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Intermittent Fasting: All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

As I write these words, it’s been about five weeks since I decided to try the Intermittent Fasting, or I.F., lifestyle. Proponents of I.F. generally believe that, based on archeological evidence – as well as the study of modern hunter-gatherers – that our ancestors never ate more than once or twice a day, and that snacking in between meals wasn’t a thing. They believe, therefore, that we’re not adapted to the relatively modern habit of eating three meals and two to three snacks per day, and that almost above everything else, the constant load in our digestive tract is why we age as quickly as we do.

That makes sense to me, and is one of the reasons why I’m sticking with it.

However…

There’s no real proof.

We’ll have to wait forty or fifty years, then study a large group of people who began I.F. in the 2000s and stuck with it for life, alongside their peers who never practiced Intermittent Fasting, in order to know how powerful I.F. truly is against the aging process.

But that’s far from the only reason to be skeptical of this particular lifestyle.

Does it really help balance hormones?

The reason I decided to try I.F. in the first place was that I’d watched a video of a woman probably a decade my senior declare how switching to an I.F. eating schedule caused all of her perimenopause/post-menopause symptoms to go away.

In this post I mentioned my skepticism about the claim, because after three weeks of practicing I.F. for mostly eighteen hours a day I hadn’t experienced that benefit. At the moment, my hot flashes are down from when I wrote that post, but I’ve had other symptoms. And I began taking resveratrol a few days ago, which might be the reason for the reduction in hot flashes.

All that aside, the post-menopausal I.F.-er in question was doing a video about the myths of Intermittent Fasting and women. She was adamant that the people who say that I.F. can mess up women’s hormones are wrong, wrong, wrong!

I’ve done some research on the topic, and found one article – written by a woman – stating that she’d discovered a lot of female Intermittent Fasters online talking about how their cycles had gotten messed up by the eating regimen. My two thoughts about that are these:

First, the lack of menstruation and other issues could have easily been the result of calorie restriction rather than the fasting itself (one can practice I.F. without restricting calories, as I must do).

Second, I.F. tends to increase estrogen and progesterone production. This is a boon for post-menopausal women, but a bane to women still in their child-bearing years because if a woman wants a regular cycle, estrogen must be high at a certain time of the month, and progesterone high at another.

That said, I have found several young ladies on YouTube who have been doing I.F. for over a year. Either they don’t care that they’re not menstruating, or they’re not having any issues along those lines. I’m guessing the latter, especially since one of the women is clearly consuming at least 1800 calories per day.

This article – again, written by a woman, and in the health-care field – was particularly eye-opening. After reading it I began to ask why the sixty-something I.F.-er/YouTuber might have experienced such a huge change in hormone balance once she began the lifestyle.

For one, she used to be overweight. It could be that part of the hormone imbalance was caused by an excess of the wrong kind of fat in her body. For another, from what I’ve been able to glean she was eating the standard American diet before she began trying alternative eating lifestyles. From what I heard her say, she’s not eating that much differently now, but she’s eating less of it, and for the past ten years has been breaking her fast with a meal replacement shake that is, in essence, a multi-nutrient supplement.

Did her hormones get into balance because of I.F. per se, or because she stopped eating as much unhealthy food and started giving her body the nutrients she needed?

Calorie restriction is calorie restriction.

Most people who get on the I.F. bandwagon do so because they want to lose weight. Cut out one meal a day (minimum) and you’re bound to lose weight.

However, studies have shown that people fasting in order to lose weight don’t get any better results than people who stay with a three-meal-a-day, early breakfast-evening dinner eating routine, and cut down on their calories (think of Weight Watchers and the like).

In other words, if the only reason a person is thinking about doing Intermittent Fasting is because they want to lose weight, they can simply reduce their general calorie consumption and get the same results.

Some “experts” – who by and large ignore such studies – would disagree with me. “No no no! But science has proven that Intermittent Fasting increases fat-burning over simple calorie restriction!”

Which leads me to the most compelling reason to be skeptical about most of the claims around the I.F. lifestyle:

We are not rodents.

[PSST! If you’re enjoying this post so far, please feel free to pin the image at the top of the page to Pinterest. It will help me bunches. Thanks!]

You know those studies that have indicated that I.F. has anti-aging effects? That it boosts human growth hormone? That is burns fat more effectively than a traditional eating plan with fewer calories per meal?

They’ve all been done on mice. Maybe a few on rats, too, but I specifically read studies where the victims were mice.

Oh, yes, and the studies that have anti-I.F.-ers screaming at women not to do it? Also done on mice. Because I.F. caused the ovaries in female mice to shrivel up.

The thing is, we are not rodents. Human metabolism is not the same as that of mice and rats. Researchers like to use rodents because of their short lifespan and rapid reproduction, so they can cruelly manipulate several generations within a few months.

I used to have pet rats, and before I bought my first one I read a book about how to care for them. You know what it said about feeding them? The same thing it says in books about keeping mice as pets.

Never restrict their food intake.

Yes, I know: calorie restriction experiments have been done on rats, with positive effects. I’m not sure if the calorie restriction was done for the entire three to four years of their life, however. Regardless, calorie restriction is different from fasting. Also, a rat ages an entire human year every two weeks (it’s even faster for mice). To not let them eat for sixteen hours is tantamount to forcing a human to fast for two to three weeks!

We are not rodents. We are human beings. Researchers who imply that such-and-such must be good or bad for humans because in a lab such-and-such proved to be good or bad for rodents are doing (have done!) the world a great disservice.

Why I’m still practicing Intermittent Fasting.

I already mentioned that it makes sense to me that my body’s aging process would slow down if it weren’t focused on digesting food all day long.

Another reason I’m sticking with it is that I have more time, not having to prepare and eat food three times (or more) per day. Also, DH is doing it (on an 18:6 schedule), too, and enjoying it even more than I. Since I’m the one who asked him to enter into Intermittent Fasting with me so I wouldn’t have to do it alone, I would feel bad about backing out unless I really needed to.

Which I don’t, because I FINALLY figured out how to schedule my eating in order not to feel uncomfortable when I eat, and still consume all the calories I need in order not to shrivel up and blow away!

Then, there’s another article which states, “… if you intermittent fast, you can put your cell healing Into Turbo Drive and basically become a superhuman!!” She’s talking about how human cells renew themselves much more quickly when a person is practicing Intermittent Fasting, and that many experts in the field believe this expedited renewal can happen in as little as twelve hours of fasting.

Hmm. Maybe there’s more evidence that I.F. slows down aging than I thought?

Most importantly to me as a woman of faith, I still feel like God led me to do this, and hasn’t given me any signal that I’m to stop. For what reasons, I don’t know, but I sure hope it’s because He knows it’ll keep me healthy into my Golden Years!

[Once again, feel free to pin the image at the top of the page to Pinterest to help others find this post. Thanks!]

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