The idea of ‘dieting’ only every other day may seem like an attractive one. However, it’s a controversial diet that challenges conventional views about how and when we should eat. Enter: Intermittent Fasting – chances are you’ve already tried it in one version or another. How long you choose to fast is entirely personal, and different styles will suit different people.

Why Fast?

The idea that going extended periods without food is an old-age practice, typically promoted as a means of discipline, reducing gluttony and focusing the mind. What is new, though, is the weight loss angle, which has turned intermittent fasting into one of the biggest health trends today.

Advocates for taking periodic breaks from eating tout it as an effective and research-backed means of losing weight and improving health. Truth is, any calorie-restrictive diet will be effective for the duration of the diet, but the longer-term benefits or harms (should you be able to stick with it) remain questionable. In other words, consider how long you will be able to tolerate the ability to listen to your stomach growl and not lash out at your colleagues because of hanger.

So, it begs the question: do we really need to endure such extended periods of time (like 24 hours) without food? If this still sounds like a diet that involves too much willpower, you’re not alone.

These safe and sustainable strategies will help you stick to an eating pattern without feeling famished.

1. Follow your rhythm

It’s no good deciding that you’re going to be nil by mouth for an entire day if you’ve never done it before. Start small and progress from there. A good place to start would be to stop eating at 7pm and resume eating at 7am (12 hour fast), where you incorporate a period of sleep in the fasting window. Shift workers will have to adjust accordingly. Recall the adage: diminish your dinner and you will be thinner.

2. Choose your own window

Putting your own spin on an otherwise structured eating diet allows room for flexibility. This means, there’s no magical eating window to stick to. The flexible approach allows you to create that desired eating window at any point during the day [or night] to suit your schedule and lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be the same window day after day.

3. Quality trumps quantity

Many intermittent fasting plans limit total calories to just 500 on fasting days, which is not realistic for many. Being too restrictive can backfire, especially when the chances of over-indulging on ‘feast’ days’ are high. So, savouring a small spinach and kale salad just won’t cut it if you’re just going to crave ice-cream before bed. Ultimately, to ‘fast’ successfully ensure your plate is balanced, fulfilling and tailored specifically to your needs. Equally important is making sure you’re giving your body enough food to fuel upcoming activities or workouts.

4. Be Mindful

When it’s time to eat, do so mindfully. Eating slower, taking smaller bites, and removing mealtime distractions (including the TV and phone) have all been shown to boost satisfaction, and naturally prevent overeating. This strategy is especially effective for helping you make better eating choices and stick to a healthy eating habit – whether it’s labelled intermittent fasting or not.

The Takeaway

Be warned, Intermittent Fasting is not for everyone. Regardless of how long to choose to abstain from eating or reduce your energy intake, keep in mind that you need to eat healthy as well. Following the ‘everything in moderation’ rule usually ensures you maintain a sensible energy intake, which would also result in the calorie deficit you need to whittle the waistline – so choose whichever eating pattern you think you’ll find easiest to stick to and go from there.

This article originally appeared in Body & Soul. Author: Kathleen Alleaume

Still unsure about Fasting? You may also like the Diet That Actually Works?

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