Can intermittent fasting help you lose weight?

It’s that time of year when many people make a resolution to eat healthier.  Despite the best of intentions, it can be difficult to maintain the eating patterns of many diet plans.  Many people work hard to lose weight. Unfortunately, many gain it back when they return to their typical eating habits.  There are several reasons why it is difficult to keep the weight off. You can lose weight with most any “diet” plan. At some point however, it can become difficult to not eat the things that caused you to gain unwanted weight.  This is often the time when people give up because it becomes too difficult. Let’s face it, even though we know too much sugar, fried food, and alcohol aren’t healthy for us, they can make us feel really good in the short term. Behavior change is hard!

One lifestyle plan (not diet plan) that can be helpful is time restricted feeding (TRF) or what is commonly referred to as intermittent fasting.  Time restricted feeding refers to daily limitations in the timing of food intake, spanning from 4 to 12 hours, without reduction in caloric intake.  Eating only between 12:00 and 6:00 PM would be an example. Time restricted feeding can protect against several detrimental metabolic effects of a typical western diet.  TRF can help reduce body weight, increase in energy expenditure, improved glycemic control, lower insulin levels, and decrease inflammation.  

Realizing that many of us will consume sugar and processed foods, TRF can be a way to reduce the damaging effects these foods have on our body.  Don’t think of it as a diet. The word diet can imply a short term program to lose weight. That is one reason why when the diet ends, the weight comes back.  Think of TRF as a healthy lifestyle habit. If you are new to TRF, focus more on when you are eating instead of what or how much you are eating. There are definitely quicker ways to lose weight.  However, if you are looking for a sustainable plan that not only will help you lose weight, but will also have many other health benefits, consider time restricted feeding. It’s also one of the cheapest diet plans!  

If you are used to eating frequently, progress TRF gradually.  If you usually eat breakfast, consider pushing it back a couple hours to start.  It is normal to feel a little low on energy for the first week or two. This is because your body is used to the frequent intake of food.  It can be especially difficult if you typically consume carbohydrates for breakfast such as cereal, toast, or muffins. However, over time your body will adjust and burn more of your stored fat, instead of relying on the quick source of energy from carbohydrates.  Happy fasting!

Dr. Terry Gebhardt is a physical therapist and hypnotherapist at Colorado In Motion

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