Can An Aging Woman Win the Fat War Through Intermittent Fasting?

According to Cynthia Thurlow, women over the age of 50 gain an average of 1.5 pounds per year. Indeed. She advocates the intermittent fasting lifestyle to her female patients. Better than any other “diet” as she says, 

…it’s free, flexible, and simple.

I’ve written twice recently about my JumpStart journeys — including using a food logging app and improving my mental and spiritual health. Now, I’m finishing my third week of Intermittent Fasting. The group challenge lasted for two weeks, but I’m continuing with this eating format.

Also known as the Eating Window, intermittent fasting prescribes a set number of hours during which you should eat. During all other hours, you ‘fast’, that is, you consume nothing but water, tea, or plain coffee.

We were asked to watch four YouTube videos produced by Dr. Eric Berg. I liked these videos because he explained using easy-to-understand biological science what happens to the body when we put it into fasting mode.

What is fasting? Why do it?

Fasting means…Not. Eating. Got it?

The intermittent fasting (IF) regimen says to let your body dictate when you eat. Eat when you’re hungry. Really hungry, that is — you’re weak, grouchy, and you experience stomach pain.

Intermittent fasting requires an elongated period without food. Common ways to set one’s eating window is using a formula like 16:8 or 14:10 during which you fast the longer period (like stopping caloric consumption after dinner and waiting to eat until lunch the next day), but there are other ways to fast intermittently.

I am using the 16:8 window where I fast 16 hours and eat during 8 hours. I typically eat between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Fortunately, I sleep during some of the 16, so I’m not thinking about food!

Combatting insulin resistance is the ultimate goal. It’s a bit too scienc-y for me, but the bottom line is to make your body adjust its response to food when it enters your body. Excess glycogen (sugar) is stored as fat. That’s where many problems happen…in our fat cells. Burning glycogen as your energy while your tummy is empty is another important factor to decreasing fat cell stores.

“Time-restricted feeding — specifically earlier in the day — seems to decrease a hunger-related hormone known as ghrelin and increase satiety-related hormones like peptide YY,” explains Brown. (Men’s Health Magazine)

Doing what’s right for you

Berg also recommends a ketogenic diet for this program. Having tried that way of eating before, I opted to merely reduce my carbohydrate intake as much as feasible. For me. And that’s key.

It’s essential that we understand our own bodies when we elect to change our eating habits or make any big change that will affect our bodies. Our lifestyle, energy level, exercise habits, and those of any other household members need to factor into any significant lifestyle change.

On keto, I successfully lost thirteen pounds over nine months in 2019. It was very difficult to maintain the keto diet that long, but I did it for my daughter’s wedding (goals!). Sometimes I felt okay, but at other times, I felt extremely deprived. Let’s be honest, sugar is not good for the human body and should be avoided as much as possible. But it’s unreasonable for me, myself, and I to not eat the occasional piece of candy or enjoy tea accompanied by a delicious English biscuit with my British mum. I know that and own it.

Why IF works for me (and why I like it)

  1. Over the age of 50, I’m concerned about weight management. With a slowing metabolism, I need workable parameters to keep the weight off.
  2. An aging body generally means more opportunity for disease. Less body fat, stronger bones, and the improved cell function IF offers will help prevent age-related illnesses.
  3. Breakfast has never been my favorite meal. I learned years ago that a carb-rich breakfast didn’t work for me. Cereals were the worst food, causing my blood sugar to spike then plummet within a couple of hours. I don’t eat breakfast on IF, and I don’t feel deprived of any favorite foods. (Okay, I like a pastry now and then, but I can still have a little one for an afternoon snack once in a while.)
  4. Less food preparation is great. Eating during a narrow 8-hour window means I eat only two meals.
  5. I am eating less. I feel full after hearty lunch and am less likely to snack in the afternoon. Yet, according to experts, you can still lose weight even if you don’t reduce intake.
  6. I’m drinking more water.
  7. I’ve accomplished more. While waiting for 11 a.m. to arrive (I confess sometimes I’m watching the doggone clock), I do something to keep busy. I may start writing and suddenly it’s 11:15. Or I dust a room, clean off the countertops, and get a cleaner house!
  8. Overall, I feel better too. I think I’m sleeping better most nights.
  9. Oh, and I’ve lost one pound each week. I wish it were more but I’ve not been motivated for additional exercise lately. Maybe I could’ve lost more had I consumed less than 80 grams of carbohydrates daily. I was inconsistent in this area.
  10. While I’ve not lost much weight yet, I see a difference in my abdomen. I think it’s due to less bloating.

Real talk about pitfalls

Yes, I’ve discovered some pitfalls to intermittent fasting, but I think they are more about me than the program.

  1. I like wine and it contains a lot of carbs. Alcoholic drinks offer empty calories. I drink a glass with dinner and enjoy a second one after too. Sometimes, that’s difficult to fit in before 7 p.m. I suppose this could be a benefit because my wine stash will last longer!
  2. It may not be as restrictive as keto, but IF still requires discipline. I tend to eat when I’m bored, like when I watch TV at night. I have to remind myself that I am not feeling any hunger. So far, I’ve listened to my body, not my boredom.
  3. Time away from home requires thoughtful planning. I’ve already contemplated a beach trip with my daughters and how I’ll manage the dining out schedule. I may slide to a 14:10 schedule so my eating window is ten hours each day.
  4. When my first meal is delayed, I gain time in that fasting period which is good for my body. However, keeping the same 8-hour eating window means I will be eating later in the evening. This causes a scheduling problem for the next day. So, on days that my lunch is delayed, I still stop eating at 7 p.m., so I don’t mess up tomorrow.
Tuna Quinoa Cakes. Recipe at BumbleBee Tuna website
Quinoa Tuna Cakes made by author. Delicious!!

Final Thoughts

This is the easiest lifestyle change I’ve ever made. It’s not complicated at all.

There is quite a bit of research and advice on intermittent fasting out there. Some say that women should not fast for as long as 16 hours. There are medical conditions that are not a good fit for the IF way of life. Individuals should discuss their options with a physician. As with any lifestyle change, you should do your own research.

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