Why would you ever want to starve yourself by choice? Is there a good reason you should also give it a crack? Here are the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
If you’ve ever stumbled upon the intermittent fasting trend, you’ve probably had this thought.
Yet despite the fact that this style of eating seems so obviously restrictive, it’s all the rage right now.
So perhaps you are a little bit curious about intermittent fasting. Maybe you’ve even thought about trying it (especially if a friend or colleague has just lost loads of weight on it!)
To help quench your curiosity, I’ve set the record straight on the intermittent fasting diet trend. Here’s what you need to know, as well as the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
Put simply, intermittent fasting is when you cycle through periods of eating and not eating.
There are a couple of different ways people choose to do this. Some people will fast for a couple of days (for example, Monday and Tuesday), then eat normally for the rest of the week.
However, the most common version is when you have a set period within which you’ll have your meals (for example, between 12 pm to 8 pm) and you don’t eat outside the confines of that.
The two most popular intermittent fasting protocols are 16:8 (where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8) and the 5:2 diet, where you restrict to 500-600 calories per day.
Another version is Eat-Stop-Eat, where once or twice a week, a 24-hour fast where you don’t eat anything from dinner until dinnertime the next day.
Now, let’s get into the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Unsurprisingly, the most popular and well-publicised benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss.
Thus the current obsession with it.
But beyond that, other reported benefits of intermittent fasting are improved mental clarity and focus, increased energy levels and reduced blood cholesterol levels.
Why does intermittent fasting lead to weight loss?
Provided you don’t binge on 25 packets of chips during your allocated meal times, you’re inevitably going to end up consuming fewer calories than usual, which leads to weight loss.
Also helping things along is the fact that if you fast for long enough, it may push your body into the metabolic state of ketosis.
This is when your body’s fuel source switches from glucose (because it doesn’t have enough coming in) and starts burning fat. It’s likely that this process accounts for the other benefits people are reporting (for example, mental clarity).
Related poddy episode: What’s the go with keto?
Does intermittent fasting work?
Intermittent fasting does work.
There are loads of studies to suggest that fasting can be effective for your health and losing weight.
And now heaps of doctors are recommending it to patients.
But the thing is that ALL diets work. Until they don’t work. Until you realise that you don’t want to intermittently fast for the rest of your life.
Cons of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting – like all diets – only works while you’re following it. (Check out this blog post: What’s the Best Diet to Lose Weight?)
Plenty of research shows that most people (an estimated 95% of people) don’t stick to diets, and end up gaining more weight than lost.
So yes, it works – but how long can you really maintain it?
And considering that weight cycling (that’s when your weight goes up and down a lot) has been shown to be worse for you than being overweight, is it better not to try intermittent fasting at all?
Should you try intermittent fasting?
Only if you think you can live like this for the rest of your life.
I’m being serious.
Most people think: “I’ll just lose weight by intermittent fasting and then I’ll transition to ‘general healthy eating”.
I’m so sorry to say it but this isn’t going to work.
When you deprive yourself of food, going back to just ‘eating everything in moderation’ is even tougher because now you feel deprived and cravings are most likely stronger.
If the ‘general healthy eating’ strategy was going well, then you wouldn’t need to try intermittent fasting in the first place.
Jenna, my wonderful podcast co-host, was on her diet her whole life. She always believed that dieting and weight loss would bring her happiness, so it was the biggest surprise when she discovered that dieting was the only thing standing in her way.
In 2021 she transformed her relationship with food and shared her story on No Wellness Wankery.
There is always going to be something gained from hearing another person’s story. Tips, advice, a different perspective or even just knowing that you aren’t alone.
So I’d love for you to listen to this episode.
End dieting forever
Instead of intermittent fasting, why not get serious about creating a really healthy ‘general healthy eating’ now – and skip the middle man, or woman?
One of the biggest concerns about intermittent fasting is that it’s dangerous. However, people have been intermittent fasting for centuries with no serious health complications.
But does that mean you should try intermittent fasting? Hell no! Walking on a bed of lego pieces or having a pap smear every day for the rest of your life (probably) won’t kill you, but does that mean you want to do it? Because chances are, it would be a similar level of discomfort.
Intermittent fasting is still a highly restrictive way of eating. It can wreak havoc on your social life (“Oh, you want to go to brunch? Sure, but I can only go after 2 pm!”) and lead to obsessive thoughts about food.
Plus, it can make you hangry during those periods when you’re not eating, and nobody wants to deal with that!
If you’re someone who is never hungry for breakfast or likes to have dinner really early then hey, maybe intermittent fasting would work for you. You may already be doing it without knowing!
But if it feels like something that’s going to be a punish to fit into your lifestyle, chances are you won’t stick to it for more than a few weeks.
And with this kind of thing, you really need to stick to it long-term to see any kind of lasting change — otherwise, the second you stop you’ll most likely put the weight back on, and then some.
Unless you want to fast periodically for the rest of your life, this is yet another diet trend best left on the shelf.
Want to eat healthily without dieting or obsessing over food?