjoyable, like good food).

Precautions

I don’t think skipping a meal or two once a week is risky. A simple precaution if you are just starting out would be to try I.F. on a “light” day where you don’t have much on your schedule. If you feel really terrible, you can always have something to eat. If you have health issues, check in with your doctor first. Some sensible precautions:

  • If you are addicted to caffeine (like I am), remember to drink black coffee or tea. Don’t try I.F. and caffeine withdrawal at the same time.
  • Drink enough water (so that you piss clear or light yellow).
  • Dress more warmly than you would otherwise.

The Next Level

For me, there is no next level. This is as far as I’m going with intermittent fasting. I enjoy eating with my family and friends too much to want to miss out on more than a few meals a week.

Reading articles like this one have persuaded me to stick with three meals a day in general. Restricting the “eating window” on a daily basis may have some benefits, but there are risks of cortisol dysregulation and other hormonal balance issues. My own “once a week” system is the opposite of hardcore, but I still notice clear benefits (without any side effects).

5 responses to “Intermittent Fasting Update

  1. I will be doing this for seasonal allergy benefits. Thanks for the update!
    Whenever I get allergies, anxiety and ADHD symptoms follow closely, so I need to put an end to it…
    On a side note a metametrix test showed I was low in GLA and DGLA, so will be doing taking GLA for asthma and allergies. I know you have some pretty popular posts on that!

  2. Calorie restriction is not proven to slow aging in humans is it? Im glad you feel some benefits though. I love food so much that I couldn’t imagine suffering from hunger without any benefits. Have you looked at resveratrol supplements etc? Apparently CR mimics like resveratrol activate biochemical signalling pathways involved in CR.

  3. I have a question that is about the asthma posts from a couple of years back. After you initiated the paleo diet how long did it take for you to see results?

    • Hard to say exactly, because I changed my diet very slowly over time. But generally I can notice changes from diet within a week (both better and worse — if eat lots of bread and sugar it often results in chest tightness within a few days, which is reversible equally as fast when I cut out those foods). Equally important is Vitamin D + magnesium supplementation, and I also use bromelain for short-term relief once in awhile (either because I’ve been eating poorly, or because of high exposure to pollen or other allergens). Your results may vary — but good health to you and yours!

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