What is intermittent fasting?
By now, you've probably heard of intermittent fasting as a trendy way to lose weight. The ancient practice of choosing not to eat or drink during certain time periods has seen a renewal in the past few years. There are plenty of books, online programs, protocols, and real experts on intermittent fasting. There are also bro-scientists who will tell you what they've heard, but not how to do it right or what to look out for.
I don't know; I wouldn't do it. The idea is to control your food urges and eat less often, making it easier to create a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Fasting: it's not for everyone
My friends are getting mixed results from intermittent fasting programs. I noticed four common mistakes that ruin efforts and even cause people to gain weight:
1) Binge eating
One of the biggest challenges to not eating for a while is how hungry you feel when it's time to eat! I know that if I get caught working through lunch, or eat a breakfast that's too light, my next meal is more likely to have something fried in it. Doing this to yourself while intermittent fasting isn't going to help you reach your goals (you've been specific about your goals for this diet, right?)
Read more: Stop Waiting to Make your Dreams Your Reality!
2) Not tracking and planning what you eat
With that, not paying attention to what you're eating or your portion size is not gonna take you where you want to go. Awareness is key- know how being hungry affects your food choices, and be sure to eat slowly enough to recognize when you're full. Also, when eating less often, being sure to eat a balanced diet with all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients you need.
In theory, intermittent fasting is supposed to keep you from mindless snacking. However, when you haven't eaten for a few hours, those little snacks keep jumping into your mouth. These will almost always be candy, cookie, chips, snack cakes, or something you have quick access to. These calories and fat grams count, and they're typically worse than what you would've eaten for lunch.
If you don't work in isolation without any meetings, you will come face to face with someone who's eating something delicious. It's easy to cave into peer pressure and temptation at a restaurant. I hope you're disciplined enough to handle that situation- bonus if you're graceful while hangry.
Though many see results from intermittent fasting, I don't recommend it for most people
As the wellness coach improving freelancers' productivity and health so they enjoy the reasons they work, I do not positively recommend intermittent fasting. Three reasons:
How do you focus when you're hungry? You wait until you forget you're hungry. I believe it's too big of a distraction for many freelancers to work optimally.
I'm a huge fan of making small, easy to maintain choices that create lasting effects. If it's crazy for you to imagine intermittent fasting (or any diet) for the next 1-5 years, are you planning for results that last that long? Sure, you could follow a diet to lose weight, then adjust it to maintain your new weight, but you have to incorporate that into your plan early and stick to it!
Not for everyone
It's a good idea to talk with your doctor (and a dietitian) before starting any diet. Some people should definitely consult before trying intermittent fasting:
- History of eating disorders
- People with history or risk of low blood sugar
- Pregnant women
- People notably underweight or overweight
What should you do instead of intermittent fasting?
Eat only fruits and veggies during the times you're supposed to be fasting!
The USDA dietary guidelines recommend eating 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily to reduce their risk of chronic disease- which is a big enough challenge for the average American eating 2-3 total cups per day! Produce is a great source of fiber that keeps you from feeling hungry, plus vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling great and working well!
What the research says
The Annual Review of Nutrition concluded "intermittent fasting regimens may be a promising approach to losing weight and improving metabolic health for people who can safely tolerate intervals of not eating, or eating very little, for certain hours of the day, night, or days of the week."
Human studies haven't yet had powerful designs (small sample sizes, no control groups, short follow-up, healthy individuals who were unlikely to see effects).
Research has not demonstrated that alternate-day fasting regimens produce superior weight loss in comparison to standard, continuous calorie restriction weight-loss plans.
The research also has not investigated links between intermittent fasting and diet, sleep, and physical activity (and probably not freelance productivity and enjoyment).
Instead of intermittent fasting, strive to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Though fasting may help you reach your weight goals, it is difficult to maintain, and may temporarily decrease your work productivity. Intermittent fasting is an interesting topic, so I'll keep an eye on results of new studies.