Over the last few months, I haven’t been able to go to a brunch, boxing class or happy hour without someone bringing up intermittent fasting. Have you tried it? Is it healthy? Is it safe? Does it work? The practice of fasting has been around for ages, but the idea of using it as a means to lose weight and achieve better overall health has reached peak popularity in the last year (hey, at least we’ve stopped talking about crystals).
Proponents of intermittent fasting (or IF, for short) say that practicing it regularly can help reduce cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure; reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prevent insulin spikes; and also aid in weight loss. I'm naturally curious when it comes to wellness trends (I’ve tried no fewer than three different juice cleanses, Whole30, Vegan Before 6 and pretty much every group fitness class under the sun), so I set out to try IF for a month. Fast-forward eight weeks later, and I’m still practicing intermittent fasting with no intention of stopping. Here’s how I got hooked.
To be clear, weight loss wasn’t my primary—or even secondary or tertiary—goal in trying IF. I was fueled by a combination of curiosity and my own competitive spirit. (Can I really restrain myself from eating for one whole day each week?) As a happy side effect, though, I have ended up losing a couple of pounds. Overall, I take an intuitive approach to my health. I haven’t looked at a scale since 2009, but I’m very attuned to how I feel in my body, and that dictates my diet and exercise choices. In my experience, IF isn’t a “lose weight fast” plan, but so far it seems like a great tool for maintaining your weight (or steadily losing weight) without a ton of effort or calorie counting.
After getting the go-ahead from my doctor (which everyone should do before embarking on an experiment like this), I did some research and found out people either really love or really hate intermittent fasting. I read an article right here on PureWow that looked at the trend through a very critical lens. Melissa Kelly, MS, RD, CDN told us, “While intermittent fasting has grown in popularity over the last year, as a registered dietitian and nutritionist, I don’t encourage its restrictive principles when working with my clients.” Yikes. But then I saw a study from Harvard Medical School, which seemed much more positive. “Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective [for weight loss],” explains Monique Tello, MD, MPH, adding that its biggest drawback is that most people find it difficult to fast for long periods of time. Challenge accepted. I also checked in with Dr. Charles Passler, a nutritionist and founder of Pure Change who works with the likes of Bella Hadid and Adriana Lima. Dr. Passler told me he's a fan of intermittent fasting, "because it’s a simple and straightforward way to lose weight that’s relatively easy to do. As opposed to a strict diet with complex food recommendations and portion control, IF is merely an 'Eating Pattern,' controlling when you eat, not what you eat."