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Intermittent Fasting, The Non Diet That Works

By | Fact Checked |

Intermittent Fasting, The Non Diet That Works

The word “diet” conjures up a variety of responses, and not all of them are positive. A similar thing can be said about the word “fasting,” but when we talk about intermittent fasting, now that can be a different story.

Let us explain. Intermittent fasting isn’t really about fasting, and it’s not a diet: it’s a conscious way of eating and a lifestyle. It’s not super strict, and in fact, there are several popular variants, so you can choose an approach that fits into your way of life. You don’t count calories, points, carbs, or steps. Basically, you change when you eat and not what you eat.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves limiting the time of the day that you consume calories. Each individual who follows this lifestyle chooses the variant that works best for them. For example, one of the more popular variants is 16:8, which means you abstain from eating for 16 hours and eat during the other eight. Another popular pattern is 5:2, which means you fast for two non-consecutive days of the week and eat unrestricted food during the other five days.
One of the more popular things people like about intermittent fasting is that what you eat isn’t restricted. You can eat what you want, but only within the time frame, you have chosen.

Historically, our ancestors didn’t eat three meals a day. As hunters and gatherers, they experienced periods of fasting, and their bodies adjusted to this lifestyle. Intermittent fasting mimics that way of eating.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting become apparent more quickly than others, but they are there nonetheless. Here are some of the benefits you may enjoy.

  • Reduced inflammation. Chronic inflammation is an underlying issue for many of our more serious medical conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, obesity, gastrointestinal problems, and more. Research has shown that intermittent fasting can help lower and prevent inflammation and thus help with symptom relief.
  • Anti-aging. Keep in mind that long-term studies have been done on animals only. However, results have been promising in the use of intermittent fasting for slowing the aging process.
  • Prevention of cancer. A variety of animal studies of the impact of intermittent fasting on cancer risk indicate that it may significantly reduce the chances of developing the disease in later years.
  • Help with menopausal symptoms. According to Taz Bhatia, MD, an integrative physician, intermittent fasting may help with the relief of various menopausal symptoms, including brain fog, insulin resistance, weight gain, depression, and anxiety.
  • Postmenopausal weight control. One study reported that intermittent fasting was helpful for weight control and weight loss for postmenopausal women.
  • Better heart health. The American Heart Association recommends intermittent fasting because a number of factors associated with heart disease improve when you adopt this eating program, such as insulin resistance, inflammatory factors, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  • Improved insulin resistance. Some people experience a decline in insulin resistance as well as a lowering of blood sugar and insulin levels when they follow intermittent fasting.
  • Enhanced brain health. Can you name two ways intermittent fasting can help your brain? This eating lifestyle can increase levels of the brain’s production of BDNF, a nerve cell growing chemical, as well as help, prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Read about more health benefits of intermittent fasting

How do I start intermittent fasting?

The first thing you need to do is choose your eating program. The two most popular options have already been mentioned: 16:8 and 5:2. Two other possibilities are 14:10 and 18:6. The idea is to find a pattern that most comfortably and conveniently fits your lifestyle. You may need to try several different options before you decide on the one that works for you.

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Your next step is to write down your eating schedule and make sure you have food readily available during your fast. You also want to have 4 to 5 eating points. For example, a 16:8 plan could look like this:

  • 9 AM: First meal: Green smoothie
  • 12 noon: Roasted vegetable salad with pita
  • 2:30 PM: Apple and nut butter
  • 4:30 PM: Raw veggies and salsa
  • 6:40 PM: Last meal (dinner): Baked salmon, cauliflower rice, and peas

Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water, infused water, or herbal teas during the day.

What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?

You may experience some side effects as you ease into your new way of eating, depending on how you were eating in the past. For example, some possible effects may include

  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Extreme hunger
  • Stomach discomfort or cramps
  • Headaches
  • Excessive weight loss

If you are taking any type of medication, you should consult with a healthcare provider before adopting intermittent fasting. Some medications need to be taken with food, and your dosing schedule may conflict with your fasting one. Fasting also has an impact on how your body absorbs and uses chemicals and nutrients.

Read about is intermittent fasting for you?

Who should not adopt intermittent fasting?

It is not recommended for children or adolescents because they are still growing. Fasting may cause serious health problems, including stunted growth and impaired mental development, in young people. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also should avoid fasting because of possible harm to the child and themselves.
Intermittent fasting also is not recommended for anyone who has an eating disorder or any type of diet-related mental health challenges. It also can prove dangerous for anyone who has difficulty managing their diabetes.

What are the secrets of long-time intermittent fasters?

People who have been doing intermittent fasting for a long time offer these tidbits of wisdom to help you stay on track and keep it interesting.

  • Intermittent fasting can be a healthy way to eat, but only if you consume healthy foods. The program is not a magic bullet.
  • Because intermittent fasting isn’t a magic bullet for health, be sure to pay attention to other healthy habits, such as sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and stress management.
  • Enjoy the simplicity of it. You know when you will be eating and when you won’t. When you stick with the routine, it makes life simpler.
  • Shake it up every so often. Have dinner for breakfast. Keep a list of a dozen or more different snacks you can nosh on.
  • Don’t force it. If you try it for a month or so and it’s not working for you, either try a different eating pattern (e.g., switch to 5:2 or 14:10) or investigate other healthy eating programs.
  • Pay attention to your body. Be sure to eat a varied diet.
  • You may notice you are more disciplined. Because intermittent fasting requires discipline, at least in the beginning, many people who have been doing it for a while notice an improvement in discipline in other areas of their lives.
  • Dehydration can occur if you don’t pay attention to liquid intake during your fasting times. Be sure to drink enough water or other healthy no-calorie beverages.

Bottom line

Intermittent fasting can be a healthy way of eating for many people, including women in the menopausal years, anyone who wants to support their heart, brain, and overall health, and those looking for a versatile way of eating that can be incorporated into many lifestyles.

  • American Heart Association News. Regular fasting could lead to longer, healthier life. American Heart Association 2019 Nov 25
  • Arguin H et al. Short- and long-term effects of continuous versus intermittent restrictive diet approaches on body composition and the metabolic profile in overweight and obese postmenopausal women: a pilot study. Menopause 2012 Aug; 19(8):870-76.
  • Barnosky AR et al. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research 2014 Oct; 164(4):302-11
  • Bhatia T. Should you intermittent fast during menopause? A hormone expert explains. MindBodyGreen 2019 Nov 15
  • Goodrick CL et al. Effects of intermittent feeding upon growth and life span in rats. Gerontology 1982; 28(4)
  • Halagappa VK et al. Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Neurobiological Disease 2007 Apr; 26(1):212-20. Mattson MP. Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: a neurobiological perspective. Annual Review of Nutrition 2005; 25:237-60
Andrea is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) & Menopause Expert. Andrea is in menopause & has been researching for the last 5 years science-based ingredients and methods to help women manage their symptoms. She’s the Founder of—a multiple award-winning website. Andrea co-authored the book “Unjunk Your Junk Food” published by Simon and Schuster, as well as “Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart,” and “Label Lessons: Unjunk Your Kid’s Lunch Box.” Andrea co-hosts the Morphus for Menopause podcast and appears as a Healthy Living Expert on TV across North America. Andrea has more than 20 years of experience in the health & wellness space and is a multiple award-winning Influencer.