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“Woman, you are sacred. Not only in your brightest light, but also in your darkening. You greatest power lies in flowing with your rhythm and surrendering the fight against nature, your nature. Because in the end, Mother Nature always wins. Our choice lies in whether or not we choose to assist in her unfolding.” ~ LeAnn Rimes
Before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in March, I was pretty clueless about the condition.
I soon discovered that intermittent fasting is an ideal way to treat insulin resistance and thereby lower one’s blood glucose level. Plus, it’s free and simple (though not necessarily easy, especially at first).
I inhaled The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally by Dr. Jason Fung. He outlines the causes and effects of diabetes in plain English and with a wry sense of humor. The fact that obesity is a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one, was a revelation for me.
According to Dr. Fung, a renowned Canadian nephrologist and functional medicine advocate, “Fasting is the simplest and surest method to force your body to burn sugar.” He clearly explains why “using medications like insulin to hide the blood glucose in the tissues of the body is ultimately destructive.”
The advice seemed so common sense: “1. Stop putting sugar in (low-carbohydrate diets). 2. Burn remaining sugar off (intermittent fasting).” Nonetheless, I felt frantic at first about cutting back so drastically on carbs. They’d been the basis of my daily diet for my entire life—aside from the times long ago when I partook, alongside my mom, in short-lived fad diets like the cabbage soup diet or the Atkins diet.
What would I eat? I started to obsess over food. In the first week of my adapted diet, I admit that I binged on crackers and tortillas on a couple of occasions. Thankfully, my sugar and carb cravings subsided promptly. I now eat more nuts, quinoa, and avocado than I used to. I usually consume chicken or fish once or thrice a week. I generally avoid bread, pasta, white rice, white potatoes, cookies, chips, and bananas. And it has all become increasingly easy with the passage of time.
A couple of weeks into this altered lifestyle, I had a serendipitous conversation with a woman who mentioned a podcast she’d listened to about fasting. She shared the link with me; it was an episode of Feel Better, Live More with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, where he interviewed Dr. Mindy Pelz, author of Fast Like A Girl.
She explains that men and women are fundamentally different biologically and hormonally—and that we may need to adopt distinct approaches to fasting. She provides the specific protocols that women can use to fast in accord with their menstrual cycle to burn fat, boost energy, and balance hormones.
Whereas men are governed primarily by testosterone, women’s hormones involve a more complex flux of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
According to Dr. Mindy, there are four phases of a woman’s cycle:
Power phase I: The first 10 days of your cycle (day one is the day you start bleeding; menopausal women and others without a cycle can begin on the new moon). This is when you can do longer fasts, more strength training and intense cardio, and strictly limit your carb intake.
Manifestation phase: Days 11-14; a great time for creativity and working on projects; avoid long fasts; it’s okay to consume healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and peas (Dr. Mindy calls this “hormone feasting”).
Power phase II: Days 15-19; see Phase I.
Nurture phrase: Day 20 until bleeding starts (or the new moon occurs); allow yourself to rest; don’t fast more than 15 hours or so; consume healthy carbs and dark chocolate in moderation.
With a great deal of enthusiasm transmitted through both her book and her trove of YouTube videos, Dr. Mindy outlines how women can tailor their eating, workouts, work schedule, and social life to their diet to match their hormone profile at each stage of the cycle.
I’ve been following her guidelines for the past three months. I even did a three-day water, tea, and black coffee cleanse in mid-May. Day one was somewhat challenging, more mentally than physically. I generally avoided the kitchen and food aromas. Days two and three were a comparative cinch.
I typically do intermittent fasting during my power phases, eating within a five- to six-hour window and fasting the other 18-19 hours. For longer fasts (of 24-plus hours), it’s important to break the fast mindfully with probiotics and healthy fats and proteins.
I haven’t weighed myself or had a blood test since mid-April, but I can feel a positive difference in my body. I feel more comfortable in my skin and clothes. The excess pounds aren’t melting off, but I’ve been overweight for roughly 15 years, so I don’t expect a swift miracle.
Fasting (like a woman) is a lifestyle after all—not a diet. The beauty of it is that you can personalize it to your wants and needs and tailor it to fit your lifestyle and travels. It helps you get in touch with your body’s intuition and to sense whether your hunger is one that will pass or one that requires immediate nourishment. Whatever your age, weight, or gender, I encourage you to give intermittent fasting a shot!
More recommended books:
>> Fast, Feast, Repeat by Gin Stephens
>> The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, MD
>> Glucose Revolution by Jessie Inchauspé
>> The Essential Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Women by Megan Ramos
>> Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine by Robert H. Lustig, MD