The holidays can be an especially difficult time to adhere to any diet. Family feasts and celebratory sweets often result in some unwanted extra pounds and a regretful New Year’s resolution- but there’s another approach that may be worth trying this holiday season: intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting refers to a dietary approach that revolves around scheduling eating patterns. Restricting the times at which we eat allows our body to utilize the energy in our fat stores instead of running off a constant influx of calories throughout the day. There are dozens of different variations of intermittent fasting, so you’re sure to find a method that works best for you. Some choose to stick to a regular daily fasting schedule, while others may prefer to fast a couple days out of each week. One of the most popular methods is a 16/8 fasting schedule, in which you schedule an 8-hour eating window each day and fast the remaining 16 hours. While fasting, you are allowed 0-calorie beverages such as water, coffee, or tea- so you can still get going in the mornings even if you’re skipping breakfast! Many have heard the old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but recent studies have suggested that intermittent fasting approaches may yield a plethora of health benefits. A 2019 review in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed dozens of studies on intermittent fasting and found that it not only improves metabolism and lowers blood sugar, but it even reduces our risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and cancer.1
While intermittent fasting may sound strange to some, it’s actually much better suited to how our bodies work than eating constantly through our waking hours. Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at John Hopkins University, says our bodies have developed to go without food for hours or sometimes even days. Before the inception of farming agriculture, food wasn’t guaranteed and took a lot of time and energy to get ahold of.2 While food is something we constantly have access to (especially during the holidays), our bodies haven’t quite caught up.
Gathering with friends and family around the holidays is something we all enjoy, including all the extra food and sweets that come along with it- but maybe intermittent fasting can help you enjoy a guilt-free holiday season this year!
Written by: Ricky Reisweber
- Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease. de Cabo R, Mattonson MP. New England Journal of Medicine, December 2019.