Hello fellow vegans, doesn’t it feel amazing to contribute to this beautiful world in such a compassionate, loving and respectful way? How can you continue doing so and become healthier at the same time? You probably already know Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become a “weight loss” trend, but keep reading to discover more about its incredible benefits, an easier approach to follow and how to make it a way of living. As a trend or a lifestyle pattern, either way if it’s done properly, you will feel the goodness in your mind, body, and soul. As a vegan dietitian I have been doing the 16/8 IF for 4 years and I wanted to share will all of you that my blood test results came back incredibly well a few weeks ago. I am so happy and so was my doctor who congratulated me, woohoo!
What is it, and is it a healthy trend?
Fasting means “not eating,” and with IF you eat within certain time frames. Fasting has been done by cultures and religions for centuries. It became a trend in the Western world in 2012 with the “5:2” version, in which you would fast for two days in a week and eat 25% of your normal intake. There are different IF methods but, in this article, we will focus on the 16:8 IF which includes sleep, making it easier to follow and stick to.
Yes, IF can be incredibly good for your mind and your body, and while there are no studies on its long-term effects, if you give the body the nutrition it needs during the eating time and on a daily basis, you will feel all its super benefits. You won´t want to go back, I can assure you.
Note: If you are underage, a pregnant/breastfeeding woman or have underlying medical conditions you should not do IF.
Let’s dig into the matter. Yes, you will lose fat and maintain muscle which will lead to weight reduction, but you will also improve your overall body functions. Your brain will become sharper, your heart will beat stronger, you will sleep better, and your energy levels will increase. Leaving time for the body to focus on other important body processes such as cell regeneration, elimination of unnecessary substances, neuron synthesis or getting genes fixed among others, your inflammation levels and cell oxidation will decrease, helping you live longer and feel happier. Think about it logically. Humans have been fasting for thousands of years so there is nothing unnatural about it. Furthermore, the body is fully equipped and prepared to do so. If at the same time we give it the nutrition it needs, this process can be a positive game changer. We are what we eat. Give your body “nature” and it will naturally flourish.
How to do IF healthily as a plant-based advocate
After my experience as a vegan dietitian, I want to share the steps I believe will propel you. Remember, our bodies need to adjust to any kind of dietary changes for better functioning and a longer-lasting well-being.
Step 1: Become a “healthy vegan.”
Becoming a healthy plant-based advocate implies paying major attention to your daily intake. Make sure your meals are sufficiently varied to include all the nutrients your body needs. Just as a reminder, avoid processed meals and stick to a variety of whole foods, and take supplements such as vitamin B12, algae-sourced Omega-3, and vitamin D. Once you have achieved this stage you can then safely start IF.
Step 2. Slowly but surely this new “eating pattern” will become second nature.
IF doesn’t have to be stressful, no one needs more pressure in their lives. As it won’t happen overnight, aim to learn, have fun and feel happy that you are doing something good for yourself. Patience and consistency are key. Listen to your body, be mindful each day to gradually incorporate IF into your routine.
Step 3. 16/8 IF. Gradual progress while you sleep.
Start fasting for 12 hours and then eat for another 12, and gradually build the fasting window to 16 hours at your own pace. Include sleep (7 to 8 hours) in your fasting routine, and only have pure water, decaf tea or coffee during that time to stay hydrated. Eat plenty of whole foods to feel satisfied.
My own experience as a vegan dietitian.
I have been doing the 16/8 IF for 4 years and, there is no going back. Firstly, I not only lost weight, but I felt amazing. I could focus more, I didn´t feel tired at work, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels dropped, I slept like a baby and, I could go on and on. I was already a dietitian when I discovered what veganism was, and it felt right to give it a go. I wanted to try it out for me, for my patients and for our animal friends too. I knew why from the start, so make sure you too have a strong reason to do IF. This will help you stay on track.
At the beginning I felt more hungry than usual, lightheaded, and moody, which are three common side effects. But thanks to my busy schedule and determination, these passed in a few days! Depending on your overall health and lifestyle, symptoms and their duration may vary too. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and make the brain believe you are full, and the body will adapt quicker than you think!
So, is it possible to be vegan and do IF? Yes, it is! Can you do IF as a vegan safely? Yes, you can! Can you make it a lifestyle? Yes, indeed! How can you make it easier? Include sleep in your fasting routine. Is IF a weight loss method? It is so much more than that! Is it for everyone? No, it isn´t, there are some exceptions.
I have one main BUT. I strongly recommend you don’t do it alone. You need quality dietetic guidance, at least at the beginning until you can go solo. This is not a regular vegan weight loss plan and you can be putting your health at risk. And you know what? We need you strong!
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Photo: Suzy F. Lloyd