It’s usually when a family member, close friend or loved one gets diagnosed with something serious that I begin to reassess my lifestyle choices.
Do you do the same?
This past week, a good friend of mine told me that her 24-year old sister was diagnosed with lymphoma. Unfortunate news.
I often associate chronic conditions like this with older people, but it’s a wrong attitude. Age and race have nothing to do with these diseases, but lifestyle choices, genetics sometimes and luck, yes luck play a key role.
My friend’s sister needs to start chemotherapy immediately, but she’s decided to adopt a whole-foods plant based diet to support her immune system in fighting the condition effectively.
Methionine, a type of amino acid that is commonly found in animal proteins, and is linked with several chronic conditions like cancer, and a reduced lifespan. Plant foods are naturally low in this amino acid, so her decision to go plant-based is just fantastically awesome!
Our bodies are capable of amazing things if we nourish it with the right foods, but do you know that our bodies are equally capable of self-healing if we alter the pattern in which we eat?
The pattern of eating I’m referring to is one I’ve practised on and off. To put it simply, I’ve not been as consistent with it as I would like. However, after my friend’s recent news, it is something I’ve decided to take seriously and to incorporate permanently into my lifestyle.
You may have come across it on social media or YouTube. If it’s something you associate with weight loss, I completely understand because most people use it for that reason only.
But, there is so much more to intermittent fasting than weight loss, and as far I’m concerned, it is the most important benefit.
That benefit is autophagy.
Autophagy is the process by which your body self-heals or self-renews. Old cells, malfunctioning cells, and foreign cells are destroyed during this process. Your body will also remove toxic waste products and even disease-causing microorganisms like bacteria, parasites and viruses.
Autophagy stops your body from accumulating damaged cells that could slow down your metabolism and encourage disease. In fact, many psychiatric and neurological disorders start when the body collects a lot of deformed proteins.
Autophagy can prevent the onset of cancer and stop the growth of early-stage cancers. It does this reducing inflammation, preventing further DNA damage, promoting the death of deformed cells and strengthening your immune system.
In addition to these benefits, autophagy:
- promotes longevity
- Improves muscle repair and performance
- improves your body’s response to stress
One of the best things about intermittent fasting and eating a plant-based diet is the fact that you don’t
How to practice intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating your meals within a specific time frame in the day.
Whether you realise it or not, you already practice a form of intermittent fasting. The periods you go without eating during the day or at night are periods when you fast intermittently.
In saying that, you can only enjoy the autophagy benefit of intermittent fasting if you prolong the duration of your meals. That is not to say that you need to eat less (you only need to eat less if you’re trying to lose weight), you will still consume the same about of food you usually eat, but just within a shorter time frame.
You need to leave a minimum of 12 hours between your last meal on one day and your first meal the following day. If you usually have your last meal by 8 pm, for example, you should try to delay your breakfast until 8 am the next morning. You should also ensure that you eat all your meals between 8 am and 8 pm.
16-20 hour fasts supposedly provide the most benefits when it comes to cell renewal and longevity. However, it is not something that everyone can jump on immediately primarily if you’re used to eating at certain times of the day. So start slow.
Another consideration is to try not to snack between meals. You may have heard that you should try to eat small meals every 2-3 hours. The problem with this way of eating is that you’re continually spiking your insulin levels, and insulin decreases autophagy.
Rather than eating frequently, try to 2-3 larger meals and leave as much time in-between them as possible to allow your body properly digest and absorb the nutrients from your food and to let it some time to rest.
I have to admit that eating more substantial meals takes a little bit of time to get used to especially if you’re eating a plant-based diet. All of that fibre can lead to bloating and discomfort. But what you’ll find is that you won’t need to snack in between meals and you’ll feel a lot more satisfied after each meal.
Of course, this pattern of eating may not be for you. If you prefer to eat smaller meals just ensure that you eat them all either within a 12, 10, 8-, 6-hour or whatever time duration you have left after considering your fasting time.
My intermittent fasting schedule
I have done different intermittent fasting schedules from 12 to 20-hour fasts. I like 18-hour fasts the most because I love the mental clarity I get from it. Also with eating mostly whole foods, I find that I need at 6 hours to fully digest my meals before eating again.
I tend to eat two large meals when I intermittently fast. When I’m not intermittently fasting, I will eat up to 4 meals a day. Now that I’ve decided to make this a permanent lifestyle, I will focus on doing 18-hour fasts with two large meals a day.
My goal here is not to limit my eating window to any particular time. I aim to keep it flexible because I don’t want it to feel like regimented eating that spirals into a random eating disorder or diet plan.
What I will focus on doing is eating whenever I’m hungry, but making sure that I leave at least 16 hours between my last and first meal. One will strive to achieve 18 hours more often than 16 hours.
I am not trying to lose weight, so I will continue to eat as much as I need to keep me satisfied.
Do you think you will incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle?