“Intermittent Fasting- What Is It And Is It Safe?” By Maria Khaled, RD, LD

Intermittent FastingLately, intermittent fasting has gotten a lot of attention. What exactly is intermittent fasting and is it a good option for losing weight? There has been a lot of research that supports the idea that the less you eat over time, the healthier and longer life you will live. However, many of these low calorie diets are difficult and therefore, compliance can be low. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Instead of regulating how much food you eat, as with long-term calorie restriction, you only need to modify when you eat and wisely choose the foods that you do eat. One way to do this is called “ intermittent fasting”.

So what exactly is intermittent fasting? Intermittent is restricting your eating each day to a 6-11 hour period. In effect, you will be abstaining from food for about 13-18 hours each day you are on this fast. This means that you are not severely cutting the number of calories you eat, but rather the time frame of when you consume them. For example, if your last meal was finished at 7:00pm, you would not eat until around noon the next day. This would give your body a 17 hour window of fasting. This is enough time to acquire the benefits of the fast.

The goal is to train your body to burn fat as your primary fuel source of energy. It can sometimes take up to 2 months for your body to adopt to this way of eating. The first step, even before you begin fasting, is to cut the excess carbohydrates from your diet, especially those consumed at breakfast and lunch. It is medically shown that the body is naturally more insulin sensitive after 3:00 pm. Essentially, if you are going to have good complex carbohydrates, (such as root vegetables, grains, fruits and rice) the best time to have this is later in the day.

Try to limit breakfast and lunch foods that are high in good fats, protein and fiber (such as green leafy, vegetables and cruciferous vegetables). Ultimately, this will decrease your appetite and you will feel less hungry in-between meals and have more energy. After your blood sugar is more stable and excess carbohydrates are taken out of your diet, this is a good time to try intermittent fasting.

The first thing you should do is to stop eating 3 hours before bedtime. This will allow your body to use the time asleep to detox and repair, rather than digesting food you have eaten. Once you are comfortable with a 3 hour fast before bedtime, try pushing back when you eat breakfast. If your normal breakfast is at 7:30, try making it at 8:30. As you gradually ease into longer, fasting periods, you might find yourself hungry. It is recommended to work through the hunger and it will eventually pass over time. Over time, you will find yourself feeling less hungry. Eventually, you will see an overall stabilization of your blood sugar and the effects of the fast will be felt all day long.

It is important to note that the meal you use to break your fast is one of the most important aspects of fasting. If you choose to go 18 hours without food, make sure the meal you choose to break the fast is a a fast food hamburger meal with a soda, you will completely negate any positive benefits of fasting (and could be making things a whole lot worse). Make sure you are ending your fast with a whole foods meal that has a lot of good fats, protein and vegetables.

Intermittent fasting is a plan that may be helpful for you depending on your goals. As with any new program, make sure to listen to your body. If you are not able to adapt to this type of eating, this may not be the right program for you to follow. Always make sure to consult your physician before engaging in such a plan. Several contraindications to this program are: uncontrolled blood sugar (diabetes), pregnant women or woman who are nursing, people who have adrenal issues, use of certain medications- please seek a doctor’s approval first. All in all, since obesity is on the rise and research is showing that we are conditioned to eating more calories throughout the day than necessary, many due to society’s conditioning of when and how much to eat, eating less of the right foods is still the way to go in relation to losing weight. Stay healthy and continue your weight loss journey with a positive mindset and greater understanding!

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