Intermittent Fasting: Fact or Fad?

MDLinx

Hanna Da’Mes, Arts Editor |

What if I told you that you could be healthier by simply skipping breakfast? Before you roll your eyes and happily return back to your Lucky Charms, hear me out. Sure, we’ve been told our whole lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but could there be a healthy alternative to forcing your body to eat when it isn’t hungry yet? I’ve gathered you all here today to tell you that yes, there is, and it’s called intermittent fasting.

Before you shove this article away and vow never to read anything written by me again, let’s get two things straight: I absolutely love breakfast food and definitely hate fad diets. When I heard about intermittent fasting for the first time, I began reading articles and watching informative videos on the subject. Sure, some of the videos were just young fitness gurus claiming that after two weeks of fasting they lost 10 pounds and were more energetic than ever, clearly only having tried it because it was the latest health trend. But I also found a good amount of research about the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

So what exactly is it? When people hear the word “fasting,” they usually think it means going without food indefinitely and either you adapt or die. But in actuality, intermittent fasting is when you separate the 24-hour day into a ratio in which you spend either eating or not eating; the most common ratio is an eight/sixteen day in which sixteen hours are spent fasting and eight hours are spent eating. Although sixteen hours sounds like an awful amount of time to not eat (and I love to eat), if you stop eating at 7 p.m. and then go to sleep at a regular time, you only have to wait until 11 a.m. the next morning to eat again which, if you think about it, is pretty normal and definitely doable. If you’re an impulsive night-snacker like me, this might make things only slightly more difficult for you, but just adjust the hours, gain a little self-control, and you’re on your way to a new and improved life.

So now that we’ve established that intermittent fasting is at least a conceivable idea, let’s get into how exactly it helps us out.

Generally, people begin diets in order to lose either body weight or body fat. Like I said before, I’m not a huge fan of calculated diets that are either restrictive or particular about what kinds of foods you put into your body; I believe that the best way to have a healthy relationship with food is to educate yourself about what the human body needs in order to function properly, and from then on learn how to listen to your body to know what you need. Intermittent fasting in no way restricts the amount of food consumed, but rather the times in which you consume. It is possible to eat at a maintenance level of caloric intake and still lose weight while fasting in this way.

Too good to be true? Nah. While eating in ratio, the body will crave sodium, which initially raises insulin levels. Insulin also increases during the period of eating, which allows the body to use energy from carbohydrates. During the actual fasting, insulin levels will then be able to lower significantly again, which allows for a decrease in appetite and therefore the body becomes accustomed to this new style of eating. According to Joseph Everett’s research presented on his “What I’ve Learned” channel on YouTube, “Hunger is regulated by hormones like ghrelin and it comes in waves. You do not get progressively hungrier the longer you go without food—your body adapts to your REGULAR eating schedule.” Since you’re eating for a shorter amount of time in the day, you can eat bigger meals and more calories, so you aren’t restricting yourself but rather giving your body time to digest properly and use up stored energy in an efficient manner.

As well as aiding in proper digestion, fasting helps your body reset, flushing out toxins and in some cases, curing diseases. Some religions even use the method of fasting in order to be closer to their faith. In Islam, those who practice fasting often fast during the month of Ramadan. Fasting clears the body as the well as mind, allowing people to become closer to their core beliefs and, therefore, God. There are countless accounts of the positive effects of fasting on the mind and body.

You can research this kind of thing all you want, but you’re only really going to believe it if you try it out yourself. So, I did. For the past month, I more or less ate from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. to see if this whole intermittent fasting thing was just a fad or if there were actual benefits to the diet. I noticed that by not eating right when I woke up, I wasn’t as hungry later on in the day and I didn’t feel the need to snack mindlessly. My body quickly adjusted to when it was supposed to eat and not eat, and after a while I didn’t really have to think about what I was doing. I also noticed that I wasn’t nearly as prone to bloating, which indicated that my digestion had improved.

I don’t think intermittent fasting needs to be a lifelong habit, and I don’t think it’s necessarily for everyone because every body composition is different, but I do think there are undeniable health advantages that result from fasting, even if it’s just for one week or a few days. I know one thing is for sure: intermittent fasting should not be reduced to a trend that only young, white, yoga-loving girls do (nothing against yoga-loving girls).

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