Growing up, I was an active kid—but that doesn’t mean I was healthy. I wasn’t necessarily obese, but I was what I’d call thick, which made me seriously struggle with body image.

I’d eat traditional southern cornbread and drink sweet tea (and opting for fast food in between), but I felt like my lifestyle worked well enough for me—until I contracted a rare (but temporary) illness that damaged the nerves in my leg. My condition made it impossible to walk, much less exercise.

The pounds piled on quickly after that—add in the fact that I had two kids during that time period, and at 25 years old and 220 pounds, I barely recognized my body.

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My turning point came one day when I looked in the mirror and actually said out loud, ‘Girl, what the heck are you doing to yourself?’

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It’s not just that I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror—it’s that I didn’t feel like myself, either. I’m a dancer, so I couldn’t move the way I wanted to or do half of the things I used to—and the fact that I was responsible for my own poor health made it even worse.

One of the first realizations I had when I decided to lose weight was that I was going to have to ditch the idea of the food pyramid (turns out that carb-based comfort food is about as far from healthy as you can get).

I started by cutting out fast food—which meant cooking more at home.

I ditched Starbucks, too, as well as any sweets; instead, I focused on real, whole foods—chicken, vegetables, whole grains. I also cut out soda and focused mainly on water (making an exception for the occasional mimosa).

After a few months of that, I stopped drinking alcohol, along with dairy, and shortly after that, I started intermittent fasting (a.k.a., eating during a specific eight-hour period, and fasting for the remaining 16 hours). Currently, I follow a vegetarian and dairy-free diet—here’s what a typical day of eating looks like for me:

  • Morning: Since I’m fasting, I’ll usually just have water, Arbone fizz sticks, or tea.
  • Meal 1: I break my fast at noon with a protein smoothie bowl or avocado toast with poached eggs.
  • Snack: Hardboiled eggs with cajun seasoning sprinkled on top is a go-to.
  • Meal 2: I’ll have something like black bean patties and steamed vegetables.
  • Snack: Peanut butter and apple slices—I typically begin fasting at 8 p.m. each night.

After changing my diet, I also discovered my first fitness crush: cycling.

Spin class was perfect for me because the room was dark, so nobody could see me. Being so overweight, I felt way more comfortable sitting on a bike in a dark room where I didn’t really have to move, just pedal.

At first, it was hard enough just to do that (I’d even fake turning the knob when the instructor told us to add resistance). But, when I kept coming back week after week, I started to see my body transform as I got stronger.

Over the next few years, I discovered many more group fitness classes I loved—dancing, yoga, barre, and kettlebells, just to name a few—and realized I had a passion for fitness. I decided to start teaching my own classes at a local gym.

Even though I was eating right and exercising, losing weight still didn’t come easily.

My weight loss wasn’t fast—I was dropping pounds steadily but very slowly. Dealing with this was the hardest part, and trying to find the motivation to keep going when my patience was wearing thin was so difficult.

But the more I exercised and ate right, the better I felt, and I finally realized that I didn’t have to lose five pounds a week to be improving my health (and in fact, it was probably better that I wasn’t!). It took me three years, but by 2015, I had lost 90 pounds.

I was even surprised to discover that the place I’d once been deathly afraid of—the gym—had become my happy place! Eventually, I got my personal training certification and started working in gyms full time. I even met my husband at a gym!

Still, I’ll never forget how it felt being that young, overweight girl who was intimated by the gym and didn’t know anything about nutrition. I always look around for others who are feeling that same way and try to be a support system for them. My life’s mission is to help people believe in themselves and their goals, like I learned to believe in myself.

Oh, and I still have sweet tea and cornbread sometimes—you can take the girl out of Mississippi, but you can’t take the delicious Southern food away from the girl. It’s just that now it’s the occasional splurge instead of my standard dinner.

Cecily Anne Clark-Ganheart’s weight had fluctuated for most of her adult life. But when she reached an all-time high of 264 pounds after the birth of her second son in 2014, she knew she had to win the battle with the scale once and for all. Traditional calorie counting helped her lose around 35 pounds, but her efforts plateaued, so she decided to give intermittent fasting (IF) a try.

Clark-Ganheart knew IF was a trendy way to lose weight, but as a physician (she’s an OB/GYN) the physiologic mechanisms of fasting just made sense. “Insulin plays a role in weight regulation, but frequent eating or grazing can cause insulin to become dysfunctional. That can lead to insulin resistance, which makes it difficult to burn stored fat,” she says. “When you’re not eating, insulin levels decrease. That can restore insulin sensitivity and encourage the body to access stored fat for fuel.”

Learn More About Intermittent Fasting

Hopeful that limiting her eating hours would get her blood sugar under control and kick her body into fat-burning mode, Clark-Ganheart began fasting for 18 hours each day. Most days she’d start eating around 10 or 11 a.m. and aim to finish up by 5 p.m. Eighteen months later, she had lost a whopping 55 pounds—and has managed to keep it off ever since. She also managed to reverse her prediabetes and bring down her high blood pressure—not to mention find more energy to keep up with her active sons.

Here’s a look at how she did it—and her advice for making intermittent fasting to work for you.

She eats meals, not snacks

Clark-Ganheart sticks with a six-hour eating window most days, but she doesn’t take that period as permission to eat nonstop. “In that time period I’ll have two discrete meals, and I try not to graze,” she says. Sticking mostly with lower-carb fare, she’ll enjoy a spinach omelet, cheese with berries, or salmon, chicken, or grass-fed meat (from a local farm) with veggies.

100 calories from broccoli is a better health choice than 100 calories from a donut.

She eats real food and keeps sugar to a minimum

Eating for just a few hours out of the day doesn’t mean Clark-Ganheart chows down on whatever she wants either. “You still need that nutrition component, so focus on the quality of your foods,” she says. “A hundred calories from broccoli is a better health choice than 100 calories from a donut, even if it’s a gluten-free donut.”

Before trying fasting, Clark-Ganheart would have sugary bottled smoothies for breakfast and sip two or three diet sodas throughout the workday. “My actual meals weren’t horrible, but all of the beverages and added sugars, whether real or artificial, added up,” she says. These days she steers clear of sugary drinks (and snacks) and makes the most of her food at home. If she wants a sweet treat, she’ll enjoy her favorite pineapple slush bubble tea, just once or twice a month.

Courtesy of Cecily Anne Clark-Ganheart

She keeps her fasting window flexible

“I try to vary it during the week because I think if you do anything the same way all the time your body starts to get used to it and adjust,” Clark-Ganheart says. On most weekdays, she’ll fast for 18 hours and eat for six, but on the weekends. she might just fast for 16 hours and eat for eight—following the 16:8 intermittent fasting method. And if she needs to break her fasting window early for a special occasion or social event, she’ll start fasting earlier the next day to make up the difference—or even do a 24-hour fast. “The great thing about IF is you can adjust for periods of true feasting,” she says.

She finds non-food ways to connect

A limited eating window means that Clark-Ganheart is often fasting when her family sits down to dinner. But she doesn’t let her diet keep her from missing out. “I still sit at the table and enjoy conversation with them,” she says. “We still make it family time, but I focus on the interaction rather than the food.”

If I’m going to fast through lunch, I’ll go for a 30-minute jog.

She gets support from likeminded eaters

Clark-Ganheart uses the LIFE Fasting Tracker to keep an eye on her eating windows and fasting times. But she really loves it because it’s a social app that keeps her connected with fellow fasters. “It’s nice to have a group of people with the same kinds of goals,” she says. When some of her family members decided to give IF a try, they created their own social circle on the app so they could share their progress and keep each other motivated. And she blogs about her fasting experience to share what she’s learned with others.

Courtesy of Cecily Anne Clark-Ganheart

She ignores the naysayers

Clark-Ganheart never expected that others would notice when she was (or wasn’t) eating. “But I was skipping lunch at work, and people were making comments that I don’t eat,” she says. Eventually she got tired of trying to explain her dietary choices, especially to co-workers who disagreed with them. Now she bypasses the uncomfortable conversations by using her lunch hour to do other things. “If I’m going to fast through lunch, I’ll go for a 30-minute jog,” she says.

She aims for consistency

Not everyone can start out fasting for 16 or 18 hours at a time—and that’s OK. Instead of worrying about whether your fasting window is long enough, pick a length of time that you know you can stick with. “It’s about doing something you can do 360 out of 365 days a year,” Clark-Ganheart says. “You’re getting the benefits even if your window isn’t as long.” She recommends starting with a 12-hour fasting period and picking one or two days a week to challenge yourself with a 16-hour fast. “Eventually you can link them together,” she says.

Intermittent Fasting 16:8 amazon.com $10.95 The Complete Guide to Fasting Victory Belt Publishing amazon.com $20.85 The Dubrow Diet: Interval Eating to Lose Weight and Feel Ageless amazon.com $16.85 The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer Atria Books amazon.com $13.90

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Marygrace Taylor Marygrace Taylor is a health and wellness writer for Prevention, Parade, Women’s Health, Redbook, and others.

The Diet This Woman Credits for Her 65-Pound Weight Loss

This story originally appeared on Health.com by Blake Bakkila.

Janielle Wright is known on social media for posting style and beauty looks. But these days, the 28-year-old influencer is posting more makeup-free gym selfies than cat eyes. On Sunday, she showed off the progress she’s made on her weight loss journey-she’s dropped 65 pounds since January 1. (Related: The Healthiest Way to Do Intermittent Fasting, According to a Nutritionist)

“DONE NATURALLY,” she wrote, celebrating her transformation. “Get up and make a change…make it happen!”

Wright tells Health how her journey got started. She made a New Year’s resolution to lose 100 pounds by the end of the year, motivated to get healthier by her 3-year-old daughter, Novah.

“I was 337 pounds and feared that I wouldn’t live long enough for me to see her tie her shoes,” she says. “I wanted to be better for her and I wanted to live for her.”

In a YouTube video where she details her weight-loss story for fans, she also reflected on her “before.”

To reach her goal, Wright went on a low-carb diet consisting of veggies and lean protein, and she currently eats plenty of foods containing healthy fats, like salmon and tuna.

She’s also committed to intermittent fasting, a diet strategy that has people cycling between periods of regular eating and then fasting or severely restricting their caloric intake. While fasting for long periods is never a good idea for weight loss, some research shows that intermittent fasting can help people reach their target weight and reduce disease risk.

Wright started with a 16-hour fasting period and 8-hour eating window, but she also does the 20/4 method, which involves a shorter, 4-hour eating period. (Related: 11 Ways to Hate the Treadmill Less)

“When I break my fast it’s usually with two or three egg whites with two pieces of bacon and sausage, fruit, spinach salad, baked chicken,” she says, telling Health her favorite foods.

Wright also began using a treadmill, and she now power walks for 45 minutes on a high incline. She follows up her workout with a 25-minute HIIT routine. Since January, she’s worked out every day, Monday through Saturday, and takes Sunday off. She now consistently exercises for 70 minutes every day, six days per week. (Related: Here’s What a Perfectly Balanced Week of Workouts Looks Like)

In the YouTube video, Wright was asked how she finds time to eat healthy and squeeze in a workout nearly every day. “I make sure that I find the time because it’s something important to me and it’s something I want,” she said. “This is my lifestyle now.”

Wright doesn’t drink alcohol, and she hasn’t taken any dietary supplements. With minimal “cheat meals” and faith in her weight-loss journey, she’s proving to be an inspiration to both her little one and her 30,000-plus followers on Instagram.

  • By Health @goodhealth

This post is about longer fasting periods – 24 hours or more – and how to do them.

I arbitrarily divide it at 24 hours but there is no physiologic reason to do so, other than for classification purposes. There is no magic dividing line.

We covered fasting regimens using periods less than 24 hours previously. The longer regimens are generally done less frequently. The major determinant of which fasting regimen is right for you is personal preference. Some people find longer fasts easier and some find them harder.

Most people find that hunger increases into day 2. At that point, hunger peaks and then gradually recedes. This is important knowledge if you are attempting a longer fast (3-7 days). It is easier to continue knowing that hunger gradually gets better.

Disclaimer: While intermittent fasting has many proven benefits, it’s still controversial. A potential danger regards medications, especially for diabetes, where doses often need to be adapted. Discuss any changes in medication and relevant lifestyle changes with your doctor. Full disclaimer

This guide is written for adults with health issues, including obesity, that could benefit from intermittent fasting. Learn more.

People who should NOT fast include those who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people under the age of 18. Learn more.

Around one day long fasting periods

A 24-hour fast lasts from dinner to dinner, or breakfast to breakfast, whatever you like. For example, you would eat dinner at 7 pm and then fast until the next day’s dinner at 7 pm. In this regimen, you do not actually go a full day without eating since you are still taking one meal on that ‘fasting’ day.

This is very similar to the ‘Warrior’ style of fasting although that allows a 4-hour eating window so is technically a 20-hour fasting period.

This period of fasting has several important advantages. First, as a longer duration fast, it tends to be a little more effective. Because you still eat every day, medications that need to be taken with food can still be taken. For example, metformin, or iron supplements or aspirin should all be taken with food and can be taken with the one meal on the fasting day.

The major advantage of 24-hour fasting is that it is easily incorporated into everyday life. Most people, for example will eat dinner with family every single day. As you still eat dinner every day, it is possible to routinely fast for 24 hours without anybody knowing any different, since it really only means skipping breakfast and lunch on that day.

This is particularly easy during a workday. You simply drink your morning cup of joe, but skip breakfast. You work through lunch and get home in time for dinner, again. This saves both time and money. There is no cleanup or cooking for breakfast. You save an hour at lunchtime where you can work, and be home for dinner without anybody even realizing you had fasted for 24 hrs.

For weight loss, in our Intensive Dietary Management program, we’ll recommend this schedule of 24-hour fasting to be done three times per week. Many people find it so simple they will often increase it to five times per week, and sometimes every day. We also recommend this schedule frequently for those people who are older or taking medications.

One of the main worries of fasting is the loss of lean body mass, or muscle. Many studies have been done on this and these fears are largely misplaced, especially for overweight or obese individuals. In one study, fasting every other day did not produce any loss of lean body mass over 22 days, even as body weight steadily decreases.

Another name for a similar fast is OMAD, short for One Meal A Day.

What you need to know about OMAD

The 5:2 diet

A related approach is the 5:2 approach championed by Dr. Michael Mosley, a TV producer and physician best known for popularizing this approach. He appeared on a BBC program called Horizon entitled “Eat, Fast, and Live Longer”.

While there had been some fringe interest generated by pioneers such as Martin Berkhan and Brad Pilon, fasting had not really hit the mainstream yet. With the BBC documentary and the book that soon followed, intense interest, especially in the UK followed.

The book, entitled “The Fast Diet” became a best seller in the UK and soon other follow up books were released. The basic diet was not quite a 24-hour fasting period. Instead, the 5:2 diet consisted of 5 days of normal diet. On the other two days, you could eat a total of 500 calories. Those 500 calories could be taken all in a single meal. If, for example, this is taken as dinner, it would be identical to a 24-hour fast. However, you could spread those 500 calories out into multiple meals instead. These two approaches are quite similar and the difference physiologically, is likely quite minimal.

Alternate daily fasting (ADF)

This is the dietary strategy that has the most research behind it. Much of it was done by Dr. Krista Varady, an assistant professor of nutrition with the University of Illinois – Chicago.

She wrote a book about her strategy in The Every Other Day Diet, although this was not the blockbuster success of the 5:2 diet.

Even though it sounds like you only eat every other day, it is not quite true. You can eat up to 500 calories on fasting days, just like in the 5:2 diet. However, fasting days are done on alternate days rather than 2x per week so it is a more intensive regimen.

The major advantage of this regimen is that more research is available on this regimen than any other. We will consider these studies in more detail in later posts.

Risk of complications of fasts >24 hours

As you progressively go longer in fasting, the benefits accrue faster, but there is also more risk of complications. Since I often deal with type 2 diabetics and hard to treat obesity cases, I tend to gravitate towards longer fasting periods, but you must understand that I always monitor very closely their blood pressures, and blood work and progress. I cannot stress enough, that if you do not feel well at any point, you must stop. You can be hungry, but you should not feel sick.

Another major consideration is that medication must be carefully monitored by a physician. The major problem are diabetic medications because if you take the same dose of medication and do not eat, you will become hypoglycemic and that is very dangerous.

Blood sugars going low is not a complication per se, because that is generally the point of fasting. We want the sugars to go low. However, it does mean that you are overmedicated for that day. You must work very carefully with a physician to adjust medications and monitor sugars. Also, there are certain medications that may cause stomach upset on an empty stomach. NSAIDS, ASA, iron supplements and metformin are the major drugs here.

In general, diabetic medicates and insulin MUST be reduced on the fasting day to avoid hypoglycemia. Exactly how much to reduce it should be overseen by your physician.

I do not recommend anybody who is taking medication to try longer fasts without clearing it with their doctor.

36-hour fasts

A 36-hour fast means that you fast one entire day. You finish dinner on day 1 at 7 pm for instance, and you would skip all meals on day 2, and not eat again until breakfast at 7 am on day 3. So that is a total of 36 hours of fasting.

In our clinic, we will often recommend 36-hours fasts 2-3 times per week for type 2 diabetes. From experience, this longer fasting period produces quicker results and still has good compliance. Since type 2 diabetics have more insulin resistance, the longer fasting period is more effective than more frequent shorter fasting periods, although we have had good results with that too.

42-hour fasts and beyond

We often advise our clients to make a routine out of skipping the morning meal and break their fast around noon hour. This makes it easy to follow a 16:8 fasting period on regular days. After a few days, most people start to feel quite normal just starting their day with a glass of water and their usual cup of coffee.

When you combine that with a 36-hour fast, you get a 42-hour fasting period. For example, you would eat dinner at 6 pm on day 1. You skip all meals on day 2 and eat your regular ‘break fast’ meal at 12:00. This is a total of 42 hours.

For longer duration fasts, we often try NOT to calorie restrict during that eating period. Often, as people get used to fasting, we hear very often that their appetite starts to seriously go down. Not up. Down. They should eat to satiation on their eating day.

There’s a very good reason for this decrease in appetite. As you start to break the insulin resistance cycle, insulin levels start to decrease. In response, hunger is suppressed and total energy expenditure is maintained. So – appetite goes down and TEE stays same or goes up. Remember that chronic everyday caloric restriction strategies produce the opposite. Appetite goes up and TEE goes down, likely leading to inferior results.

You can extend fasts much longer. The world record was 382 days (not recommended!), but there are many people who can fast 7-14 days without difficulty. Indeed the Master Cleanse used by Beyonce is simply a variation of the 7-day fast which allows some concoction of maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemonade.

There are some theoretical benefits of stimulating autophagy, a cellular cleaning process which often requires 48 hours of fasting or more. A state of ketosis may require over 36 hours of fasting to enter. There are many theoretical benefits, including appetite suppression and greater mental clarity. For cancer prevention, some recommend a 7-day fast. Many of these benefits are theoretical and unproven, however. Nevertheless, many have found the 7-day fast much less difficult than one initially imagines.

Earlier

Short fasting regimens – less than 24 hours

More

Intermittent fasting for beginners

Get started video course

In these two short video courses, Dr. Jason Fung guides you into a 24 hour and 7 day fast, respectively. Videos with membership or free trial.

Top videos about fasting

Full IF Course

Earlier with Dr. Jason Fung

The common currency in our bodies is not calories – guess what it is?

Why the first law of thermodynamics is utterly irrelevant

How to fix Your broken metabolism by doing the exact opposite

More with Dr. Fung

Dr. Fung has his own blog at intensivedietarymanagement.com. He is also active on Twitter.

His book The Obesity Code is available on Amazon.

The Pros & Cons of Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

Photo: Africa Studio //

Intermittent fasting for weight loss seems to be one of the hottest diet trends right now. But despite its current popularity, fasting has been used for thousands of years for various purposes. (It can even boost your memory, according to Intermittent Fasting: Not Just for Weight Loss?.) Because of its popularity with celebrities, people have come to believe that intermittent fasting for weight loss has an advantage over traditional diet and exercise approaches. It doesn’t. While it can be a safe weight loss strategy (if done correctly!), it doesn’t actually yield better results than other fat loss methods.

Today, there are a variety of ways that people use intermittent fasting for weight loss. Here are two of the most popular approaches. (And then there’s this diet that fakes intermittent fasting to try to induce the same results.)

24-hour Fasts: This protocol popularized by Brad Pilon in his book Eat, Stop, Eat. (He really introduced me to the science behind intermittent fasting for weight loss). Brad’s approach is very simple-just don’t eat for two non-consecutive 24-hour periods each week.

16/8: This fasting protocol requires you to shorten your ‘eating window’ each day so that you are fasting for 16 hours and eating for eight hours. For many people, this means that breakfast starts at noon or 1 p.m., then they stop eating at 8 or 9 p.m. each day. (Another fasting protocol, the 8-Hour Diet, shortens your eating window to half that.)

Regardless of which protocol you choose, there are three universal components to weight loss that people often overlook when they turn to fasting as a weight loss strategy. Here’s how they could impact your success with intermittent fasting for fat loss:

You need to maintain a calorie deficit.

At its most basic level, intermittent fasting requires prolonged periods of no eating so that when you are eating, you can eat normally and not worry about eating less to create a caloric deficit. (The latter is usually part of an effective weight loss plan.) Here’s a practical example:

Traditional dieting approach: You burn 1750 calories per day, so you eat 1250 calories per day to create a 500/day calorie deficit. Over the course of the week, you will have a total caloric deficit of 3500 calories, which yields approximately 1 pound of weight loss per week.

Intermittent Fasting Approach: You burn 1750 calories per day and, instead of eating less each day, you opt to fast for two non-consecutive 24-hour periods during the week. The rest of the week, you eat as much as your body needs (1750 calories/day). This creates a weekly calorie deficit of 3500 calories, which yields approximately 1 pound of weight loss per week.

You need to exhibit self-control.

Self-control is a must during periods of fasting and not fasting. Calorically rewarding yourself for a successful fast counteracts what you are trying to accomplish. Pilon advises, “When you finish your fast, you need to pretend that your fast never happened. No compensation, no reward, no special way of eating, no special shakes, drinks or pills.” This is harder than it sounds, but crucial to your fasting for weight loss success. Fasting for several hours does not give you permission to eat whatever you want in whatever quantities that you want. (These tips can help teach you to have more self-control around food.)

You need to be consistent.

Consistency is the trump card for long-term weight loss success. You can’t fast for a couple days, then switch to a low carb diet for a week, then go back to fasting or a high carb approach. The people that I have have the most success with fasting for weight loss adopt it as a long-term approach to losing and maintaining their weight-not a quick fix to drop weight fast. The more consistently that you fast (not the duration of the actual fast, but the days, weeks, months that you employ intermittent fasting), the more benefits you will reap. As time goes on, your body will have the time to ramp up the right enzymes and pathways to maximize fat burning during your fasted state. (Take note of The 10 Most Misunderstood Diet and Fitness Strategies.)

So, should you try intermittent fasting for weight loss?

Fasting for weight loss works, but so do a lot of other approaches. No dietary approach is magic. Some research suggests that a very low carbohydrate diet yields the exact same benefits of fasting-without requiring you to stop eating. If you have find yourself overeating after a fast or if you get shaky and light-headed while fasting (signs of hypoglycemia), fasting probably isn’t a good approach for you. Know your body and select the appropriate diet plan accordingly.

  • By Dr. Mike Roussell

​24-Hour Fasting for Weight Loss – Is It Safe?

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Fasting has become quite popular over the last few years among the health and fitness community and many of you may be wondering about 24-hour fasting for weight loss: Is it safe?

While trends constantly change in the dieting and weight loss world, fasting is one component of a healthy lifestyle that recurs in different forms. Intermittent fasting, juice diets, and cleanses are just a few of the many.

By recurring, we mean that philosophers and religious cultures have been fasting for health and spiritual reasons for thousands of years. So don’t worry

Plenty of doctors, nutritionists, and other health experts tout the benefits of fasting, including improved brain function, reduction in stress levels, improved immune system, and even weight loss (when used correctly).

Guys, before we dive into the goods in this article, we just want to say a couple of words about our experience with fasting.

We have done intermittent fasting and 24-hour fasts on and off over the last year and with so much success that it has become a part of our popular fast weight loss program, the 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge.

It’s nothing to be afraid of and something that you should never knock it until you try it! This is how I first felt about it (a little scared and concerned), but after diving into the research more and trying it myself, I absolutely love it!

I find that I like intermittent fasting better (pushing back breakfast until closer to lunchtime), but the occasional 24-hour fast is also a great way to detox and reset your system.

Our clients especially love the 24-hour fasts after a vacation or a night out with friends when they overindulged just a little too much.

Just keep all of this in mind as you are reading this article!

Whether your reasons are for detox purposes, to wean yourself off processed foods and sugars, for religious or spiritual reasons, or for weight loss, this article on the science and safety of fasting should help you get your mind right about it!

Is 24-hour fasting a fad or a legitimate and safe method of weight loss?

We’ll discuss the bodies of research that cover this controversial topic here and share what we’ve learned about 24-hour fasting.

What is 24-hour fasting?

A 24-hour fast, also known as an intermittent fast, is fast becoming a popular weight loss method for people who have hit plateaus in their weight loss journeys.

According to NPR’s article on the subject, partial fasts retune the body and suppress insulin secretion. Their endocrinologist expert also notes that fasting can reduce your taste for sugary treats.

She also says that letting your body burn up the sugars it’s already holding onto can give your pancreas a break from creating insulin. Conversely, in juice fasts, your pancreas is still working against sugars.

Also, fasting doesn’t involve the byproducts that eating food does. When we consume food, we don’t just consume energy, but free radicals and other components too.

As far as the safety goes, a research article by Roger Collier states that it becomes unsafe (even dangerous) when people do it incorrectly.

The problem lies in people’s tendency to think that when they fast, that resets their system and allows them to continue to consume junk food outside the fasting period.

While that isn’t healthy, it’s also dangerous, because depriving your body of vital nutrients before or after a fast can hamper the body’s ability to use what you’re putting into it.

It’s important to note that everyone fasts every day (intermittent fasting), especially those who have their last meal before bed and don’t eat again until breakfast. You are fasting naturally while you are sleeping.

Precision Nutrition’s article on the benefits of intermittent fasting uses this model to explain that fasting is a natural part of our body’s balance.

Our regular sleep schedules and eating habits put us on a 12 hour or so fast each night while we sleep. This is a normal bodily function with healthy side effects, so wouldn’t it make sense that there might be some additional health benefits from extending this period of fasting?

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits of fasting that we have laid out in full detail in our post on the 11 Proven Benefits of Fasting.

Fasting can…

  • Help you lose weight
  • Enhance your body’s resistance to stress
  • Help prevent cancer
  • Improve brain function
  • Improve your immune system
  • Increase your life span
  • Raise growth hormone levels
  • Maintain lean muscle tissue
  • And more!

Please check out the article for more benefits + the scientific studies backing up the points above.

How does a fast work?

When implementing a fast, it’s best to choose a day when you are on your own schedule in case you experience fatigue or other side effects. Consume plenty of water to prevent dehydration, and don’t overexert yourself.

What seems to work best for our clients on our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge is to fast on a day when you can keep yourself busy. A day full of errands is perfect because it will keep your mind off of food.

Boredom is your enemy during fasting because your mind will try to convince you that you are hungrier than you are when it wants to eat out of boredom!

It’s important to note that for a full 24-hour fast, you will never go sun-up to sun-down without eating. This is a common misconception that causes most to initially balk at the idea of a ’24-hour fast.’

The best time to start your fast is after dinner (say 7 pm), and then don’t eat again until dinner the following evening (7 pm). This way, you are sleeping off a large portion of the fast!

In general, fasting means not consuming anything but water. But it’s okay to consume black coffee and tea (no cream or sugar), lemon water, or water with apple cider vinegar.

You cannot consume any food during this time or any other drinks with calories that will break your fast.

Brad Pilon, an intermittent fasting guru, told Men’s Journal that fat loss starts at about hour 12 to 13 of a fast, and reaches a plateau around 16 hours. This follows the 24-hour fast model closely.

Learn more about Brad’s intermittent fasting plan in his video below, which discusses one way to use intermittent fasting in your fitness pursuits.

Easing into meals after fasting is also imperative so that you don’t overindulge or make yourself sick with excess sugar or carbohydrates.

Is 24-hour fasting safe?

Well, we’ve already explained all of the benefits above! Still not convinced?

Although it’s not without side effects, it’s definitely safe. Let us explain…

When fasting long-term, NPR’s experts note, there is the potential for toxic proteins to release into the body. This happens due to the body entering starvation mode, which means it’s burning muscle.

Fat burning happens at different rates for different bodies, so it’s important to stay vigilant when fasting, or you may enter starvation mode or experience dizziness or other negative symptoms.

An additional note made by Precision Nutrition’s article is that the perceived benefits of fasting may show up as a result of more normal eating behaviors.

For example, controlled calorie studies tend to show improvement in overall health and body composition with lowered calorie intake.

If we combine periodic fasting with our normal calorie intake, this balances out our calorie consumption to where we’re burning more than we’re eating.

Overall, lowering your caloric intake may be the best bet for spurring weight loss and sculpting your body, but incorporating fasting with a healthy food intake is absolutely safe.

Guys, if you want to try out fasting in your life in a safe and controlled manner, I encourage you to grab a copy of our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge Program.

We incorporate both the intermittent fasting and the 24-hour fasts in the program, but they are also totally optional! So you can give it a shot if you want, and if you find that it’s not for you, there are other options as well!

This is what Selene had to say in our private support group for the Challenge:

On this program, our clients lose an average of 10-21 pounds in 21 days and absolutely love it! But even better than the weight loss is the feedback we get from people about how the program has taught them how to change their eating habits and find a diet that truly works for them in the long-term.

We have over 2,000 Challenge members in our private support group going through the program together, and every day they are sharing experiences, results, motivation, and lots of recipes!

If you are ready to make some changes in your life, we will teach you exactly how to make the necessary changes in your diet and your lifestyle and how to keep them “beyond the diet.”

If you enjoyed this article on 24-hour fasting for weight loss or have any questions for us, please leave them in the comment section below!

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Hey y’all! My name is Lauren and I pretty much run the show over here at Avocadu! We believe in quality over quantity and that diet is EVERYTHING when it comes to your health and well-being. In short, we believe in being healthy from the inside out.

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In this article, we’ll try to explain the basics of how to lose weight with fasting and also touch on what fasting is in the first place, is fasting safe, what can you eat when you fast and provide you with some fasting tips on how to start this type of diet, even today. It’ll help you get fit in 2020.

We can assume two things about people reading this article:

1. You are interested in fasting
2. You would like to lose some weight

The most popular type of fasting for weight loss is the 16:8 diet, but the principles can be applied in various ways. We also recommend reading our story on how to lose weight fast, which provide you with some handy tips about the topic. Let’s not forget, we also covered keto diet, as an alternative.

Exercising is also a great way to lose some excess weight and – you’ve guessed it! – we have things to say about that, too: we can help you to get into running with some super couch-to-5k training tips as well as resistance training plans, like our two-day push-pull plan or you can also try our beginner calisthenics workout plan.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

IMPORTANT: if you have a history of eating disorders, have loads of extra weight, are pregnant or just concerned about starting fasting in general, please consult your doctor before you start fasting. it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to health-related issues. Also, children are not advised to fast. Please be sensible.

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Fasting is a type of cyclical diet regime

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What is fasting?

To clarify, when we talk about fasting here, we mean intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a cyclical calorie intake routine that alternates between periods of no food intake (a.k.a. fasting) and periods of calorie consumption (any other time outside the fasting period).

The most popular way of fasting is the 16:8 diet method, when you fast for 16 hours and only eat in an 8-hour window. There are other fasting techniques, such as the 5:2 diet, where people largely – but not entirely – skip eating for two days during the week. There are also more extreme versions, which we don’t recommend.

Fasting has been scientifically proven to be a useful tool for lose weight, if for no other reason, because you naturally eat less if you restrict your consumption for fewer hours a day. This will also give your body time to repair, since it’s not preoccupied with the digestion and storage of food.

  • Weight loss with the 5:2 diet: requires willpower but can be powerfully effective
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A balance diet is still very important, even if you aren’t planning on fasting

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to start fasting

The most popular way of fasting is the aforementioned 16 8 diet method. This way, you reduce your calorie consumption window from infinity to 8 hours a day. For the remaining 16 hours, you can still drink water (and you should drink water, plenty of it), black coffee and green tea.

The easiest way to get into fasting is to introduce the concept to your body gradually. By not jumping right into it, you are more likely to stick with it and turn it into a habit, which will help you effectively keep down the lost pounds.

Start off by not eating anything from 8 PM until 8 AM the next day. With this, you are already limiting yourself to eat only for 12 hours a day, and even better, you will sleep through most of it.

Over a period of a week or two, gradually increase the fasting window from 8 to 12 hours, by adding an extra hour in either in the evening or the morning. The most common way is to do a 16-hour fast is to stop eating at 7-8 PM and finish it at 11 AM-12 PM the next day.

You can start fasting at any point, no need to wait until the 1 January. The sooner you start the process, the earlier you will see results. Easy as that.

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Avoid processed food, bad carbs, unhealthy fats and added sugar

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What can you eat during fasting

It is recommended not to take in any calories during fasting, only liquids. Water is something you should drink anyway, but it is especially important to drink plenty of water when you fast. Black coffee and green tea are also permitted during the fasting phase, but don’t overdo them. They both contain caffeine so over-consumption can lead to unwanted side effects.

As for outside the fasting window, there is no restriction of what you can or cannot eat, but it is recommended to avoid processed and fast food as well as excessive alcohol consumption. In general, try not to cut back on calories too much, especially at the beginning, to help your body adjust better.

Once you used to fasting, you can introduce other changes in your diet, like avoiding added sugar, food with high glycemic index, bad fats and so on. Try to plan ahead on what will you snack on when cravings arrive, because they will most definitely come at some point during the day. Protein and nutrition bars are a great way to combat cravings throughout the day.

Fasting is safe, especially if you don’t go crazy from Day 1 (or ever)

(Image credit: Getty images)

Is fasting safe

Fasting is safe as long as you don’t overdo it. If someone go from a high-calorie and high-sugar diet to not eating for 16 hours, they will feel dizzy and jittery, due to the withdrawal effects from their previous dieting habits.

As with any diet, be sensible when you start fasting. As mentioned above, try gradually increasing your fasting window and try not to cut too many calories from one day to another. By not eating for 8-12 hours, you will naturally take in less calories, without any other restrictive factors.

Once you are comfortable with fasting, you can try and switch to healthier diet overall. The key is, as before, to be unhurried with the process, and swap bad things out one at a time.

For example, instead of having a Mars bar, have a protein bar in the afternoon or instead of having a triple shot vanilla latte with extra cream after lunch, have a smaller cappucino. And of course, instead of having a side of fries, have some baked potatoes or even better, baked sweet potatoes.

By cutting added sugar out of your diet, you can also avoid the highs and lows you feel when you eat the sweet white substance. We’ll discuss this in another article.

Start with some light exercising at the beginning

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can you work out when fasting

It is safe to work out after the initial transition period.

It is not recommended, however, to start working out heavily as soon as you start your new fasting diet. This is especially true to people who go from a high-sugar diet to fasting. The withdrawal symptoms from taking less sugar is not a safe way to start working with heavy weights.

Light exercising is permitted even at the beginning, let it be some jogging or easy cycling. Again, it is important not to put your body under too much stress.

If you are planning on gaining muscle mass, you can still benefit from fasting, but probably not the 16 8 diet method. You might want to try going a day or two without eating a week, to rid your body from toxins. Ideally, fast on your rest days so it won’t effect your performance in the gym.

If you would like to work out on fast days, take some BCAAs to aid muscle repair. BCAA powders and pills contain no calories and therefore won’t break your fasting period. Needless to say, mix it water and not milk or milk substitutes.

Supplements like creatine and Nitric Oxide pills (a pre workout that contains no stimulants) are also safe to consume during fasting since they contain no calories either.

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How to lose weight with fasting: summary

Fasting is an excellent way to lose weight and to rid your body of toxins. Even better, you naturally lower your calorie intake by not allowing yourself to eat whenever you want to. This can not only help you lose weight without much effort, it will also help you practice some discipline over your own body, keeping your mind in control over your cravings.

As with all dieting methods, being sensible is key when it comes to fasting. Don’t try to change everything too fast; allow your body to adjust to the different requirements. If you would like to further aid your weight loss, you can also introduce some light exercising when you begin fasting, like easy jogging or light cycling, which in turn will also release serotonin on your body.

At the end of the day, it is all about achieving and maintaining a balanced lifestyle and bodyweight and reap the long term benefits of being happier and healthier.

If you’re planning on doing battle with a bulging waistline, you really have two options: you can either listen to the Insta scientists and social media charlatans out there or, alternatively, you can let real science guide your weight loss aspirations. Since you’ve clicked on this article, we know that you’ve already made the correct choice.

So that you don’t have to, we’ve trawled through the latest scientific research to find the best ways to lose weight. Some of these are obvious – less alcohol means fewer calories – bit others are less so, like who knew that turning the heating down in your home could help you shed pounds?

Below are 12 scientifically approved ways to lose weight, minus the scientific jargon and also minus any pseudo-science, guesswork and advice from Insta nutritionists who preface their name with delicious or plant-based. Let the science guide you.

1) Abstaining from Alcohol

OK, so we’ll start with the obvious one. Consume fewer empty calories from alcohol and you’ll be off to a good start on your weight loss journey. But if you’re thinking it’s enough to have two gin and tonics instead of three, we’re here to tell you that’s probably not going to cut it. A four-year study of nearly 5000 overweight people discovered that people who abstained from drinking alcohol completely lost more weight than those who drank any amount during the intervention.

While giving up alcohol to any degree will help, if you’re really serious about weight loss you may need to consider giving up alcohol altogether.

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2) Exercise Will Help You Maintain Weight Loss

Another weight loss tip you can file under no shit – the more you exercise the more weight you’re likely to lose. However, while that fact is pretty obvious, perhaps you didn’t know just how important exercise is for maintaining weight loss.

A study published in the journal Obesity reported that people who successfully maintained weight loss consumed a similar number of calories each day as individuals classified as overweight and obese but were able to avoid putting on weight by engaging in “high levels of physical activity”.

There’s obviously more to losing weight than just calories in, calories out, but this study shows that as long as you’re expending more energy than you’re putting in, you have a good chance of maintaining weight loss.

milanvirijevic

3) Weight Training Beats Cardio

You now know you need to exercise to lose weight, but what kind of exercise should you do? Or, put another way, is cardio or weight training your best option for losing weight? According to a study by Wake Forest University, restricting calories combined with resistance training meant people were able to keep their muscle and still lose significant amounts of fat, when compared to adults who combined weight loss with walking or who simply tried to just lose weight by dieting. If you’re looking to lose weight then, pumping iron is the way to go.

4) Keep a Weight-loss Diary

You may think that the only way to document your weight loss journey is by taking before and after photos, but you may want to consider keeping a food diary as well. Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss, while another study by Duke University found that tracking daily food consumption lead to people losing “clinically significant amounts of weight”.

Better yet, a food diary doesn’t have to be some super-formal thing, just scribbling down what you eat on a post-it note, or sending yourself an e-mail or text message after each meal will suffice. That’s because it’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that will help you to become aware of your eating habits, and hopefully change your behaviour.

Cold exposure can significantly affect our energy expenditure

5) Turn off the Heating

Nobody’s going to complain about being inside a warm and comfortable office during the winter months, but while this may be a good thing for our demeanour, it’s not so good for our waistlines. A study by researchers from Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that regular exposure to mild cold may be a healthy and sustainable way to help people lose weight.

“Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 per cent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures,” said the study’s first author Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt. “What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature? We hypothesise that the thermal environment affects human health and more specifically that frequent mild cold exposure can significantly affect our energy expenditure over sustained time periods.”

Put simply, the colder you are the more energy you expend trying to keep yourself warm, so if you want to lose weight maybe keep your central heating switched off.

6) The Best Diet Is One You Can Stick To

To lose weight you’ll want to restrict the number of calories you consume, but as there are so many diets around it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Is keto best? Should I try paleo? What ever happened to the Atkins diet? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tried to decide once and for all which weight loss programme was best by comparing a number of different diet plans. The researchers came to the conclusion that the best diet was one that people could stick to, so it really doesn’t matter which diet you choose as long as it’s sustainable. Although, maybe give the ice-cream diet a miss.

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7) Deal with the Real Problem

Choosing a diet and an exercise plan are of course important, but if you don’t deal with the underlying problem that caused you weight gain you may find all your hard work is undermined. A study by Orlando Health found that while 31 per cent of people identified lack of exercise as a barrier to weight loss and another 26 per cent said poor diet was a massive contributor, just one in ten respondents thought psychological well-being was a cause. But from a very young age we’re taught to be emotionally attached to food. As children we’re often given treats, whether they’re to console us when we’re upset or to reward us when we’ve been good, while most celebrations, like Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are food-focused, and even birthdays are spent sharing cake.

It’s time to evaluate your emotional connection to food. Following these three tips should begin to help you understand why you eat what you eat:

  • Keep a daily diary logging your food and your mood and look for unhealthy patterns.
  • Identify foods that make you feel good and write down why you eat them. Do they evoke a memory or are you craving those foods out of stress?
  • Before you have any snack or meal ask yourself: Am I eating this because I’m hungry? If the answer is no, look for the root of your motive.

8) Try to Achieve Short-term Goals

It can be quite demoralising if the guy staring back at you in the mirror doesn’t change appearance overnight, but it doesn’t mean you’re not achieving your goals. One technique to stop you from getting downbeat if you don’t see immediate changes is breaking your overall goal down into smaller, more attainable challenges. A study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that celebrating smaller achievements meant that people lost weight gradually and were more successful at keeping weight off in the long run.

9) Join a Weight-loss Community

According to a new study published in the journal Obesity during a 12-week, team-based weight loss competition, people whose teammates encouraged them increased their odds of achieving a clinically significant weight loss by 20 per cent.

“In our study, weight loss clearly clustered within teams, which suggests that teammates influenced each other, perhaps by providing accountability, setting expectations of weight loss and providing encouragement and support.”

10) Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Not getting your 8-hours sleep each night can be really bad for your demeanour, but it can be even worse for your weight loss goals. A study presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology revealed that not getting enough sleep shifts the hormonal balance from hormones that promote fullness, such as GLP-1, to those that promote hunger, such as ghrelin. Sleep restriction also increased levels of endocannabinoids, which is known to make people feel hungrier.

Want to avoid not sleeping your way to obesity? Remember, a good weight-loss plan begins with a good night’s sleep.

11) If Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work, Try Intermittent Fasting

Research published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging reported that dieters who only ate between the hours of 10am and 6pm consumed about 350 fewer calories and lost about 3 per cent of their body weight over a 12-week period.

12) Take a Break from Dieting

Trying to lose weight can consume your entire existence, with every spare second given over to thinking about calories, plans and cutting, but research by the University of Tasmania has revealed that taking occasional breaks from losing weight may be a more effective strategy. The research found that people who broke from their diet every two weeks and aimed to just keep their weight stable during this time lost more weight and gained less back when their diets had finished.

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Daniel Davies Daniel Davies is a staff writer at Men’s Health UK who has been reporting on sports science, fitness and culture for various publications for the past five years.

Intermittent fasting
for beginners

  1. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2015: Intermittent fasting and human metabolic health ↩

  2. Regarding calling fasting a “secret” or “virtually forgotten”: this is debatable as many people do fast regularly, not least for religious or spiritual purposes. But intermittent fasting for health or weight loss has had very limited attention from nutritional authorities in the last few decades:

    The ancient secret of weight loss

    More background:

    Cell Metabolism 2014: Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications ↩

  3. Between January 2010 and January 2019, Google searches for intermittent fasting increased by about 100X or 10,000 percent:

    Google Trends: Intermittent fasting ↩

  4. Many of the studies regarding intermittent fasting and weight loss investigate restricting calories to very low levels for a limited time, like one or more days per week (e.g. 500 calories per day). Actual fasting means restricting calories to close to zero for a time, so it may or may not be even more effective.

    JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 2018: Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

    Obesity Reviews 2017: Short‐term intermittent energy restriction interventions for weight management: a systematic review and meta‐analysis

    Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015: Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review

    Intermittent fasting and type 2 diabetes:

    JAMA Network Open 2018: Effect of intermittent compared with continuous energy restricted diet on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized noninferiority trial

    Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 2016: The effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes; a pragmatic pilot trial

    BMJ Case Reports 2018: Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin
    ↩

  5. Cambridge Dictionary: Starvation is “the state of having no food for a long period, often causing death”.

    Collins Dictionary: “Starvation is extreme suffering or death, caused by lack of food.” ↩

  6. This is a key concept regarding intermittent fasting. We do not recommend it for people who are underweight or undernourished. ↩

  7. At Diet Doctor, we define intermittent fasting as the absence of eating or drinking significant amounts of calories.

    Another commonly used definition is a reduction in food intake i.e. eating restricted, small amounts. However, when we use the word “fasting”, we’re referring to the absence of eating. ↩

  8. This is also frequently referred to as time restricted eating. One helpful definition is that anything less than 24hours is considered time restricted eating, and anything longer than 24 hours is fasting. For the purposes of this guide we refer to any voluntary restriction of eating as intermittent fasting. ↩

  9. There could be more powerful dietary interventions, compared to not eating at all for a significant period. However, we’re not aware of any, at least not for the treatment of conditions such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.

    No comparative randomized trials have been done, so this statement is based on theory and clinical experience. ↩

  10. International Journal of Obesity 2011: The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women

    The following study was a systematic review of 4 RCTs selected using the GRADE system to pick the highest quality evidence available.

    Cureus 2018: Intermittent fasting: the choice for a healthier lifestyle ↩

  11. This statement presumes that the person fasting is not underweight, under the age of 18, pregnant or breastfeeding.

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015: Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review ↩

  12. BBA Clinics 2016:Glycogen metabolism in humans☆ ↩

  13. Nutrients 2018: Regulation and metabolic significance of de novo lipogenesis in adipose tissues ↩

  14. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2017: Flipping the metabolic switch: understanding and applying health benefits of fasting ↩

  15. There’s no good evidence that eating regularly and often (or snacking regularly) has any benefits. It may be bad for weight loss or metabolic issues:

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

    Diabetologia 2014: Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study

    British Journal of Nutrition 2010: Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet

    Hepatology 2014: Hypercaloric diets with increased meal frequency, but not meal size, increase intrahepatic triglycerides: a randomized controlled trial

    PLOS One 2012: Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males

    Obesity (Silver Spring) 2012: Effects of manipulating eating frequency during a behavioral weight loss intervention: a pilot randomized controlled trial

    British Journal of Nutrition 1997: Meal frequency and energy balance
    ↩

  16. One way to increase the time spent burning food energy is to skip or postpone breakfast. It has been proven that this can result in weight loss:

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

    Another, more extreme, version is to completely fast every second day. This seems to potentially result in significant weight loss:

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005: Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism ↩

  17. Researchers have found that when people follow calorie-restricted diets, they lose more weight when eating two meals within a narrow time frame than when they eat the same food spread out over six meals.

    Diabetologia 2014: Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study ↩

  18. See references below. ↩

  19. Nutrition 2017: Unraveling the metabolic health benefits of fasting related to religious beliefs: a narrative review ↩

  20. The evidence for most of these benefits, beyond weight loss, is not conclusive. This is due to a lack of studies.

    Existing high-quality (RCT) studies of intermittent fasting almost always assume a limited amount of calories (e.g. 500 kcal) a day for fast days. True fasting with no eating or calories for a similar specified time may or may not be more effective – there are no good studies to prove this.

    The common intermittent fasting method of 16:8 (fasting for 16 hours per day) has not been tested in high-quality studies. However, advice to skip breakfast is similar, and has been tested with resulting weight loss.

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

    In addition, even a 14:10 fasting schedule showed health benefits in a small pilot study.

    Cell Metabolism 2019: Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome

    The evidence for the effects of longer full fasting periods is limited to theories, anecdotes and fairly extensive clinical experience. ↩

  21. Intermittent fasting can help people lose weight. One example of a slightly longer daily fasting period is to just skip breakfast. This has been shown to result in weight loss:

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

    Most longer studies on fasting investigate restricting calories to very low levels for a limited time, like one or more days per week (e.g. 400 calories per day). Actual fasting means restricting calories to close to zero for a time, so it may or may not be even more effective.

    Obesity Reviews 2011: Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss?

    International Journal of Obesity 2011: The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women

    Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity

    Cureus 2018: Intermittent fasting: the choice for a healthier lifestyle

    Diabetologia 2014: Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study

    Journal of Translational Medicine 2016: Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males ↩

  22. Journal of Translational Medicine 2016: Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males ↩

  23. Nutrition Reviews 2014: Time-restricted feeding and risk of metabolic disease: a review of human and animal studies

    The British Journal of Nutrition 2008: Effect of Ramadan fasting on some indices of insulin resistance and components of the metabolic syndrome in healthy male adults

    PloS One 2012: Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males ↩

  24. To our knowledge, there are still no randomized trials exploring the effect of true (zero calorie) intermittent fasting. Here are the best existing studies:

    BMJ Case Reports 2018: Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin

    JAMA Network Open 2018: Effect of intermittent compared with continuous energy restricted diet on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized noninferiority trial

    Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 2016: The effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes; a pragmatic pilot trial
    ↩

  25. There are no high quality clinical trials investigating this topic, but mechanistic theory and anecdotal reports suggest it is possible.

    Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2018: Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health ↩

  26. In this study, intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction improved mood and vigor in aging men:

    The Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging 2013: Efficacy of fasting and calorie restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men

    Nutrition 2017: Unraveling the metabolic health benefits of fasting related to religious beliefs: a narrative review ↩

  27. This study only lasted for a few days and it’s unclear how long the effect would last:

    Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 2013: Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences ↩

  28. Cureus 2018: Intermittent fasting: the choice for a healthier lifestyle

    Scientific Reports 2015: Effects of weight loss via high fat vs. low fat alternate day fasting diets on free fatty acid profiles

    Cell Metabolism 2019: Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome ↩

  29. This effect remains to be proven in humans but fasting and caloric restriction appears to improve lifespan for most other species:

    Aging Cell 2019: Programmed longevity, youthspan, and juventology ↩

  30. This is a discovery that was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine:

    Aging Research Reviews 2016: Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes

    Cell Metabolism 2014: Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications ↩

  31. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 2007: Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma ↩

  32. This is also refrred to as time restricted eating ↩

  33. This is based on consistent clinical experience of low-carb practitioners. ↩

  34. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 2018: Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

    Obesity Reviews 2017: Short‐term intermittent energy restriction interventions for weight management: a systematic review and meta‐analysis ↩

  35. This is based on consistent clinical experience of low-carb practitioners. ↩

  36. Longer fasts require significant reserves of excess stored body fat, and should probably not be done by lean people. Learn more

    Postgraduate Medical Journal 1973: Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days’ duration ↩

  37. European Journal of Endocrinology 2007: Metabolic and hormonal changes during the refeeding period of prolonged fasting ↩

  38. However, results from studies are not entirely consistent. One reason might be that many “intermittent fasting” studies actually test intermittent severe caloric restriction, i.e. they allow a limited amount of food during fasting. Depending on the food that is eaten, this might have less positive effects on metabolic rate. ↩

  39. In a 2016 randomized, controlled study, obese adults were assigned to either fast every other day or eat a calorie-restricted diet every day. Those in the intermittent fasting group showed less slowing in metabolic rate during the 8-week study and greater improvement in body composition after 32 weeks of follow up compared to people in the calorie-restricted group:

    Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity

    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007: A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults

    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000: Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005: Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism
    ↩

  40. This is based on consistent clinical experience of low-carb practitioners. ↩

  41. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 2018: Effects of fasted vs fed-state exercise on performance and post-exercise metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩

  42. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 2018: Effects of fasted vs fed-state exercise on performance and post-exercise metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩

  43. These are based on consistent clinical experience and are summarized in this overview article.

    BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2018: Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting ↩

  44. Obesity Reviews 2014: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis

    Obesity 2007: The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms ↩

  45. This is based on clinical experience. ↩

  46. Intermittent fasting results in sodium loss:

    The American Journal of Medicine 1971: Fasting—a review with emphasis on the electrolytes ↩

  47. Most of the evidence on refeeding syndrome is from studies on critically ill hospitalized patients, or observations from underweight or malnourished individuals. That makes it challenging to know how this applies to overweight or otherwise healthy individuals undergoing a voluntary fast.

    BMJ 2008: Refeeding syndrome: what it is, and how to prevent and treat it ↩

  48. Endocrine Practice 2005: The dawn phenomenon revisited: implications for diabetes therapy ↩

  49. International Journal of Obesity 1990: Hunger/craving responses and reactivity to food stimuli during fasting and dieting ↩

  50. This is primarily based on clinical experience. ↩

  51. In a recent study of more than 1,400 people who fasted for anywhere from 4 to 21 days, 93% of participants reported that they were not hungry during the study period:

    PloS One 2019: Safety, health improvement and well-being during a 4 to 21-day fasting period in an observational study including 1422 subjects ↩

  52. Nutrition Journal 2013: Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial

    Research suggests that when obese people fast, hormonal changes occur that lead to a decrease in total body protein breakdown, which includes muscle:

    American Journal of Public Health and the Nation’s Health 1968: Influence of fasting and refeeding on body composition

    Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 1983: Whole body protein breakdown rates and hormonal adaptation in fasted obese subjects ↩

  53. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Loss of body nitrogen on fasting

    International Journal of Obesity: Thyroid hormone changes in obese subjects during fasting and a very-low-calorie diet ↩

  54. We consider consistent clinical experience from experienced practitioners weak evidence. ↩

  55. This recommendation is based on experience from experienced clinicians. ↩

  56. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2012: Coffee, hunger, and peptide YY

    The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2011: Antiobesity effects of green tea catechins: a mechanistic review
    ↩

  57. Low-carb diets have been shown to reduce hunger:

    Obesity Reviews 2014: Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩

  58. PloS One 2015: Dietary intervention for overweight and obese adults: comparison of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets: a meta-analysis

    BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care 2017: Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes ↩

  59. This recommendation is based on experience from experienced clinicians. ↩

  60. The old idea that breakfast is important for health or weight control is mainly based on observational studies, a notoriously weak form of evidence.

    When tested this idea does not appear to hold up, at least not for weight loss. A recent meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials found that people assigned to skip breakfast ate less overall and lost more weight than those assigned to eat breakfast daily:

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

    Even the observational data is inconsistent, for example with findings like in the study below: “compared to breakfast eating, skipping breakfast was significantly associated with better health-related quality of life and lower perceived stress.”

    International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2018: Eat or skip breakfast? The important role of breakfast quality for health-related quality of life, stress and depression in Spanish adolescents ↩

  61. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013: The internal circadian clock increases hunger and appetite in the evening independent of food intake and other behaviors
    ↩

  62. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Effects of fasting on neuroendocrine function and follicle development in lean women ↩

  63. This study is sometimes used as evidence that women may have a different response than men to intermittent fasting when it comes to the glucose response to a meal. We’re unconvinced. The study was very small with few participants and this difference may have been random.

    Obesity 2005: Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting ↩

  64. International Journal of Obesity 2011: The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomised trial in young overweight women

    Cureus 2018: Intermittent fasting: the choice for a healthier lifestyle

    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007: A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults ↩

  65. Note, however, that many studies of intermittent fasting actually test an intermittent severe caloric restriction. So depending on the definition of the term “intermittent fasting” there may be some connection. We primarily recommend true intermittent fasting, i.e. not eating at all during fasting periods, as this may be more effective. ↩

  66. This study found that average daily calorie intake were significantly lower in alternate day fasting group (24h fasts) compared to calorie reduction group:

    Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity

    This review article in the NEJM summarizes the data supporting fasting above simple caloric restriction
    NEJM 2019: Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease

    Benefits of intermittent fasting
    ↩

  67. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity

    Journal of Translational Medicine 2016: Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males
    ↩

  68. Here’s an example:

    British Medical Journal 2019: Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials ↩

  69. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2016: A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity ↩

  70. Diet Doctor will not benefit from your purchases. We do not show ads, use any affiliate links, sell products or take money from industry. Instead we’re funded by the people, via our optional membership. Learn more ↩

Let’s face it: Following a diet can be tough. Following one that involves fasting (yes, as in not eating)? Well, that can be even tougher. And for some (*raises hand*), just the idea of purposely missing a meal is enough to make them hangry, if not worse.

Yet, there are plenty of folks out there who are up for the challenge—not to mention have even seen some serious results from a structured and scheduled eating plan. So what’s the secret to their success? Following at least one—if not all!—of these 12 tips for acing a fasting diet, straight from nutritionists. But first…

Remind me again: What is intermittent fasting, exactly?

Essentially, intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of eating plan that involves periods of fasting—during which you can consume only water, coffee, and tea—and eating—when you can generally eat what you like. Such freedom to choose your own chow is one of the many reasons the diet’s racked up so many fans, including stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Halle Berry.

And in a world where many of the top trending diets involve a lot of, well, math, IF stands outs for being fairly simple to understand. “It doesn’t require counting calories, macros, or measuring ketones. You can eat most anything you want between a specific window of time, although most programs recommend eating healthfully when you do eat,” Sonya Angelone, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, previously told Women’s Health.

Need some IF inspo? Halle Berry is a huge fan—find out why and how she does it:

Another pro? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan or “right” way to do this, per Anglone. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There are many different kinds of fasting or IF schedules to choose from, so you can decide the diet that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few popular picks:

  • The 16:8 diet: Eat whatever you want (read: no calorie counting!) for eight hours a day and fast for the rest.
  • The 5:2 diet: Eat normally for five days a week and cut back to 20 percent of your normal daily calories for the other two “fasting” days, which usually involves about 500 calories for women.
  • The 14:10 diet: Similar to the 16:8 method, but you fast only 14 hours and eat for 10, making it easier to follow but not necessarily easier to lose weight.

And that, dear class readers, is Fasting 101. Now, onto lesson number two: the 12 must-know tips to do a fasting diet safely and successfully.

1. Ease into your new eating plan.

While it might be tempting to jump right into your new eating routine (the initial excitement is real), doing so can be difficult and leave you with increased hunger and discomfort, according to Michal Hertz, RD, a dietitian in New York City. Instead, she recommends starting slowly by, say, doing two to three days of IF during the first week and then “gradually increasing week to week.” Taking thing slow isn’t just a great fasting tip, but a great tip for life (just sayin’).

2. Know the difference between needing to eat and wanting to eat.

Once you hear your stomach growl, it can feel like there’s no way you’ll get through X more amount of hours without food. Tune in to that hunger cue. “Ask yourself whether the hunger is boredom or actual hunger,” says Eliza Savage, RD, a registered dietitian at Middleburg Nutrition in New York City. “If you’re bored, distract yourself with another task.” (That 200-email-deep inbox of yours might be a good place to start.)

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If you’re truly hungry but not feeling weak or dizzy (which are signs, btw, that you should stop fasting ASAP), then sip a warm mint tea, as peppermint is known to reduce appetite, or drink water to help fill your stomach until your next meal, per Savage.

Now, if you’ve been trying IF for awhile and still feel extreme hunger between periods, then you need to do some thinking. “You need to either add more nutrient- or calorie-dense foods during your eight-hour period, or consider that this may not be the best plan for you,” Hertz says. Adding healthy fats such as nut butters, avocado, and coconut and olive oils, as well as proteins, during eating times can help keep you stay satisfied and full longer.

3. Eat when necessary.

Technically, intense hunger and fatigue shouldn’t happen when following the 16:8 fasting method (perhaps the most common one), according to Hertz. But if you do feel extremely lightheaded, listen up, as odds are your body’s trying to tell you something. You likely have low blood sugar and need to eat something—and, repeat after me, that is okay.

By definition, fasting involves removing some, if not all, food, so don’t beat yourself up for breaking your fast with small—and smart!—bites. Your best bet? Go for a protein-rich snack like a few slices of turkey breast or one to two hard-boiled eggs (to help remain in a ketogenic (fat-burning) state), Savage recommends. You can then return fasting, that is, of course, if you feel up to it.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Even when you’re fasting, drinking water and bevvies like coffee and tea (sans milk) are not just allowed, but, especially in the case of H2O, encouraged, per Hertz.

She recommends setting reminders throughout the day and particularly during fasting periods to lap up plenty of liquids. Aim to fill up on at least 2, if not 3, liters per day, according to both Hertz and Savage.

5. Break your fast slowly and steadily.

After spending several hours food-free, you might feel like a human vacuum ready to suck up whatever’s on your plate. But chowing down in minutes is actually no bueno for your body or your waistline, according to research. Instead, you want to chew well and eat slowly to allow your digestive system to fully process the food, Savage explains. This will also help you have a better idea of your fullness so that you steer clear of overeating.

6. Avoid overeating.

On that note, just because you’ve stopped fasting doesn’t mean you should feast. Not only can eating too much leave you bloated and uncomfortable, but it can also sabotage the weight-loss goals that likely led you to IF in the first place. Simply put: It’s not necessarily how much is on your plate that can help you stay full for longer but what is on your plate. Which brings me to the next fasting tip…

7. Maintain balanced meals.

Having a hearty mixture of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and carbs can help you ultimately shed those pounds and steer clear of extreme hunger when fasting. A good example, per Savage? Grilled chicken (you want about 4 to 6 oz of protein) with half of a small sweet potato, and sautéed spinach with garlic and olive oil.

When it comes to fruits, you want to opt for those with “a low-glycemic index, which are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized, causing a lower and slower rise in blood glucose,” Hertz explains. A stable blood-sugar level helps you avoid cravings—and thus is key when it comes to successfully dropping lbs.

8. Play around with different time periods.

While Hertz mostly recommends the 16:8, she says to a look at your general lifestyle to see which fasting method might fit best.

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For example, if you’re an early riser, Hertz suggests eating during the earlier hours, like 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then fasting until the following morning at 10. Remember: The beauty of IF is that it’s easily amendable and flexible to fit you and your schedule.

Another option, according to Savage, is cutting yourself off earlier and eating breakfast later each day to gradually grow your fasting strength. “We all naturally fast once daily—while we sleep—so maybe you practice ‘shutting down the kitchen’ earlier.” For example, “close” the kitchen at 9 p.m., and then don’t eat again until breakfast at 8 am. That’s a natural 11-hour fast! Slowly move those times out (e.g. kitchen closes at 8 p.m., breakfast at 9 a.m.), if desired, she says.

9. Steer clear of 24-hour fasts.

Both experts do not recommend fasting for a full day, as it can “lead to increased weakness, hunger, and increased food consumption—and thus, weight gain,” Hertz explains.

If your goal is to lose weight, then considering your overall caloric intake and working on scaling that down might be more beneficial than toughing out a fast for a long time (especially if you’re the type to binge after). Just take it from research, which shows that there actually aren’t more benefits in fasting for 24 hours versus daily caloric restriction, Savage adds.

10. Adapt your workout routine.

First thing’s first: You can most definitely exercise if you’re doing a fasting diet. But (!!) you want to be mindful of what types of movement you do, and when. “If you’re choosing to exercise in a fasting state, I would recommend exercising first thing in the morning, when you may have the most energy,” Savage says.

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That said, it’s important to remember that if you’re not, in Savage’s words, “adequately fueling your muscles,” then you’re at a greater risk of injury. So you might want to consider lower-impact workouts, such as yoga or steady-state cardio, on fasting mornings and save that hard-core HIIT class for after you’ve eaten.

11. Keep track of your journey.

Believe it or not, maintaining a food journal can help you with your fasting diet. A food journal for fasting?! Yup, you read that right. While you might not be chronicling as many eats, actively jotting down details like any emotions and symptoms (hunger level, any weakness, etc.) that come up during IF can help you gauge your progress, Savage says. (It might also help you notice any trigger points that make fasting harder on you, like drinking the night prior.)

Fasting is an excellent way to lose weight and to rid your body of toxins. Even better, you naturally lower your calorie intake by not allowing yourself to eat whenever you want to. This can not only help you lose weight without much effort, it will also help you practice some discipline over your own body, keeping your mind in control over your cravings.

As with all dieting methods, being sensible is key when it comes to fasting. Don’t try to change everything too fast; allow your body to adjust to the different requirements. If you would like to further aid your weight loss, you can also introduce some light exercising when you begin fasting, like easy jogging or light cycling, which in turn will also release serotonin on your body.

At the end of the day, it is all about achieving and maintaining a balanced lifestyle and bodyweight and reap the long term benefits of being happier and healthier.

As a doctor working with diabetes patients, Fung says he saw a clear relationship between insulin and weight gain. As he wrote in The Obesity Code:

I can make you fat.

Actually, I can make anybody fat. How? By prescribing insulin. It won’t matter that you have willpower, or that you exercise. It won’t matter what you choose to eat. You will get fat. It’s simply a matter of enough insulin and enough time.

It was this observation that led him to intermittent fasting, as a way to quickly lower insulin in the body. Prolonged periods of low insulin force the body to turn to stored sugar as a fuel source, and when that’s been depleted, to turn to fat.

Insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, helps the body use sugar for energy, but insulin resistance and prediabetes can occur when the body doesn’t use normal amounts of insulin properly. Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure.

Fung says he’s prescribed intermittent-fasting diets, which restrict eating to a fixed schedule, to thousands of patients at his company, Intensive Dietary Management, where he serves as cofounder and medical director. Variations on intermittent fasting include alternative-day fasting, in which people eat normally one day and under 500 calories the next; 18:6, referring to fasting for 18 hours a day and eating within a six-hour window; or one meal a day, or OMAD for short.

Occasional longer fasts, which should be done under the supervision of a doctor if one is diabetic, for example, would see even more pronounced effects, which in addition to weight loss can include mental clarity and a detox process called autophagy.

“I have a bit of an advantage because I tell people to fast all the time—if you do surgery, a colonoscopy, blood work, you had to fast,” he says. “I thought about it from a physiological standpoint and read the studies. Well, there’s no reason why people can’t do this. It’s been done for so many thousands of years.”

Knowing what he does about insulin’s effect on weight gain, he says exercise is a very inefficient way to slim down. “There are a lot of health benefits, but they’re two totally separate issues,” he says. “If I had to guess, diet is 95% of the battle, and exercise is 5% of the battle. The problem is we over-emphasize exercise. If you had a test and 95% of it was on math and 5% on English, you’re not going to study both quite the same.”

Tips for fasting

While studies have shown that fasting is effective in helping people lose weight, many fasters fail because they’re hard to adhere to.

It can take some time to acclimate to a new eating schedule, and Fung recommends keeping busy to keep the mind off food.

Technically, a true fast is water and nothing else. But he says it’s OK to bend the rules to help make it through longer stretches without food. Coffee and tea can help suppress appetite. Black coffee is ideal, but “a little cream is no problem.” The same goes with bone broth.

“It depends on your goal,” he says. “If you’re trying to lose weight, you can eat 500 calories and lose weight. You can do coffee with a little cream.”

But people will have to strictly adhere to water if they wish to attain the other benefits of fasting. The protein present in bone broth or cream, for example, will turn off autophagy, the process in which cells degrade and recycle themselves. (Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi’s discovery of autophagy won him the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2016.)

For Fung, fasting isn’t just a way to trim off some weight, but a lifestyle that “gives me time back in my day.” Even for people who don’t regularly fast, Fung thinks it’s beneficial to do so once in a while.

Fasting and weight loss

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