Intermittent fasting – eating little or no food for extended but intermittent periods – is a natural, healthy way to lose weight and improve your health.
Our bodies are built for this method of eating. Long ago, when nourishing yourself meant hunting or scavenging for meat or waiting for fruit to ripen and fall from trees, it was normal to eat when food was plentiful, and use the energy you gained then to sustain you later, when food was scarce. Three meals a day weren’t guaranteed when getting your next meal was more complicated than simply driving to a supermarket or a fast food restaurant.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
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Intermittent fasting can:
- Reduce weight and lower body fat
- Improve control of glucose levels
- Lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Improve response to stress and toxins
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve cognitive function
- Reduce the risk of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
If you decide to try intermittent fasting, you have a number of choices:
Alternate Daily Fasting – You fast for 24 hours on alternate days. Most research studies on intermittent fasting have focused on this type of fasting.
The 5:2 diet – Eat little or nothing two days a week, and eat normally the other five days.
Single 24-hour fast – An occasional fast, sometimes used along with juice cleansing.
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Condensed Eating Window – You can eat only during a specified “eating window,” for example, between 3 PM and 9 PM.
Skipping a meal – If you’re new to intermittent fasting, this can be a good way to get started. Simply allow yourself to miss a meal now and then. If wake up in the morning and don’t feel like breakfast, listen to your body. Eat because you feel hungry, not because you’ve been told that you have to eat at least three times a day.
The Fast Diet
The Fast Diet is a form of the 5:2 diet that has become popular in the UK. With this diet, you eat normally five days a week. On the other days, you reduce your caloric intake to one fourth of normal. On “fast” days, you should eat foods high in protein and fiber, which will keep you satiated, and avoid refined carbohydrates.
Six Meals a Day. Really?
Many diet plans tell us that we should be eating every few hours. Eating six (or more) meals a day is supposed to speed up our metabolism and make weight loss easier. Supposedly, if we don’t eat frequently, our bodies go into “starvation mode.” This causes our metabolism to slow down, so we end up gaining weight.
Severely reducing your caloric intake for a very long time can indeed slow your metabolism. However, fasting for a day or less isn’t going to do that. Before grocery stores and supermarkets, being hungry meant that you needed more energy, not less. It would be time for you to start hunting or searching for food.
In fact, intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the metabolism.
Research also shows that eating six times a day has no greater effect on weight loss than eating three times a day.
Why have we been told that we need to eat so frequently? Most of us don’t have time to cook, nuke a meal in the microwave or even stand in line at McDonald’s, six times a day. If you’re trying to diet by following the six-meals-a-day rule, then some of your meals may have to consist of diet drinks and snacks – sold by the same companies that tell us if we don’t eat every two to four hours, we’ll starve.
Why Not Just Cut Calories?
Eating fewer calories can help you lose weight, and studies show that a very low-calorie diet can increase your lifespan.
So why not simply count calories, as so many dieters do?
In addition to all of its physical benefits, intermittent fasting has a psychological benefit – it can make you spend less time thinking about food.
Dieters who count calories have to keep track of the number of calories and amount of carbs and fat in everything they eat. They have to plan every meal in advance to ensure that they don’t go over their caloric allowance. Constantly thinking about food, and how much of it you’re allowed to eat, is going to spark your appetite. One of the reasons diets often don’t work is they make you think about food constantly – the last thing you need when you’re trying to eat less.
With intermittent fasting, however, on your non-fasting days, you can eat whatever you want, as long as it’s healthy. When you’re fasting, you don’t have to plan any meals and you can direct your thoughts toward things other than eating.
Have you ever been so immersed in something that when you finally checked the time, you realized you’d forgotten to eat? Do you remember playing outside as a child and not wanting to come inside when your mother told you it was time for dinner?
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by taking the focus away from food.