Intermittent fasting is one of the most wide-sweeping health trends to emerge in recent years, with celebrities far and wide touting the benefits of their time-restricted eating regimens. From Gisele Bündchen to Kourtney Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Jen-An ( swoon ) and Halle Berry ( double swoon ), it’s hard to move for the amount of good press its been reaping. But, what exactly is intermittent fasting? Is fasting for weight loss a safe option? And, could it work for you?
Well, you’re in the right place, because we’ve called upon the best in the biz to explain and advise exactly how to get it right – and, potentially, when to back off. (There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, y’know.)
Before we jump into it, we do need to say that fasting is categorically not for everyone. If you have a history of or an active eating disorder, are pregnant, underweight or find periods of deliberate fasting to be triggering, please do not undertake any sort of fasting regimen. As always, please consult a GP before undertaking any fasting protocol. What is intermittent fasting?
Let’s begin with the basics: Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for restricting your daily eating to a specific and predetermined time window.
There are multiple protocols that fall under this term, with the 5:2 diet being one of the most popular, however, the celeb-fav 16:8 diet also falls into this category – this is when you would fast for 16 hours, taking in only water, and eat in an eight-hour window. Other common regimens include Circadian rhythm fasting – fasting for 13 hours, eating for 11 hours.
Depending on which protocol you choose (more on this later), you’ll be fasting for a set period of time and eating only during a certain window.
The reported benefits are far-ranging, from weight loss to better sleep , improved brain function and happier healthy digestion . Colour us intrigued… Is there anyone who shouldn’t intermittent fast?
Absolutely. Due to the emphasis on restricting feeding windows, the protocol can be triggering for those with a history of (or active) eating disorders as well as those with mitigating health conditions.
Shelley Perry , CEO of eating disorder charity S.E.E.D (Support and Education for Eating Disorders) Lancashire, cautions that the following people should avoid the eating protocol: Anyone in recovery from an eating disorder
Anyone with an active eating disorder
Those who are underweight
Those with chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer
‘Physically, fasting can lead to exhaustion , tiredness, headaches and dizziness,’ explains Perry. ‘Fasting can affect your mood and the stark reality of this is the knock-on effect to you socially – both in the home and in your relationships.’
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Some knock-on effects of this, Perry continues, include increased loneliness and isolation or, in some cases, Bulimia – an eating disorder characterised by cycles of purging and restriction. ‘It can often be the start of what becomes a difficult journey for many,’ she cautions.
‘A person may become obsessed with fasting… which could lead to an unhealthy relationship with food,’ cautions Dr Touroni. ‘The strict rules associated with fasting could also be triggering for someone who has a history of eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (BED).’
So, if that’s you – be sensible. Your mental and physical well being is always more important than any health protocol or diet. How does intermittent fasting work?
Since the dawn of time, humans have been governed by something called Circadian rhythms. These rhythms are internal processes based on day and night – keeping us in line with the natural world around us and maintaining our sleep and wake cycles, internal temperature and digestion. Cheers, nature!
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However, these rhythms also determine which chemicals are secreted when, and, according to research , can be impacted by eating out of sync with our natural rhythms. Fasting could help get your body back to equilibrium.
It also can help maintain a calorie intake that fits with your goals. Whether you’re trying to lose body fat , lose weight well or maintain your healthy weight loss, shortening the amount of time you have to eat can be an easier way to keep your intake in check. 6 benefits of intermittent fasting for women
The following benefits can be experienced by some. If you’re not convinced or have had a less than positive experience, keep scrolling to read up on four signs it’s not the right choice for you. 1. Stabilises blood sugar levels A University of Illinois at Chicago study displayed that eating on a time-restricted regimen can report a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance – key markers that control how your body breaks down food into energy, uses it for activity or stores it as fat. 2. Improves memory, brain function and mood Not to get too technical, but there’s a specific protein – brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that is elevated during prolonged periods of fasting.’This protein interacts with the part of the brain that strengthens memory and learning, improving a person’s cognitive ability,’ explains consultant psychologist and co-founder of My Online Therapy , Dr Elena Touroni.According to Dr Touroni, it can also have a profound impact on your mood, as fasting increases the levels of certain chemicals – like dopamine [the pleasure hormone] which can increase happiness and confidence whilst reducing anxiety and anxiety attack prevalence. 3. Reduces inflammation Chronic inflammation can play havoc with your body’s immune system and some research has shown that sustained inflammation can lead to chronic health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. This University of Hail study found that intermittent fasting for a month had a noticeable impact in suppressing inflammatory cells, decreasing body fat and circulating disease-fighting white blood cells. 4. Can help […]