Intermittent fasting provides a simpler way to eat healthy by limiting food consumption to specific times, rather than counting calories or cutting out food groups. For example, some people might try only eating within an 8-hour window during the day, and fasting for the other 16 hours.
Dr. Tony Hampton, a physician at Advocate Medical Group Beverly Outpatient Center in Chicago, IL, tells his patients, “what you may not know, is it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat that matters.”
It may have some benefits, but you might be thinking: is it worth giving up my late-night snacks while watching Netflix? In a world where convenience is king, the thought of denying our cravings can seem nearly impossible.
And it may not be for everyone, so if you try intermittent fasting, take stock of how you feel and consult a medical professional if you have questions.
If you want to give it a try, Dr. Hampton has some tips.
Simplify your schedule: Ever have days when you think, “where did the time go?” These are the days of the week you want to leverage for intermittent fasting. You know, when finding time to prepare, purchase or pack a lunch, let alone eat it, is a struggle? Think about which days fasting might make your life easier and let your schedule work for you.
Fill up on whole foods: Instead of concentrating on what you won’t be eating during your fast, get excited about all the energizing foods you will be eating. Experts recommend eating real, whole foods that are high in protein, nutrients and healthy fats. Example diets that pair well with intermittent fasting include Low-carb, High-fat and Mediterranean diets. Bring on the meat, cheese and healthy fats. However, don’t get hung up on overhauling your diet overnight. Making changes takes time, and the goal of this trial is to finish your first fast. Keep it simple and work in whole foods where you can.
Delay breakfast: One way to start your fast is by simply delaying breakfast until around 11 a.m. Early morning meals are often rushed and do not provide much nutritional value. And if you’re concerned about missing “the most important meal of the day,” Dr. Hampton says you shouldn’t be. He says that “now that research on fasting has been conducted, we know breakfast is not required for most of us, and it may even be better to avoid it all together.”
Skip after-dinner snacks: After you’ve had a full lunch and dinner, it’s time to finish your fast strong by skipping that late-night snack before bed. If you finish eating by 7 p.m. you will have achieved a 16 hour fast by the time you get a full night’s rest and start eating again at 11 a.m. the next day. This is called the 16/8 fast. It’s that simple. And don’t think you have to say goodbye to your favorite late-night foods. Intermittent fasters take an intuitive approach to eating and “graze” on whole foods during their eating window. So, you can still have that salami and cheese platter- just enjoy it before 7 p.m.!
Evaluate your results: How did it feel to complete your first fast? Take some time to reflect on your experience. You may have surprised yourself, as fasting can reduce hunger due to a decrease in leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that sends signals to your brain that you are satisfied, which leaves you feeling fuller, faster. Of course, fasting might not be for everyone.
To keep experimenting with IF, try enhancing your fast with one of these challenges:
- Practice mindful eating. Refrain from eating while doing another activity. You might find yourself savoring food more this way.
- Avoid snacking out of boredom. Try to think of eating as fueling your body. Look to food when you need to replenish energy, rather than to help pass the time.
- Expand your fasting window. If you are adapting well to IF and looking to do more, try gradually expanding your fasting window by an hour or two. There are plenty of fasting variations you can try to see what works best for you! The 18/6 fast, Warrior diet, Eat-Stop-Eat, spontaneous meal skipping and 5/2 fast are just a few examples.
Dr. Hampton personally follows the 16/8 fast and says he’s had great results.
“I have no trouble maintaining my weight, improved mental clarity and energy, no hunger when fasting, reduced inflammation in my joints and less worries about developing diabetes and high cholesterol,” he says. “If you want a cheap and practical way to improve your overall health, intermittent fasting may be the solution you have been looking for.”