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Intermittent Fasting Guide for Beginners

I have been intermittent fasting for about 2 years now. I follow the 18/6 fasting method although I have many days when my eating window is closer to 4 hours. I decided to try intermittent fasting because I felt like no matter what I was doing, I just continued to gain weight. I tracked my calories, I followed different diets and I exercised but I would continue to gain weight. When I started intermittent fasting, I immediately dropped about 5 pounds. I have not been able to lose more than that but, without little effort, I have finally stopped gaining weight. I know if I cleaned up my diet, I would see even more weight loss results. One of the biggest effects that intermittent fasting has had on me is that my daily headaches went away. Most of my life, I have gotten headaches on a daily basis. Without making any other changes, my headaches went away with intermittent fasting. Although I would love to lose more weight, the elimination of my headaches have made it to where I would never go back to eating all day.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a term used for eating patterns that include cycling between periods of fasting and periods of eating. There are different types of fasting methods. You can test out different methods and find which one works for your body and lifestyle. Unlike many other diets, IF does not focus on what you eat but, instead, focuses on when you eat. For those of us that struggle with elimination diets, intermittent fasting can be the answer.

This is what drew me to IF. I struggle whenever I try elimination diets. Every time I would try to go Paleo or low carb, I would not be able to stick with it long term and would gain back any weight that I had lost (and sometimes gain more). I was, also, getting very tired of tracking my calories. It was so time consuming and took so much effort. With focusing on eating only during my specific time period, I felt free from tracking calories.

What are the common intermittent fasting methods?

  • 16/8 or 18/6 fasting method: This is a very common method in which you fast for 16 or 18 hours and have an eating window of 8 or 6 hours, respectively.

  • 5:2 Method: With this method, 5 days a week you have a normal eating schedule and 2 days a week you fast. On your fasting days, you can eat up to 500-600 calories

  • Eat Stop Eat (24 hours fast): This method involves one to two 24 hour fasts per week

  • Alternate Day Fasting: With this method you fast for 36 hours followed by 12 hours of eating and you repeat this pattern

Benefits of intermittent fasting

  • Weight loss

  • Decrease insulin resistance and risk of developing diabetes

  • Decreased inflammation

  • Induces autophagy- a process when your body removes damaged proteins and regenerates new ones

  • Decreases your risk of cancer

  • Improved brain function

How to start intermittent fasting? Many find that the easiest way to get started with IF is to aim for the 16/8 method. This will allow you to eat 8 hours out of the day. For most people, you can aim to stop eating at 8pm and fast until 12pm the next day. This means you will be skipping breakfast and you will break your fast at noon. I know what you are thinking. This seems impossible. Trust me, I have been there. I was the type of person that used to wake up starving. I would eat a protein bar or have a protein shake when I first woke up and then would need to eat again before lunch. Now I can easily make it until 3pm everyday and many days later. I would recommend to start slow. When do you normally start eating? If you start eating at 8am, try pushing it back until 10am

for one week. Gradually, you can push it back further and further until you reach that 16 hour fast. Once you reach the 16 hour fast, you can play around and see which method works for you according to your goals.

Tips to make it easier:

  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning

  • Continue drinking water throughout the fast- hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

  • Stick to black coffee, black tea or green tea

  • Do not use any sweeteners, even zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. Even though these artificial sweeteners are zero calorie, they can still trick your body into thinking you are eating and your body will release insulin. Once your body releases the insulin, your blood sugar will go down. When your blood sugar decreases, this is when you can start experiencing headaches, extreme hunger and irritability.

  • Stay busy during your fast

  • Make sure you are eating enough during your eating window

  • Focus on healthy, whole foods during your eating window

Who should not try intermittent fasting?

  • Underweight

  • History of an eating disorder

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

  • Certain medical conditions unless under the medical supervision

    • Diabetic

    • On certain medication, especially medications that need to be taken with food

    • Gout or high uric acid levels

    • Any serious medical conditions

Written By Christa Miller on

Suggested books:

Complete Guide To Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung

Intermittent Fasting Transformation: The 45-Day Program for Women to Lose Stubborn Weight, Improve Hormonal Health, and Slow Aging by Cynthia Thurlow


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