What is Intermittent Fasting

Have you heard about it? Intermittent Fasting in the latest buzz in weight management. Is it just the latest diet craze disguised as healthy eating or is it a legit and even healthful way to maintain body weight? Inquiring minds need to know.

Intermittent Fasting is simple in concept, which is a large part of its appeal. It is a pattern of eating that cycles between fasting and eating. It’s less about WHAT you eat than it is about WHEN / HOW OFTEN you eat. Basically, you split your day or week into very specific periods of eating vs not eating (like not at all). Here’s a great, in depth article on the topic, but in summary, here’s what you need to know.

There are a few ways people do this:

  • The 16/8 method: This one involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 12–8 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  • The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days. 

The 16/8 is the simplest and most popular option. You can adapt it to your lifestyle ~ just start with what time you normally finish dinner. If that’s reliably by 8 pm, then your 16 hour fast will be 8 pm through noon the following day. If you eat early with the kids, then you’ll go 7pm to 11 am. Later night life? 9 pm til 1 pm lunch the following day.

You will eat normally during your 8 hour “eating window.” So if you would normally consume 1500 calories a day, you can do it during that window. If you’re at 1200 or 2600, same. You can’t gorge during your “eating window” of course, and you can’t eat wasted calories, junk items just because you’re limiting your eating hours. That defeats the point.

And during the non-eating, fasting hours, you will eat literally nothing. You can drink water (of course) black coffee, unsweet tea, non calorie drinks. Avoid diet sodas, as they are reported to trigger hunger and no one thinks they’re healthy. (Please don’t tell that to my Fresca and Diet Coke addiction though.)

No snacking after your cut-off. Not even healthy snacks. No alcohol either. Suddenly that later pm cut off is sounding good. Can we do 11 pm to 3pm???

The key to Intermittent Fasting is the consistency. This is not something you do for a couple of weeks to lose 5 pounds. This is a long term approach to health and eating. Like they always say ~ yet still so tedious to hear ~ it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

Certainly in the first few weeks, you will probably reduce your overall calorie consumption with intermittent fasting, since taking off the hours that you normally eat and snack will likely contribute to fewer calories. Bonus.

An even better bonus is that fasting ~ even with the same daily calorie consumption as before ~ can actually contribute to some weight loss. Fasting lowers insulin and increases growth hormone levels, both help with weight loss. Plus it increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

Finally, some studies (mostly on animals, but still) have shown the following health benefits to intermittent fasting:

  • Reduce Insulin Resistance and Blood Sugar levels
  • Reduce markets of Inflammation
  • Reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides
  • Increase the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Here’s a easy-to-read article with more detail about intermittent fasting and autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process that is touted to be anti-aging and very beneficial.

Most of the local nutritionists and wellness doctors are able to counsel you on your intermittent fasting plan. And of course, consult your doctor if you have any health concerns like diabetes, low blood pressure, eating disorders, are pregnant or breast feeding.

I’m trying it now ~ although I do drink on weekends, so I’m already breaking that rule. We’ll see if the Weekdays 16/8 plan works for me!


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