My 30-Day Experiment with Intermittent Fasting and How it Rebooted My Relationship with Food

Have you ever read a book and thought, "Wow, this could change my life?" That's exactly how I felt after finishing "Fast, Feast, Repeat" by Gin Stevens. It sparked a fire in me to explore how intermittent fasting (IF) might impact my body, particularly when combined with a gut-friendly diet.

So, eight months ago, I decided to take the plunge and embark on a 30-day challenge: a daily 16-hour fasting window with an 8-hour eating window. During my fasts, I stuck to water, black coffee, black tea, and green tea – a "clean fast" with no flavours that might trick my body into thinking food was coming. During my feasting windows I stuck to eating gut friendly foods, focusing on plenty of lean protein, healthy fats and a rainbow of vegetables. This, I believe, was key to making the fasting surprisingly manageable.

After Week Three: Effortless Fasting and Rethinking My Relationship with Food

Three weeks in, and here's the shocker: I was able to effortlessly extend my fasts to 16-18 hours each day! Turns out, that breakfast I thought was essential? Not so much. My energy levels remain steady, cravings are non-existent, and hunger pangs are a distant memory. 

This experience has challenged my ingrained beliefs about eating. Growing up, clean plates were praised, and "eating for later" was a pre-evening ritual – just in case food became scarce. Society's constant barrage of "eat this, eat that" messaging has desensitised me to my body's natural hunger cues. Fasting has been a real eye-opener!

How Fasting Can Benefit Your Microbiome

Fasting's impact goes beyond just feeling good. It can significantly influence your gut microbiome, the community of trillions of bacteria residing in your gut. Here's how:

    • Increased Diversity: Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, can promote a more diverse gut microbiome, which is generally linked to better overall health.
    • Shifting the Balance: Fasting may influence the types of bacteria present in your gut. Studies suggest it might increase beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria while reducing harmful ones.
    • Cellular Clean-up: Fasting can trigger a process called autophagy, where your body clears out damaged cells and cellular components. This can extend to gut bacteria, leading to a healthier microbial community.
    • Reduced Inflammation: Fasting can help reduce gut inflammation, which is crucial for overall gut health. Chronic inflammation can disrupt the microbiome and damage the gut lining.
    • Short-Chain Fatty Acid Boost: During a fast, gut bacteria may increase their production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are essential for gut health and offer various health benefits.

How Fasting Can Benefit Overall Wellbeing

  • Weight management: By restricting eating windows, fasting can help you consume fewer calories overall, which can aid in weight loss.
  • Improved blood sugar control: Fasting may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels, potentially benefiting those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Reduced inflammation: Fasting may help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is a factor in many chronic diseases.
  • Potential cognitive benefits: Studies suggest fasting may improve brain function, memory, and focus.

Eat Drink Sing Repeat? Well not quite.

Fasting Options: There's a Method for Everyone

Fasting comes in various designs to suit different preferences and goals. Here's a quick rundown of some popular methods:

  • Intermittent Fasting (IF): This involves cycling between eating and fasting periods. Common IF methods include the 16/8 method (fast for 16 hours, eat within an 8-hour window), the 5:2 method (eat normally for 5 days, restrict calories on 2 non-consecutive days), and the Eat-Stop-Eat method (24-hour fasts once or twice a week).
  • Time-Restricted Eating: This is a form of IF where you limit your eating to a specific window each day, typically between 8-12 hours.
  • Extended Fasting: This involves longer fasts, often 24 hours or more. Some people practice 24-hour fasts, 36-hour fasts, or even multi-day fasts. (Always consult a doctor before attempting extended fasting).
  • Alternate-Day Fasting: This involves alternating days of fasting with days of regular eating.

Eight months in, and there's no stopping this fasting train! However, I've learned that flexibility is key. Some days, my body just craves nourishment, so I listen and shorten my fasting window. This intuitive approach has happened a few times, and it's helped me stay committed way beyond my initial 30-day goal. It's a two-way street: if I'm not hungry, I extend the fast. Even at family gatherings, I might miss a fasting day or two. This flexibility has been the secret sauce to my long-term success.

The results? My body has definitely transformed. I've shed some pounds, and the hip pain that had been a constant companion for three years is a much smaller issue. Can I definitively say it's all thanks to fasting? Maybe the jury's still out. But one thing's for sure: I haven't experienced any downsides, so why change a winning formula?

The key takeaway? Explore, listen to your body, and find a fasting method that works for you. Remember, consulting a healthcare professional before starting any fasting regimen is crucial, especially if you have underlying health conditions. Fasting isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, and proper hydration and nutrition during fasting and feasting periods are essential. Since the gut microbiome is sensitive to dietary changes, any fasting plan should be implemented with a focus on overall gut health.

So, are you curious about trying fasting? Have you embarked on your own fasting journey? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!



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