I’ve written in many of my columns about time restricted eating and how fasting can be beneficial for improving your health and additionally in helping you lose weight. Fasting is an ancient healing method that has been used for thousands of years. Although many people now practice time restricted eating and fasting with the goal of weight loss, some use fasting to improve their overall health. It’s saddening but not surprising that according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research study only 12% of people are “healthy”, which means that 88% of people are metabolically unhealthy.
You can be identified as having metabolic syndrome if you have three or more markers above certain levels, such as if your waist measurement is over 40 inches for men or over 35 inches for women, or triglyceride blood levels over 150 mg/dl and HDL (high density lipoprotein) under 40 for men or 50 for women, or if you have fasting blood sugar levels over 100 mg/dl (5.6) or blood pressure above130/85. Practicing time-restricted eating and removing added sugars and ultra processed foods from your diet could be life saving.
Time restricted feeding, which most people know as intermittent fasting, can be practiced every day or a few days a week by just restricting your eating window to 6, 8, or 10 hours each day. If you restrict it to 10 hours each day then that means that for 14 hours each day you are not eating. And that’s really not hard, if you just stop eating a few hours before you sleep and start eating a few hours after you wake up then you’ve already fasted for over 14 hours.
Of course, it is also important what you eat during this time. However, even if you’re eating some moderately unhealthy foods you may still see benefits from intermittent fasting. Practicing regular fasting can lead you to become metabolically flexible so you can heal your body and improve your health markers. Other specific benefits include lower blood sugar, improved or reversed diabetes, improved gut health, reducing the likelihood of chronic diseases, improved sleep, improved mood, improved cognitive function, and weight loss.
According to a study on metabolic flexibility and insulin resistance by NIH “Metabolic flexibility is the capacity for the organism to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability. The more common concept of metabolic flexibility has been promulgated in the context of fuel selection in the transition from fasting to fed states, or fasting to insulin stimulation to explain insulin resistance.” (metabolic syndrome)
If you are relatively healthy then you can start by trying a 14 hours fast, then you may gradually increase to maybe 16 or 18 hours fast a few times a week. Of course, if you are using medication you may need to ask your physician. However, eating less often is something that anyone can practice. Most of us eat much too often without realizing it, and intermittent fasting can help us to be aware of how much and how many times we are actually consuming calories. If you try it and on that specific day it doesn’t feel right then just stop and try it again when you are ready on another day. Remember, this is not just a temporary change, this is a practice for your health.