Should I Try Intermittent Fasting?

Should I Try
Intermittent Fasting?

How do I know if it's right for me?

Intermittent fasting seems particularly confusing because there's so many contradicting claims.  On one hand, there's solid science that shows fasting can improve weight loss, blood sugar balance, reducing coronary disease, Alzheimer's and cancer. On the other hand, there's also solid science that shows fasting can negatively impact women's hormones, metabolism, and weight loss. So who's right? 

I think the confusion is largely because of two reasons:
1. There are a lot of types of fasting! The results of a study of one type of fasting don't necessarily translate to another type of fasting.  When looking at claims you need to look deeper and understand what type of fasting was being studied.
2.  Men and Women are DIFFERENT! If you're looking at result claims you need to understand if those were for men or for women like YOU

All that said, I find intermittent fasting to hold a lot of possibilities and potential benefit as a targeted treatment. But the question remains, is it right for YOU? In this episode I'm going to break down:
What it is
Who is it right for
Who is it wrong for
How to try it safely
How to know if it's not working

Listen up because there's a ton of info here, and by the end you'll know if intermittent fasting could be right for you. 

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Full transcription available at the bottom of this post

Show Notes: 

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Full Transcript: 

What is up friends? Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast today we're talking about intermittent fasting and the question that's probably on your mind, should you try it? I'm sure you've heard of intermittent fasting before. It's quite the buzz right now. It's all over the place. Lots of people are talking about it, lots of people are recommending it, and you're probably hearing lots of amazing claims about what it might do for your health and weight loss. But how do you know if it's right for you? Today, I'm gonna break down intermittent fasting, the pros, the cons, so that you can decide if it's something that's right for you to try or not. Let's go. 

Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life at the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health, find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes, let's walk and talk.

Intermittent Fasting is totally a buzzword right now. It's pretty popular, lots of people on social media are talking about it, tons of claims are being made about it. But if you've looked into it at all, you'll find there's generally two camps the first camp makes tons of health claims about intermittent fasting weight loss, blood sugar balance, reducing coronary disease, cancer, and you should definitely do it. And then there are claims are backed up with a lot of science, there's a lot of science that show that those claims can be true. Then there's another camp that says that intermittent fasting, especially for women over 30 can be damaging to your metabolism, weight loss hormones. And their claims are also backed up with lots of science. So who's right? This is why I wanted to do this episode, both sides are backed by science, which makes it very confusing. Both of those sides have very legitimate claims, I find it super confusing for myself to decide what I want to do. And so I thought this would be super helpful for you guys, if I could just break it down, give you all the information you need. And then you can decide for yourself. 

So there's two main reasons that I see for this division, these two very separate camps of do it or don't do it. One of the reasons is that there's a lot of ways to intermittent fast. So when we're talking about fasting, in general, there's a whole lot of ways that you can do that. So what you have to do is really look closely at every single study and really understand what kind of fasting that they were doing with what was the population that was doing the fasting, like it really matters. And that's why the science gets so confusing because it's not the same in every study. So intermittent fasting really is just like this umbrella term that covers lots of different dietary schedules. So some forms are just really extremely limiting calories, like 2010 to 20% of your normal calories, limiting that one day every three days or there's also a really common five to fasting so you eat normal for five days, and then you superduper limit calories like zero to 20% for two days. There's also a pattern of dieting called the fasting mimicking diet. So you're eating but you're eating like only high fat, you're like only eating fat, so your body is forced to to burn fat because it doesn't have any sugar to burn. That's the fasting mimicking diet. So you're super high fat, super low calorie for a period of days. And then there's water fasting, right where people have gone several days, even weeks with no food. And then most commonly, what you've probably heard up the most is time restricted feeding. And so when most people are talking about intermittent fasting, this is what they're talking about. So you have within a 24 hour period, a window of you eat for so many hours and you don't eat for so many hours, knowing that there are so many types of intermittent fasting that's not even all of them. That's just like a few that you might have heard of. There's lots of other ways to fast. 

So knowing that there are so many types of fasting it stands to reason that the scientific results are super vague to read, because when they're doing a study, they're studying just one type of fasting, right? So you can't say that because this group of people did a fast where they ate for five days and didn't eat for two days, and this was their result, I can't then extrapolate those results, and say, Well, the fact that I'm going to do or I'm going to just time limit in 24 hours, the amount of hours I'm going to eat during the day, I can't, those two things are different, and I'm gonna get different results. And it might not be right for me, and I might very much not get the results that they got. So when you are looking at all the claims of intermittent fasting or fasting in general, you need to go a step further and really understand why are they making that claim? What is it based on? What was the type of fasting that they were studying? What was the schedule of eating that they were studying? What were they eating when they were eating it? And who are the people? Right? So that's the other question. 

There is a difference between men and women. I know that might not be politically correct for me to say, but I'm not here to be politically correct. I'm here to be honest, and science based, there's a difference between men and women, our hormones are different. Our bodies are different the way our bodies react to food, and no food is different. Diets like and treatments like fasting and intermittent fasting are not going to necessarily have the same results. for men and for women. Lots of studies don't differentiate between the results for men and women, they just give you an overall result. Like we tested this many when men and this many women and 80% of the people had this result, but they don't differentiate what if you know more than half of the 80% was actually just all the men that got that result. And most of the women did not get that positive result. They're not really telling you that you have to dig in a little bit and look at a study to see that women our age, especially are going through major changes, right? Once you hit like perimenopause and menopause, things that you were able to do in your teens and 20s don't work the same anymore. And so you really have to acknowledge that we are different than men, and that our bodies now are different than they used to be. In fact, most nutrition studies up until about 10 - 15 years ago, were actually done on male graduate students. So young, healthy men will obviously no matter what you do, a study is going to real yield different results when it's done on young healthy men versus middle aged women. Okay, so I just want you to know that going in that when you see claims really not just about fasting or intermittent fasting, but any kind of diet, any kind of eating plan, when you go in and you look at the claims like this positive result, this positive result this happened that happened, you really need to understand what is the population that that happened for? Was it for middle aged women like me going through what I'm going through? Or was it for some 25 year old graduate student dude, right. That's important to understand. So I think that is two of the biggest reasons why there's this sort of real confusion about claims being made about fasting, you have to dig in, you cannot take things at face value, you have to dig in and understand what's actually being studied and what the actual results are and how that actually applies to you personally. Make sense? 

Okay, so if you are wanting to try fasting, then here's some things that I want you to know about intermittent fasting and fasting, important things that you would want to know before you go into this. Being in a fasted state is not a bad thing, in fact, it's beneficial for you to go through periods with no food. That is actually how your body was designed to work. Most of us go throughout the day, and we talked about this before, is eating six meals a day, that's probably not the right approach your body was actually made to eat, stop eating, get hungry, tell you that it's hungry, and then eat and then stop eating, and then get hungry again. Does that make sense? If you're eating all day, your body can't do that. So being in a fasted state is actually an important part of your daily life. 

A lot of important things happen while you're fasting while your body is not dealing with digesting food. One of the most important things is called autophagy and that's the process where your body goes through and cleans out all of its waste and damaged cells. It removes toxic proteins from cells that help cells regenerate. This positively impacts things like aging, age related diseases like Alzheimer's, insulin sensitivity, Parkinson's, even cancer. This autophagy process is a really important process. And it happens while you're fasted. So for most of us, it happens at night while we're sleeping. Now to bump up the effects of autophagy. That's one reason that people will go on a prolonged fast, in order to really like crank up this autophagy process. So they will put themselves in, say a two day fast so that they are in an autophagy process for two whole days instead of just maybe six hours at night while they were sleeping. So that is one reason that people do fast. And that is what they have found in the studies is happening, right, that's actually a really good process for you. However, if it's detrimental in other ways, it's not going to be a good process for you. So we'll talk about that in a sec. 

Having no food in your system for a little while, is also really important for balancing blood sugar, for tapping into your fat reserves to force your body to burn reserved fat, okay, think about it. If I'm constantly bringing food on board, then my body never has to tap into burn fat to function, it just will constantly keep burning the calories that I keep bringing in. So going for small periods of time. And now I'm talking like maybe in between meals, you go for several hours in between meals, that's like a mini little fasted state, right, I'm allowing my body to fully digest, and then feel hungry again and tell me that it's hungry again, overnight, I'm going into a fasted state, right, I'm going for multiple hours at night not eating, that is all fasting. And that's something that you naturally are already doing. Your body was made to do that your body was not meant to have food coming in all the time. So when you hear claims like intermittent fasting can help regulate blood glucose control blood lipids like triglycerides, reduce the risk of coronary disease, manage your body weight, help you gain or maintain your lean mass or muscle mass, reduce the risk of cancer and more. There is science behind that. And a lot of it has to do with the importance of being in that fasted state and the autophagy. So there are absolutely potential upsides, lots of potential upsides. And that's something that I find so fascinating about the science that's coming out about fasting, there is a lot of potential here. What I want to say is just a little caveat, and we're going to dig into this a little bit deeper here in a sec. But science changes. And so that's what we know right now. But if that changes, believe me, I will tell you, we decided that this is a really bad idea or an even better idea, or there's different ways to do it. Definitely I will be here telling you, I'm just telling you right now what we know, right now.  

Here's the potential problem with fasting and intermittent fasting. Just like exercise. Intermittent Fasting is a stressor, a positive stressor, we purposely place stress on our body, in this case, not eating in order to get an adaptive response that makes us stronger and healthier. That's why we exercise right. And same thing, we place a positive stress purposely on our body in order to get an adaptive response that makes us stronger and healthier. So fasting is the same mentality, it's purposely placing a stress on my body in order to force it to adapt, more autophagy, burn more fat, that kind of thing. However, just like with exercise, when you add that stressor to all the other stressors in your life, it might be too much. So remember, in your own body, a stress is a stress as a stress as a stress, it doesn't care if it has negative emotional stress, or if it's positive exercise stress too much is too much. And intermittent fasting is part of that. If that stressor is too much for your body, it's too much. It doesn't matter what your intentions are or what you want it to do. It only matters what it's actually doing. And if it's placing too much stress on your body, then it's going to backfire. 

This is especially true for women. In general, women are much more sensitive to caloric deficits, and much more prone to create an overstressed response to caloric deficits than men. Why? Because your body is always trying to get pregnant, it is always trying to be ready to make and grow and feed a baby. So because it's always trying to do that it is very sensitive to how much food is or is not coming on board. That's why a lot of women you will hear a lot of anecdotal reports of women who have tried intermittent fasting and their periods stopped. And it's because their body was like, Okay, well apparently she's not feeding us. So I'm not going to release this precious egg because I want this egg to turn into a baby and I'm not going to let it out there if I don't think she's gonna give me enough food to actually make a baby. Does that make sense? So your body's like, yeah, no, thanks. We're not doing this right now. Until you feed me you wouldn't get no egg. So especially our bodies as women are super, super sensitive to food coming on board, how much calories are coming on board enough or not enough. So because of our reproductive health needs, intermittent fasting might be really bad for your Hormonal Health, so to do it or not to do it, okay, if you're like, but there's so much upside, and I feel like I could do it, I feel like I could benefit from it. My friend really likes it. And she lost weight and she says this, okay? Okay, all good. 

If you're thinking about doing it, I'm gonna give you my parameters. And this is what I would tell my clients, this is what I would tell my mom, this is what I've tell everyone I know, these are my parameters for whether or not trying it might work for you. Number one is you need to be metabolically flexible. Okay, so this means that your body can also burn fat as well as sugar, it is fat adapted as well as sugar adapted, it can use both of those sources efficiently for energy. This automatically rules out most of you listening, it automatically rules out, most Americans period.  Most Americans, the vast majority are not fat adapted. That means most of our bodies rely on a constant source of glucose coming in, because all our body knows how to do at this point is burn glucose because that's what we're constantly feeding it to be fat adapted means that it can tap into your fat stores efficiently. So it says like this, okay, there's no glucose coming on board, okay? It's because you're fasting, right? You're not eating? Okay, well, there's nothing coming on board, I'm just going to tap into this fat and burn that all good. Most of us are not very good at doing that our body has lost that ability. 

How do you know if you're not fat adapted, if you don't eat for, let's say, a couple hours during the day, you start to get hangry your blood sugar drops, and you have that hangry like foggy, emotional, cranky, whatever your mood is dependent on food, then you are not fat adapted, your body is not good at tuning into its fat, getting into the fat stores, releasing the fat from the cells and burning it for energy. If you want to try fasting, you're going to have to be good at burning fat. And so my recommendation would be first get good at that. And there's a lot of ways that we do that. But first get good at that. 

Okay, my second recommendation is don't try fasting unless you've already mitigated other stressors in your life. emotional stressors, physical stressors, make sure you're getting good sleep, make sure you are not already on diets where you've been restricting calories. So if you've been on diets for a while already, and then where you're already not eating enough calories, and then you fast and you eat zero calories, your body is going to reject that plan very quickly, you are not going to get the results. In fact, you might get the opposite of what you actually wanted, you might hold on to weight. So make sure that you are mitigating stressors, because again, fasting and intermittent fasting is a stressor on your body. Now we do it on purpose. But stress is stress is stress to your body. And if it's too much, it's too much. My other recommendation, if you want to try make sure that you are currently well nourished and you don't have any nutrient deficiencies. This seems like an obvious one, right? If I'm nutrient deficient in something, and then I just stop eating any source of nutrients, that's not going to go well. So make sure before you decide to try this that you don't have any nutrient deficiencies. Now, you can remedy that probably by taking some greens, powders and multivitamins and things. But you might also I always recommend clients to get tested for nutrient deficiencies. The other recommendation is this the results in terms of weight loss for intermittent fasting, the biggest results have come from those studies done on obese patients. So if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, then this could be something that you could try. There's also really as just total side note. Some studies have shown this to be really interestingly helpful for women with PCOS. So if you do have PCOS, you can look into that. And I can send you some studies to look at something to look into. I'm not saying do it or don't do it. I'm just saying the studies are showing that it could be beneficial. Okay, total sidenote, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, then intermittent fasting could be something that you could try. The studies done on those who are already healthy are those with only just a bit of weight to lose, let's say 20 pounds or less. The results are less profound, the weight loss results are less incredible or less exciting than they are with someone who has quite a bit of weight to lose. So if you've only got like that last 10-15 pounds to lose, this is probably not the way to do it. 

Also, if you want to try it again, my biggest recommendation always would be to talk to your doctor because you need to understand your health status and how this might impact it. So before you try any diet, always consult your doctor and any health issues you might be having. 

Intermittent Fasting is definitely not for you if any of the following things are in your life right now. If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or nursing, don't do intermittent fasting. This is not gonna be good for you. If you have a history of disordered eating, intermittent fasting is not going to be a great choice for you. This very strict way of eating is not going to be good for your eating disorder, treatment and recovery, if you are chronically stressed. Again, if you already have a lot of other sources of stress in your life, this is not going to be a good option to add one more source of stress to your body, if you're not getting enough sleep, and if you're new to diet and exercise, this is not where I would start. Don't start here with intermittent fasting. There's a whole sort of baseline of health that you could reach. And then maybe you try intermittent fasting as a more targeted approach for a specific result that you're trying to achieve. Does that make sense? There's a podcast coming up in a few weeks. And it's basically the hierarchy of health. But I'll tell you, right now, you have to get the baseline of health down before you try targeted things like an intermittent fasting. 

So if you want to try it, if you're like, Okay, well, I might be a good candidate, it might work. If you want to try it, here's what I want you to try. Before you go full fast. Think about just cutting out snacks between meals, just don't eat all day, right? Just eat a meal, stop eating a meal, and then don't eat until your next meal, try cutting out snacks and really pay attention to how you're feeling in between. Are you getting hangry? Do you feel like you have energy? Do you feel like this is working for you? Do you feel like it's not working for you? Why? What is your body feel? Like? What does your brain feel like? What does your emotions feel like, really pay attention to just cutting that out. That's like a teeny tiny, mini fast and see how you feel. Again, you'll start to understand if you are an efficient fat burner, or if you are a non efficient fat burner, you could then try just a 12 hour overnight fast. So you're probably already almost fasting for 12 hours anyways. So maybe you're just adding a couple hours on the front end or the back end. So that will look like not eating from like seven at night to seven in the morning, you might find that you just naturally do this anyway, like this might be something you're already doing 12 hours of fasting overnight. It's great. If that's how if that works for you, and you feel good and you don't feel super crazy hungry in the morning. Awesome. Like then just keep doing that it's working. 

For some women, you might want to then move. If the 12 hours is working, you could try going to a 16/8 or 14/10. So that's 16 hours no food, eight hours, yes food, or 14 hours, no food, 10 hours, yes, food. This is something that just personally, I sort of naturally fall into, like I don't try to eat this way. This is just how my body works. I stop eating at seven o'clock at night. Like that's just my hard stop, I make sure I've had my dinner, I've nourished myself and I'm good to go. For me. It's not about fasting so much as it is about sleeping better when I don't have food in my stomach. Right? I sleep better when I'm done digesting. So I stopped eating at seven. And then I usually am not even really hungry until 9,10,11 in the morning. So I don't force myself to eat in the morning because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And you don't want to miss it. No, I eat when I'm hungry. I don't eat until I'm hungry. And I get hungry at 910 or 11. So my body just naturally falls into this pattern, you might find the same as for you. If you're finding that you have to force it. If it's hard to do. If you wake up at, you know, seven in the morning, six in the morning and you're like oh my gosh, I'm starving and I can't eat till 10 Oh my gosh, I'm not going to make it. You are forcing it. And that's not how this should be. It should feel natural. It should feel easy. It should just feel like Oh, I'm hungry. Now I'm going to eat. If you're forcing it. You're forcing yourself not to eat for those morning hours. Don't do that. Just eat. Just eat and evaluate, eat and evaluate. Why was I hungry? Did I not eat a very good dinner? Am I not quite a fat burner yet. You need to evaluate for yourself. It should not feel like a struggle to do this. If it does. Stop 

What are you eating during the day. stick to the basics Whole Foods, focus plenty of protein, get your good fats, limit your fast carbs and your sugar, those highly processed carbs, your breads and your pastas and your sugar based things and your sodas and your candies and all those things right? If I eat a bad dinner at night where I was kind of high, fast carbs, so let's say like a pasta or something, or bread based kind of a fast carb based dinner, I'm hungry or in the morning the next day. Why? Because it didn't get enough fat and protein to sustain me. So you have to start paying attention then if you really want this to work, it'll force you to pay attention to what you're eating when you're eating it. Does that make sense? So those are all things that you can try to do. What I want to really encourage you is don't get caught up in the rules. Right? Don't get caught up in like I said I was going to not eat for 14 hours and I'm starving right now but I'm not going to eat one more hour I can do it. Don't do that to yourself. You are going to cause your body more harm than good. This is not something Are you just decide, oh, well, I'm just going to fast tomorrow, for the love, please don't do that, please do not try a 24 hour, like, sister, that is not going to work and your body is going to be mad. And it will take you longer to recover from doing that to yourself than it would have just if you would have just eaten during the day, don't get caught up in the rules, ease into this and see if it's a pattern of eating that will work for you. Because it might not, it might not be for you at all. And that's

okay too. There's plenty of other ways to get healthy. This is just one of many ways. So if you try it, I want you to know how to know if it's not working. So if it's not working, then you're going to have likely trouble sleeping, you might have missed or irregular periods, you might have low energy, dry skin, you are going to feel maybe more stressed have bigger mood swings, you might get sick all the time. These are things that are letting you know, hey, body is rejecting this plan doesn't like it. Go back to eating please. The bottom line here is that just because you hear a lot of claims about fasting and intermittent fasting does not mean it's right for you. There is a baseline of health that you have to reach before you can even entertain the idea of fasting. Yes, this is my opinion. Yes, it's based on the studies. Yes, it's also based on keeping you as safe as possible. And keeping your body as healthy and functioning as possible. 

Simply not eating is not something you take lightly. So it's not something that you just decide you're going to do one day, it's something that you need to work towards, you probably need to do if you're going to do any kind of extended fast, you're going to definitely want to work with your health professional on that. Do not do it by yourself. You want to be medically supervised, if you're going to try a longer fast, and make sure that you truly know what you're getting into and why you're getting into it. And really pay attention to your emotions. Pay attention to how your body feels to pay attention to your thoughts, so that you can know if this is working or not working for you. Okay, my friends, I hope that was super helpful. I want to remind you really quickly before you go, that the movement challenge the 30 Day movement challenge starts on Monday the 18th after this episode airs, that is the following Monday. It's not too late to get in, I want you to go to Tara forward slash movement, get yourself registered. We have some amazing super fun prizes. So get into that challenge, you can find out what the prizes are in there. It's 30 days of movement. However that looks for you. These are your goals that you are going to accomplish. It's going to be super fun. It's going to be super helpful. It's going to get you going in the right direction. And I want you to be in there and be a part of it. So don't wait. Do it right now. Turn off this podcast go to Alright, see you there friends. Be well. 

Hey, friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm at @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.

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