Mind & Body
Intermittent Fasting 101
11/30/2018 12:45:50 PM
Intermittent Fasting 101

One of the leading reasons dieters fail is because they have trouble sticking to diets that specify which foods to eat. An recent eating trend that doesn’t tell you what to eat, but when to eat, is quickly gaining popularity. Intermittent fasting (IF) makes many claims, but weight loss advocates say it is this distinction that makes it a top choice of successful "losers.”

More often described as an eating pattern than a diet, IF depends on fasting, something humans have had to do throughout our evolution. At times of food scarcity, through droughts, famine, or war, humans have managed to function without food for prolonged periods of time. Many religions encourage fasting, claiming followers will achieve optimum spiritual awareness through food deprivation. Evolutionary biologists assert that fasting occasionally is actually more natural than partaking of three or more meals daily. 

Fasting enthusiasts have long touted its cellular-changing and life-lengthening benefits. If you think of your body as a finely tuned machine, researchers say occasional breaks from rich "fuel injections” are essential. Hormonal health, increased muscle mass, increased immunity to aging and disease, and insulin sensitivity leading to stored fat accessibility are among fasting’s healthy paybacks.  

The perks? No meal-planning, counting calories, exchanging points, or the purchase of special foods. Followers alternate periods of eating and fasting daily or weekly. Simplicity and versatility are IF’s biggest selling points: what do you have to lose, other than weight?

Curious? Type "IF” into your search engine to explore its many variations. One recommends a 16-hour fast and a skipped breakfast. Too challenging to forfeit that first important meal of the day? Other adherents see considerable weight loss when they restrict calories to 500-600 for two consecutive days, while eating normally the rest of the week.  Still others find fasting for 24 hours, one or two days weekly, is easy and effective. 

Growing scientific evidence points to human circadian rhythm fasting as a conceivable weight loss method. Studies on this concept demonstrate that our metabolism has adapted to eating during the day and sleeping at night. Resisting a midnight snack or other nocturnal food binging lowers risks associated with diabetes and obesity. 

IF’s reputation as a successful weight loss tool has skyrocketed it to the top of current fitness and health trends. According to Dr. Monique Tello, Contributing Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, "a growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss...” 

Tello also cites studies that demonstrate IF approaches are not only reasonable and sustainable, but effective, especially when combined with sensible nutrition. 

Harvard Health Publishing recommends the following for more effective health and weight management: 
  • Avoid sugars and refined grains. Instead, eat fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (a sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet).
  • Let your body burn fat between meals. Don’t snack. Be active throughout your day. Build muscle tone.
  • Consider a simple form of intermittent fasting. Limit the hours of the day when you eat, and for best effect, make it earlier in the day (between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm, but definitely not in the evening before bed).
  • Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time.

Physicians prescribe caution when trying any weight loss plan. Supervision is recommended for people with severe health concerns or extreme eating disorders, as well as for breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Posted by: Madelaine Brauner Landry | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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