Intermittent fasting is a fancy term for a simple concept: eating less often. There are many methods, starting with a simple 12-hour overnight fast all the way up to entire days of fasting.
In general, the research on intermittent fasting for overall health is promising. Intuitively it even makes sense that giving our digestion a break every once in a while would be a good thing. But what role does fasting play in weight loss? Is it helpful or harmful? Our answer may surprise you.
What it depends on is how you personally feel and think about fasting, and how your body responds to it.
For example, if you are someone who has always disliked eating first thing upon waking—then fasting through breakfast is going to be a no-brainer. It's going to feel like freedom to do what your body natural wants to do. The days will easily turn into weeks and months, and the weight may naturally slip off.
On the other hand, if you wake up hungry and excited to eat breakfast every day, fasting might feel difficult and unnatural. You might spend your entire morning looking at the clock wondering when enough time has passed to eat. You may feel anxious. You may feel deprived. This might turn on your stress hormones, and actually impede weight loss efforts. Or, when it is finally time to eat, you may feel ravenous and end up overeating.
Your thoughts about fasting matter. As do your motivations.
As Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, so aptly put it:
"If you're going to fast, ask yourself: am I being driven by self-hate, by fear of body fat, by self-judgment, by the stress of not weighing what I think I should weigh? Or am I being inspired to fast because I wish to be healthy, to better myself, to deepen my connection to myself?"
The simplest way to decide if fasting is for you is to ask yourself these questions and get extremely clear on your motivations. If they are coming from a loving, positive place—feel free to proceed.
Give yourself permission to try fasting, and to tweak it if it doesn't work for you. Starting with a 12-14 hour overnight fast is a great first step. As always, if you have any special health concerns or needs, try working with a Registered Dietician first.