I am regularly asked for input about the various diets that have become fashionable. First, I make sure to remind everyone that I am a personal trainer, not a registered dietician, so I can’t tell people what they should and should not eat.
All I can do within my scope of practice is provide general guidelines and help to dispel some of the common myths.
One of those general guidelines is that nearly everything that contains the word “diet” is probably a bad idea. Diets are generally unsustainable and require people to either drop calorie consumption to dangerously low levels or nearly eliminate macronutrients, which are necessary components of a balanced diet.
Diets are basically band-aids that are used to temporarily cover a problem. People are unhappy with their weight, so they go on a diet. They lose a few pounds and feel empowered to dive face first into cheeseburgers and super-sized fries.
That makes the weight go up, which leads to yet another diet. This becomes chronic dieting and can cause a lot of long-term problems.
Consequently, I have typically cautioned against doing any of the fad diets, but rather pursuing a reasonable amount of calories on a balanced diet.
As a result, when I first started hearing about intermittent fasting, I initially lumped it into the fad diet category and subsequently ignored it. After many requests for my take on it, I decided it was time to give it a solid look so as to give an educated opinion.
Unfortunately, intermittent fasting is new enough that more research is required to provide any sort of scientific evidence. That presented a conundrum for me because I pride myself on relying upon scientifically proven principles rather than celebrity testimony or the gossip gals at Starbucks.
Lacking any sound research, I had to look into how intermittent fasting works, and try to make my best judgment on the concept. I was pleased to see that it was a “diet” that wasn’t actually a diet at all.
There is no mention of how “evil” carbohydrates are or any nonsense claiming that obscene amounts of saturated fat is healthy rather than a surefire heart attack waiting to happen.
There is also no need to cut calories below a recommended level. Obviously, if calorie consumption is currently excessive, there is a need to lower consumption to an acceptable amount.
Otherwise, maintaining the proper balance of food in a healthy quantity is recommended. That is why intermittent fasting is not a diet, and subsequently not something that carries the risks of chronic dieting.
Without any of the typical warning signs, I decided the best way to give my take on intermittent fasting was to try it and report my experience. The timing was perfect. After a shoulder surgery with a difficult recovery and a winter break where I ate more than I exercised, I had some weight to lose.
Intermittent fasting focuses less on what to eat and more on when to eat. There are a number of different strategies for doing this, and I wasn’t inclined to try every one of them.
So I selected the one that seemed like it would work for me.
My strategy was to avoid eating while still consuming liquids for 16 hours of the day and eating all of my meals within an eight-hour window.
The hardest part came from food cravings. I was not used to waiting so long to eat, after all. However, those weren’t too difficult to overcome. Drinking my fill of coffee, green tea and water helped to make me feel more sated and finding other things to focus on keeping my mind off eating.
I didn’t change what I was eating and kept a food journal to make sure I was still getting enough to eat of all the macronutrients.
After a week I stepped on the scale and discovered that I had lost five pounds. Pleased with pretty remarkable progress, I have elected to stay with this method of eating and monitor the weekly results.
I will now point out that this was my result thus far and is not going to happen for everybody. I will also state that I am not endorsing the way of eating; I am only sharing what happened for me and why I wasn’t afraid to try it.
No two people are identical, so no method is going to be universally effective. If you are interested in trying intermittent fasting, I recommend you research the different ways of doing it and decide which method seems the most realistic for your own lifestyle. As always, any concerns with diet are best discussed with a registered dietician.