Let’s be honest with ourselves – ever since the lockdown began and most of us have been confined to our homes, our waistlines have taken the liberty to, uh, grow healthily. Not that that’s a bad thing (because seriously, there isn’t much that we can do within the four walls of our houses), but those extra kilos might just end up being a problem in the long run. So if you’re looking to control your eating habits in this period, may we suggest – intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a newly growing diet regime that has been proven to be pretty effective. Now, it is a known fact that diets don’t work for everyone and that they can be written in stone at times. But with IF, you have a lot of flexibility in choosing not just what you eat, but when you eat it too. It is precisely this nature of the regime that has made it popular between its users.
Intermittent means something that occurs in irregular or disconnected intervals of time. So the simple explanation of IF is that you eat for certain periods of time, and then fast for the rest of the time. You have the freedom to choose these periods as per your liking and capacity. There are some common suggestions that have been proved to be effective:
- 16:8 method: You can practice dieting on a daily basis by dividing your day as: 8 consecutive hours of eating and 16 consecutive hours of fasting. It is suggested that you eat between 12 pm to 8 pm and then fast until mid-day of the next day.
- Alternate day fasting: Exactly like the name suggests, you eat for one day and then fast on the next in a week.
- 5:2 diet: If not alternate, you can choose 2 non-consecutive days of the week to fast and eat on the remaining 5 days.
- Weekly one-day fasting: You fast rigorously on any one day of the week, staying on just water.
In IF, it’s up to you to make the rules. As you start, you can make your own timetable for your eating and fasting periods. With practice, you will eventually learn to fast for longer periods of time and control your hunger pangs. Something to remember about the “fasting” period in this diet regime is that it’s not about starving yourself completely. On the fasting days, you should eat a total of 500-600 calories. On your “eating” days, there is no such limit on calories.
However, absence of a limit doesn’t mean that you gorge on unhealthy foods! You can slowly start to switch to healthier foods that will help you lose weight with IF. Here are some foods you can include in your diet: chicken breast, greek yoghurt, fish, tofu, peas, beans, apples, cherries, pears, oranges, watermelon and lots of green vegetables. Homemade meals are the best way to go. Food to avoid are obviously the ones containing lots of sugar or salt or are fried.
Let’s move on to talking about the benefits of IF. Of course, the main goal is weight loss. With our weight under control, we reduce our risk to other metabolic diseases. When you couple IF with regular exercise, you truly reap its benefits. IF can help improve your lipid profile, reduce blood pressure, increase insulin resistance in diabetic patients, and stabilize cardiac risk factors and inflammatory markers. It offers a lot more than just weight loss!
That being said, IF should not be started without consulting a doctor first. While young, healthy adults are okay to start this diet regime, there are certain categories of patients that should proceed with caution. These include: pregnant women, elderly people, growing children, people with eating disorders, or those who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury. We repeat once again: never start a diet regime without consulting your doctor first.
The final verdict seems to be in favour of trying intermittent fasting. Just remember that the goal is to lose weight for your own health, and not to conform to any societal standards. Have fun trying something new and exercising to stay fit. Learn new recipes that you can share with your family and friends. Always stay cautious and alert to anything out of the ordinary reactions that your body might give. Remember to have your health check-ups regularly and stay physically and mentally fit!
1. Grajower MM, et al.Clinical Management of Intermittent Fasting in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus. Nutrients. 2019;11:873.
2. Intermittent Fasting: Foods to Eat and Avoid. Available at: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/intermittent-fasting-foods-to-eat-and-avoid. Accessed on 23 September 2020.
3. Abeyasekera KN. Benefits of Intermittent Fasting: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials.