wood plate of food in teh shape of a clock for intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting: Is It a Sustainable Approach to Weight Loss and Health?

Uncover the truth about intermittent fasting: Does it offer sustainable weight loss and health benefits? Get the facts.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. If you were hoping for more to that answer, well, that’s pretty much the gist of it.

It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. This also means there’s not a big emphasis on nutrition here as much as there is the timing that your face hole is allowed to be open for feeding. It also doesn’t really focus on calories or the types of foods you eat.

There are various approaches to intermittent fasting, but the most common ones involve fasting for a certain period of time, typically ranging from 16 hours to a full day, followed by a designated eating window.

Proponents of intermittent fasting say it can help with weight loss, improve metabolic health, and even have potential benefits for longevity. However, individual results may vary, and it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before you make significant changes to your eating habits.

Types of Intermittent Fasting Schedules

There are many ways you could approach doing IF depending on your preferences and, in my case, how irrational and hangry I get after not eating for a certain amount of time. Some of the most popular intermittent fasting schedules include:

  • 16/8 method: This involves fasting for 16 hours each day and restricting your eating window to 8 hours, such as eating from 12 PM to 8 PM and fasting from 8 PM to 12 PM the next day.
  • 5:2 diet: In this approach, you eat normally for five days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to about 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days.
  • Alternate day fasting: With this method, you alternate between fasting days, where you consume very few calories or none at all, and normal eating days.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for a full 24 hours once or twice a week, with no food intake during the fasting period.
  • Warrior Diet: In this approach, you fast for 20 hours each day and eat one large meal within a 4-hour eating window, typically at night.
  • OMAD (One Meal a Day): As the name suggests, you eat just one meal each day, typically within a one-hour window, and fast for the remaining 23 hours.
woman eating salad with clock next to her during intermittent fasting

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

Sure, intermittent fasting could be safe if it’s done in a way that’s not super restrictive but optimizes your nutrition and allows for adequate caloric intake. If you’re doing it to promote more of a regular rhythm in your life and it suits you, then hey, who are we to say it’s a bad idea?

However.

In case you didn’t see the recent headlines, preliminary research involving 20,000 adults was presented at the 2024 American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions that had something interesting to say about intermittent fasting and your risk of death.

Specifically, the authors found that following an 8-hour time-restricted eating window had a 91% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to people with a standard schedule of eating across 12-16 hours per day.

In other words, if you’re hoping intermittent fasting can help extend your longevity, it doesn’t appear that only allowing yourself to eat during an 8-hour window of the day is gonna align with that.

As for other types of schedules, I assume time will tell as this will likely garner more interest from researchers wanting to dig into how various approaches affect longevity.

Are there benefits to intermittent fasting?

As for the time being, there’s still current research in support of the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting in general.

That’s not to say we know which specific approach is the “best”, but perhaps there’s a delicate balance in finding a schedule that offers health benefits without stressing your body in a way that it backfires.

For example, a 2023 review concluded that intermittent fasting could promote healthier weight management in a way that improves blood sugar control and lipid profiles and offers anti-inflammatory effects.

Furthermore, a 2024 study including 351 associations from 23 meta-analyses with 34 health outcomes was published in The Lancet. The authors looked at a variety of factors, including anthropometric measures, lipid profiles, glycemic profiles, circulatory system index, and appetite.

They concluded that fasting may be especially beneficial for adults with overweight or obesity compared with a calorie-restricted or non-intervention diet pattern. Specifically, intermittent fasting helped reduce waist circumference, fat mass, LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting insulin levels, and systolic blood pressure, while increasing HDL “good” cholesterol and free fat mass.

Why I Stopped Intermittent Fasting

I’ve never tried intermittent fasting myself, maybe because of how sensitive I’ve always been to blood sugar changes and the thought of food restriction in any way makes me sad. But Ana has given it a go in the past, so I asked her to share her experience (and why she doesn’t do it anymore!):

Intermittent fasting was a huge trend a few years back and being that I am a trend follower (I started a website about trends after all), I decided to give it a try. I took a moderate approach doing mostly the 16/8 method. For me, this involved not eating after dinner because I typically eat at 5pm, then breakfast would be around 9am. While this wasn’t a terrible eating schedule, as a busy mom and business owner, it just didn’t work for me at all.

First, this would involve me making a SEPARETE breakfast for myself, after feeding the rest of the family around 7am. Which meant making 2 breakfasts, washing 2 sets of dishes, and delaying my work start time by over an hour. Just to fast? That didn’t seem worth it.

As a busy mom, I have to work out in the morning or it will never get done. So after a 6am workout class, I am STARVING. I don’t want to wait until 9am to eat. Plus, you need to refuel after your workout to help with recovery and muscle growth. So I wasn’t sure how fasting was going to help me with those goals.

Even on days I don’t work out, I wake up hungry. I am ready for breakfast most of the time. Some days it felt like torture to wait while my stomach growled.

I could never figure out the coffee thing, as I don’t want to drink black coffee. I like my coffee with some sweetener and half and half. My morning coffee makes me happy. I don’t want to delay enjoying it. I refuse to skip it. Maybe it’s just me being hard-headed about behavior change, but coffee is pretty damn important to me and while you can have it black, I just don’t want to.

Finally, while there were several lifestyle reasons why intermittent fasting didn’t work for me, I don’t think it’s great for women who already struggle with high cortisol/blood sugar/perimenopause issues. Fasting is stressful on your body and raises cortisol. My motivation for doing it was to lose weight to improve my blood sugar levels. But that requires LOWERING cortisol, not raising it. Cortisol makes you hold on to body fat, which was the opposite of what I was looking for.

While I think fasting can work for some people (i.e. men) and may have benefits, I think it is an overall harmful approach for overly stressed moms in their 40s. It’s just one more thing that raises your cortisol, which is the last thing you need.

All that being said, I think there is some benefit to being done with food after dinner. At least for me, this is when I tend to get into the kid’s snacks or just eat out of boredom or being tired. So if calling it “fasting” makes you do that, I think that isn’t going to raise your cortisol. But for most women, I wouldn’t recommend going more than 12-ish hours without eating.

Final Thoughts

Is intermittent fasting safe? It depends on how you do it, and there’s definitely a need for more research given what that recent study uncovered.

Personally, I think the nutritional quality of the food we’re eating (and not too much, not too little in terms of calorie intake) far outweighs the need to schedule our windows of allotted eating times beyond the overnight fast while we’re sleeping.

But nutrition is an always-evolving science and I don’t think the trend of intermittent fasting is necessarily going away any time soon. I mean, people are still doing keto…

Is it sustainable? Well, that also depends on how you feel while doing it and whether it’s supporting your overall goals.

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