Becca was confused. “I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Eat this? Not eat this?”
Then she heard about intermittent fasting, tried it, and now wanted to get my thoughts.
Becca began a form of intermittent fasting where she limits the time in which she eats. She’s eating from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM.
I asked, “Well, how’s that working for you?”
Becca sighed, “It’s not. I really miss having my morning breakfast. And sometimes I get hungry before 11 o’clock.”
We dove deeper and had a conversation about intermittent fasting.
Let me start by saying I focus my blog and video content on women – generally women over 40 years old who are peri or postmenopausal. When it comes to managing her weight – she’s been there done that. And ready to get off the diet roller coaster.
- What intermittent fasting is.
- What some of the research says.
- What are pros and cons?
- What are my thoughts?
Intermittent fasting has been popular many years. Fasting is not new. For cultural and religious reasons, fasting has existed for millennia.
Voila! It’s sexy, shiny, and new, garnering the attention of many.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It doesn’t tell you what to eat but focuses on when to eat.
Overall, there are three main categories of intermittent fasting.
Alternate day fasting – eating unrestricted one day, the next day eating zero calories, then alternating between the two.
Modified alternate-day fasting – this has variants but what’s popular is a 5:2 approach, alternating five feed days with two fast days. It’s not eating zero calories but most often limiting to 400-500 calories (about 25% of a women’s caloric needs).
Time-restricted feeding (TRF) or time-restricted eating – in this approach you’re eating every day but limiting your eating window. Example, Becca was eating in a 6-hour window. This could also be an 8- or 10-hour window. There are many variations to this approach.
Watch the video!
What does research say about intermittent fasting?
This is where intermittent fasting gets interesting. Interesting in a way where I think – don’t try to make sense of it. Research is all over the place. For example:
- Looking at the cardio-metabolic profile or the health parameters.
- Looking at the effect on the gut microbiome.
- Looking at effects on longevity.
Of course, research focusing on intermittent fasting’s effect on weight loss is my focus on this piece.
The research is hard to compare for many reasons:
- There is no one definition of intermittent fasting – there is alternate day fasting, modified day fasting, and time-restricted feeding.
- With such varied factors like length of fasting period and level of caloric restriction on fasting days, comparisons are near impossible.
- Weight loss research did show people can lose weight with intermittent fasting. But like many weight loss studies, weight loss is the easy part. How is that weight loss maintained? That’s the big question. I didn’t find studies related to how long people body kept their weight off.
- The length of the studies varied considerably. The longest intervention study I reviewed was 52 weeks. But most were 10, 12, 20, and 26 weeks. And some just 5 weeks.
- Some studies show there was a loss of lean body mass (muscle tissue), but other studies show preservation of lean body mass. So again, a lot of variability.
- What I found interesting was that there was a sizable percentage – not uncommon really with weight loss studies – of people who dropped out. How many started but did not finish? The range varied from about 10% up to 66%. So, in other words, it’s challenging to stay on the protocol.
Like many weight loss studies, there is weight loss success but:
- How long is weight kept off?
- How many participants dropped out?
Many weight loss studies show success with different methods – be it low carb, low fat, etc. The real test though is how long is that weight kept off?
Pros and cons
One intermittent fasting pro is it has more to do with the time you’re eating, not what you’re eating. So, unlike many traditional fad-type diets, there is not a restriction or classification of good/bad foods. That’s not a bad thing – I like that!
Weight loss is the other pro but there’s a BIG question mark…how long is that weight kept off?
Intermittent fasting is about restriction. It’s not restricting what you eat, but when you eat, keeping you in the diet mentality mode. With my experience with women over the years, it is not ideal for health and wellbeing.
Another con is not paying attention to hunger. You’re eating within a window – like Becca was eating between 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
Imagine if I told you – you can ONLY pee from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Really? Just like only eating in a window or NOT eating between 5pm and 11am … you’re not listening to your physiological needs.
Hunger (like peeing) is a physiological need.
I focus on helping my clients tune into their hunger and satiety cues. With intermittent fasting that’s ignored.
Another con is not having freedom with food. You have freedom with your choices, with what you eat, but if you don’t have freedom with when you eat, it’s restriction. It’s a diet.
Yet another diet packaged pretty with a bow.
You’ve figured it out, I’m not a huge fan of intermittent fasting for the reasons I just mentioned:
- You’re not paying attention to hunger.
- You’re not experiencing food freedom.
- You are restricting.
- You’re tethered to a diet mentality mode.
My aim is to help women get out of that diet mentality mode – end their diet cycling.
If you need some help, I offer a complimentary session over the phone. Click the link to schedule. We’ll focus on what your needs are. If you’re interested in my gentler approach, please schedule!
Disclosure: As a former dieter turned flexitarian, I have found a better path. A path where I have freedom with the food I eat, enjoy food without guilt, and follow my hunger and satiety cues. I invite you to join me.
Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
Photo credits: pixabay, canva