You might’ve spotted something about intermittent fasting on your news feed. Or maybe a friend or coworker recently raved about how it helped them reach their goal weight. Regardless of how you might have heard of it, your interest is piqued and you want to learn more.
Well, you’ve come to the right place! Today, I’m answering the top three questions that people most often ask me about intermittent fasting for weight loss. Here’s what you need to know and how you can get started.
What exactly is intermittent fasting, anyway?
It’s a pattern of eating that involves alternating long periods of fasting with periods of regular eating. Cutting off food for a set amount of time—say, after dinner until mid-morning—can be an easy way to curb calories. (No more late-night pantry raids!) A growing body of research also suggests that eating this way could help promote fat-burning, especially in the abdominal area.
Most people who do intermittent fasting do it in one of two ways:
- Time-restricted eating, where you fast for a certain number of hours (usually between 12 and 16) every day and eat normally the rest of the time.
- 5:2 fasting, where you eat 500 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and eat normally on the other days.
Will intermittent fasting really help me lose weight?
It might! Research has found that both time-restricted eating and 5:2 fasting can help people drop pounds. In fact, doing just two 12-hour fasts per week could be enough to spur weight loss. Want to get a little more ambitious? Eating 500 calories every other day (and eating normally on the other days) seems to be just as good for weight loss as traditional diets that force you to cut your calories by a little bit each day.
There’s another big benefit: Going longer without eating could actually help make those diet-derailing cravings more manageable. It might sound hard to believe, but fasting seems to stave off the blood sugar spikes and dips that often send us running for the snack drawer or vending machine for a quick hit of energy.
I want to give it a try. How can I get started?
Great! Intermittent fasting can be an effective tool for weight loss. But like with any diet plan, you should talk with your your health care provider before getting started.
Getting your doctor’s green light is especially important if you have diabetes. Going for long periods without eating could put you at risk for low blood sugar, so it’s crucial to work with your diabetes care team to figure out an approach that’s both healthy and safe.
Finally, don’t forget to consider your lifestyle. While intermittent fasting works for some people, not everyone finds it sustainable. You might notice that it leaves you uncomfortably hungry, or maybe it just doesn’t mesh with your schedule. That’s okay! The key to lasting, successful weight loss is incorporating changes that you can stick with long-term. If intermittent fasting doesn’t feel like the right fit, a registered dietitian can help you consider other options that might be a better fit.