Intermittent Fasting & How to Lower Cortisol

This morning I’m feeling very reflective. I’ve missed how therapeutic writing can be for me and I have seasons of my life where I want to share more and seasons where I’m deep in personal development and working on myself and I’ve noticed when I’m in that space, I naturally share less. But I’ve truly missed the blog and the entire reason I have it is so that I can connect and share with others so I’m happy to be back 😊 I have content from Mexico, Italy, France, and Greece to share but first as I dip my toe back into the blogging world, I want to share something that may provide some value to you. While it is not necessarily travel related, it is something heavily influenced by my travels and observing and appreciating other cultures and truly being fascinated with health and wellness practices in other cultures.

The focus of this blog has been travel, beauty, and fashion, but I hope you don’t mind if I sprinkle in some health and wellness posts from time to time because it’s so interesting to me and if it helps someone along their journey, that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. If this isn’t your cup of tea, I’ll be back to travel posts soon!

To share my background, I’ve worked in the health and wellness industry since 2008, I surround myself with healthy people I can learn from and hope their practices rub off on me, and I absorb on average an hour of health related content per day normally in the form of a podcast. On a personal level, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2015 when I returned to the U.S. after studying abroad in Italy and I spent months after that experimenting with different foods and realized I could alleviate all my symptoms by eating real, Whole Foods and adapting my diet to be more Mediterranean. I naturally gravitated to certain foods because that’s what my body needed at that time to heal and I did my best to listen to it.

While I’ve eaten healthier (mostly pescatarian/ vegetarian, minimal processed foods) there is a piece of the puzzle I discovered this past year that has seriously been life changing.

All my life, I’ve never been one to wake up hungry and eat breakfast. I remember as early as middle school not eating breakfast and my health teacher telling me I “needed breakfast to jump start my metabolism” so I started eating breakfast which consisted of a granola bar on the way to school because at her advice I didn’t want to stall or ruin my metabolism so I was eating when I was not hungry in the mornings and after I started eating breakfast, I gained a few pounds. I was also hungry an hour or two later when normally I wasn’t hungry until later in the afternoon. Eventually, I returned to not eating breakfast and felt better but I felt like I was maybe being unhealthy by only eating twice a day even though that’s what my body wanted and I felt better. It’s so interesting to me how we are told to eat 3 meals a day AND snacks and most of us don’t live very active lifestyles and are very sedentary.

So I’ve never been a big breakfast eater. When I’m busy, I don’t even think about lunchtime until 1pm, 2pm or later most days and often it’s not because I’m hungry, it’s because I know it’s “lunchtime” and I’m supposed to eat. An important thing to note is in the morning, I drink water and I’ve taken my coffee black for years (occasionally I would have an almond/oat milk latte if I wanted something fun and I noticed if I did that, I was starving within a few hours). After learning more about satiety, insulin levels, and how it’s not even necessarily about consuming calories but about triggering certain responses within your body I’ve been fascinated and it’s like I had an Aha! Moment where everything I’ve been doing makes sense now.

Earlier this year, I had a big life change and was between careers for a few months and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t super busy all day, I was home more and I was still being productive and actually working out wayyy more at the gym, but I was so excited about having time at home that I started eating breakfast really for the first time in my adult life regularly. (When I travel, food is a big part of the experience so I’ve always eaten breakfast like maybe a croissant with my espresso but I’ve never been hungry for breakfast and I’ve always preferred to eat it later never first thing) So anyways, I started eating a healthy breakfast of oatmeal or a smoothie and like I mentioned, I made a point to be much more active because I had free time and was working out more, but I felt sluggish, I gained weight – and I’m not just going by the scale but going by body fat percentage and it didn’t take long for me to realize breakfast was the only change I’d made so I went back to my old way of eating and dropped those pesky 10-12lbs. I also noticed when I ate breakfast, I was starving all day. Eating made me hungrier and I thought about food and what I was going to eat all day long. I had still been eating healthy and not necessarily more calories which I want to mention because for me it wasn’t about calories in, calories out. The proof was in the pudding and with all this free time I decided to research and I came across a term I’d never heard before called “intermittent fasting”. I chalked it up to a fad diet, the next big Hollywood craze that health and wellness gurus were pushing but the more I explored the data behind it and how much better I felt when I delayed my eating, I couldn’t ignore it and wanted to learn everything I could about the topic.

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I quickly learned the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2016, Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese scientist, won the award for his research on the effects of fasting, cellular renewal and rejuvenation and the autophagy of the body that takes place during the fasted state. It’s truly remarkable the way your body heals itself, ridding the body of damaged or mutated cells i.e. potentially cancerous cells, and fasting has been proven to reduce inflammation, improve gut and digestive health, balance hormones and prevent disease. It also Slows! The! Aging! Process! What?!

So for the past few months I’ve learned as much as I can and have experienced so many healing benefits from having a shorter eating window but still eating whatever I want and sometimes a pretty large volume of food if I’ve lifted weights or am extra hungry that day. I want to emphasize that this does not feel restrictive to me at all and I’m not hungry all day and I eat more now that I used to eat.

The fasting process ramps up fat burning between hours 17-24 hours of fasting and I normally do an extra long fast on Mondays. Your human growth hormone becomes very active during that time and it’s been way easier for me to build muscle and reduce body fat and I don’t feel the pressure I used to feel to work out every day anymore but I prefer to work out most days. I like working out first thing in the mornings in a fasted state. If I miss a work out, it’s not a big deal because my body is still burning fat and it’s seriously never been easier to maintain my weight. I have been so rigid in the past, and analyzed everything I ate and would have to work so hard to be in a certain weight range that this has given me so much freedom and I wish I had this knowledge years ago because it would have saved me a lot of stress and food guilt.

The great thing about fasting is the freedom that comes with it. You can decide a great eating window for you is a 6 hour or 8 hour window. For me, I feel best when it’s less than 4 hours a day. I enjoy the Autophagy benefits and I don’t get into ketosis until at least 17 hours of fasting and it feels so great I want to keep that feeling going. (When I mention ketosis I’m not referring to the ketogenic diet at all, but the ketosis that happens when you’re in a fasted state for a period of time).

Benefits I’ve noticed for myself are improved energy, increased clarity and focus, no more brain fog, I’m laser focused when I’m fasting and more productive, and friends have said I look radiant and glowing, I have smoother skin, scars have healed, my eyelashes are longer and thicker, I have had keratosis pilaris (aka chicken skin) on the backs of my arms for as long as I can remember and gone to several dermatologists and tried different things and I had just accepted that I would always have it and it’s completely gone. I went to the dentist recently and my teeth are stronger and in better condition and I can tell my gums are healthier too. My eyes seem lighter, brighter and clearer, I don’t generally feel bloated anymore and I actually feel a lot more relaxed when it comes to food now and things that I’ll eat that I would never eat before. I’ll truly eat dessert and wine in my window and not gain weight. I generally crave healthy, nutritious food, but knowing I can enjoy what I want and not stress about it because my body will burn the fat tomorrow is such a great feeling. I also feel like I’m a more organized person, I’m less hungry and don’t think about food all day, I am saving money because I’ve gravitated towards eating after 5p.m. lately so I generally just eat one meal a day and have a longer window on the weekends. I also wanted to mention I don’t think it’s a coincidence so many religions incorporate fasting as part of their religious practices because it’s almost a meditative state now that I’ve been doing it regularly and I can see how people encourage it to feel more “enlightened”. I also want to point out, I shared with my doctor that I fast and was hesitant to hear her reaction and she was so supportive, said she loves it and she does it and prescribes it to her patients (specifically the ones with type 2 diabetes).

I’ve struggled with blood sugar issues since I was a teenager and was hypoglycemic to the point where I would shake and faint at times and I felt like I had to eat every two hours or I would die and fasting has balanced my blood sugar and insulin levels so unless I accidentally break my fast too early, I never have those symptoms anymore and they really affected me for years. One morning recently I had lemon ginger tea with cinnamon in it and immediately became shaky and was absolutely starving so I had to eat immediately so I’ve realized for me, it breaks my fast to have teas or cinnamon in my coffee.

Some books I can recommend on the topic are: Delay Don’t Deny, The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung, Feast Without Fear, and I love Gin Stephen’s podcast, Intermittent Fasting Stories.

I was listing to the “Pardon My French” podcast and I love listening to Ingrid De La Mare Kenny’s views of health and wellness because she’s an expert, has a great sense of humor and tells it like it is.  She said in France, doctors prescribe intermittent fasting and have for generations (even if that’s not what it’s called) and she speaks a lot on the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone, on weight gain.

I mentioned I wait until 5p.m. most days to eat and I realized after listening to Ingrid, I was eating lunch in the American way of rushed eating, at my desk, sometimes cramming some healthy lunch in my mouth in a period of 15 minutes, not taking time to enjoy it at all and normally multitasking in some way. She explains how the French (and many other Europeans who make eating an art form) take 2 hours to eat a meal. They eat rich food full of fat, rarely salads but they are in good company, having good conversation, savoring and enjoying and eating slowly. They are sitting up at a table letting their digestive tract work easily and because they are in a happy relaxed state generally, their cortisol is not raised and they are not holding onto weight. She also in a joking French way points out how it is so “un-chic” to eat while standing, walking, driving, at your desk and it’s a very normal way for American’s to eat but I’ve realized I really don’t like eating in a rush, while I’m multitasking. I like to wait until I’m home from the day and take my time and make dinner an experience that I really enjoy and look forward to all day. She also says eat outside or be active outside as much as you can because it lowers your cortisol levels to be in natural light and she eats bread and cheese or dessert or whatever she wants, but she also eats real food just not in outrageous portions. She explains the French actually believe salads are unhealthy to eat because it’s hard for you to digest and causes stress on your gut to break it down and I love hearing a different perspective from another culture. They also eat probiotics and prebiotics but don’t take supplements. Like you don’t see GNC’s in France or gyms on every corner. They use a common sense, simplistic approach that I sometimes need to be reminded of. When you look at the life expectancy in Monaco where she lives (89.4 years old) compared to the life expectancy in the (U.S. 78.6 years old) or the obesity statistics, the data speaks for itself and honestly this way of eating is much more fun and enjoyable and who doesn’t want to reduce stress in their lives?! I’m all about researching the “blue zone” areas that have higher life expectancy because they’re obviously onto something. I hope this post provided some value to you and I’ll be back to posting travel content very soon 🙂

 

Sports bra linked here. Favorite leggings (better than LuluLemon and way cheaper)

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Published by sittingprettyinthequeencity

Hi, I'm Joanna. NC based. Lover of beautiful things. Welcome to my blog! I also own The Classified Design, a website design and social media management company! This blog is a really fun creative outlet for me and I love interacting with readers so if you have questions or tried something out from the blog, please share! I always look forward to questions and comments. To follow along on Instagram: SittingPrettyintheQueenCity for my business accounts: TheClassifiedDesign xoxo Jo p.s. follow me on Instagram: sittingprettyinthequeencity Twitter: JoSittingPretty https://www.facebook.com/SittingPrettyintheQueenCity For sponsorship opportunities or collaborations email sittingprettyinthequeencity@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting & How to Lower Cortisol

  1. Joanna, thank you for the health information. When my schedule allows, I do intermittent fasting on Fridays and Saturdays for spiritual reasons. My digestive health improves during that time. The fat-burning was new to me although I have been familiar with the better insulin levels. You inspire me to add Wednesdays to the fasting. But I would have to pray over that. Thanks!

    P.S. Your website looked a bit off when I tried to load it onto my browser. Maybe it’s best to have a solid header. It feels weird to scroll down and see the text behind the menu bar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I find it so much easier during the week and I may eat in a 4 or 6 hour window most weekends but my body isn’t happy if I do more than that now. Thanks for bringing that to my attention! The WordPress team helped me work out any glitches so hopefully it looks good now

      Like

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