May 2017 Magazine - Page 69

Mind, Body & Soul Does the “When” of Eating Matter More Than the “What”? The Surprising Benefits of Intermittent Fasting F By Michelle Vessel OR DECADES, ONE OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF HEALTH-CONSCIOUS eating has been to consume a near-constant stream of small, snack-sized meals – as many as six per day spaced out over every few waking hours – as the optimal way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Go too long without munching, the theory went, and the resulting surge of hunger will inevitably drive you to overcompensate with too many calories and poor food choices. Even more alarming, it has long been warned that stretching out the time between meals too much could throw your body into “starvation mode”, inflicting permanent damage on your metabolism, eventually making weight loss all but impossible. But much like fat-free margarine, Olestra, and heavily processed “lite” snacks laden with sugar, many of the diet concepts and fads that took hold in the 1980s and 1990s are now beginning to fall by the wayside, including that once-ubiquitous “six small meals a day” advice. In fact, a growing number of experts are now considering the opposite approach as a means of helping people shed fat, maintain a healthy weight and achieve a number of other positive wellness benefits. Eating larger, more calorie-dense meals during limited windows of time each day, a concept known as “intermittent fasting,” is on the rise, with evidence from the eating patterns of our ancient ancestors to cutting-edge research that’s being carried out today to support it. Basics and Benefits There are a number of different methods associated with intermittent fasting (don’t worry, we’ll dish the details on several of the most popular regimens below), but all are based on the same simple premise: reducing your average calorie intake and boosting your body’s ability to burn fat by stoking the body’s hormones to super-charge weight loss. Most typical weight-loss diets are based on the idea of reducing the amount of calories you consume, but they tend to take the approach of cutting food intake by a certain amount every day. Most fasting-based plans, on the other hand, focus on reducing calorie intake by stretching out the amount of time between meals, limiting the timeframe in which you eat, varying the amount of food consumed from day to day, or a combination of some or all techniques. For those looking to drop some pounds, the most obvious benefit of this approach is that you can eat less overall and still maintain an overall calorie deficit – with- out feeling hungry and deprived every single day - which can boost willpower and increase the length of time you’re able to stick to your diet. May/June 2017 69