A patient of mine asked me a really good question the other day. She is obese and knows she needs to lose weight. She mentioned that she is able to control her food intake during the day without too much trouble but has a HUGE problem with snacking in the evening.
Now, another doctor might have just said “Well just don’t snack.” As you might have guessed by now, I’m not just another doctor, LOL! I recommended she consider a trial of intermittent fasting.
What’s intermittent fasting, you ask? Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a newer method of calorie restriction where you reduce or avoid eating SOME of the time. This is contrasted with calorie restriction, or CR, where you reduce calorie intake every day.
For instance, what I suggested to my patient is that she confine her calorie intake to 12 hours per day. She doesn’t need to necessarily reduce her calorie intake drastically. If snacking in the evening is a problem for her, I suggested she make a 2-week commitment to not eat between 7 PM and 7 AM. Water and tea are fine to take in.
After a 12-hour overnight fast most people are pretty hungry. That’s good! She’ll be able to eat a good breakfast which will get her prepped for the day and give her metabolism a boost.
There are lots of intermittent-fasting diets out there. A quick Google search yielded a LOT of confusing websites. Some of them are pretty intense and seem like they would be hard to incorporate into real life. Some are a bit simpler.
Is going without food worth the hassle? I did a search on PubMed which yielded a lot of research information. After a light skim of a number of articles it seemed there is evidence that intermittent fasting is as effective as calorie restriction for weight loss and may be better for prevention of diabetes in people with insulin resistance.
I have been experimenting on myself with different types of intermittent fasting and have found that it’s not as hard as I thought it would be. Sure I’m hungry when I’m fasting, but that’s to be expected, and knowing you’re going to be able to eat in a few hours makes it easier to handle.
A few words of caution for anyone who may be interested in trying intermittent fasting for weight loss. Check with your doctor to see if there’s any reason prolonged fasting may be dangerous for you. For instance, diabetics who take insulin or some oral medication should pay close attention to their blood sugar and be on the lookout for hypoglycemia.
Anyone who is limiting their calorie intake with the goal of losing weight should pay close attention to their nutrition. Eating real food (not processed food) or using meal replacements that don’t have chemicals and artificial ingredients is important. Take a high-quality, well-absorbed multivitamin to fill in any gaps in your nutritional intake.
Intermittent fasting is an attractive weight loss method because of its simplicity. Simply confining your food intake to a certain number of hours per day or restricting your food intake a few days per week can be a very effective way to gradually lose body fat.
QUESTION: Have you tried fasting before? How did it go? Is it something you’d be interested in trying in the future?