Treadmills

Healthy for the Holidays: Intermittent Fasting

By Hannah Alvarado
Web Content Contributor

Have you ever heard that annoying saying that ‘Summer bodies are made in the winter’? It’s a popular mantra among health and fitness enthusiasts. While they do have a point, not all of us have the willpower to pass up the various decadences and cozy weather induced binging that comes along with this time of year and frankly, not everyone cares to try. On that note though, now that we are in October, we have officially entered into the holiday season. And although most of us gave up trick-or-treating and the candy binging that goes along with it, some our age (who are of legal age, of course), do have a tendency to over indulge with food and drinks that night, and the other holidays that follow it. So while the holiday season is a foodie’s dream, it may not be so great for your overall health, or your waistline for that matter. So what’s a human, that is decidedly interested in trying a new method of self-discipline when it comes to their daily food schedule, to do? One great method available is called Intermittent Fasting.

A microwave time clock
Waiting for your eating window is the hardest habit to break. Photo by Hannah Alvarado.

So what is it exactly? Well according to an online article published by CNN, Intermittent Fasting is the “…cycle between periods of regular eating and fasting, during which you severely restrict your calorie intake or don’t consume any food at all.” In other words, it’s a set schedule of when you eat, and how many calories you consume during that window of time. This of course can vary from person to person, as well as their goals but the basic principle remains the same. (Just to be clear from the get-go, there are some religions who engage in fasting for spiritual purposes, holidays, and to symbolize cleansing, and sacrifice. These are traditions that I hold in high respects. For our purposes though, we will stick to the health and fitness reasons to fast.)

As mentioned, there are a few different types of I.F. According to an online article published by The New York Times, some individuals will split up their weeks by having certain days they can/do eat and fast two out of the seven. Although, this one to me seems a bit unlikely for the average person. One of the most common of the I.F. styles is what is known as the 16:8 split. Where the individual has sixteen hours of fasting and an eight hour window for eating.

Now in regards to the alloted eating schedule, I know that at least some of you must be thinking, ‘oh great, another fad diet thing that is going to just leave me hungry all day long’. This notion of I.F. is a common misconception and is absolutely wrong. This style of eating’s aim is not about starving yourself, but rather retrain your body to only eat when you are actually needing to, instead of when you are bored, or there just happens to be food present.

If you do decide to stick with the ever popular 16:8 split, that eight our window may be reserved for eating, but that doesn’t mean you can eat ‘anything you want’. Yes, of course, you are allowed to make decisions for yourself what enters your body but in order to actually become healthier, as well as view results on yourself, you must figure out a specific calorie count and how to divide up your food among carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins. Even though it differs from not only person to person, as well as specific goals, there are tons of apps out there that can help you out now a days. One popular apps that help you break it down on the basic level is myfitnesspal, which I have personally used and is extremely easy to navigate although it does not tell you exactly what to eat or when to work out. One more complex app among the fitness gurus is called The 8Fit App that gives you recipes and even workouts. (This one however, only offers a free trial and is not fully free).

When it comes to those 16 hours of fasting, you may be staring down the number as if it is a huge mountain of time to climb. However, that time can be taken up while you sleep, leaving only a small portion of it for during your actual awake time. When you are awake during your fast, though, you may be tempted to snack out of habit. Apparently during that time you’re meant to drink water, or anything under 5 calories. Of course, it is recommended that you stick with only water during your fasting hours, as during a fast your body begins to ring out all its water weight and without proper hydration, can become dehydrated, as according to CNN. How much water, exactly? Well believe it or not but that ‘eight cups a day’ thing is just a myth. Thedailymeal suggests that you drink about half your body weight in ounces. (Yes, that is a lot of water). Hey though, it’s not a real fitness endeavor if it doesn’t come full circle. Some individuals like to work out during their fasting time too, but of course, just like embarking on intermittent fasting itself, this is just a preference and it should be stated that it is technically not required to work out at all during intermittent fasting, but is highly recommended.

Now that it is October, the holidays that are filled with food and fun are just nearing the corner and it is easy to over indulge. One’s health though, should be the number one focus when attempting intermittent fasting. Do your research, plan meals and workout schedules ahead (to go around both school schedules, as well as so that you still get them in and don’t allow yourself to make excuses and skip), get to know your body’s limits. Be sure to listen to what it is telling you. If you have access to one, be sure to consult your doctor before trying anything like this, to get more guidance and to address concerns. Take care of yourselves and remember: Summer bodies are made in the winter, but whatever you decide to do, make sure your health comes first. No matter what, do it for you.

Featured image by Hannah Alvarado.

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