THE PRO’S AND CON’S OF INTERMITTENT FASTING

With all there is out there on the benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s important to evaluate it from all different angles.  Let’s consider both the pro’s and con’s.


BY: LINDSEY KANE, MS, RD, LDN

As the latest health fad requiring individuals to go through long periods of extreme food restriction, intermittent fasting (IF) requires careful consideration before jumping in. To start on a positive note, there are certainly valuable lessons to learn from IF, and that’s the relationship between food and time.

Today, eating has become a ‘round-the-clock activity, snacking our way from one meal to the next.  A better understanding of how your food choices, meal timing, and eating frequency interact can help guide you towards a healthier, more personalized eating pattern.  

Here’s how:

THE PRO’S

Food Stamina

Pay attention to the composition of your meals, and note which foods provide long staying power versus which foods provide quick bursts of energy followed by abrupt crashes.

Pace Yourself

Everyone is different.  One person may function better on three square meals per day, while another may benefit from 4-6 smaller meals.  Get to know the ideal meal structure that supports your personal digestive pace

Sneaky Hours

Keep track of not just when you eat, but why you are eating.  You’ll be surprised to find that you tend to repeatedly snack out of boredom or emotion during certain times of the day (mostly mid to late afternoon, and in the evening).  Anticipate these hours of the day by arming yourself with non-edible antidotes for boredom or stress, such as calling a friend, or going for a walk.  

Eating Curfew

Most of our late night eating involves mindlessly munching on nutrient deplete nonsense, completely out of boredom or fatigue.  Take a play out of the IF playbook and aim to cap all food intake at least 2 hours before bed.

Get into a groove

Once you identify your ideal meal timing and frequency, form a daily routine that follows this eating pattern. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.  The structure and consistency not only make healthy living easier, but it’s also the key to lifelong maintenance.  

But let’s face it, restriction isn’t always sustainable, and there are plenty of reasons that IF just doesn’t cut it in the health department.

Here’s why:

THE CON’S

Skipping Meals

Fasting requires skipping meals, which can induce hypoglycemia, ketogenesis, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, hunger, and a slowed metabolism.   

Dysfunctional Eating

Extreme restriction during fasting promotes mindless and uncontrollable binge eating on feeding days, creating an unhealthy “all or nothing”, yo-yo approach to eating.

Quantity over Quality

With so much focus on meal timing, IF tends to lose sight of what’s most important: the quality of your food.  The emphasis becomes more about when you eat rather than what you eat.

Calorie Restriction in Disguise

Fasting involves significant calorie restriction which is associated with slower metabolism, malnutrition, disordered eating, and unsustainable weight loss followed by a significant relapse of weight gain.

Impractical, & Practically Impossible

IF requires resisting human nature and ignoring our instinct to eat in response to hunger, to gain energy, to be social, and to thrive. Following an IF regime for a lifetime is not only unenjoyable and illogical, it’s completely unrealistic.  A true health solution is one that yields lasting results in a practical, reasonable, and realistic manner.  

A Flawed Definition of “Health”

IF’s claim to fame is its ability to support weight loss, reduce risk of chronic disease, and boost longevity.  But since when is the definition of health merely the absence of disease, or a number on the scale, or the length of your life?  True health isn’t about body weight, it’s about nourishing your body with an abundance of nutrients that empowers you to shine.  It’s not just about the absence of disease, but about optimizing well-being.  It’s not just about living a long life, but living a vibrant, rich, and fulfilling life.  

Malnutrition, deprivation, and starvation, will never be a formula that cultivates true health.

When it comes to IF, the jury is still out.  But rather than wait around for stronger and more conclusive evidence, take advantage of the strategies already proven to optimize health and well-being:

Eat real food. Sleep. Hydrate. Move. Relax. And, be mindful.

Not only is this formula logical, practical and enjoyable, it’s also effective and science-backed.  Go out there and enjoy life!

Adapted from the original article.

Lindsey Kane, MS, RD, LDN is a San Francisco-based Registered Dietitian helping others live a stress-free, balanced, and thriving life. By getting to know her clients inside and out, Lindsey identifies the opportunities within their everyday lifestyle to integrate subtle changes that create lasting, impactful results. Learn more at Bite For Change!

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