More than 73% of Americans are considered to be overweight and of this population, 42% are obese.(1) This statistic is not to body-shame anyone. After all, the carb-and-fat heavy Standard American Diet, with weight-gaining chemical toxins like monosodium glutamate and aspartame, as well as the obesogens (such as BPA’s) in our environment don’t make losing weight easy. If you are feeling frustrated with weight gain, know that the chemicals in our foods and environment stack the deck against you.
From a world health aspect, approximately 2.8 million people die from complications due to being overweight.(2) Carrying extra weight leads to effects on the body like elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high triglycerides, and insulin resistance – all that if left untreated, become life threatening.
How do we deal with this? First, eat differently – this includes not only what you eat, but when you eat. Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a recent trend that has shown some promise with weight loss. This method veers from the traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner eating schedules to daytime restricted feeding and periodic fasting.
Common IF methods are a 16 to 24 hour fast twice per week. There are various ways this is done. The 16:8 method involves skipping breakfast and limiting daily eating times to 8 hours. For example, you would eat only between the hours of 1-9PM. This method allows you to consume 1800-2000 calories per day. You may eat a small lunch and dinner, then fast for 16 hours in between. Sometimes the 14:10 (meals for a 10 hour period, fasting for 14 hours) is a way to ease into the full 16:8 schedule.
The Eat-Stop-Eat method involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week, mainly by not eating dinner one day until dinner the next day. Finally, a 5:2 method restricts caloric intake to 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but you eat normally the other 5 days.
Most people find the 16:8 method the easiest to follow. The trick is to NOT binge eat during the feeding period. If this becomes the case, addressing cravings by supporting blood glucose, insulin sensitivity and neurotransmitter balance is important. At our Wellness Center you can test for these problems. You may not really be hungry, but are insulin resistant or anxious. Supporting the body through this mitigates the binge.
As with all diets, meeting weight loss goals must be supported with a diet that supports vitamins and minerals. You can’t fast only to eat processed foods and expect health miracles. Most essential nutrients are obtained by eating fiber-rich carbs, essential fats, and clean and humanely-sourced proteins. Periodic fasting sends the body into a fat-burning mode, and adding meals lets your body know you’re not starving.
Can you intermittently fast long term? We don’t yet know the long-term health effect of IF. But, we do know that diet alone cannot be the only factor with weight management. The second biggest factor with metabolic health is exercise. You’ve got to move your body. When you increase exercise, demand for energy changes for the body, and you may actually need to increase carbohydrate intake to support fatigue. While IF may decrease weight, cardiovascular health MUST involve cardiovascular exercise. Our main goal with weight loss is to increase muscle mass while decreasing fat mass.
One way to help extend the long-term effects of IF is by incorporating a detox either before or after the IF. Spring is a common time for detoxing, and there are dozens of various cleanses out there. Peoples Rx is currently offering a Spring Detox Special that focuses on liver support. It includes our new 3-day Juice Cleanse (organic, cold-pressed, raw and now at Peoples Lakeline too!), a 30-day supply of Xymogen’s Liver Protect, and even a deal from our friends at Restore Hyper Wellness on S. Lamar on an infrared sauna visit (you pay only $10) – in total a $179 value for only $109!
Is IF right for you? Check with your healthcare provider. Anyone with a history of eating disorders may NOT do well with IF because they could be really triggered by this diet. As a naturopathic doctor, I like to help people understand why they adapted to gain weight, then work to balance that out for long-term health. IF is a wonderful tool for part of that journey.
Amy Nelson, ND* received her Naturopathic Doctorate from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR where she studied nutrition, homeopathy, herbal and functional medicine. In addition, Dr. Nelson was the Associate at The IBS Treatment Center in Santa Monica where she treated irritable bowel syndrome and complex food allergies. Dr. Nelson utilizes her experience in natural medicine to address female and male hormonal imbalances, mental health, and digestive disorders. Amy is available for consultation at Peoples North.
*Although licensed in other states, Naturopathic Doctors are not currently licensed in Texas.
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