Why Intermittent Fasting Works with Fitness Model, Jessica Harvey

Meet Jessica Harvey

Jessica Harvey is a fitness model, former miss NC and runner-up miss America 2012. She’s a certified personal trainer and entrepreneur extraordinaire of Burn Tallahassee who has practiced intermittent fasting for several years.

Devan Kline: Can you explain your background a little and what went down in 2012?

Jessica Harvey: I had never participated in pageants before, but I was a competitor my whole life being an athlete. After I was an athlete, I got married and started a family, but I kept thinking “what’s left?” When the Miss America opportunity appeared, I saw that as an opportunity to show that I’m an example of the American woman. I’m a good mom, a good wife and a strong competitor. I could be competitive and try something new by entering the pageant. After Miss America, I went to Miss World so to say that 2012 was a life changing year for me – it really was.

DK: So now being an entrepreneur and owner of Burn, what made you go into entrepreneurship?

JH: It was always a really easy fit for me. Being competitive is the ultimate trait for an entrepreneur. You get to show your strengths. A lot of people say that practice makes perfect, but really, perfect practice makes purpose. You have to show up and work for what you want. If I want it and I work for it, I can have it. There’s no other job opportunity out there that gives you that choice.

DK: Being an entrepreneur is a difficult task and 99% of businesses fail before 10 years. It’s the only game you can get into where you will fail, but it’s truly the select few that have the opportunity to be successful and make a career out of it.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

DK: Today we’re talking about intermittent fasting. Why are you an expert on intermittent fasting?

JH: I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for years now. I’ve been through the highs, the lows, the good and the bad. My expertise definitely comes from my commitment to it all these years.

DK: Food is such a driving force for energy and vitality. Many people don’t understand the power of food because they haven’t felt the effects of clean food on the body. I hope everyone can take away how intermittent fasting and eating clean can help you energize all areas of your life.

JH: Intermittent fasting is a schedule in a confined period of time – it’s not a diet telling you what to eat, but more of a schedule of when to eat. It’s all of your calories within your eating window. I follow the 16:8, which is 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour eating window. There are plenty of variations. You can choose a 20 hour fasting period with a 5 hour eating window, or even a basic 12 to 12 ratio. For someone wanting to burn fat and build muscle, this is where the magic is.

DK: Can you explain the differences in time windows?

JH: The 12:12 is a basic eating window for someone who has never practiced fasting before because naturally you’re eating within the 12 hours of the day and not at night. Everybody fasts everyday whether we realize it or not. When you’re asleep, you’re not eating, which is why the first meal of the day is called breakfast – you’re breaking your fast. Intermittent fasting is just extending the fasting window for optimal metabolic response.

Why Intermittent Fasting?

DK: What happens to your body when we allow that extended fast?

JH: I’m going to explain it to you at a basic level. There are two sources of energy that your body can run on. One is glycogen, which is your fast-acting carbohydrates and the other one is fat. Normally, if you wake up and break your fast you immediately start burning glycogen – but, if you deplete the glycogen in your body by fasting, it begins to start burning fat for energy instead. Fasting creates an environment where we turn on the fat burning engine first. You start to burn excess fat until you break your fast and restore glycogen stores.

DK: The goal of intermittent fasting is to burn body fat. What kind of person should be practicing this?

JH: It really depends on your goals. When practicing a 16:8, it depends on how you decide to schedule that time. If you’re training later in your fast, it’s shown that near the end of your fast more hormones that promote muscle building are released. If you’re timing your workouts correctly, you can take advantage of the muscle building process. For those looking for weight loss, you should be in a caloric deficit, so people beginning intermittent fasting will experience weight loss. NOTE: You should be meeting your caloric needs daily even when fasting. Less than 1,200 calories a day can lead to dangerous conditions such as fatigue, muscle loss, disordered eating, etc. 

How Can I Start?

DK: Anyone can go 16 hours fasted and 8 hours fed with the right knowledge and timing. Can you give us an idea of what you do?

JH: Personally, what I do is fast until 12:30pm every day and then I stop eating before 8:30 PM. Ideally, the best time for me to workout is later in my fast around 10:30 AM so I have time between my workout to burn fat before breaking my fast. A lot of people ask me if you can eat while fasting and the answer is… NO! You cannot eat during your fast! Food will break your fast because it sparks a metabolic response. You can have black coffee without creamer or any sugar, any herbal tea, especially green tea to rev up your metabolism, and obviously water. Water is super important when you’re using fat for energy because that’s how fat mobilizes. Sparkling waters can get you through the day if you’re going through the adaptation phase, but black coffee, herbal tea or water are going to be the best.

DK: What happens when someone just starting has no energy or feels like they are too hungry to workout?

JH: That’s a challenge. When you decide to do this, it’s a mental and physical challenge, and you will feel hungry at times because your body has a clock that you are used to. Any change will create an adaptation phase. I always recommend starting on a 12:12 and slowly decreasing that eating window. You will feel suboptimal at first. If you aren’t used to it and you’re working out, you’ll have to manage your energy and monitor how you feel.

DK: When somebody is getting started and doing the 16:8, their first meal is at 12:30 PM, last meal at 8:30 PM and they’re training at 10:30 AM, how long does it take them to feel really good?

JH: For me, making the switch from eating normal to really establishing my 16:8 schedule, took about 6 weeks. I worked my way up to that schedule naturally especially by planning my workout correctly. When fasting, you’re on the edge of ketosis. Many people experience a buzz when they experience ketosis because their body starts using fat for energy. Once I started to feel that buzz around 6 weeks, I knew I had successfully adapted.

What Can I Expect In The Beginning?

DK: The reason why people start it and stop it right away is because they don’t see the results or feel that buzz right away. I like to coach people from a psychological standpoint to break those patterns. When you’re fasting, you might start to feel moody, your stomach might start screaming at you a few hours in, or you begin only thinking of food, but you can’t focus on that. It’s interesting. Have you ever been so hungry but then someone calls you and you talk for 30 minutes and realize not once you had thought about food? That’s breaking the pattern!

JH: Yes! With intermittent fasting, you start to understand real hunger cues and fake hunger cues. A lot of our life is revolved around when we eat so we plan our social events around food. Intermittent fasting creates a schedule and an opportunity to experience hunger or realize boredom or thirst instead of hunger. It’s really helpful, and because of this, you start to experience higher mental clarity within your fast.

DK: To finish, talk to me about who should be doing this.

JH: I think everyone should try it. But, just like any diet or lifestyle choice, it all depends on your lifestyle or schedule. You don’t want to get through adaptation and say “this isn’t for me.” There are so many benefits outside of just burning fat that make the hard times worth it for them. Additionally, intermittent fasting is convenient. We’re all on a diet, whether we’re aware of it or not, and some are more difficult than others. For me, counting macros or meal prepping with two kids and a business doesn’t work. Intermittent fasting allows me to on a schedule instead of doing extra work. 

DK: During those first weeks, when you start feeling hungry or feeling like you need to eat, distract yourself. Drop down and do 10 push-ups! Go outside and walk around, but when you interrupt that pattern, it creates a positive response. This works for a bunch of habits like sugar bingeing.

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