Fasting seems to be a trend that comes and goes, with different diet names and methods emerging every year.
There’s the 5 & 2 Diet, Intermittent Fasting, simply skipping meals and so much more. It seems as though the crux of these diets all come down to a window of opportunity for meals, how long you abstain from food or how many calories you can consume within a set period of time.
But how successful is fasting in reality? Today I will discuss fasting purely from a caloric and behavioural perspective, as that seems to be were most of the problems or issues stem from. There are many other aspects of Fasting that may be considered such as religion, potential cell regeneration or bodily repair.
In my experience as a Nutrition Coach, I notice that many people attempt diet’s such as the 5 & 2 with little success in the long-term.
Why? Here is a breakdown of some common reasons:
Weight loss occurs during a calorie deficit. This means that you are consuming less calories than your body requires for its daily tasks and functions, leading to weight loss as the body searches for energy in fat stores.
Fasting is often employed as a weight loss tool, because you can easily move into a calorie deficit when you simply stop eating for a certain period of time. But is it really that simple?
Many people lack the willpower to eat within a healthy calorie range after a fasting period has occurred. Often, a person will over-eat or binge after a fasting period has occurred. In this situation, the fast would have been a waste of time because they have consumed more calories than their body requires, leading to weight gain or at the very least, weight maintenance.
The risk here is the rebound or yo-yo effect. You swing from periods of fasting to over-eating time after time, leading to serious metabolic and health concerns.
How long can an average person maintain regular fasting periods? Is is achievable over a weekend or during the festive season? In my experience, most individuals would struggle to maintain a regular fasting period throughout the year, while also trying to maintain a social and work life.
The main issue I see when talking with nutrition clients, is that they tried and failed fasting because it simple was not sustainable. They then reverted back to old eating habits that put them right back where they started. Again, eliciting a dangerous yo-yo effect.
Fasting has the potential to lead to dangerous nutritional habits, including disorder eating, yoyo-dieting and uncontrolled bingeing.
All of these issues can lead to metabolic problems, potentially slowing your weight loss down even further.
If you have noticed these sorts of problems occuring, it is important you engage the help of a registered nutrition or psychological professional to work through these issues.
When would fasting be advisable?
Fasting may work for some individuals, or even be recommended. As an example, some-one who doesn’t enjoy breakfast, or forgets to eat from time to time may benefit from a scheduled window of opportunity to eat.
For those who simply forget to eat, having a scheduled time to eat their daily calories may suit their lifestyle, preferences and work schedule. For those who complete night-shifts may also find intermittent fasting helpful, as a way to schedule their meals over their 24 hour window where most people would be sleeping, as a way to control their overall calorie intake.
So is Fasting really the magic pill?
Fasting should be taken on a case by case scenario depending on the person. It should not be the first option as a weight loss tool, simply because it may lead to dangerous yo-yo dieting, disordered eating and a set-up for failure.
In the instance of weight loss, it’s important to remember there are more sustainable ways to lose weight other than fasting! A qualified Nutrition Coach or Dietician can help you find the right tools and strategies specific to your lifestyle, preferences and likes to ensure weight loss happens in a sustainable and simple way.