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Why is everyone talking about intermittent fasting?

Dear Plums,

What is intermittent fasting? I keep hearing people talk about it, but I don’t know what it actually is. I’m not interested in starving myself, so what is so healthy about intermittent fasting and how is it different than just plain, old dieting? Please explain this new fad to me!


Hungry for an Answer

Dear “Hungry for an Answer,”

Let’s be clear: intermittent fasting should not be about starving. We absolutely do not recommend that. Intermittent fasting is simply about adjusting your meals to allow for digestive rest to reap some potential benefits from that time-out from eating.

Intermittent fasting has been around for centuries, often associated with a variety of religious and spiritual practices. As old as it is, it’s recently become quite a buzzword. The science behind the practice is scant. Many studies on this practice have few participants and are conducted for relatively short periods of time. While proponents of this diet claim numerous health benefits, including sustained weight loss, improved hormone profile (whatever that means), increased life expectancy, maintenance of skeletal muscle mass, decreased blood glucose levels, decreased insulin levels, and more, the science is not yet there. 

When one hears the word, “fasting,” restrictive dieting often comes to mind. Intermittent fasting should not be calorie restriction, this trend is about adjusting your eating schedule. It is still critical that one consumes a sufficient amount of balanced nutrients like fiber, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Incorporating intermittent fasting simply means that one consumes that nutrition during a specific window of time during a 24-hour period.

For example the 16:8 method, consists of fasting for 16 hours and consuming all of one’s food within an 8-hour window.

If you’re interested in learning more about intermittent fasting, here are five tips to help you get started!

1. Determine if intermittent fasting is really for you.

Those with a history of any type of disordered eating, including binging, should not try intermittent fasting. This diet is also not for those with diabetes and many other chronic diseases; especially if those diseases are managed with multiple prescription medications. 

2. Breakfast is delish at ANY time.

It’s okay to break your fast with your go-to “breakfast.” If you're a late sleeper adn  your feeding window begins at noon, bacon and eggs are going to be just as delicious as they are at 6am. Just be sure to opt for healthful proteins and complex carbs and keep on the lookout for added sugars. Stick to a balance of lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats to maintain good energy throughout your day.

3. Start slowly.

If you’re new to fasting, take it slowly. If your goal is to fast 16 hours each day, but you’re new to fasting, you may want to give yourself time to adjust. Consider starting with a 12-hour fast, allowing most of that time to occur while you sleep. Listen to your body, and pay attention to the signals it’s sending. If your tummy is growling and all you can think about is grabbing a donut, it’s time for a healthy break-fast. Slowly expand your fasting window and reduce your feeding window. You’ll eventually settle into a routine.

4. Hydrate, sister!

Hydrate with water, herbal tea or seltzer. If you find that you're again, reaching for another coffee to curb your hunger, intermittent fasting is not for you right now.

5. Aim for Balance

Your body needs nutrition, and it needs all the macronutrients — carbohydrates, proteins, and fats — to build muscle, fight disease, and function optimally. Deprivation diets can be dangerous, wreak havoc on our bodies, and set us up for failure. Done right, you should not feel hungry while you’re fasting. If you are, that’s a warning sign that an adjustment is needed. 

Remember that it’s always wise to check in with your doctor before incorporating any changes such as intermittent fasting. Consider recruiting the help of a dietitian to go over your goals and help you strategize. The right fuel at the right time can be a powerful combination!

Thanks for turning to us when you’re “hungry for an answer.” There’s always room in our orchard for you.