Laboratory studies show that the adoption of periodic or intermittent fasting has certain health benefits and facilitates weight loss. Alright.
However, the clients I speak to about health and healthy weight management don’t usually live in the lab, and I will assume that you don’t either. In this case, you have the right to ask yourself if it would be beneficial FOR YOU to adopt such an eating practice.
Here is some food for thought to help you make your decision.
Let’s talk about health… in all its aspects
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not just the absence of illness or infirmity”.
So while there may be benefits to your physical health from fasting, ask yourself if your mental and social well-being would not be affected.
Regarding mental well-being, it must be understood that the adoption of any form of eating rules makes some people more vulnerable to eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia. Do not be fooled, fasting is a restrictive practice which imposes dietary rules. They are just different from what any other fad diet would impose. The stricter these rules and the more they require major lifestyle changes, the more they risk weakening certain people.
Before making your decision, it is necessary to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I ever tend to get stressed or anxious because of my diet, my body image or my weight?
- Would the adoption of fasting impose major changes or simple changes in my lifestyle?
- Have I ever suffered from an eating disorder in the past?
In order to improve overall health, social well-being must not be overlooked. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that social ties are extremely important for maintaining health! In our culture, meals are often occasions to meet up with family or friends. It is therefore relevant to ask yourself the following questions:
- Would the adoption of my new eating practice disrupt my social ties?
- How many times a day or a week would I have to avoid or disrupt a social or family activity?
- Will I have the support of my loved ones in adopting this eating practice?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I suggest that you discuss the adoption of fasting with a health care professional. If, however, you answered “no” to all of the questions, it may well be that fasting is a winning option for you.
There is one last aspect to consider before you dive in, head first.
A long-term choice
I always tell my clients that the only diet that really works is the one that they will manage to maintain THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES! Mainly, when the goal is better weight management.
First of all, you have to understand that, whatever the objective, whether it is improving blood sugar, cholesterol levels, mood or weight control, the effects will be felt as long as the new habits are maintained. Take for example, taking medication. If a person stops taking their medication, the effects will go away.
In the case of weight loss, it is even more important to maintain the new habits adopted. Of course, as soon as we return to the old way of life, the weight will be resumed. Studies show that after an episode of “yoyo dieting” the body may have certain sequelae. It could lead to weight gain greater than the initial weight, a deterioration in physical health, and would make the next weight loss episode more difficult.
After a single episode of “yoyo dieting “, these after-effects are not very significant, especially if only a few small pounds have been lost and regained. On the other hand, if the episodes are repeated and if the weight fluctuations are large, the physiological consequences will be greater.
Promote healthy eating above all
Whether or not you apply time restrictions to your eating habits, the most recent studies strongly suggest adopting an eating routine that is stable over time and ingesting the majority of the calories of the day preferably at the start of the day rather than in the evening. Furthermore, I encourage you to always make efforts to improve the quality of your diet.
I generally suggest that my clients listen to their feelings of hunger and fullness. The body dictates to us, sometimes in subtle ways, what is best for us. You just have to be sensitive to the signals it sends us.
Wishing you good health!
- Anton SD, et al. (2018). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity 26(2): 254-268.
- Contreras RE, et al. (2019). Physiological and Epigenetic Features of Yoyo Dieting and Weight Control. Frontiers in Genetics 10(1015).
- Mattson MP, et al. (2017). Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews 39: 46-58.
- World Health Organization (2020). Constitution. Available at https://www.who.int/fr/about/who-we-are/constitution, accessed May 30, 2020.