The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is growing in popularity among bloggers, fitness gurus, and everyone else primarily for weight loss. Intermittent fasting is flipping some old beliefs around nutrition, especially about the importance of breakfast. Because of this, as with all new approaches to wellness, it has been gaining steam in mainstream health and wellness. Before you decide intermittent fasting is for you, take a little time to learn more about it.

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What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not another fad diet- it’s a pattern of eating. Many cultures around the world practice intermittent fasting for religious reasons, or to mark special occasions. Only recently has it become popular in Western culture. With intermittent fasting, you are given an “eating window” during which you’re allowed to eat; you fast during all other times outside of that window. There are essentially three ways to follow this eating pattern:

The 16/8 method

This method is also known as a “lean gains” method. In this method, you’re given an eight-hour window to eat whatever you want. For the next 16 hours, you don’t eat anything. You’re allowed black coffee (Bulletproof coffee is debatable) or water to keep you going. You can easily set your timings according to your routine. For example, if you start eating at 1:00 p.m. and then stop at 9:00 p.m., then you fast until the next day at 1:00 p.m. This is the most common method, and for many, the hours vary a bit (14/10, etc) based on routines.

Eat-Stop-Eat

The eat-stop-eat method is one of the most difficult. It most closely resembles a weekly body cleanse or detox as opposed to an eating pattern. In this method, you fast for 24 consecutive hours once or twice a week, and you’re allowed low-calorie drinks to help you get through your day. Individuals may opt for this method if their routine or strenuous work hours do not allow them to skip breakfast. Most choose to intermittently fast on the weekends, or on a day off during the week.

The 5:2 diet

In the 5:2 method, you consume only 500 to 600 calories for two consecutive days. It is also known as “The Fast Diet.” There are no requirements about what you can or cannot eat. You can eat a 600-calorie burger and be done with your eating for the day (not what I would recommend) or you can eat more low-calorie foods throughout the day; how you stay within your 600-calorie limit is totally up to you.


Why Intermittent Fasting?

People commit to intermittent fasting because it’s easy to adopt and relatively convenient. Most people see rapid, visible results and report a host of other health benefits, such as: quicker, easier, and more convenient weight loss; reduced risk of illnesses and diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, stress and inflammation in the body; lowered triglyceride levels; better brain support and cognition; increased metabolism; and improved body health similar to results from a cleanse or detox. Also, Psych Central reports that this is a “magical elixir” for those with anxiety and depression (and that’s who I work with). So really, IF is NOT just about losing weight, but the health benefits that come with it.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of IF, but it’s not for everyone. If hormones are out of whack or you’re dealing with significant cortisol imbalance, you can actually feel worse with fasting. So, I always advise my clients to keep me informed of how they’re feeling, and learn to listen to your body. Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean it’s right for you!

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