Even though I've been practicing intermittent fasting for six years, its body composition and health benefits continue to amaze me each and every day. IF is seriously the gift that keeps on giving! I was going to list my top 10 or so benefits, but then realized there's an intermittent fasting benefit for every letter of the alphabet! (Ok, X was stretch, but I learned a new word!)
Automatize Autophagy: Some people LOVE cleaning out their closet. Others hate it. Regardless, I'd wager most people feel good after it's done. Well guess what! Intermittent fasting instigates a vital closet-cleaning process inside of you. It's called autophagy, and is where the body breaks down old and broken proteins. It's like recycling and cleansing and attacking the grime on a cellular level. So if you feel like your body could use some deep cleaning, just try some intermittent fasting, and let your body do all the hard work automagically!
Be Beautiful: On a physical level, intermittent fasting reduces inflammation, which can make you feel puffy and yucky (at least that's what it does to me.) On a more spiritual level, intermittent fasting up-regulates feel good neurotransmitters and improves mood, encouraging you to shine from within!
Create Control: As humans, we often fall slave to our addictions. We like to nonchalantly write off food "addiction" as #nobigdeal, since obviously it's not a real addiction. Except it is. Unfortunately, processed junk foods and refined sugar activate the same reward pathways in the brain as other addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. An estimated 78 million US adults are obese (1 in 3), and obesity is associated with high-risk health factors such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The fact that so many of us engage in a behavior which is literally killing us, means that when it comes to food, the struggle is real. So. Real.
Clearly standard weight loss approaches aren't working. Which isn't very shocking. After all, most diets yield a perpetual state of gnawing hunger and unfilled desire. Even if you can miraculously manage to stuff your appetite into a closet, with distractions, tricks of "willpower" and little lies of being "not really that hungry," an irksome hunger silently persists, like an itch you can't scratch. Then when you do actually get to eat (yey!), it's quite a farce, since you must stop yourself before satiation, mourning as each calorie-restricted bite brings you closer to the unfulfilling end. Talk about a lose-lose situation. And then there's that whole thing that happens when your "conquered" appetite grows too powerful and sneaks up on you, resulting in the dreaded binge: your ravenous animal self takes over, and you must eat EVERYTHING IN SITE (whether or not you actually like it, and whether or not you're even still "hungry.")
Intermittent fasting flips the tables: food finally loses all power over you, and you become the master. Food reverts back to what it's supposed to be: a beautiful tool to fuel and repair your body, rather than kryptonite. Thanks to upregulated fat burning, decreased appetite, level blood sugar, and lack of ego-depletion, intermittent fasting gives you complete control. You do not feel perpetually hunger, and do not wallow in desire. You can easily say no, without feeling like you're kidding yourself. When you eat, you can eat all you want without fear. You just feel... free.
Destroy Doubt: Intermittent fasting makes you super confident about your eating patterns: you no longer wonder if you’ll be able to "stick to" your diet. You just know you will!
Epic Energy: The energy experienced in the fasted state feels sort of like the high you get after a successful cardio session (minus the sweats and tears), or when you see your crush: limitless and utterly devoid of appetite. It's a very clean-feeling energy, like running off ethereal light from the heavens. Even if I'm tired in the morning, the fasted state inevitably brings heightened energy. Always. And unlike food-filled days in which the passing of time welcomes tiredness and hunger, with intermittent fasting, the longer you go, the more energetic and less hungry you feel. In fact, I often wonder if I sustained the fast indefinitely, if I would ever sleep again. Of course, that doesn't sound appealing to me at all, thus the intermittent part of it (and my nightly pig out!)
Fight Flus: Intermittent fasting boosts the immune system, making you more resilient to sickness.
Grasp Gratitude: Intermittent fasting instigates a paradigm shift in food mindset, making you grateful for your meals, rather than fearful of them. And the benefits of gratitude extend to all aspects of life, encouraging mental peace, better sleep, and a joyful spirit.
Happy Holidays: The holidays are a wondrous, glistening time of friends, family, joy, and good cheer. And food. Lots and lots of food. I used to be like omg I am so excited to eat #allthethings, even though I know I'm totally gonna hate myself after! Then I'd proceed to eat the turkey and dressing and cookies and cake and cheese (so much cheese!), each bite overshadowed with a silent but sinister anticipation of love-handle destination. But why taint the magical spirit of Christmas, Valentine's Day, or Eat What You Want Day (May 11th), with ramification anticipation? With a bit of svelte IF planning, you can effectively make your holiday get-together your meal for the day and gorge yourself silly, sans weight gain, to the envy of onlookers. I used to gain the holiday pounds and inflammation. Now I just... don't. How refreshing! And ironically enough, the food aspect of holidays loses some of its selfish novelty, since you're sort of feasting all the time anyways. With intermittent fasting, every day can rival Thanksgiving, except with all the thanks and none of the glutton. Take that holidays! (Ok, Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day on the first Saturday in February may still pose a problem, but I suppose that one's recently behind us for the time being.)
Indulge Intensely: With intermittent fasting, you get to eat. Like actually eat. And it's super glorious and luscious and fulfilling.
Juggle Jobs: With no appetite distraction, time spent food fetching, and meal-induced lethargy, intermittent fasting can turn you into a monster of a career beast, full of flexibility.
Kindle Ketones: Intermittent fasting encourages the body to produce ketones - an alternative source of energy to glucose. Ketones are an awesome, clean-burning, steady source of energy, free from blood sugar crashes, and producing less oxidative stress than glucose. Ketones are also therapeutic, and potentially protective against Alzheimers and dementia.
Live Longer: The metaphysical issue of mortality is a kicker. I was sort of scarred for life when my elementary self was told some "fact" about how you stop growing and start degenerating at age of 25. (This was before the quick fact-checking ability of Google.) I would now like to assure my former self with a new hope: it is entirely possible for the body to regenerate on profound levels, given the right circumstances. As children, we were not only growing, and as adults, we are not only dying. The body is constantly building, breaking down, and regenerating each and every day. Elongated lifespan is possible. While calorie-restricted diets have consistently been shown to increase longevity, more and more studies indicate intermittent fasting may do the same as well (except without the hunger and misery of calorie restriction- yey!) In fact, mice on fasting diets have been shown to live a whopping 83% longer than normally fed mice. Intermittent fasting may also lengthen lifespan by substantially decreasing aging catalysts like inflammation and oxidative stress. And recent studies performed by Victor Longo at USC (Fight On!) have found fasting diets can encourage the body to literally regenerate itself, via the growth of new stem cells. So until we find a literal fountain of youth, intermittent fasting may buy us time in the meantime.
Maximize Muscle: Studies show intermittent fasting preserves muscle, and encourages enhanced muscle regrowth upon refeeding.
Nourish Neat: With intermittent fasting, you can totally embrace the calorie-burning potential of NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT is basically all the energy expended from things you didn’t do on purpose to burn calories, and includes stuff like fidgeting, dancing, laughing, and cleaning... everything really! Studies show NEAT can account for up to a shocking 1,000 calories burned per day in some individuals. You do a lot of NEAT stuff everyday anyways, but with intermittent fasting, all your NEAT activity will automatically be fat-fueled. So why workout-away your fat, when you can burn all the fat playing the game of LIFE? (Literally and metaphorically!)
Order Options: With intermittent fasting, you don’t have to stick to one strict diet. Rather, you can eat a variety of things you want, granting mealtime so many choices.
Prompt Perseverance: Intermittent fasting instigates a plethora of psychological changes which encourage new habits. For example, it regulates ghrelin release (the “hunger hormone”), so you’ll become hungry only once or twice per day, rather than all the time. IF also preserves willpower, by minimizing the amount of choices you have to make per day, and discouraging ego-depletion. Plus, not eating when you’re not hungry, and eating all you want when you are, is pretty easy to stick to!
Quick Quarters: Ok, maybe intermittent fasting doesn’t literally grow money on trees, but it certainly saves you money with less snacks, meals, and health bills! Plus the extra time and productivity gained may just make your life more profitable!
Reach Receptors: Before intermittent fasting, the million diets I attempted bore lackluster results. I just never felt like I was making progress – sort of like those dreams where you can’t move. I’d constantly pinch pockets of fat around my arms or love handles, and wonder just how to make them go away. It was like something was lost in translation, with hours at the gym yielding little more than sweat and hunger. When I started intermittent fasting, it was like the door opened, finally plunging me into fat burning mode. By using up the last meal and depleting stored carbs which typically discourage fat burning, intermittent fasting gives your body nowhere to turn but body fat. It also literally unlocks “stubborn” fat by activating tricky alpha receptors, and encouraging the body to burn the fat inside. Bye bye love handles!
Seize Spirituality: Despite their differences, many religions prescribe similar prescriptions for food abstinence. From the ancient Greeks to the Bible to the Koran to the Torah to Buddhism to Native Americans to Jainism (and beyond!), fasting is used for purification and healing. I’m pretty sure Jesus was on to something when he fasted for forty days and forty nights. Before I ever tried intermittent fasting, I figured the spiritual purpose of fasting was to make you literally feel miserable, so you could then replace your misery with thoughts of God. Now, however, I hold a much different perspective. IF doesn’t make you feel miserable and tortured, but rather intensely aware, reflective, and mindful: the epitome of an ultimately “spiritual” state. This could have to do with an increase in relaxation-associated alpha waves, and dream-associated theta waves. So if you’ve ever looked at meditating monks and thought that you just don’t get it, or perhaps have experienced those fleeting introspective brain highs and want more, then a bit of fasting may be just the thing for you!
Tackle Time: Who has time? Well with intermittent fasting – the answer is YOU! You may be shocked by how much time you “gain” by not eating all the time. Breakfast alone is often quite a time sucker. With intermittent fasting, I just get up and go – no preperatory fueling required! I also don’t have to stop what I’m doing constantly to prep a meal, but rather am good for the uninterrupted long haul. In college, I used to furiously bike back to my apartment between classes to furiously scarf down a half-tasted meal, while furiously stressing about the last minute assignment I should be doing or exam I should be studying. So much time sacrificed!
Utilize Uniqueness: Not that many people do intermittent fasting. For reals. So if you’re the rebel type that fancies standing out from the crowd, IF just might appeal to ya.
Visit Vitality: Enter the fasted state, and see for yourself!
Wrangle Worries: With intermittent fasting, you can finally eat what you want, without worrying about weight gain. It continues to shock me to this day. As long as I enter the fasted state daily, I just know things will be ok. Food hauntings are a thing of the past. And with consistent weight loss and no rebounds while providing ample nutrition, fasting helps lower the body’s set point.
X Xeniatrophobia: Xeniatrophobia is the fear of going to unknown doctors. Since intermittent fasting makes you healthier, less sick, and less susceptible to degenerative disease, you’ll be much less likely to need a visit to a random doctor.
Yes YOLO!: You only live once, so why not make it an awesome existence with intermittent fasting?
Zip (To The) Zone: Have you ever experienced a flow state? It’s that moment when you’re totally in the zone… so absorbed in the task or project at hand, that your entire focus sharpens and time seems to stand still. Maybe it happens when you’re composing a song, or punching numbers, or slammed with a lot of tables, or at a raging concert, or acting on stage. In any case, this mental state is one of blissful awareness, focus, and timelessness. Thankfully, IF catapults you into the zone. With the body free from the distraction of digestion, the brain churning on ketones, and feel-good neurotransmitters pumping, intermittent fasting is like a non-stop ticket to the flow state.