In college, my roommate shed twelve pounds participating in a weight loss method she invented, dubbed “The Cookie Diet.” She ate nothing but chocolate chip cookie cereal in skim milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until she achieved her goal of dropping enough lbs to wear the bikini she wanted during spring break. Over my long career of dieting and inevitably rebounding back to fat girl status, I’ve discovered two things: 1) a lifestyle change is the only thing that actually works long term, 2) just about any fad you hear about works, for a short time. Eventually a fad may not be healthy or sustainable and leads to gaining the weight back, plus extra. This is especially true if you have more than a few pounds to lose.
I recently heard about intermittent fasting and it made me wonder if it was a fad diet, or if it could be a sustainable lifestyle change, the way carb restrictions have been for some people. There are several different ways to go about a fasting diet, but the two methods that seem to be most popular are Alternate Day Fasting and the 16:8.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate Day Fasting involves restricting calories to 500 on fasting days, which you alternate every other day, and eating whatever you want the rest of the week. There is a form of ADF where you don’t consume any calories on fasting days. You fast today, eat whatever you like tomorrow. According to Healthline.com, “studies have shown that ADF and daily calorie restriction are equally effective at reducing harmful belly fat and inflammatory markers in obese individuals.” However, people with certain medical restrictions and food requirements would not benefit from this plan. For example, if you’re required to take a pill with a meal every morning, fasting wouldn’t be right for you.
With the 16:8 method of fasting, you only eat during an eight-hour window each day. You can eat anything you like, as long as it’s in that time frame. Courtney Peterson, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says, “In most people, blood sugar control is best in the morning and gets worse as the day progresses. You also digest food faster in the morning. So there’s a metabolic advantage to eating earlier in the daytime.” Full disclosure, I’ve been test driving this method for a couple of months, and I have lost weight, but I’m hungry all the time. I’m not going wild during those eight hours. I still eat healthy, nutrient rich foods.
While fasting diets seem to work for the short term, there isn’t much data to let us know if it will be sustainable as a lifestyle change. There are also some potential negative side effects like anxiety and daytime sleepiness.
I never want to discourage anyone from getting healthy. If you need to shed some pounds, do whatever works for you. Everyone has individual needs and can benefit differently from weight loss methods. That’s what “eating right” boils down to, except, maybe skip the cookie cereal three times a day.