By Kristy Koehler, March 12 2019 —
With a plethora of fad diets out there, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. There are plenty of articles claiming that you can ‘lose 20 pounds in 20 days’ or ‘detox your liver’ by eating this magic veggie or that magic fruit. I’ll tell you about the only eating method that has ever worked for me — intermittent fasting.
Fasting — the act of abstaining from eating — has long been used for spiritual renewal and religious observance. Now, it’s been adapted by fitness and weight-loss devotees to improve health and simplify your lifestyle. Most fasting that’s done for diet and fitness purposes is intermittent fasting — that is, alternating intervals of eating with periods of abstention.
Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived this way and, as a result, it is a more natural way for human beings to eat. I love intermittent fasting because it’s less of a diet and more of a lifestyle choice. I lead an extremely busy life. Thinking about cooking or preparing three meals each days sends me into a panic — who has time for that? With intermittent fasting, I need to think about one meal period each day. Instead of spending my time worried about what I’m going to eat, I can worry about homework, spend time with friends or engage in other productive activities.
There are plenty of variations on intermittent fasting, some more extreme than others, and many are combined with the paleo or keto diets or celebrity fitness-trainer styled diets. These are needlessly complicated and gimmicky but there are two easy methods of intermittent fasting you can try if you’d like to give it a go.
This method involves eating normally for five days of the week and abstaining from food for the other two. Some folks who adopt the 5:2 method choose to eat a small 500–600 calorie meal on their fasting days and some abstain altogether. Some adherents to the 5:2 method fast for two consecutive days while others break them up between eating days.
Those who want to take 5:2 a step further can also practise alternate-day fasting, which is exactly what it sounds like — eating every other day.
This method involves eating for eight hours and fasting for 16. Many folks who follow this method do not restrict what they eat during their eight-hour feeding window. This is one of the easier methods to follow as part of the 16 food-free hours can take place while you sleep. For example, if you stop eating at 8 p.m., then go to bed at 10 p.m., you’d only be restricting your food intake until noon the next day when you could enjoy a hearty lunch.
Alternatively, you can change up the time-frame to suit your lifestyle and goals. An extreme version of this is the warrior fast, where folks don’t eat all day but have one huge meal at in the evening — more of a 22/2 method than a 16/8.
Proponents of fasting believe that the practice lowers insulin levels and increases levels of human growth hormone, which helps increase fast loss and muscle gain. Adherents also suggest it increases metabolic rates and causes less muscle loss than traditional diets.
Intermittent fasting has provided me with mental clarity, better focus and a stronger, healthier body. As part of my daily routine, I follow the 16/8 method. However, if I’m trying to lose weight, I personally combine the 5:2 method with the 16/8 method.
Remember, if you’re fasting for health or weight-loss, it’s still important to drink water during times of abstention from food. It’s also important to discuss any new diet plans with your doctor, especially if you have a history of health issues.
Not all methods of eating work for all bodies. Some folks feel better eating five or six smaller meals each day. Other folks enjoy the three-square-a-day routine. The most important part of any eating plan is to find something that incorporates easily with your lifestyle, offers a balance of nutrients and makes you feel good.