Intermittent fasting is the new hot trend in weight loss circles. It involves going for lengthy periods of time without eating anything, and then feasting at intermittent periods. Does this strange technique work? A new obesity study in JAMA appears to confirm some effectiveness.
If you’ve been following nutrition and weight loss trends in the mainstream media lately, you may have come across the idea of “intermittent fasting.” It’s a diet plan where the dieter goes with zero or close to zero food for regular intervals, and then feasts when they do eat. Participants often feel that going without food for various lengths of time helps to sharpen their willpower and ability to monitor their intake. What’s more, many intermittent fasters report that they get fuller more quickly when they do eat.
Not to burst the bubble of any die-hard intermittent fasters, but ultimately intermittent fasting is essentially the same thing as good old fashioned calorie restriction (the “normal” way of dieting). Whether you eat tiny amounts all day, or one massive multi-thousand calorie meal per day, or anything in between, it all comes down to basic math. If you eat more calories than you burn in a day, that ratio will add up to accumulate weight over time. If you burn more calories than you have replenished with food in a day, that ratio will also deliver weight loss over time.
The obesity study in JAMA seems pretty clear: intermittent fasting is not any better than calorie restriction. At best, it’s equally effective, but there are also less-than-optimal side effects from going long periods of time without eating. So, like many other things when it comes to weight loss or other areas of self-discipline, it really comes down to what motivates you or excites you to follow through with your weight loss plan.
If intermittent fasting feels like a more natural approach to limiting your caloric intake to you, then great! Give it a try and see if it fits with your lifestyle. If the traditional method of counting calories and exercising feels like the right path for you, go with that. Ultimately, they are two routes to the same goal, and the deciding variable in each case is actually you — your mind, your willpower, your determination, your ability to stick with your goals. As long as the underlying plan is medically and scientifically sound, it doesn’t really matter which “flavor” of diet plan you choose.
It just matters that you stick with it.