Food Freedom Friday Edition 110 - Intermittent Fasting And The Holidays

Intermittent fasting can be used strategically to prevent holiday season weight gain. When you eat can support your health and weight loss goals through the festive season and beyond.

If you have already begun implementing IF you may feel that as we approach the holiday season, the habits you have gained and developed from following an intermittent fasting protocol are going to come in really handy.

Now begins the time of year when we are surrounded by sweet treats, good cheer, and lots and lots of family and friends (which can be both a blessing and a curse). All the distractions can make it hard to think actively about what you are eating and truly enjoy it.

If this sounds familiar and you feel it creating some anxiety around your food, eating, weight and health, I recommend giving IF a shot before the holidays season is in full swing. It is an easy to follow, totally customizable strategy that could help you enjoy the food you eat, while also staying fit and healthy.

Although I always recommend a nutrition plan based around whole, real, minimally processed and refined foods, there is a lot of flexibility and many options when choosing an IF protocol. It can be easily adjusted, customized and manipulated to sort your individual nutrition and lifestyle needs and limitations.

You Do Not Have to Eliminate Specific Foods

Diets are nearly impossible to follow during the holidays. You cannot have dairy? Perhaps you are avoiding sugar? OK, well that probably rules out 90 percent of the spread. Go ahead, have a gluten free bread roll - with no butter. Sounds pretty morbid. When you are practicing IF, you do not have to necessarily eliminate things from your diet, (although you may be aware that certain foods are problematic for you and definitely do nothing to promote any feelings of health or well-being) so you can still enjoy a chosen indulgence as long as you eat a reasonable portion within your eating window. This will ensure you are still able to take pleasure, celebrate and savor every moment of your holiday meals with your loved ones.

You Are Less Likely to Overeat

Many people who fast find that they naturally consume less food than when eating throughout the whole day. For example, if you have a holiday brunch to go to at your friend's house, even if you eat to your heart's content, that will likely be only one of two full meals you are probably eating during the day. Even if you do decide to pack a lot of food into your eating window, the amount of nutrients and calories you eat will likely be around the same or even less than your normal diet of eating all day long.

On the whole, fasting is less about calories in and calories out and more about the effect it has on insulin levels in the body. Although calories do matter, they need not be given as much weight as was once believed. Hormones play a much larger role in how calories are allotted and what they are used for.  IF gives your body a longer window to digest and recover. When your body is done processing food, it can begin to burn fat because insulin levels are low. You generally enter a fasting state after 12 hours of not eating, which is the ideal window to begin utilizing fat as your fuel source. Even if you are digging into big meals during your eating window, that fasting period will give your body the chance to burn fat, preventing weight gain.

You Can Eat Bigger Meals

One of the first things you'll notice when you start IF is that you can make your meals a little bigger than they normally are. This is because your body has been in fasting mode for 16 hours straight, so it is primed and ready for a hefty serving of food. I struggle to think of a better time to put this into effect than over the winter holidays! You walk into a party or family gathering with a growling stomach, and your body really needs the sustenance. This is the time to truly enjoy some good food!

It is important to note that choosing foods you actually want to eat and enjoy is part of this process. Mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth because it is there, or you can, will defeat any long-term goals.

You Will Learn The Art Of Savoring Every Bite of Your Food

I always noticed that when I am constantly eating without taking any breaks, particularly during the holidays, I end up not really enjoying my food so much. It is almost as if my senses have been dulled. However, when I have my first meal of the day after not having eaten since 4 p.m. the previous day, my break-fast tastes unbelievable. I can only imagine that feeling translates well to delicious holiday dinners after having skipped lunch.

When you find yourself having gone half the day without eating, that plate of protein, vegetables, starches and sides will taste like the most heavenly food you may have had in a long time – and technically it really is!! Your taste buds will be dancing around and having the time of their life.

You Can Be Strategic About When You Eat

There is no need to follow a certain window just because someone else does. Think about the holiday events you have on your calendar and just plan your fasting window accordingly. If you know you have a big dinner coming up, maybe adjust your eating window to later in the day so you can eat with everyone. In my opinion, this is by far the best part of IF - you can always switch things around depending on your schedule. This is truly a plan that allows you to enjoy your lifestyle, not be punished by it.

Combined with your healthy eating principles, an intermittent fasting protocol can help you navigate your holiday season (or any other time in your year) with ease, success and minimal, if any, repercussions. IF can become your secret weapon allowing you to have your (Paleo friendly) cake and eat it too!

Michal Ofer