Thank you to all of you who voted in the Intermittent Fasting poll. To see the results, or vote yourself, you can find the poll here.
After reviewing the results, I have a clearer picture of my audience’s stance on this topic, and I really appreciate it.
While the idea of caloric restriction has been around for some time, I most recently heard about this idea of intermittent fasting when listening to the Dude, Where’s My Health?! podcast. Clark’s guest for this episode was Brad Pilon, deemed an expert on intermittent fasting. After some digging on my end, I fear I’ve come up short on the scientific side of things. I was able to find a few small studies boasting fasting’s success for weight loss in obese subjects, but nothing overwhelming. To be fair, I was able to find NO scientific evidence concluding that intermittent fasting is definitely correlated with negative effects. Through my limited research, I feel I can conclude that more research must be done in the area to draw a true and valid conclusion with which those in the nutrition sciences can be confident. So, I would like to put the science aside for a moment, and discuss some other aspects of fasting.
I think we’ve all heard it before, and it’s hard to disagree: “America needs to put down the fork.” This is a fair statement, seeing as how, per the most recent CDC data, more than one-third of Americans are obese. That number is pretty astounding. Because weight loss and maintenance truly is essentially about calories in vs. calories out, it stands to reason that Americans need to eat less. But, there are ways of decreasing caloric intake without feeling like your body is heading into starvation.
While the idea that intermittent fasting asserts may sound like a solid idea to some (eat normal dinner, followed by no breakfast or lunch, followed by a normal dinner, over a 24 hour period 1 time per week [there are variations on this]), there is a bubble I just cannot refrain from bursting (sorry). For most of us, if we go all day without eating, it is highly unlikely that we will have the will power, or the level blood glucose, to sit down at the dinner table and make a nutritious, or “normal” choice, as with such high levels of hunger, our bodies’ ultimate preoccupation is receiving calories in any form available.
The relationship that most Americans (and many others) currently have with food, the wonderful sustenance that is meant to carry us through our days, is so tormented. This is in large part due to the two extremes of dieting we are receiving at all times: one minute we are told to over-consume until moving is compromised, while the next, we are told that if we don’t cut out whatever food group is being demonized at that particular moment we should be ashamed. Everyone is looking for the hot tip, the magic pill, behavior, superfood, or devil ingredient to avoid, that will grant them the weight loss or health goal they have been wishing for, when the answer really is much simpler than it is presented to be (in theory).
The truth is, we have each been born with a major untapped resource–the incredible entity that is the human body! Our bodies have come equipped with a number of organs designed to detoxify us and regulate hunger, along with many other ridiculously awesome functions. All we need to do to allow our bodies to do their thing is eat a moderate and balanced diet, incorporating variety wherever possible. For a healthy individual, there’s no need to cut out entire food groups, no need to initiate a juice cleanse, and certainly no need to go without food for large windows of time (from what I have read, this can be anywhere from 16 to 24 hours).
Here is the bottom line… When you choose a dietary lifestyle, ask yourself this question: Can I do this for the REST of my life? Be honest. If the answer is truly a resounding “YES,” more power to ya. But if your approach is to do this for now, and go back to “normal eating” after a certain point, or if you foresee yourself dreading every fast day as it quickly approaches, I urge you to reconsider.
Life is short. Don’t waste it being unhappy. Just eat less, and move more (although I know this is more challenging than it sounds, I also KNOW that YOU absolutely can do it). Listen to your body, give it what it’s asking for (what it’s TRULY asking for–different than just a craving, story for another time) as often as possible. Grant it that, and it will return the favor by functioning optimally, allowing you to reach your health goals.
Balance. Variety. Moderation. THAT IS THE SECRET. Now go tell your friends. And enjoy today.