Fasting is the rage these days – it seems like everyone is doing it and not just for religious purposes. But what are the intermittent fasting results for weight loss? Should you try intermittent fasting? Will you lose weight and is it safe?
As a Family Physician and obesity medicine advocate, I am asked regularly about intermittent fasting. Patients have no idea where to go with their diets for sustained results.
Should you be eating 6 small meals a day or every 6 days?
The information available these days is all over the place. And not all of it is legitimate. My promise to you has always been, and will always be, to stay with the legitimate medically-based research. And, believe it or not, that can even be tricky. Many dietary studies are small and obtain varied results.
A Quick History of Obese America
Here’s the truth behind our diets in the United States today and how intermittent fasting became the rage:
- Diets came under increased focus in the 1970’s when heart disease became the #1 cause of death. Makes sense – bad diet = heart disease = death. Good diet = less heart disease = less death.
- High fat in the diet became the culprit for heart disease. The US Senate released The Dietary Goals for the United States in 1977 stating “Increase carbohydrate consumption to 55-60% of calories and decrease fat consumption to 30%.”
- With that came the 1970’s Food Pyramid:
- Obesity rates INCREASED. No benefit there.
- Where do we look next? Meal frequency. Insert the “6 small meals a day” diet plan. What happened next? Obesity rates INCREASED.
And here is where the evidence gets a little more tricky. You see OBESITY RATES CONTINUE TO INCREASE. Period. No one has the magic answer. The good news is there are smart people out there trying to figure out the solution. And that in a VERY short synopsis is how we got started looking at fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
The term intermittent fasting refers to going periods of time without eating. Duh. Intermittent fasting can be used to describe anything from time-restricted eating (only eating during certain hours of the day) to extended fasts (days to weeks).
The most common forms of intermittent fasting these days typically entail either eating during an 8 hour period (Usually noon to 8pm daily) or 24-30 hour fasts.
Why is Intermittent Fasting Suddenly the Rage?
Because that’s what we do with diet, right? Something is so in vogue – until it is out of vogue. And we talk about how stupid it was. That really is the truth with a lot of diets – either someone is just trying to sell something quickly without the research or the research shows it doesn’t work.
But what can you sell with fasting? Lack of food. That’s doesn’t make much sense. No worries about selling you something crazy with this diet.
And fasting is nothing new. We all know that fasting has been around as long as the Christian bible for religious purposes. It is still incorporated in Catholic Lent devotions and Ramadan for Muslims. That had nothing to do with weight loss, though.
Physician support of intermittent fasting in terms of weight loss is growing exponentially. And most of that goes back to a book written by Dr. Jason Fung called The Obesity Code. Dr. Fung is a kidney Doctor who writes extensively about the benefits of a low-carbohydrate intermittent fasting diet (LC-IF).
What is HORMONAL Obesity all about?
Dr. Fung, and many other physicians, support a HORMONAL not CALORIE based view of obesity. I will have many more posts on this but let’s start by making a complex topic as simple as possible.
The theory stems from two important components discussed above: high carbohydrate diet and eating many small meals a day. What do we all know eating lots of carbs does to your body (that’s donuts, candy, soda, bread, etc.)? Not only does it start to make you look like the marshmallow man but it also increases your risk of DIABETES.
Insulin, a hormone in our bodies that helps your body use sugar, levels increased to match the “high carbohydrate” diet that was now recommended for Americans. Throw in the fact that the high carbohydrate snacks were added between meals and you now had CONSTANTLY high insulin levels.
Insulin and Weight Gain
Insulin causes weight gain. Just ask anyone you know that was started on insulin to treat their Diabetes. And constantly high insulin levels can cause extreme weight gain.
And that’s where intermittent fasting comes into play. It gives your poor overly extended insulin-producing cells a break from food. With that, Dr. Fung’s theory states, your insulin resistance drops and you lose weight. And, according to the hormonal theory of obesity, it should be more weight than calorie counting alone.
My Intermittent Fasting Results for Weight Loss
As promised, I’m giving all of the popular diets a fair trial. And intermittent fasting was at the top of my list. Many of my female Doctor friends were already doing it and raved about their success.
I chose the 24 hour fast. Why? I have had MANY patients start with time-restricted eating, meaning they eat during a 6-8 hour period a day and fast the rest. For the medically complicated patient, that may be necessary. The problem is, not many people really lose weight on it. It just doesn’t seem to be enough, in my experience, to make a significant difference.
I did NOT choose the 30 hour fast because it just sounded too long. I know myself. My office has coffee in the morning, lunch, and a snack mid-afternoon every day. And my hallway is seriously beside the break room. If I knew I had to go 30 hours without eating, I would break that for a mini-bundt cake every single time.
My 24-Hour Fasting Plan
A 24 hour fast consists of not eating from dinner one day to dinner the next. Knowing that I had dinner that night to look forward to got me through the day. There is never a full “day” that you don’t eat on the 24 hour fast. You can have black coffee, tea, and water as much as you want. Woohoo!
I chose to start with Dr. Fung’s plan – 3 days of fasting a week. That’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But it can be changed to fit your needs. That’s one of the best parts of fasting – you can change it up easily.
The first 2 days I fasted STUNK. It’s amazing how many times I skip breakfast but suddenly throwing the name “fasting” into it somehow made breakfast sound so much better.
After a few days, though, it got easier. And I mean WAY easier. After a few weeks, I actually found that my fasting days were easier for me than my non-fasting days. I had time at lunch to get other things done as well.
And I wasn’t negotiating with myself all day on whether or not I should REALLY have that second tiny candy. I mean a tiny candy isn’t as bad as a mini-bundt cake, right? Or maybe I could just have some extra cheese instead. All off the table with fasting. You just aren’t eating until dinner.
And How Significant was My Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss?
It may not seem like it but I’m a science girl at heart. I did go to medical school after all. So, I tried intermittent fasting in a few different combinations: intermittent fasting with low-carbohydrate diet, intermittent fasting with Mediterranean diet, and now I’m onto Mediterranean diet without fasting for comparison sake.
This takes some time and there are obviously always contributing factors (like holidays or my daughter’s birthday), but across the board my weight loss with intermittent fasting was stellar.
During my first week of intermittent fasting in both trials, I lost over 5 pounds. Over 5 pounds in a week – that’s impressive. And the weight loss continued for weeks. My husband, who had a little more weight to lose, lost almost 10 pounds in the first week on both trials.
When I took the intermittent fasting out of the equation, the weight loss was slower. I do believe that picking a good “diet” to go along with intermittent fasting is important as well. There will be much more to come on that.
If you want more basics on my intermittent fasting plan, join my email list below and get my Intermittent Fasting Tips sent directly to you!
Simple Solution: Intermittent fasting does actually have a scientific basis behind it for weight loss. Decreasing insulin, your obesity-triggering hormone, will help speed up weight loss. And my weight loss was significant. Check out my tips on starting intermittent fasting below.
For more information on Dr. Fung’s Obesity Code, check out: https://www.dietdoctor.com/authors/dr-jason-fung-m-d
For more on The History of the US Food Pyramid: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/HTML/G5_History.htm
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