Medical herbalist Jenny Logan writes about the benefits - and pitfalls - of intermittent fasting.
In my last article I wrote about the many reasons why, in my opinion, simply counting calories leads not to weight loss, but to misery, guilt and anxiety.
I suggested instead trying what is often referred to as ‘intuitive eating’.
This is basically eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full, something most of us have lost touch with.
This week I am going to look at something I do believe in for long term weight loss – intermittent fasting.
This is a very successful weight loss regime which is also linked to reduced blood pressure, lowered cholesterol and balanced blood sugar levels.
And before you all think this goes against my anti-calorie counting stance – this type of diet is not about calories counting, it is about relearning hunger, finding out what makes you full and satisfied and hopefully enjoying food.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Intermittent fasting is an eating regime, where you regularly limit or stop eating. There are a few different regimes, the most popular are the 5:2 diet, and the 16:8 plan.
The 5:2 regime involves eating normally for five days of the week, then severely restricting food intake for two days – most often it is suggested that the two days should be based on around 600-800 calories.
The important thing when limiting food so strictly, is that you need to learn how to fill and satisfy yourself effectively.
Also, the calorie reduction must only be done on the two restricted days, and these two days are never done consecutively.
The 16:8 regime has been gaining a lot of publicity, as it is so very easy to follow.
The idea behind this is that you can only eat during eight hours of the day, the other 16 hours you can
consume no food – only drinks.
For many this is easy
because they simply have their final meal of the day at 6-7pm as normal with their family, then do not eat again until 10-11am the next day.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING?
There are several proven benefits for intermittent fasting, including:
Weight loss and fat burning – Intermittent fasting regimes have been shown to reduce insulin levels in the blood and increase the burning of belly fat for energy, helping to balance blood
sugars and boost the metabolism.
Reducing the risk of diabetes – studies have shown that the blood sugar balancing benefits of a fasting diet can help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Supporting heart health – people following an intermittent fasting regime have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and lower blood triglyceride levels, all of which adds up to a healthier heart.
Brain benefits – Some initial research suggests that these fasting diets may also look after the health of the brain, and could even help to prevent the development of memory loss.
WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF FASTING?
If you want to follow one of these regimes, it is important to be aware of the potential pitfalls, to ensure that you are successful in your efforts.
The key mistakes to avoid include:
Poor planning – don’t just wake up and decide that today is a fasting day. These days need to be planned in, and when they are – stick to it.
People fail on these plans when they change their mind half way through the day.
Being mentally prepared is at least half the battle.
It will also allow you to ensure you have got the right foods available as well, and have your filling and tasty meals planned.
Choosing the right plan – As mentioned there are several different ways to do intermittent fasting, choose the way that best fits your lifestyle.
Drink – ensuring that you are properly hydrated can help to keep hunger pangs at bay. It will also help you to realise whether you are actually hungry, or just thirsty!
Eating too little – It is important that fasting is done to the schedule prescribed by your plan, and that eating in between this is done normally.
The key to intermittent fasting is eating normally in between.
It will not ‘give things a boost’ if you restrict food during your eating hours, it will actually be the downfall of the whole regime.
So – enjoy your food when you are eating.