Intermittent Fasting Enhances Weight Management and Improves Health

The Internet is loaded with information about the negatives of being overweight, but it's more important to understand how to maintain good health through weight management. It's possible to find happiness and feel your best simply by following some weight-control strategies. Consuming fewer processed foods, adding light exercise to each day and avoiding overindulgence is a good start, but there is a more revolutionary way to boost your health: intermittent fasting.

What is an Intermittent Fast?

The idea of fasting has been around for centuries, and many people practice it as a religious ritual. There are numerous ways you can apply a fast to your lifestyle, but some methods are much healthier than others. Dr. Michael Mosley, a physician and journalist, wrote a book discussing a fasting plan that produces positive results without negatively affecting the body or mind.

Dr. Mosley's strategy is called the 5:2 diet. You basically eat normally for five days of the week and eat 25% of your regular caloric intake for two days. Typically this means women would eat approximately 500 calories on fasting days and men would eat 600 calories. There are many online tools for determining your regular calorie needs, which will help you figure out an accurate deficit.

An important feature of this diet is that it's part-time. You don't have to restrict yourself too much or for long periods of time, and you can still eat your favorite foods guilt-free. You'll be consuming fewer calories, so you'll be able to lose weight without punishing yourself. However, you should still consider the health aspects of the foods you eat and make the healthiest choices for your mind, body and spirit.

Which Foods Can You Eat?

You should eat low-calorie, filling foods on your fast days. Make every calorie count by choosing foods from each group, but avoid processed carbs such as white breads, rice and pasta. Stay away from sugars and high-sugar fruits as well. Nutritionally dense foods such as green, leafy vegetables, lean meats, eggs and fish are good options. Try baking or roasting your proteins and putting them in soups or salads. You should also drink lots of water and herbal tea.

Each meal will be relatively small, and you can eat up to three times each fast day. You may also want to change your fasting days from week to week. Many people prefer fasting on alternate days in the beginning. You can do back-to-back fasting when you're ready, but never do three days in a row. Fasting for too long can cause you to feel sick, and the goal here is to improve your overall well-being not impair it.

The 5:2 diet is easy to sustain, and many people opt to stay on the plan indefinitely. Once you're used to the routine, the fasting days will feel natural. If you want to continue the intermittent fasting after you've reached your target weight, you can try following a 6:1 schedule. Choose a method that will keep you motivated and excited rather than one that feels like a life sentence.

What Happens on the Other Five Days?

You don't need to count calories on the days you aren't fasting, but stay mindful of your food choices. Just because there aren't typical restrictions doesn't mean you should have cake, cookies and ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can still eat your favorites without going overboard. You may even be less tempted to binge after a fast because you'll have a better understanding of your body's nutritional needs.

Non-fasting days should always be about savoring your food while still making the best choices for your health. Fill your meals with nutritious, delicious and wholesome options, but treat yourself occasionally. You'll basically follow a fast-and-feast pattern, so fill your plates with the healthful proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products that make your heart and body happy.

Although most people find calorie counting tedious, you can still monitor your caloric intake if you want. This can be particularly beneficial if you aren't skilled at estimating portions. You don't want to overeat on your normal days, because that will cancel out your deficits on the fasting days. It may take a couple weeks to find a comfortable regimen that fits your needs.

How Does Exercise Fit Into the Plan?

You can exercise while following the 5:2 diet, but pay attention to your body. In the beginning, you may feel less energy and not be able to exercise as vigorously as you'd expect. Take a walk, do some yoga, go for a relaxing bike ride or do some light weightlifting at the start. If you feel lightheaded, put the exercise on hold until your body adjusts to the new routine.

You may be tempted to add calories to your fast days because of the ones you burn during exercise, but this will hinder your progress. Stick with the 25% of your normal calorie consumption no matter how much you burn off during the rest of the week. This will result in a loss of approximately one pound per week, but it may be more or less depending on your fasting deficit.

The pounds will likely drop quicker at the beginning, but if you don't see any weight loss after a few weeks, don't jump right into a more difficult exercise regimen or drastically cut calories. You may just need to reduce your portion sizes a bit. Try on some clothing to see if it fits differently as well. You may be losing fat even if you don't see the numbers on the scale change.

What are the Advantages of Intermittent Fasting?

One of the main benefits of this type of eating plan is that it's ideal for long-term weight management. Fasting forces you to be aware of what you're eating, which means you'll naturally make healthier choices day to day. You'll be able to maintain your weight loss, you'll experience less anxiety regarding your food choices and you'll increase your resistance to cravings.

In addition to the weight related advantages, an intermittent fast positively affects your overall health. It helps the body repair cells, so it may improve a number of health issues. Fasting can control blood-sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. It may reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia as well. This type of diet also enhances mental clarity and improves the inflammatory responses of the body.

Controlling your weight will have a positive impact on your emotional and spiritual well-being. Fasting diets are ideal for maintaining good health because they promote the concept of enjoying life in moderation. You can have your cake, eat it and hit the reset button on your whole body. Before you make any change in your dietary lifestyle, it's a good idea to consult your physician, especially if you have any serious medical conditions. Once you're given the green light, you can start your journey toward a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.