Dr. Will Cole breaks down intuitive fasting and how to recharge your metabolism and renew your health
Functional medicine practitioner Dr. Will Cole is someone we frequently catch up with to find out the latest information in the wellness world. Get the lowdown on how to renew your health with his top tips.
What is intuitive fasting?
Our fixed eating schedule of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks has become the norm. The truth is, this is an artificially constructed schedule that does not reflect our bodies' natural and most optimal eating schedule. In fact, eating three meals every day can cause metabolic inflexibility, which can easily lead to inflammation, weight gain, fatigue and chronic health problems. For millions of years, our bodies have actually functioned best with periodic times of fasting.
Intuitive fasting leans into various fasting windows to help you get back in touch with your body's instinctive eating patterns, and become healthier and more mindful about how and when you eat. When your body is out of balance it can be very difficult to discern what it needs to build vibrant wellness, but this way of fasting helps you take control of your hunger in a way that makes intermittent fasting intuitive.
What is the key piece of intuitive eating that most people are missing out on?
Intuitive eating, specifically intuitive fasting, goes way beyond restriction. When you hear the word "fasting" it can be easy to associate it with calorie counting and shame. However, when done with intention, intuitive fasting can be a great tool to free yourself from diet dogma and can finally help you take control over food and your health instead of letting food and fear surrounding your next meal control you.
There is no "right" way to eat intuitively or fast, and for some people with a history of eating disorders, they may not be able to practice intuitive fasting and that's ok. It's about finding what is right for you and intuitive fasting is just one tool that can be used along that journey.
What are the most effective ways to fast and eat to amplify the health benefits of intermittent fasting, balancing rest and repair with clean, nutrient-dense foods?
It's important to remember that what works for one person doesn't always work for you. The beauty of intuitive fasting is that it teaches you to listen to your body and it's innate hunger cues so you can determine what fasting windows work best for you. Some days you might need to fast for shorter periods of time and some days you might feel amazing and want to fast for longer.
But whenever you do break your fast, the key is filling your plate with clean, whole food sources that are nutrient-dense and higher in fat to really fuel your body. The goal behind intuitive fasting is to help your body reach a state of metabolic flexibility, and part of that is not overloading on sugar and processed food and carbs that contribute to blood sugar imbalances and other metabolic health problems. Eating well is also as important, if not more, than how long you fast.
What is metabolic flexibility?
Metabolic flexibility is your metabolism’s ability to effectively switch between using carbs or fats as a source of energy. Most of us solely rely on sugar as fuel, which puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster and contributes to metabolic health problems like weight loss resistance, fatigue, diabetes, and more.
Fat, on the other hand, is a more efficient fuel source for your body that reduces your risk for metabolic health problems and allows you to consume less carbohydrates while also increasing your energy.
Metabolic flexibility gives you the opportunity to intuitively trust your body to function at optimal capacity. Whether you’ve eaten six minutes or six hours ago, eaten a higher carb meal or a higher fat meal, you can be confident in the fact that your body is taking care of itself and is able to respond in a healthy way from either fuel source.
What does a day in the life of fasting look like for you? AM through to PM.
I typically fast through breakfast and enjoy a cup of earl gray tea with bergamot in the morning before I leave for work. Intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance autophagy - your cell's self-cleaning process that keeps you looking youthful and feeling healthy - and earl gray tea with bergamot can help further enhance this process. This moment of silence before I leave my house also helps me quiet my mind and get into the present moment for whatever lies ahead the rest of the day.
Then around noon, I'll break my fast at lunch with a large salad with some wild-caught tuna, avocado, and hemp seeds. It's light, yet super filling because of how many healthy fats are packed into one bowl. Sometimes in the winter I'll reach for a bone broth based soup since it's comforting and easy on my gut after a long period without food. Soup is a nice way to ease back into eating.
I don't usually snack in between lunch and dinner since I am satiated from lunch, but every once in a while I'll have a handful of mixed nuts in the afternoon. When I get home I like to enjoy dinner with my family. My wife cooks so whatever delicious meal she plans is good with me! We love tacos so roasted cauliflower tacos wrapped in lettuce with extra guac are on our regular rotation. I like to stop eating no later than 6pm.
What is your new year health and wellness resolution?
I don't really make new year health and wellness resolutions as I like to make smaller goals throughout the year. I find that to be a more sustainable way for me to achieve goals. One thing I am hoping to do is spend as much time outdoors as possible even in the winter, which can be difficult with how cold it gets in PA!