Intermittent Fasting, a Viable Option

Read time: 2 minutes

It’s easy for people to dismiss intermittent fasting as another fringe diet, an outlandish strategy for weight loss.

We’ve been turned into dietary skeptics (rightfully so) by pop diets — you know, fads like the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, the cookie diet, the Acai berry diet, and the disgustingly ludicrous tapeworm diet.

But when we pit the modern American diet against those of the rest of the world, we realize ours is not such a great diet after all. The modern American diet — whether in food composition, eating style, or meal schedule — has helped promote overweight and obesity in 2 out of 3 people.

Some cultures eat only meats and fats, some mostly whole grains, others freely include refined carbs like bread and pastry; but, regardless of diet types, those cultures with the leanest and disease-free populations share a common denominator: an avoidance of overeating.

These days most of us are aware that studies on calorie restriction (CR) show numerous favorable health benefits. My blog has also linked to many studies that show intermittent fasting (IF) promotes in animals and human the same health benefits as CR but without the discomfort associated with a perpetually low calorie intake.

So intermittent fasting doesn’t just make fat loss and weight management easier and sustainable, it also provides numerous benefits.

Yet the average person dismisses IF but doesn’t question the popular recommendation of eating snacks between meals, which is a practice frowned upon not only by some cultures but by past generations here in North America. In many people, snacking between meals may play a role in overweight and obesity.

I’m not saying that snacking is a bad thing, but it has its limitation and drawbacks, especially for those possessing the propensity for overweight. The point is that we accept the advice of an eating pattern that may not be suitable to all people, while dismissing others (like IF) that may help those who struggle with weight.

Not only is the popular advice of snacking a poor generalization, but it’s often accompanied by the threat that our metabolism would “drop” if we don’t eat every three hours. This advice has no scientific support but only evidence to the contrary.

What about the metabolism of those in cultures that don’t regularly snack? These people apparently remain leaner and mostly free of diseases.

What about the metabolism of our grandparents, or great grandparents, who smacked our hands from the kitchen counter in order to save our appetite for dinner? Their generation might have known something that’s been commercially washed out of our brain.

I’m not saying that intermittent fasting is the magic bullet. The key is still calorie control. Intermittent fasting just allows those of us who tend to be overweight to control calories easier — without negative effects, and with all the health benefits.

Intermittent fasting — it’s a great option for those trying to lose weight (a lot or a little), and to maintain weight, while enjoying the health benefits.

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15 Responses to Intermittent Fasting, a Viable Option

  1. Nicole R says:

    As always, awesome post, Johnny! I really enjoy every single one, it motivates me to solidify this lifestyle, which by the way has been the easiest weight loss diet that I’ve ever stayed on for this long! I really think IF will be a permanent lifestyle. I’ve never been so confident with a diet. And I love the health benefits you’ve found in the literature. Like your tag says, it’s liberating!

  2. Wood says:

    I would like to know what “cultures” do You refer, when saying “they eat only meat and fat” or whole grains. I doubt there is any modern cultures who eat that way generally….

    But nice post I am a big fan of IF and your blog

    • Rob says:

      The Inuits most likely eat meat and fat only.

      • As Rob said, the Inuit being the most famous. Not to mention he didn’t say modern culture, which I would take to mean Western Culture. He said simply culture to include the spectrum of indeginous & modern culture & yes, there are indigenous people who still eat like their ancestors & maintain (or even regain) excellent health in the process.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Wood,

      You’re correct in that most cultures eat mostly a mixed diet, but many cultures still stick to a majority of a single macronutrient in their diet — be it protein-based or carb-based.

      Mongolians subsists on some vegetables but, for the most part, they fare on meats, cheeses, milks and milk products.

      The traditional Maasai consumed almost entirely meat, milk, and blood from cattle. Today, their diet includes about 25% maize (corn); but this is still relatively a low consumption of carbohydrates to meat-based food.

      The Inuits, on the other hand, still consumes mostly an animal-based diet. From Wikipedia: “They still hunt whales, walrus, caribou, seal, polar bears, muskoxen, birds, and at times other less commonly eaten animals such as the Arctic Fox.” These sources are extremely high in fat, comprising up to 75% of their calorie intake.

      There are groups of people in tropical Brazil who live almost entirely on a banana diet, or on breadfruit or on some other fruit. The same might be found in some Pacific islanders or Indian Ocean cultures.

      Many counties in Southern China adopt a diet heavy in fruits, rice and vegetables, whereas those in Northern China tend to adopt a diet heavy in fruits, soybeans and vegetables.

      Many Europeans are considered to be a part of a “grain culture” and they make grains a substantial part of their diet, though they also partake heavily of fruits and vegetables. Meat and animal products form only a small part of the diets of most Europeans.

      Of course, diet is only one variable affecting health — environment and social impact are other variable contributing to overall health. But the point is that food content and food intake can vary widely among healthy (and lean) populations, yet many Westerners have an insular view on diet… “this is the only way.”

      Hope this helps,
      Johnny

      • That reminds me of Brad Pilon’s most recent post:

        “I once had a chance to talk with the very Controversial Dr. Aubrey DeGray…a person many people consider to be a visionary in the area of life extension and longevity.

        He told me that when you look at the world’s centenarians (people who live to 100 or older) it’s very hard to find any connection between them all. There were no real diet or exercise correlations. But, the one thing he did say was that if they had anything in common at all, it’s that they all seemed to smile a lot.”

  3. Mike says:

    I’ve never been on a single diet per se, have never tried counting calories, or tracking what I eat. I have tried restricting my calories, with mixed results.

    IF caught my eye because it looked so close to what I was already doing…. basically just push out my first consumption of food from ~2pm to 4pm and then stop at 8pm, rather than snacking until 11-12 or until I go to sleep.

    >> It’s easy for people to dismiss intermittent
    >> fasting as another fringe diet, an outlandish
    >> strategy for weight loss.

    As a result, I have told no one about IF (too embarrassed?). I don’t want to have to defend it. But in the first full week I have lost a solid 5 lbs and can notice a difference in the fit of my shorts.

    I love that I don’t feel constrained by what I can and can not eat, rather just *when* I eat it. Sure, I get a few hunger pains around 2 to 3pm, but once past, it’s easy going the full 20 hours. I don’t feel like I’m denying myself anything.

    I will say the alternate day fasting does feel a lot “crazier” to me. I’m not sure I could do it and I have no desire to try (it’s not for me).

  4. KevinT says:

    I’d still love to see some meal pics / workout blog posts over a week or so to actually see how you’re making things work so simply. I’m a visual kind of person and love when I find blog posts like that. 🙂

  5. HC says:

    Johnny

    Do you have any info about IF affect on people with diabetes ?

    Also what do you use to measure body fat ?

    Thanks

    • Johnny says:

      Type 1 diabetes should be concerned about Keto Acidosis. As for type 2, in some studies IF is shown to increase insulin sensitivity. But both conditions are very complicated, and I recommend that anyone with either condition consults with the doctor.

      I use a 9-position caliper test. Not the most accurate, but great to see trend or have an idea of where you are. The mirror is still the best way in the end.

      Best,
      Johnny

  6. Tilly says:

    So turns out I’ve been doing this for years without having a name for it!
    I tried dieting a few months ago, small meals continuously etc.. And i gained weight, I was soo messed up about it, as immediately I got back to my normal habits, I lost. It’s strange that this normal is considered so ‘disordered’ in our western culture, I love this post due to validation.

    I eat breakfast every day, whole meal or whole grain cereal and fruit, sometimes soya… Whatever really. Usually less than 400 calories total.
    Then food doesn’t happen again till about dinner time… I chose dinner due to the tendency to have to socialise, if not, then I cook, I like clean food anyway. Then I go to bed.
    Friends bug me through lunchtime and so on and so on.. My problem is my inability to be flexible, I get irritated if I have to eat lunch because subconsciously that means i will skip dinner which is my favourite meal you know?

    With a daily life plan, and without too many deep thoughts, how many calories do you think you’re getting per day.. On average?
    I’m a girl and I try to fit in cardio every other day, to look good, not to loose.
    Advice would be appreciated! 🙂

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Tilly,

      I’m not sure how many calories I average per day, but probably through a week I average about 1800 (?).

      The best thing that I’ve learned to do is to use the mirror as a guide to adjust my food intake. The mirror is the best feedback. I’d get away from counting calories.

      To look good, you may want to try some strength training instead of cardio exercise. Strength training will give your muscle shape.

      Best,
      Johnny

  7. David says:

    Hey Johnny,
    Great blog. I myself adopted IF back in August. Since then I have gone from 296 to 262 lbs. I am 6’3″ so I still have quite a way to go. For the first 2 months I started my feeding period by eating my first meal at about 6 pm. I would typically throw in a desert a couple hours later and that was the end of my daily feeding. I ate anything I wanted in the evening and lost 16 lbs in those first two months. Starting in October I threw a strict Paleo diet into the mix. After five weeks I am down another 18 lbs. To your point above both eating styles have allowed me to quickly lose a significant amount of weight. A little more so on Paleo but I expect that is more due to a decrease in calories rather than any magical hormonal balance happenings.

    I also get people looking at me like I am crazy when I say that I IF. Initially my wife was convinced that I would get cranky and irritable when I came home from work after not eating all day and then eventually I would fall over and die. Interestingly enough I think the opposite has happened.

    I am now convinced that snacking (even health snacks) is the worst thing thing that you can do for your waistline. Every time I see an overweight person shoving a protein bar in their mouth between meals thinking that they are being healthy, I want to shake my head in sadness. Given the reactions that I have gotten thus far I usually don’t say anything. However, sometimes I do. You can’t keep your mouth shut forever.

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