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Intermittent Fasting Q+A

Esther Sara asks if Intermittent fasting is successful, helpful, and how long it took to see a difference.

Here’s my answer:2018clock

Basic background:

Intermittent fasting/IF is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting (though water is typically allowed) and non-fasting. Intermittent fasting can be used along with calorie restriction for weight loss. Generally there are two main types- one which fasting is performed on alternate days and (the one I have seen more) which is fasting for a period of each day- usually slightly longer than the hours in which you sleep.  In other words with most calories being consumed within an 8 hour window of the day. There are many combinations and modifications of this type of eating.

How I define success:

If by successful, you mean that you feel good and you are energized, clear thinking, regulated mood and able to perform the activities of daily living including daily exercise with optimal performance (ie not hitting the proverbial wall in your training) and its something sustainable long term- as in the rest of your life and won’t get in the way of your time with family and friends and you also feel good looking in the mirror, than I would call that really successful.

If on the other hand you find that you are obsessing about food and the clock or it leads you to a binge cycle, or you expect to use this as a temporary weight loss method followed by a return to some more typical eating pattern for yourself or followed by a series of other diets and/or you aren’t performing and feeling optimal on it, I would tend to view it as a massive fail. (There is scientific data to support the view that cyclic dieting isn’t best for long term optimal health or physique).

If you are considering whether this method vs. eating 3 squares, or 3 main meals and a snack or two is better, or eating every 2-4 hours is better for optimal health and performance or even for weight loss….I think the scientific data I have read is far from conclusive.

This eating plan is generally frowned upon for children by the medical community and that’s enough to give me pause.  

There’s no way someone else can answer how long it would take for you to see a change in physique (despite the heavy marketing you may have seen) since there are many unknowns including your baseline metabolism, dieting history, and how many calories from what types of foods you plan to consume, and whether you plan to exercise. Keep in mind, there’s nothing to say you will be happier, healthier or more attractive from rapid weight loss. Most times clients engage in short term rapid weight loss, they experience a boomerang effect of long term increased set point, slower metabolism and more difficulty losing weight. In fact if you are thinking about severe caloric restriction as a weight loss plan I urge you to have a discussion with a Registered Dietitian, a Mental Health Professional, and a Physician who can properly advise you.
The Jewish Context:

In a Jewish context, we encounter situations regularly in which eating is restricted and where fasting for spiritual purposes is practiced or simply situations where one is required to wait.  In fact, even within regional groups we see differences in how long one restricts consumption of meat after milk. In some regions it was typically 1 hour and in others it was 4 and yet others approximately 6.  Part of this has to do with how many meals were typically consumed in a day. People do different things based on their custom and lifestyle and region.

Conclusion:

Humans are amazingly versatile omnivores designed for survival. Can I suggest looking inside to what suits your family and lifestyle and tuning into your body to find what works best for you long term. Find what is showing your body love and respect for its needs and what makes it feel and perform optimally. Know that there are many different ways for different people to eat and there are many paths to optimal health.  

 

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