Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) seems to be the latest weight loss rage, but does it work, and more importantly, does it work long term? Can I.F. change a person's weight, shape, health, and faith for the better? My husband, Captain Mike King (U.S.N. Retired submariner), has been practicing I.F. since the summer of 2020 and will provide insight into his experience.
Why did you begin to practice intermittent fasting?
My wife, Martha, and I started intermittent fasting when we purchased a book, Fast. Feast. Repeat. by Gin Stephens. I picked it up out of boredom and read it nonstop. This book provided a high-level overview of I.F., including benefits, physiological aspects, Dos and Do- Nots, and testimonials. My family has a history of Type 2 Diabetes, so I follow my glucose level closely. My blood work glucose levels had been creeping up during my annual physicals. Stephen's book clearly explained the benefits of I.F. in reducing glucose levels and addressing insulin resistance at a cellular level. I decided to try the I.F. lifestyle, and my glucose level had plummeted during my next physical. I was hooked.
Does intermittent fasting make you lose weight? I am not overweight and did not start the lifestyle to lose weight but to address insulin resistance. However, I am a junk food addict which can lead to the "insulin belly" that many men develop from eating too many carbs. When I follow the protocol religiously, I notice that my weight drops slightly, and my muscle mass is lean-looking. I can, however, attest to my wife's experience. She has seen dramatic weight loss and other benefits, and she just turned 74 but honestly looks 15 years younger. (See the above picture.)
What are the physiological benefits of intermittent fasting you have seen? I have seen slight weight loss, glucose levels during annual physicals drop from 106 to the high 80s, and development of lean muscle mass, especially in the stomach. In addition, I feel great physically. I walk 4.5 miles most days (during my fasting period) and am highly active around the house working on projects. I just finished a two-week ski trip and, at the age of 70, was keeping up with the youngsters on the slopes.
What are the spiritual benefits of intermittent fasting?
I.F. provides a dedicated time to focus on your relationship with God. My eating window opens at 1 PM, which gives me several hours in the morning to pray, read my Bible or religious literature, and exercise. There is great freedom in knowing you have a dedicated period each day to focus on things of importance in your life other than food.
How do you deal with the hunger pangs, spiritually and physically? Hunger pangs have not been a big issue for me. I fast from 9 PM the night before until 1 PM the next day, which is my daily/weekly schedule. My morning routine includes a 4.5-mile walk where I enjoy God's beautiful world and pray. After my walk, I have about 1.5 hours before my eating window opens. As I approach that window opening, I start thinking about food, but I am not that hungry. As an aside, I believe exercising during a fasting period benefits fat-burning and insulin balance. It makes sense that if you are towards the end of a clean fast and your body requires extra fuel for exercise, it will take that fuel from stored fat. That is a good thing.
How long does this lifestyle need to last for benefits to have an effect? I saw benefits very quickly...on the order of 30 days. I imagine this varies from person to person.
What limits do you have during your eating period? My eating routine is very consistent. When I get up, I have a cup of black coffee. Have to have that. When my window opens at 1 PM, I have one fried egg, a piece of toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk, a glass of water, and another cup of coffee with milk and a little sugar. During the afternoon, I will snack on junk food: apple slices with peanut butter, corn chips, and generally-homemade cookies. I told you I was a junk food junky. I am very active during the day, so I call this my "fuel." I try to limit the amount because no lifestyle with lots of junk food can be beneficial. I eat a typical dinner and two glasses of wine. My eating window closes at 9 PM. So I can eat daily from 1 PM until 9 PM that night or a 16:8 schedule meaning 16 hours of clean intermittent fasting and 8 hours of eating. To clarify, one must cleanly fast for 16 to 20 hours before fat burning starts.
What limits do you have during your fasting period?
Clean fasting, as mentioned, is critical. Gin Stevens stresses this, and it works. I do a clean fast which means only unflavored water or unflavored seltzer water, plain black or plain green tea, and black coffee with no cream or sugar, or artificial sweetener. If you cheat, the benefits of I.F. will be diminished. If you like hunger pangs, then cheat: If not, don't. The reason for this clean fasting is any food flavor, even sugar-free gum, mints, or drinks starts the release of insulin which stops fat burning. So drink CLEAN during your intermittent fasting time.
What has been your personal experience, and how have you handled that 5 to 10-pound weight gain most of us get during the holidays? This God-given natural program recognizes that there will be periods when you can't fast. I have fallen off my fasting routine many times. So after the holidays, I get serious and get with it again. It is essential to recognize that this is not a diet but a lifestyle. The benefits come from the long haul, which short-term burps will not impact.
So, in conclusion, thanks, Captain Mike. This should be a big 2023 help to my readers considering intermittent fasting as a way to lose inches and weight, feel great, and honor God, all at the same time and for free. Also, as anyone knows, you don't generally get leaner as you age because weight creeps on! So if the I.F. lifestyle seems possible, give it a try. Remember, you are already practicing intermittent fasting every time you sleep at night. All you do is push that first meal out as far as you can--aiming for 16 to 20 hours of clean intermittent fasting--and watch what excellent benefits happen both physically and spiritually.
Tobit 12:8 "Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness." RSVCE
Martha Wild King, M.Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.