Linda Melone
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Intermittent fasting: Does it work for weight loss?

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a serious sci-fi movie fan. If it includes monsters, dinosaurs or space aliens, fire up the popcorn maker. I’m in.

My last week’s lineup included the following flicks: Annihilation, How It Ends, and Extinction. Apparently I’m now fixated on how this world will meet its maker, so to speak.

And, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Powers That Be have just about had enough with this blue marble and are ready for their own, universal, version of New Year’s Resolutions.

                 Hello? Can you hear me now?

“I think it’s time to wipe the slate clean again, don’t you think, Joe?” says a booming voice in outer space somewhere. (“Joe” represents the guy in charge according to your personal belief system.)

“I agree. What do you have in mind?” asks Joe. “Should we hurl a big rock, flip the magnetic switch to reverse the poles again, or fire up another global power wash? That last option’s pretty messy.”  

In the movie, How it Ends, the main character wakes up each day — Groundhog Day style — to a news broadcast announcing a different world-ending scenario. One day it’s a pandemic, another day a massive earthquake. Etc.

Spoiler alert: It never ends well.

It’s not all that different with diet trends. The planet doesn’t end with each one, thankfully. But each time a new plan comes out it’s The One That Will Finally Work.

This is it! You exclaim, stocking your pantry with the recommended foods and tossing out those on the “foods that keep you fat” list to never eat again.

Depending on the diet, this involves:

  • Tossing out the butter… or stirring a stick of it into your coffee
  • Banishing sugar forever… or substituting agave syrup
  • Sticking to a plant-based diet… or grabbing a spear and hunting down your dinner
  • Eating… or not eating

I’d like to tackle this last concept today. Because it’s the latest “revelation” in dieting, as in how about we just stop eating?

By definition, not eating, a.k.a. fasting. refers to “abstaining from all food or drink.”

Makes sense, right? Simple concept.

But we run into a few problems.

First, carry that on too long and you die.

So there’s that. And once you’re pushing up daisies you no longer care if you fit into your high-waisted pants.

After attending one too many fasting-related funerals, apparently someone finally said, “But wait, maybe we can make some exceptions so we avoid this seriously unpleasant side effect!”

This birthed modern day versions of fasting, which bend this definition to include:

  • Juice fasts
  • Water fasts
  • Detox fasts/cleansing fasts
  • Liquid protein fasts
  • Lipstick buying fasts
  • Intermittent fasts

(One is just for me, I’ll let you guess what I’d see as more painful that forgoing food for days on end.)

Most notably, “intermittent fasting” or IF has been in the news a lot lately and was a question brought up by one of my Ageless Army members.

The definition of IF generally includes alternating cycles of eating and fasting.

The focus is more on the times of day you eat more so than what you eat and for a defined period of time.

The science behind it is less than exciting (e.g. no monsters or dinosaurs), but if you’re interested in the physiological mechanisms behind it check out this article from Harvard Medical School.

Here’s what I uncovered in my research*… 

1.Some studies show that fasting on alternate days versus eating less every day worked equally well for weight loss. Not surprisingly,  “people struggled” on the non-food days (duh), making it unlikely this plan would work long term. 

2. IF strategies vary, and some are easier to follow than others. One approach called “early time-restricted feeding” involving eating within an early eight-hour period seemed to benefit metabolism and improve a number of health conditions of the group (e.g. lower blood pressure) — but the the study showed the group maintained their weight and did not lose.

3. Another approach called the 5:2 plan aims at eating 500 calories a day of fat or protein two days a week and eating healthy food the other five. Proponents say you can “expect to feel hungry and irritable” with headaches for the first few weeks. Oh, joy.

4. Overall, it appears Intermittent fasting is not a magic cure. Plus, long-term human data is still needed before it’s deemed helpful. 

For another opinion, I asked my friend and registered dietitian, Amy Goodson, MS, RD, , for her thoughts…

“While IF does provoke weight loss, it tends to be harder to follow long term,” verifies Goodson. “Plus, the fasting phase can set you up for fatigue and then possibly bingeing once it’s time to eat. For many women, eating more often helps them maintain blood sugar and energy levels making them less apt to crave junk food or overeat.”

Goodson suggests a compromise by eating a light dinner earlier and skipping the evening snack, a practice to which I attribute to my own 15-lb weight loss.

In summary, eating a light dinner and skipping a nighttime snack (see posts below on how-to) is a healthy compromise that won’t leave you ravenous and may help you drop a few pounds.

My apologies if you were looking for a eureka! moment. That happens only in the movies. 

What are YOUR thoughts? Have you tried a fast of some kind and what happened? Let me know in the comments section below…

Other posts you may enjoy:

 3 Ways to crush cravings – without willpower

17 fat-burning snacks to eat before and after your workout

The secret to creating lifelong habits no one tells you

Got questions about the Ageless Army or coaching? Send me an email at linda@lindamelone.com and I’m happy to help!

Your Ageless Body Coach,

 

*(NOTE: always check with your doctor before trying any extreme diet, as certain health issues may put you at risk for serious medical problems.)

About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Denise says

Hello Linda!

Your IF posting is quite timely. I returned to IF at the beginning of the week in preparation for my anniversary cruise to Bermuda. I simply stop eating around 8 p.m. I start my morning with decaf with a splash of Stevia and creamer, along with a bottle of water and a can of Zevia. If I can get past the 10:00 a.m. hurdle, I’m golden!! I then eat (mostly) sensible during my feeding window from noon to 8 p.m. I eat this way in conjunction with a mostly plant based diet. I have less bloat and more energy throughout the day. I basically skip breakfast but on days that I’m really ravenous, I eat something. Prolonged deprivation is not a part of my vocabulary.

Thanks for all of your solid information. Keep up the great work!!

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Your modified approach sounds like a good plan!

    Reply
Louise says

I have started IF and it is not that bad for me. I have found that food is not all that important to me…and was previously binging out of boredom or cravings. Did a three day fast and it was a way to curb my chocolate craving. Oft times I will start my fast in the evening and extend it till noon the next day and then eat “normal”.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    It’s great that IF helped you identify you were eating out of cravings and boredom, Louise!

    Reply
cindy says

On July 9th I started IF following a program based on Dr. Joseph Mercolas 2 books-Fat for Fuel and Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook . I’m 58 and for the last 10 years I have been fighting an uphill battle with hormonal weight gain and losing fat. I went to a weight loss specialist, a holistic doctor, I weight train(doing that for the last 20 years), interval train, you name it-I’ve done it and absolutely nothing worked. Since I started the Ketogenic diet I am truly amazed on the energy level, mental clarity and yes-the FAT LOSS on this program. I highly recommend it- its far superior to Paleo and Atkins- Dr. Mercola’s books explain why. More importantly-IT WORKS! And as an added benefit-my hot flashes have diminished 90%-who new!

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Hey Cindy! I’ve heard both good and bad about the keto diet and do not promote it myself for a number of reasons. But I’m glad you found something that worked for you.

    Reply
Jan says

I have been doing IF for a few months. I stop eating anything with calories about 6pm and walk for about 1 hour the next morning early. I have a cup of coffee with some Mxt oil in it. Then about 9 am I eat a Keto diet b’fast.

This works well for me. Everyone is different.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    I like the idea of eating only within an 8-hour window, as you do. It’s basically what I do, too. 🙂 Glad you found what works for you!

    Reply
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