If you’ve heard of intermittent fasting, you know it’s revolutionizing the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” mentality. My whole life I was taught to never skip breakfast. In fact, I was told that your biggest meal of the day should be breakfast. And then, you should never go more than 2-3 hours without eating or it’ll slow your metabolism. I’ve always been passionate about health, and I’ve also always been one to actually do my own research and not just listen to what I’ve been told.

The idea of intermittent fasting (IF), although crazy at first, has been an idea I’ve incorporated long before it became a fad. Before I jump into all the health benefits of intermittent fasting, I want to give a couple of disclaimers: 1) this method of eating is not simply for calorie reduction or weight management 2) this method of eating is not designed to be restrictive in any capacity 3) IF is not a 100% commitment or you’ve failed concept 4) above all else, listen to your body

I want to start with the basics. When you eat food, a lot of the cells in your body are required to focus on digesting your food (80% actually!). So when you begin your day by eating a large breakfast, and then snack your way between two larger meals, no matter how healthy your food is, your body has to do a ton of work to keep up with your digestion. The idea of IF is to limit the amount of time you are eating to a smaller portion of the day (note: it is not to reduce calorie intake or amounts of food). This, in turn, does not have your digestive system working every minute you are awake. Because when you give your digestive system a break, those cells are able to work on other important tasks like detoxifying your body, fighting pathogens, and other general maintenance tasks that are necessary for your well-being.

Yes, this in turn will slow down your metabolism. But, as we’ve just discussed, that is a good thing. If your metabolism is forced into high gear all the time, your body is devoting less energy to other important bodily processes. And even though your metabolism will have slowed down, you do not necessarily need to worry about weight gain. IF should give you food freedom, to eat within a certain period of the day. Often times this makes us more mindful of what we are eating, as we are intentionally not snacking between meals all day long. However, this is also not permission to binge on anything in any amount during your eating periods.

Another amazing benefit of IF is that is is correlated with a longer life span. Those that regularly and intentionally rest their digestive systems, have longer telomeres (the identifying factor in a chromosome of life span) than those who follow the traditional American method of eating.

Generally speaking, most people choose to do a 16:8 fast. This would entail 16 hours of rest with an 8 hour window for eating. Every person has a unique circumstances so do what feels right to you. Maybe it’s to start not snacking between meals. Maybe it’s to eat normally 6 days a week and fast 1. Do not feel like you have to set strict rules and that you have failed if you can’t adhere properly to whatever you’re reading online.

Personally, I have found a good rhythm of sticking to liquids only in the morning. I often do strenuous activity on an empty belly first thing in the morning and find that I like to refuel before lunchtime on those days. So to help with digestion, I have been sticking to a green smoothie and tea until lunch. Because the smoothie is blended, I’ve eliminated most of the work my digestive system would need to do to break down all the ingredients had I eaten them whole. Low glycemic-index juices are another great option.

The biggest idea is to take small, sustainable steps- whatever that may look like in your life. I hope you found this helpful and are able to start giving your digestive system a reset too!