Dietitian Melissa Meier shares the health perks of fasting while in iso, and three simple tips to help you stick to it at home.
With everything that’s going on in the world right now, starting a new diet or healthier eating routine probably isn’t atop your priority list – and that’s a-okay by me. These are seriously trying times and the stress of losing weight, implementing new food ‘rules’ and shaking up your routine could be enough to tip you over the edge. So, focusing on simply getting through is perfectly fine in my books.
If you are, however, looking to use this time to make some healthy changes, here’s an idea that might be suitable for you: intermittent fasting.
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What is intermittent fasting?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, intermittent fasting isn’t a diet in the typical sense of the word. It’s more focused on when rather than what you eat, with the main protocols being 5:2 and 16:8.
The former revolves around two days per week of ultra-low energy intake (read: about 500 calories) and normal eating the rest of the time, whereas the latter involves a 16 hour fast every single day (in other words, a daily eight-hour window in which you eat as you normally would).
Before we dive in, please know that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Pregnant women and those with diabetes, for example, should steer clear of the world of fasting. There are some pretty uncomfortable and annoying side effects, too, like severe hunger pangs, difficulty concentrating and irritability. If you find these too hard to cope with, that’s okay – there are plenty of other ways to improve your health. Don’t stress.
In case you’re wondering, intermittent fasting has been linked to a lot of health benefits. While it’s no more effective than a standard calorie-controlled diet, it can help with weight loss. It’s also been associated with metabolic health perks, protection from disease and improved gut health, so it’s a pretty exciting area of scientific research.
Three reasons to try intermittent fasting now
So, why is now, in the midst of a global pandemic, a good time to jump on the fasting bandwagon? I’m glad you asked. There’s a number of reasons:
1. Your schedule is completely up to you
Working from home means your life is a whole lot more flexible, which is a good thing if you’re giving intermittent fasting a go. You’ll be able to pay more attention to establishing a new routine and, if 5:2 is your jam, have more time to experiment in the kitchen with healthy new low-cal foods.
2. Your social life won’t get in the way
One of the pits of intermittent fasting is that it does require a little forethought, especially if you’ve got a buzzing social life. With most people laying low at the moment, however, you won’t have to worry about factoring in social catch-ups, date nights and even office birthdays.
3. You’ll be better equipped to adjust to the side effects
When you’re at work, struggling to concentrate and being hangry isn’t ideal. When you’re not at work, however, it’s easier to occupy yourself with other tasks to take your mind off the unpleasant side effects, which will make the first few weeks much easier.
Tips for coping with fasting days
Whether you’re already on the intermittent fasting bandwagon or are just starting out, here are my three top tips for making it through.
There’s no denying it, fasting can be tough, so it’ll pay to have tactics up your sleeve to distract you from your incessant hunger pangs. Schedule in some ‘me’ time, organise a walk with a friend or treat yourself to the next episode of Normal People in those times you know you’ll be feeling it.
You can’t just wing fasting, you have to have a strategy – and stick to it. If you’re doing 5:2, it’ll pay to know what days you’re going to fast on at the start of the week and have a meal plan with low-calorie recipes on hand.
On 5:2 fasting days, you want to stretch your calories as far as possible and opt for foods that offer little energy in large quantities. Fruit and veggies are some of the best options for getting bang for your calorie buck. Not to mention, they’re oh-so-good for you, too. Try this intermittent fasting meal plan to get you started.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.