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Is Fasting an Effective Weight Loss Strategy

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Is it a fad or a game changer? That seems to be the question that most ask about Intermittent Fasting. What is it, you ask? Intermittent fasting is a diet program in which you eat and fast regularly. The 16:8 fasting program requires one to eat during an 8-hour window and abstain from eating for 16 hours. Unsweetened tea and coffee are allowed during the fast period. Most participants opt to eat during the middle of the day and fast at night. 

It’s helpful and encouraged to limit calories to roughly 1500 per day. Balanced meals in moderate portions are the key:

  • fruits and vegetables, which can be fresh, frozen, or canned (in water)
  • whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley
  • lean protein sources, such as poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, low-fat cottage cheese, and eggs
  • healthful fats from fatty fish, olives, olive oil, coconuts, avocados, nuts, and seeds

 Drinking lots of water is another critical component of the plan. Fasters are encouraged to consume upwards of 120 ounces of water per day. Moderate exercise rounds out a balanced fasting approach. 

How does fasting work? According to Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, “Intermittent fasting works by prolonging the period when your body has burned through the calories consumed during your last meal and begins burning fat.” Denying your body food causes it to convert fat to energy. If you break the fast, those calories interrupt the fat-burning process and are used to produce energy. 

Personal note: I started a fasting plan (16-hour fast, 8-hour eating window) on June 26th, intending to lose 60 lbs. I’m in my late fifties with compromised mobility due to bad hips. So far, I’ve lost 21 lbs. (through August 2nd weigh-in), and I’m feeling and sleeping much better. Here are a few tips that I’ve found beneficial if you are interested in fasting:

1) Don’t step on the scale every day. I didn’t see any significant loss until the end of week two. Modify the program if you don’t feel anything after 14 days. Watch your sugar and bread intake. That was part of my problem. 

2) Avoid “empty” calories. Diet soft drinks and processed foods are at the top of this list. Your body receives very little nourishment with some calories converted to fat.

3) Choose a plan that accommodates your schedule. Don’t change your life for the fast. Change the fast for your life. I chose the 16:8 because I eat an early dinner and can get by with a black coffee in the AM. Finishing dinner by 430 PM allows me to eat breakfast around 830 AM, or I can continue the fast and benefit from more fat burning. I’ve built the plan around my life.

4) Don’t stress when you break the program. The fasting police are not coming for you. IT’S OK! Get back at it after that getaway weekend. Life comes first.

5) Create a simple and comfortable exercise routine. Go for a walk, do some bodyweight exercises ( planks, sit-ups, push-ups, squats, etc. ). Start slow and build up. Five sit-ups and five push-ups are better than zero. Don’t get discouraged. Perseverance pays off!

6) HYDRATE OFTEN. Thirst is often confused with hunger. Grab the water and not the carbs. I’ve extended a couple of fasts beyond 20 hours and never felt hunger pains. I pour 30 oz. water as soon as I finish my morning coffee. 

Good luck on your fasting journey!

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