My experience reinforced that there is no single approach to diabetes management.
If you have ever tried to lose weight, especially for health reasons, you have probably come across articles and blog posts that show the benefits of permanent fasting.
It is also known as intermittent energy restriction in the circles of nutritionists, nutritionists and health trainers. Whichever term you use, intermittent fasting is a method of voluntary cycling between fasting and non-fasting time periods.
I started reading about it a few years ago because I heard it was helpful for those with type 2 diabetes.
Reported benefits include weight loss and a lower risk of future diabetes complications, such as organ damage. The process of thinking about this is that if you reduce your periods of blood sugar, then you reduce the potential for damage caused by uncontrolled long-term type 2 diabetes.
In a 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, overweight women who tried intermittent fasting not only lost weight but improved their insulin sensitivity after 3 months.
What really caught my eye were the people who claimed to “change” their diabetes after following strict intermittent fasting programs. Many said they had lost weight and were able to stop taking diabetes medication.
I was skeptical as there is no shortage of new weight loss programs and methods advertised. Sure, some work, but they often require so many hours of meal preparation, unique exercises, expensive supplements, and shocks that they are either unattainable or unstable.
My first question was: How are you really I DO intermittent fasting? I was willing to try something new, but I was not willing to spend hundreds of dollars a week on a scam.
I have come across numerous ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into one’s life. I agreed understanding three of the most common methods to help me pick one.
Before I tried it, one of my concerns was that I would end up in a hypoglycemic condition, not only based on reading, but because it had been a personal challenge. When I was first diagnosed, I was struggling with extreme heights and descents. The number of times I had blood sugar below 50 even seemed to shock my doctors.
I decided not to try a fast diet because I like structure and routines. Having 2 days a week being drastically different while doing tricks with my family and career seemed unstable.
I was committed to trying something new and did not want to set myself up for failure, so I decided to try the Leangains protocol.
While 16 hours of fasting per day was required, in my mind, 8 of those hours did not count because it would be bedtime and sleep time when I would not have eaten anyway. Thus, I thought it would be less likely to push me towards extremely low blood sugars.
It was not a good experience. I spent a lot of time watching the clock until I could eat again and then when I could, I tried to overdo the food to compensate for the headaches and hunger I was experiencing.
I experienced multiple drops in blood sugar the first week and I had to get rid of it with glucose tablets or fruit. I started adjusting from 16 hours to 14 hours, to 12 hours, before I was too frustrated to keep up with the plan.
By the end of the second week, I had stopped. I had also added 6 pounds in 2 weeks of the 16/8 method exam – the opposite of what I wanted to happen.
After that experience, I came to the conclusion that permanent fasting was not appropriate for my diabetes and I felt it was too dangerous because of the hypoglycemia.
I believe I did not end up in any dangerous situations because I increased my daily testing from three times a day to six times a day. While this worked for me, depending on how your insurance works or your financial situation, you may find added cost-cutting testing.
On the other hand, I learned something from this. Since I was testing often, I learned a lot about how my body responds to certain foods. Of course, we can all look at which foods have the highest carbohydrate intake, but there are still personal nuances.
I learned that my body reacted differently to different types of rice and potatoes. I also learned that my body reacted differently to different fruits.
As I stopped eating according to the Leangains protocol, I maintained this knowledge and incorporated new habits into my eating routines. The foods I learned caused my blood sugar to rise, I ate them sparingly.
Soon before this year. Since I was more sedentary than ever during quarantine, I needed something to change my routine. I decided to try intermittent fasting once again.
However, this time I looked at another model: The Warrior Diet. There is not much research supporting this approach to intermittent fasting, but I thought that with some modifications, it might work for me.
Empowered by my previous experience and knowledge of how I responded to different foods and food at different times of the day, I decided to change the plan for myself from the beginning.
Instead of eating a big meal at night, I had my biggest meal as a midday meal (this is the time period that seems to me naturally hungrier). Instead of fighting against my usual body rhythm, I decided to work with it so the plan would be more sustainable for me.
The other part that made it most applicable to me was that during the rest of the day I could drink small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables.
I went back to my previous strategy of testing my blood sugar six times a day and, with this method, I have never experienced a hypoglycemic event.
I started to lose small amounts of weight, about half a pound to a pound a week. After 3 months in this plan, my A1C also landed. Seeing the lower A1C felt like a big win!
Now I have reached the point where I do not follow the plan exactly to the minute, but he has changed my general eating habits in such a way that it is more natural for me to eat according to the Warrior Diet without having to think about it. .
Since it feels natural and matches my body rhythm, I do not feel deprived at all, and I have also noticed an increase in energy.
The most important thing one needs to know about intermittent fasting for type 2 diabetes is that there is no one-size-fits-all plan.
Everyone’s body reacts differently, and the risk for hypoglycemia is real and requires planning. (This is where talking to your doctor and a dietitian can be helpful.)
I recommend that anyone starting this plan should be willing to test their blood sugar often and change the plan based on their body response. This will avoid lower and higher blood sugar levels and will create a stable plan where you do not feel deprived or have fluctuating blood sugar.
Reducing the long-term effects of diabetes on your health is a worthy goal.
If you can find a diet plan that helps you lose weight, lower your A1C, and reduce the medications you need while you are feeling well, then intermittent fasting may be a good option for you.
Julie Pierce Onos has been published in Healthline, Temblor and Yoga Journal, as well as provides in-house writing for financial companies. A graduate of Yale University, Julie is passionate about organizational and personal improvement. She brings over 15 years of experience as a writer, instructor and organizational development expert in the Boston area.