With a New Year, comes New Resolutions. According to a 2016 Nielson survey, the top two US New Year’s resolutions are staying fit and healthy (36 percent) and losing weight (32 percent). Let’s capitalize on the New Year’s renewed level of motivation and try something different to jump start weight loss.
How about intermittent fasting, or IF? This is a term for an eating pattern, not a diet, that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It does not address which foods to eat but rather when to eat.
People are using IF to lose weight, improve health and simplify their lifestyle. There are several different methods of IF in practice today. All of them split the day or week into “eating periods” and “fasting periods” During fasting periods, you eat either very little or nothing at all.
But before I can recommend something, I feel obligated to try it, which I did. I tried the method of fasting for 24 hours once a week over two weeks and sure enough I lost 5 pounds. It provided quick results, which were very rewarding. Another method to try, and the most popular method of fasting, is the Leangains protocol or the 16/8 method. It involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours such as 1 to 9 p.m. I have not tried this method but plan to.
But what I found most interesting is the research on how IF affects your cells and hormones. Here is my brief summary of four changes that occur in your body when you fast:
Human Growth Hormone: the levels of growth hormone can increase as much as five-fold when you fast. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. This in turn makes stored body fat more accessible when insulin levels are low.
Cellular Repair: The cellular repair process is initiated when cells have fasted. This includes a removal of old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. It’s a type of cellular cleansing.
Gene Expression: The beneficial effects of fasting extend to longevity and protection against disease. Studies have demonstrated a protection factor for normal cells and a decrease in the production of carcinogens resulting from the changes in the function of genes.
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of fasting.
However, weight loss is the most common reason that people try IF. In addition to lower insulin and increased human growth hormone levels, it increases release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine. And according to several studies, because of these changes in hormones, IF actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14 percent. (Am J Physio 1990; Am J Clin Nutr 2000). However, the main reason it works for weight loss is that it helps you eat less calories overall. So when combined with a slight increase in metabolism, IF results in a very effective way to loose weight.
Lastly, the biggest surprise I discovered while conducting my own IF sessions, was the noticeable impact on simplifying my life. Eating healthy is what I preach and practice daily. But let’s be honest, it can be hard and time consuming in an already overcrowded schedule. One of the main obstacles is all the work required to plan, shop and cook healthy meals.
As odd as it may sound, I love shopping in multiple grocery stores. I have ingredients in each of them that I prefer. I receive several food, health and cooking magazines all of which I take time to review regularly. I have various recipe apps on my iPhone and perusing different recipes is a favorite weekly activity. I find cooking relaxing and therefore I don’t rush it. Often, I listen to music and cook until the perfect dish is completed.
But alas, all of this pleasure takes time, and more time. So when I found myself faced with fewer meals to plan, cook and clean up after, I discovered additional hours in the day. It was delightful.
Although one approach does not fit all in the quest to achieve body weight control, IF can be a dietary strategy for consideration. Ultimately it must be a method that is best for you and easiest to sustain for your lifestyle. Jump starting weight loss while improving one’s health and simplifying your life at the same time, seems like a good way to begin 2017.
If you try IF, feel free to send an email and let me know how it worked for you. Tate4foodandfitness@verizon.net.