Disclaimer: Do not go under vast dietary changes, changes in medication usage, and major lifestyle changes without consulting your physician.
Intermittent fasting (IF) can be a great method of managing/losing weight, as well as providing a slew of other benefits. This type of fasting definitely isn’t for everyone, and I would like to address who should NOT undergo intermittent fasting: people under the age of 18, people who are underweight or have eating disorders similar to anorexia or bulimia, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Fasting can also be for a variety of spiritual and personal reasons, but this post is going to be addressing the health reasons.
Fasting is a deliberate control of food in order to have one’s body use up stored fat for energy during the time of fasting. When fasting, insulin levels within the body fall, letting the body know that it should burn the stored energy since none is coming through eating. During this time of lower insulin, the body can burn more excess fat than when the body is fed. Dr. Deborah Wexler of Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as associate professor at Harvard Medical School has been quoted saying “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an 8- to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective.” When combining intermittent fasting with other healthy lifestyle changes, it can be a useful and effective way to lose weight/maintain a healthy weight. Reported benefits of fasting (besides weight loss) include improved mental clarity and concentration, increased energy, improved cholesterol, and reduced inflammation.
IF is really just limiting the hours in the day you eat to a certain window, and it is recommended by Harvard to make it early in the day, as it’s not the most effective to eat just before bed. For example, you could limit your eating from 9 to 5, or 7 to 3, or 10 to 6. Any 8-10-hour window will do, but the earlier the window starts and ends, the more effective.
So, how does one fast? The most common method is the daily window of 8 hours, but there are other methods to consider, so if you do intend to engage in intermittent fasting, then choose the method that works best for you. Another method is alternate day fasting, in which you fast for 24 hours every other day. I wouldn’t recommend starting with a 24 hour fast, as it’s easier to ease your way into it, but this method can be useful once put into place consistently. For example, start at 6PM on Monday until 6PM on Tuesday. Then start again 6PM on Wednesday, until 6PM on Thursday. You get the point. A third method is weekly IF. This is a way to ease yourself into fasting, in which you do a 24 hour fast once a week. This can help break into the idea of fasting.
When you’re done with a fast, remember to break the fast “gently”. Don’t go crazy and eat everything in your fridge once you decide to break your fast, and the longer you fast for, have a gentler meal. If you eat too much after a fast, you could feel sluggish and ache-y.