I recently posted on social media inquiring about friends’ experience with intermittent fasting. Having chalked the whole concept up to a fad used by celebrities and health gurus, I was floored by the responses I received. Not only had dozens of neighbors, former classmates and coworkers tried intermittent fasting, but many reaped major health benefits in the process. We reached out to Katie Abbott, local registered dietitian nutritionist and integrative nutrition health coach, to learn more about the ins and outs of intermittent fasting.
Abbott explains that intermittent fasting first gained traction in 1945 when scientists discovered the correlation between fasting and the longevity of mice. Fast forward nearly 75 years and the fad is at the center of many weight loss success stories. “Intermittent fasting is a way of eating where a person rotates periods of eating with periods of not eating, or fasting,” explains Abbott. “A main reason this can help with weight loss is that you end up taking in fewer calories than you typically would during the day. This method can also be an effective way to practice listening to your body and better recognize different physical hunger cues.”
Intermittent fasting takes various forms, explains Abbott. The most common method is the 16:8 which involves eating only during an eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Other versions include eating just one meal a day or utilizing the 5:2 rule which allows for five days of normal eating patterns fractured by two days of a severely restricted calorie intake.
Abbott does, however, warn against these more intensive fasting periods as they are likely not sustainable beyond the short term. “Intermittent fasting may cause health risks for certain individuals. It’s a good idea for anyone considering intermittent fasting to consult with their primary care physician,” advises Abbott. She claims that seeking medical expertise is especially necessary for diabetics, pregnant women, individuals with prescription medications, a history of eating disorders and the like.
A variation of the 16:8 method proved especially beneficial for Virginia Beach native, Crystal Lans. Lans opted for intermittent fasting as a means to help achieve her goals of cleansing her body and losing weight. “I initially started by fasting for three to four days a week while eating regularly for [the remaining] three to four days. Eventually it got to the point where I was no longer starving and would extend the fasting to two to three weeks at a time,” explains Lans. Her weight loss was visible within two weeks and her energy levels skyrocketed. “My energy [was] amazing during the fasting period and I felt pumped to do a workout,” she says.
Active individuals like Lans must be mindful of the foods they consume during eating periods, explains Abbott. Fasting alone will not make you healthy, but rather adopting a fortified diet between fasting windows. “It is imperative that [active individuals] get enough calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc. so they can reach their peak performance,” she says. “Making smart food choices can help you stay health, manage your weight and be physically active.”