Intermittent fasting is heralded as one of THE most effective ways to lose weight and
get your body into shape.
Simply put, Intermittent Fasting is not a diet - it is an eating pattern.
Where Did it Come From?
Believe it or not, Intermittent Fasting is derived from the eating patterns of our
ancestors, the hunter-gatherers. Their eating patterns relied on an ever-changing (and
often unreliable) abundance of food, and as such, they often went long periods of
time without eating.
When they DID make a kill, they often ate and shared their catch amongst the entire
tribe in one go - keep in mind also their lack of preservation methods or spices. Some
days would not yield a catch or kill for them to eat, thus creating unintentional
periods of ‘fasting’.
The following day they would have to trek, hunt, and search for unknown lengths of
time in order to try and produce some catch - a level of activity combined with food
intake which kept them lean and agile throughout their whole lives.
These eating patterns are thus ingrained in our DNA - part of us KNOWS that
overeating is never, and was never, a sustainable or natural thing to do. Surprisingly,
our bodies actually react positively to lengthy periods without sustenance, provided
there is no mental stress or tension involved during these times.
Thus, the ‘new’ phenomenon of Intermittent Fasting is actually based on centuries of
the evolution of humankind - a good argument for anyone trying to coin it as a new
‘fad’ diet. There are numerous studies that show the benefits of diets based on
Intermittent Fasting - yet as with any eating pattern, it doesn’t come without its
We’ll be outlining the advantages, disadvantages, and more of Intermittent Fasting.
Try to maintain an open mind and please get ready to learn as much as you can
before deciding if it’s for you!
Example of a positive personal experience of trying IF (Intermittent Fasting):
IF (Intermittent Fasting) generally involves varying periods of fasting interspersed by
shorter windows of eating, during which calorie deficiency for the period of fasting
time is accounted for. There are several cycles of this which have been proven to
work for those seeking to lose weight.
By adjusting the pattern and frequency by which you consume your meals, you
prolong the period of ‘fasting’ generally reserved for night time, and restrict your
eating hours to a shorter period during the day.
As a general rule to which all weight-loss programs will agree, the best way to create
weight loss is to restrict the amount of calories consumed in relation to the amount
of activity partaken. Intermittent Fasting is no different, as the ‘restriction’ of calories
takes place between the fasting hours and helps the body to properly digest and
assimilate what was consumed during non-fasting hours.
The important part of this cycle is to ensure that the meals you eat in between fasting
periods are balanced and contain enough nutrients and minerals to see your body
through the next period of ‘fasting’.
There are numerous arguments both for and against these patterns of eating that are
still causing disagreement and discontent in the diet and fitness world, so it’s worth
learning as much as you can to see if they suit you, your lifestyle, and weight loss
goals before committing to a period of Intermittent Fasting.
The following article outlines some factors to consider before committing to IF:
As it wouldn’t be fair to focus solely on the negatives, this kind of dieting has
ultimately provided some participants with certain levels of success. Let’s start by
detailing some of the positive outcomes observed by diets of IF.
Some aspects of Intermittent Fasting that the media has directed attention to is the
fact that almost all people undertaking a period of Intermittent Fasting have
experienced the following:
Lower instances of cardiac complications
Lower risk of developing diabetes
Lower levels of inflammation and joint pain
Loss of excessive belly fat
In addition to these positives, IF can help to regulate imbalanced hormonal and
cellular function. This can be observed when after not eating for a period of time,
your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to
make stored body fat more accessible.
While fasting for a certain amount of time inevitably sends the body into ‘weight loss’
mode, as existing fat cells and hormones are called into use to replace the depleted
amount of energy the body is receiving (in the form of calories), the sustained period
of time with NO caloric intake followed by a significant intake sends the metabolism
into overdrive and as such burns more during digestion than would usually occur on a
More about this weight loss or ‘starvation mode’ and its effects on the body during
While the overall benefits of Intermittent Fasting seem to be largely positive (and it’s
even recommended by some medical professionals), there are (as with most weight
loss programs) some downsides to be aware of, too.
One of the most appealing factors of Intermittent Fasting is that during the nonfasting
hours, the meals you eat aren’t necessarily specified as having to contain any
particular amounts of calories, however they do have to be balanced.
This means that while meal-prepping everything isn’t a requirement, you still need to
be relatively smart about the foods and portions you consume during the non-fasting
Just because you’ve built up a calorie-deficit over the fasting period doesn’t mean
you can eat anything you like for 8 hours and have there be no consequences! This is
where most people fall down with Intermittent Fasting, so it helps to be aware that
it’s not only during the fasting hours that awareness of the body’s hunger cues must
Intermittent Fasting can also elevate the likelihood of developing or worsening eating
disorders. As so much of IF revolves around controlling and maintaining certain levels
of food intake, there’s a fine line between when obsession over eating and not-eating
during your fasting/non-fasting days becomes heightened enough to become similar
to eating-disordered thinking.
If you’re concerned about your attitude to food and whether or not it’s healthy, there
are some good online tests you can take to determine this:
Perhaps the most well-known version of the intermittent fast was originally
suggested in the book ‘8 hour diet’ by David Zinczenko. In this book, he suggested
that leaving longer periods between meals allows the body to properly process food
and break down any excess fat cells is actually preferable to eating more numerous,
smaller meals during the day.
The good news is that for those sticking to the 16:8 diet, you actually sleep through
most of the 16-hour fasting window!
The idea is that you follow a pattern of not eating early in the morning, and then
eating at 11am or 12pm, and then confining any subsequent meals to within an 8-
hour window. Leaving 2 hours AFTER your last meal before bedtime, and following
the same pattern the following day. Simply put, the 16:8 method pretty much
involves you just skipping breakfast, and then ensuring your last meal is consumed at
least 2 hours prior to when you go to sleep.
Sounds easy, right?
It is! The main challenge people face during a period of 16:8 dieting is during the
window of fasting in the morning. For anyone who has become accustomed to the
‘breakfast like a king’ rule the fitness media has shared with us for years, this might
present itself as a challenge. However, if the other meals the previous day have been
nutrient-dense enough to provide both enough nutrition and also to satiate hunger,
the morning fasting period should prove to be easier.
It takes time to figure out which kinds of foods will successfully see your energy levels
through until the following afternoon, so don’t give up if you find it hard for the first
More on Zinczenko’s ‘8 hour diet’ here: https://www.freedieting.com/8-hour-diet
The biggest question on most people’s fast-hungry lips is what can they actually EAT
during their 8 hour eating window.
Another positive element of this diet is that calories are not restricted during your
‘eating’ hours. Both meals and snacks can be consumed, with the only guideline
being that they consist of healthy, balanced, and portion-controlled.
There are NO ‘forbidden foods’ on this diet, but professionals would recommend only
that you avoid overindulgence as much as possible. The urge to overeat or binge can
arise after a period of fasting, and so 16:8 dieters much be aware of this danger in
order to lower the likelihood of them binging. If it helps for you to break your fast
initially with a light snack instead of a heavy meal, this can help with avoiding urges to
binge later on.
During the 16-hour fasting period, non-calorific liquids can be consumed (such as tea,
black coffee, or water). Making SURE they contain NO sugar is key to a successful 16
It helps to take your time while eating, savour each bite, and maybe even take few
minutes break in the middle of your meal to allow digestion to begin as studies have
shown this is beneficial for overall gut and mental health, as well as weight loss.
An interesting REVIEW of the 16:8 diet and an example of some foods that are good
The fact that the author of this diet states that types of food ‘don’t matter too much’
seems to vastly contradict pretty much every other kind of healthy diet plan we’ve
ever seen. I’m sure that eating 3 meals of fried, sugary, and fatty foods during your
‘eating window’ would lead to different results after a period of following this diet, so
some common dieting sense is advised during this time!
As with all intermittent fasts, this diet is not suited to anyone with unstable or
unreliable blood sugar, as the low levels during fasting hours can lead to
So many studies in recent years have indicated the benefits of consuming breakfast
within an hour of waking, and so it can be hard to change thought and habit patterns
to suit this new mindset. The trick is just to try it - and if it works without too much
anxiety involved, then you can hope for more success with 16:8.
Repeated eating patterns become easier for the body and the mind to adjust to, as
with any diet-plan, so 16:8 can prove challenging at the beginning.
Some questionable evidence and discussion on the benefits of eating breakfast here:
Another popular kind of intermittent fast is the 5:2 diet. This option involves fasting
completely for 2 entire days a week, and following your normal diet patterns on the
During the fasting days, dieters are recommended to only drink water and noncalorific
liquids, and refrain from over-exertion. The other days of the week can be
considered much alike to the ‘eating window’ of the 16:8 diet - that is to ensure that
all meals taken during this period are healthy, balanced, and not used as an excuse to
overeat after a period of non-eating.
Also known as the ‘Eat-Stop-Eat’ diet, the theory here is that the days where food is
not ingested are seen as a means of letting the body properly absorb and ‘rest’ from
digestion. The negatives here include long-periods of fasting being initially extremely
challenging for new dieters, so if this is the case, the instigators have allowed for a
gradual weaning on to the diet to ensure maximum effect. (Anyone with existing
anxiety, sleep, or blood sugar issues should avoid this diet.)
The longer fasting periods can also make it more tempting to binge after a fast, and
so it’s worth noting that this takes a lot of willpower to control.
Is this diet something you’d consider trying?
This is exactly what it sounds like - fasting on every alternate day as opposed to set
days a week. Many doctors will advise against this method for anyone completely
new to the fasting technique, as full-fasting every other is a bit extreme for bodies
unaccustomed to the effects.
There are many different versions of this kind of fast, however, some of which allow
up to 500 calories per day on the fasting-day. Many health professionals maintain that
this method is inadvisable for long-term weight loss pursuits, as the frequency of the
fasting periods lean towards unhealthy habits and shouldn’t be attempted without
having tried fasting.
Full guide to alternate-day fasting here:
The Warrior Diet consists of fasting completely during the day, and eating one large
meal at night time. The thinking behind this one comes from a similar origin to the
16:8 diet - the ‘warrior’ reflex of the human body having been accustomed to long
periods without food in times before ready-made meals and grocery stores were
commonplace and easily accessible.
Ori Hofmekler was the first person to popularize this diet, and he emphasized the
importance of consuming light, low-calorie snacks during the day - such as plan fruits
and vegetables, and then eating one large, balanced meal at night time. The
permitted or recommended food groups for the large balanced meal should include
ingredients similar to those consumed on the PALEO diet - unprocessed, natural
whole-foods that would have been accessible by some of our earliest ancestors in the
The following is a link to a podcast chat with Ori, where he answers probing questions
about ‘The Warrior Diet’ and his journey with Intermittent Fasting.
(HINT: Podcasts are GREAT way to take your mind off exercising while walking, running or in the gym!)
A large part of successful intermittent fasting is centered around creating the right
As with any new ‘diet’ or eating plan, you can’t expect to see immediate results -
human beings are creatures of habit, and shifting away from your normal
eating/exercise regime (or lack thereof!) can take time to adjust to. This is actually
more of a mental thing than physical, as the recent studies on getting rid of the ‘diet
But intermittent fasting needn’t be so hard. It’s important, however, to understand
that you can’t just decide you’re ‘fasting’ if you accidentally miss or skip breakfast or
another large meal. This kind of false justification rarely works, and generally results
in severe troughs in energy levels or even binges and spikes in blood sugars.
The best way to go about starting an intermittent fast is to PLAN ahead of schedule -
start your eating pattern on a Monday, for example, and spend the Sunday prior to it
getting yourself more educated on what exactly it is you’re getting yourself in for -
make yourself aware of all potential outcomes, and potential reactions (both negative
Consult Medical Advice
If you’re in any way unsure about whether or not intermittent fasting is something
that could work for you, seek your doctor’s advice beforehand. The following
conditions are signs that you probably should NOT try intermittent fasting:
If you are pregnant of breastfeeding
If you have or have a history with an eating disorder
If you have diabetes or issues with blood sugar levels
If you are prone to experiencing anxiety
If you are prone to fainting
More on how to decide if IF is for you or not:
As so much of dieting is focused around negative emotions and ‘punishment’ for slip
ups or deviations from the diet, it’s SO important to establish a healthy mindset
surrounding weight loss before trying intermittent fasting.
Successful weight loss (and that means sustainable, long-term weight loss that STAYS
lost), generally centers around creating positive lifestyle changes that incorporate
healthy eating and automatically lend themselves to weight loss. This involves not
only diet, but also activity levels, environmental factors, and most importantly -
Intermittent fasting can be used as one of these lifestyle changes - a simple eating
pattern that you follow several days of the week or month that helps to regulate your
metabolism and slowly return your body to its most natural and balanced state.
But keep in mind how you view the process of Intermittent Fasting in your head - if
you’re expecting it to work as a quick-fix, just know that this is not sustainable, either.
Trust Your Body
A huge element of successful weight loss involves learning how to listen to your body
correctly. This means feeding, moving, and being kind to your body when it needs you
to be. A lot of health professionals over-complicate weight loss by cornering it into
one small element of a pie-chart that relies on the entirety to achieve
Anyone who has experience achieving weight loss and gaining it back will tell you that
the satisfaction was fleeting. Only by listening to our bodies and providing them with
the nutrients, environment, and movement necessary to cultivate a balanced lifestyle
can we hope to achieve our ideal weight.
If Intermittent Fasting helps you reach this point - great. View it as a tool which has
helped you reach full awareness of your body. Don’t get addicted, don’t constantly
fast, and don’t expect to see changes overnight.
More on shifting the ‘diet’ mindset:
Studies have shown that Intermittent Fasting can affect the functioning of your cells,
genes, and hormones, as the altered pattern of your eating will ultimately releases
the hormones necessary for cell growth and repair.
Intermittent Fasting is particularly effective regarding the hormones that have to do
with your hunger, blood sugar, and metabolism. Reducing insulin resistance is
extremely effective in lowering blood sugar levels, thus lowering your risk of
developing type 2 diabetes.
It has even been suggested that periodic fasting can trigger improved cell regrowth
and immune system repair, assisting the body’s recovery from treatments such as
chemotherapy. As well as using stores of glucose, prolonged periods of fasting also
breaks down significant portions of white blood cells.
This then triggers stem-cell based regeneration of new immune system cells.
Fascinating article about fasting-induced cell regeneration:
The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is known to be one of the most highly affected
hormones in the body during a period of fasting. After 6 hours of a fast, this hormone
goes into overdrive and starts producing physiological results in the form of increased
metabolism and fat-burning. The proteins it produces - amino acids - are used to
improve brain and neuro functioning, also repairing collagen and helping with skin
growth and repair while it does so!
Insulin and HGH work as opposites in this function.
Read more about this in the article here:
As fasting helps to reduce instances of inflammation, contributing to lowered
cholesterol, blood pressure, and overall weight, there are definitely benefits for those
seeking to improve their heart health. However doctors also advise caution to these
patients, as electrolyte imbalance can occur, giving rise to arrhythmias.
The doctor in the following article also states however that there is still a lot of
research to be done in this area regarding heart health and Intermittent Fasting, so
for those unsure or wary of trying it, he advises to consult medical professionals
before embarking on a period of fasting.
It seems that the same goes for any existing medical condition - if you wish to try
losing weight with Intermittent Fasting, it’s best to consult your doctor first.
Heart health article: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2017/07/fasting-how-does-itaffect-
Curiously, there have been studies to show that Intermittent Fasting has more
successful rates in men instead of those in women.
This has to do with hormonal rates involved in metabolism and fat storage, and takes
into account centuries of women’s activity levels being lower than those of men.
If we’re considering the origins of Intermittent Fasting from the perspective of
ancestral habits, this definitely should be taken into consideration when analysing the
difference in results between men and women.
The idea is that because men were traditionally involved in the more active ‘hunting’
and sourcing of sustenance, women’s bodies developed differently with a higher
reliance on fat storage and muscle stability for tending crops, children, and
Males and females inevitably also require and process hormones differently to one
another. As we’ve already discussed the effects of Intermittent Fasting on hormones,
it follows that different initial levels and types of hormones will produce different
effects in response to fasting.
The following is a very interesting read on how fasting affects men and women
Overall, In terms of ‘dieting’ and ‘losing weight’, it’s best to be honest with yourself
about WHY you want to achieve what you’ve set out to do by trying Intermittent
Fasting. You’ll find that motivation can come simply from taking the time to find this
The same goes for any kind of weight-loss plan. If you have a clear goal, with clear
motivation, and clear steps to achieve it, it’s difficult to fail.
While there’s still relatively little research done on the long-term effects of
Intermittent Fasting, it can’t be denied that enough people have experienced positive
results from using the methods we’ve discussed today for it to have become as
widely-discussed as it has.
Being honest with yourself about these factors is also important - honestly noting
reactions or responses your body might have to fasting and seeking medical advice if
you’re unsure of what you experience.
Take this next few minutes to consider what your goals are and how you feel - WHY
do you want to try Intermittent Fasting, and what do you (realistically) think you will receive from trying it?
Are you uncertain about any aspects?
Thanks for reading!
Travis Graham, RMT, CHEK, FDN