One of the biggest problems in society today, as I see it, is that everyone wants to get things done as soon as possible. Whether that be finishing school, moving out or losing weight, we tend to burn ourselves out rushing through life and forgetting to enjoy the small victories along the way. Losing weight isn’t easy, but the unrealistic promotion of fad diets makes it seem like it should be. One of the trendiest fad diets promoted and used today is intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves eating patterns where you consume all of your meals for the day within a specific timeframe (typically eight hours) followed by a 16-hour fast. Since there is no set timeline of when people should be eating or fasting, individuals who follow this diet choose the times that work best for them. For example, if someone is not a morning person and typically doesn’t eat breakfast, they can choose to have their first meal at noon and consume the rest of their meals within the eight-hour window. According to an article published on HealthLine titled “Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginners Guide” written by Kris Gunnar, the idea behind this latest fad diet is that you will lose a significant amount of body weight from fasting due to being in a caloric deficit, increased levels of human growth hormone (HGH) promoting fat loss and muscle gain, improved insulin sensitivity allowing stored body fat to become more accessible and a metabolism boost. Sounds easy right?
The problems that can arise from intermittent fasting are important to consider before deciding whether or not to try this weight-loss method. One of the biggest concerns with this diet is restricting to only eating at certain times throughout the day. While this may not be an issue for everyone, those who have a poor relationship with their body and/or food will end up ignoring their hunger cues to be able to stay in their eight-hour window; this can lead to an obsession with mealtimes. Another issue with intermittent fasting involves the lack of guidance when it comes to the dietary changes that should be made when following this diet. Obviously, there is some mention about following a “well-balanced diet” when you research the topic. However, since it is targeting an audience that is most likely unfamiliar with nutrition and are eager to lose weight, this can be very confusing.
People attempting to lose weight need to be properly informed about what foods will promote health and how they can incorporate these foods into their diet without limiting some of their favorite foods. It’s also important to emphasize that there is no need to cut out foods that are seen as “bad” foods like ice cream, chocolate and candy, amongst many others. If people begin to feel like they are cutting too many things out, their eight-hour eating period could turn into an eight- or more-hour binge period. This needs to be avoided at all costs for those who have a negative relationship with food, as this will only make matters worse. An article published by Anahad O’Connor in the New York Times looked at how using this weight-loss method actually resulted in a greater loss of muscle mass, rather than fat mass in individuals over a three-month period. Muscle mass is important for bone health, chronic disease prevention, faster metabolism and is even linked to lower mortality. I found this very interesting, as intermittent fasting is typically promoted as an effective way to boost ones’ metabolism; however, if too much muscle mass is lost, the opposite is occurring.
Overall, intermittent fasting is a relatively newer fad diet and because of this, there is not a significant amount of research showing the long-term effects it has on both physical and mental health status. With that being said, losing weight should not and cannot be a quick process. It takes time to develop healthy habits, and this needs to be the main goal. For certain people, this diet can lead to many disordered eating habits, as well as adverse health effects. For those who are interested in intermittent fasting, it is important for them to conduct a considerable amount of research before deciding whether or not it is the right approach for them. It is also important to know when to stop dieting if it starts feeling like it’s negatively impacting your life. As I have mentioned before, losing weight is not easy and changing your dietary habits is just as challenging. Remember to take this process day by day, be kind to yourself and ALWAYS celebrate the small victories!
If you are interested in learning more about how to follow a health-promoting lifestyle, I recommend visiting these websites:
** I am not a nutrition professional **
Dayna Vacca is a fourth-year Nutrition and Dietetics major. DV885940@wcupa.edu