Intermittent fasting has gained quite a lot of popularity recently. It’s definitely a growing trend, but did millennials just invent a new name for skipping breakfast or is there truly some value to it?
First of all, intermittent fasting can be done in several ways, either fasting on alternate days, eating the last meal of the day quite early in the afternoon, or the most popular; skipping breakfast and eating only two meals.
Studies in mice as well as humans show that intermittent fasting is strongly associated with reduced obesity, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improved insulin sensitivity as well as much lower inflammatory markers. Basically, good things!
Oh and it's physiologically safe.
But how does it work? There are theories that it is linked to diurnal rhythm (our day/night sleep/wake cycle), that eating during the day and fasting after dark actually results in improved hormonal control of appetite and energy utilisation. To back this up, it has been found that night shift workers actually have higher risk of metabolic diseases, insulin resistance, heart disease and higher inflammatory markers. (This might mean that instead of skipping breakfast and calling it intermittent fasting, you should probably stop eating before sunset.) But I believe it might be as simple as this; limiting the time you eat probably results in less eating (and especially less processed breakfast cereals marketed as the “most important meal of the day”).
I'm mostly not hungry first thing in the morning, so I only eat breakfast occasionally when I am hungry, but I'm always ravenous by lunch time, then I eat a decent meal. So is this intermittent fasting or mindful eating? Or a bit of both? Either way, even when practising intermittent fasting, mindfulness is incredibly important. The time on the clock should never be your main determinant of whether you eat or not, your body's requirements should be. Do not ignore hunger cues, this will simply result in moodiness (hanger alert!), poor productivity and discomfort. It can lead to overly restrictive behaviours and is not conducive to a healthy relationship with food. Mindfulness means not eating if you aren't hungry, even if the clock says its meal time, but also eating when your body requires sustenance.
The golden rule for safely practising intermittent fasting: practise mindfulness at all times! Eat if you are hungry, don’t if you are not.
I am a registered dietitian, and this is my blog.
Please don't see it as anything other than a blog; general information, snippets that I find interesting, and recipes that I enjoy. It is not meant to replace individual healthcare from myself or other healthcare professionals.