I stumbled upon the concept of intermittent fasting during my search for a simple, effective diet. This plan of action stood out as I realized that it isn’t an actual diet — it’s more of a pattern of eating… and it seems to bring about some pretty dramatic results.
Fasting is just a fancy term to describe the absence of eating, and intermittent fasting (IF) is simply cycling between periods of eating and fasting. This regimen can be tailored to your personal preferences. The eating time frame can be within designated hours or even days (such as the 5:2 diet, which provides 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of extreme calorie deprivation).
Many people choose a plan that follows a daily schedule. For example, a common fast is one that permits eating between 1 pm and 7 pm only. In this particular case, one would skip breakfast time, and therefore only eat once or twice that day. Within the eating period, no foods are restricted. Sounds simple enough, right?
The challenges of intermittent fasting
Though intermittent fasting does promote weight loss, there are a few disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s not for everyone
Though I am a frequent intermittent faster, I have to admit that isn’t for everyone. In fact, some people might find that it doesn’t work at all. As we all know, some diet plans or “ways of eating” — the 5 bite diet comes to mind — just don’t give some people the same results as others.
This plan isn’t recommended for adolescents, the elderly, those who are underweight, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Furthermore, women who have a sensitive hormone balance, those with metabolic disorders (such as diabetes or hypoglycemia), and those with gout or high uric acid will need to consult with a physician before giving intermittent fasting a try.
Difficult adjustment period
Aside from possibly having to skip out on brunch with your friends or snack time with the coworkers, there are a few other changes that may require time to adjust to.
Due to their fixation on food, many people will find themselves constantly obsessing over eating while fasting. Subsequently, you may experience low-energy levels, difficulty focusing, heartburn, and headaches which can affect your mood and productivity.
However, it is important to note that these symptoms subside after about a week or two, and your desire for food will lessen over time. So if you can stand it, hang in there!
Tendencies to binge
Due to the possible discomfort of the fasting period, you’ll probably want to treat yourself when you’re actually allowed to eat, so you may choose to binge out. Please don’t do this, as it can completely counteract your efforts.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
The majority of those who undergo this regimen do so because they want to shed a few pounds… or more. That’s only one of intermittent fasting’s best known benefits.
Restricting your eating to designated time periods cuts down on excessive snacking and unneeded calories. Additionally, you can expect your hormone levels to sway, making it easier to lose weight. During fasting periods, insulin levels lower while the release of noradrenaline — the fat burning hormone — is increased. In turn, your metabolic rates speed up.
No dietary restrictions
Though this one of my favorite factors of IF, I was a bit hesitant on mentioning it. Though you may eat anything that you want during this fast, you must keep in mind that eating too many unhealthy foods (excessive amounts of starch, sugar, etc.) may cause you to not see results at all.
Moderation is key. You can still eat pizza and cookies, but keep your end goal in mind so that you don’t go overboard.
It’s easier than dieting
Some may debate this point, but hear me out. Most diets are very restrictive, making them difficult to follow through with. However, IF is simple because you are the one who chooses your own eating schedule and what foods you consume. Because of this, it can be quite easy to make IF a lifestyle choice.
Othe potential health benefits
In the absence of eating, your body will undergo a natural detoxification to some degree. In addition to this, there have been other benefits associated with intermittent fasting. Studies have shown that cancer patients may benefit from IF during chemotherapy treatments. In some patients, fasting for 3 days prior to the therapy has led to easier recoveries and fewer deaths.
Intermittent fasting has also been linked to lowered insulin resistance, improvements in heart and brain health, reduction in inflammation, and even a decrease in factors that promote aging.
The bottom line
During an intermittent fast, you must remember to stay hydrated. In fact, most of the reported “side effects” stem from dehydration, not the fast itself. And as for the hunger aspect, it’s important to realize that hunger comes in waves.
So, if you think about food for a bit, you may feel hungry, but if you don’t give in to your thoughts, you will soon see that the feeling has subsided.
I would advise as many people as possible to give intermittent fasting a try. I promise, you will not starve, and you will likely notice improvements in your health pretty early in the game!