When it comes to diet changes, you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting and intuitive eating. But what if combining the two could improve results, both in your waistline and your overall well-being?
That’s the idea behind intuitive fasting, a health and diet protocol that marries the healing qualities of intermittent fasting, where you only eat within a certain window of time each day, with the mindfulness of intuitive eating, when you eat what your body wants.
To some, the idea of a plan that unites the two may seem paradoxical, but Dr. Will Cole, a functional medicine practitioner and the developer of intuitive fasting, is hopeful that it will generate important conversations around intermittent fasting, which studies show can provide relief to the body, and the misconceptions people have about its restriction or rules. “I wanted a more mindful, a more measured, a more flexible, and a more heart-centered approach to intermittent fasting,” he explains.
Dr. Cole’s protocol is laid out in his book Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to Recharge Your Metabolism and Renew Your Health (Buy on Amazon, $15.69), which gives readers the tools they need to kickstart their intuitive fasting journey in a safe, sustainable manner. (An added bonus: Actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow wrote a forward to the book — she’s a big fan!)
The intuitive fasting protocol is meant to help people gain metabolic flexibility four weeks at a time so that the body can process food more mindfully. “It’s like a proverbial yoga class,” Dr. Cole explains. If your muscles are tight and you’ve never taken a yoga class, he says, there may only be so many moves you can do; however, with time and practice, you’ll only become more and more pliable.
Similarly, Dr. Cole says that when people aren’t metabolically flexible, they may deal with sugar crashes, endless cravings, and a lack of fullness after meals, all of which mess with eating schedules and overall health. And much like if a yoga beginner tried to keep up in an advanced class, going from zero to 60 with intermittent fasting if you’re new to it could also backfire. For instance, if you’ve never done intermittent fasting before, diving into an 18-hour fast off the bat will be overwhelming both mentally and physically compared to a 12-hour one.
In the case of Dr. Cole’s four-week protocol, it slowly trains the metabolism through varying lengths and levels of fasts, starting with the shorter 12-hour one and slowly adding to it. Intuitive fasters can go through as many four-week cycles as they want until they feel like they have a better handle on what works for them. Dr. Cole doesn’t put any calorie restrictions in place, he says that people can’t “fast their way out of a bad diet” and should focus on eating clean, whole foods.
Dr. Cole’s hope is that his book and the science behind it will give people the space to figure out what’s best for them over time and not to make them feel like they’ll only succeed if there’s a strict diet plan to follow. “You can use it in a way that works for your health and enhances how you feel, but you can put it down when you don’t need it,” he says. “It’s a tool that you can use to better your life, not to punish yourself.”