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Intermittent Fasting Q+A

Esther Sara asks if Intermittent fasting is successful, helpful, and how long it took to see a difference.

Here’s my answer:2018clock

Basic background:

Intermittent fasting/IF is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting (though water is typically allowed) and non-fasting. Intermittent fasting can be used along with calorie restriction for weight loss. Generally there are two main types- one which fasting is performed on alternate days and (the one I have seen more) which is fasting for a period of each day- usually slightly longer than the hours in which you sleep.  In other words with most calories being consumed within an 8 hour window of the day. There are many combinations and modifications of this type of eating.

How I define success:

If by successful, you mean that you feel good and you are energized, clear thinking, regulated mood and able to perform the activities of daily living including daily exercise with optimal performance (ie not hitting the proverbial wall in your training) and its something sustainable long term- as in the rest of your life and won’t get in the way of your time with family and friends and you also feel good looking in the mirror, than I would call that really successful.

If on the other hand you find that you are obsessing about food and the clock or it leads you to a binge cycle, or you expect to use this as a temporary weight loss method followed by a return to some more typical eating pattern for yourself or followed by a series of other diets and/or you aren’t performing and feeling optimal on it, I would tend to view it as a massive fail. (There is scientific data to support the view that cyclic dieting isn’t best for long term optimal health or physique).

If you are considering whether this method vs. eating 3 squares, or 3 main meals and a snack or two is better, or eating every 2-4 hours is better for optimal health and performance or even for weight loss….I think the scientific data I have read is far from conclusive.

This eating plan is generally frowned upon for children by the medical community and that’s enough to give me pause.  

There’s no way someone else can answer how long it would take for you to see a change in physique (despite the heavy marketing you may have seen) since there are many unknowns including your baseline metabolism, dieting history, and how many calories from what types of foods you plan to consume, and whether you plan to exercise. Keep in mind, there’s nothing to say you will be happier, healthier or more attractive from rapid weight loss. Most times clients engage in short term rapid weight loss, they experience a boomerang effect of long term increased set point, slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. In fact if you are thinking about severe caloric restriction as a weight loss plan I urge you to have a discussion with a Registered Dietitian, a Mental Health Professional, and a Physician who can properly advise you.
The Jewish Context:

In a Jewish context, we encounter situations regularly in which eating is restricted and where fasting for spiritual purposes is practiced or simply situations where one is required to wait.  In fact, even within regional groups we see differences in how long one restricts consumption of meat after milk. In some regions it was typically 1 hour and in others it was 4 and yet others approximately 6.  Part of this has to do with how many meals were typically consumed in a day. People do different things based on their custom and lifestyle and region.

Conclusion:

Humans are amazingly versatile omnivores designed for survival. Can I suggest looking inside to what suits your family and lifestyle and tuning into your body to find what works best for you long term. Find what is showing your body love and respect for its needs and what makes it feel and perform optimally. Know that there are many different ways for different people to eat and there are many paths to optimal health.  

 

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The Women’s Locker Room Pep Talk I’ll Never Forget

A Women’s Locker Room Talk I’ll Never Forget

I was in the women’s locker room at my local  budget gym a few years ago and witnessed a conversation between two women I will never forget. One was in her mid to late 40s. Polished nails, trendy hair style, good complexion, taut firm skin, toned body, balanced posture, taking off her spandex and stepping into a matching bra and panty set.The other, a gray-haired woman in her 60’s, overweight, hunched posture, with belly rolls peeking out from her halfway pulled down one piece swimsuit. Looking spent from her aqua aerobics class, the older heavier woman was longingly examining the younger lady. Feeling her gaze, the younger toned woman turned to smile back at her.

“If I looked like you, I wouldn’t need to exercise”, said the woman in her 60s, wistfully.

“Oh, you have it wrong,”  said the woman in her late 40’s.. “It’s because I exercise that I look like this.”

Many people don’t like to exercise. (I get a personal thrill out of making exercise converts out of them, but I digress.) A lot of these people nevertheless will stick with exercise long enough to see results. However, the only way to maintain those results is by continuing to exercise.

Muscle strength decreases with just two weeks off of pumping iron and cardiovascular strength diminishes in just two days! That’s also why it’s really hard to see results after the occasional workout. It needs to be regular and consistent, as a lifestyle. Forever. Not only that, but it must be challenging to your system to make the kind of change you can see.

So as much as I think movement in general is beneficial; picking up the kids’ legos, parking farther from the entrance, and taking the stairs alone simply aren’t going to provide you with all the benefits (both aesthetically and in terms of health) that you probably want to see in the long run; even if they are good for your circulation and sense of self-efficacy in the short-term.

Activities like chasing toddlers across the living room, folding laundry and walking the groceries into the house are what I call exhausting. I also call them activities of daily living. Regular exercise is supposed to make these less taxing for you as your energy level increases because you are becoming more fit.  They aren’t the workout themselves.

What makes movement go from daily activity to exercise, in my book, is when your heart rate is elevated into your aerobic zone (The talk but not sing test is a nice benchmark for what your aerobic zone feels like). Even better if you could keep it in that zone for at least 10 minutes. Exercise is when your muscles have to work really hard to lift and you just might want to stop or you might have to struggle just slightly to complete the lift. Or that position you are holding still is challenging for you.

Does knowing all this make it hard to stick to an exercise routine if you don’t really like exercise? It can. That’s why it’s super important to keep trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy doing and then find a way to do that type often. If you can just tolerate exercise without actually liking it, you can try to find other things about the exercise experience that you do enjoy- such as the music, or the scenery, or the company, or the lack of company, or merely the feeling of accomplishment of charting it knowing its good for you (though this one tends not to work as well as the enjoyable endorphin rush at the end of the workout or any of the other tips mentioned).

Finally, now that you found something you like and you are doing it often, our body as brilliantly designed for homeostasis that it is, will adapt to that and stop giving you results at a certain point. You will plateau. To make more changes you will need to change it up- in duration, intensity or with another type of exercise. The good news is, by the time you reach that point, there’s a good chance you are already a regular exerciser.