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Fasting – is it worth it?

The problem with “diets” is that most (if not all) are difficult to sustain long-term. The latest, which I tried one day to see if I could do it, is Intermittent Fasting. It’s based on the idea that you eat very few (500 or less) calories one day and eat normally or even “feast” on the next day. Or, I’ve seen people do a one day fast (no food – just water, broth, unsweetened liquids) once per week. While I don’t think a fasting day here or there is necessarily bad (many religions practice fasting) but adopting it as a way to lose weight is where I have concerns. Mainly because it’s not a long term solution. And, according to research in the Journal of the American Medical Association – it doesn’t work any better than moderately reducing the amount of calories you eat (25%).

Here are my reasons I would never recommend this to a health coaching client:

First, this approach doesn’t teach you a lifestyle. Extreme calorie cutting isn’t  something that you can do on a consistent basis without extreme planning and sacrifice. Might work for a few weeks or even months but eventually, you will get tired of having to live like that and go back to old habits. Healthy living means changing HABITS for the long-term.

short-term-dietSecond – your body needs more than 500 calories a day to function. It just does. Extreme calorie cutting leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, brain fog, exhaustion and if you’re me, irritability. Depriving your body of important nutrients on a long-term basis has more negative effects than positive.

Third, this type of diet may seem like a quick fix for someone who is obese. This is the most vulnerable population when it comes to weight loss. They may have tried other diets and failed. Or lost a lot on one extreme diet only to put it all back on when they stopped following the plan. Yo-yo dieting has health implications beyond just weight gain. In fact, it can contribute to cardiac disease. Someone who has 50 or more pounds to lose needs a holistic approach to their lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, stress management, etc.) not a quick fix that can’t be sustained long-term.

Finally, this kind of eating, in my opinion, sets a bad example for young people — especially your kiddos. Starving yourself every other day says “the only way to lose weight is to deprive my body of necessary nutrition and suffer through it.” While you can tell me you love it and it doesn’t bother you but it says something totally different to a young person who is still growing and still going through those awkward stages of adolescence. They need fat and carbs – in healthy, moderate amounts. They need to learn moderation and what a healthy diet looks like before cutting it down to 500 calories.

Now, these are my thoughts on it and my opinions based on what I’ve learned about nutrition and healthy living as a certified trainer and coach. If you really want to know what the smart people think about it, check out the JAMA study.

Any health care professional who wants to help you live a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight and sustain it for years to come will tell you that it’s about changing habits and lifestyles, not starving yourself one day and indulging the next. It’s about moving more and eating less crap. They will tell you – and so will I – that it’s not easy, it doesn’t happen overnight and it takes support and accountability.

Ready to give your lifestyle a check-up? Message me for info about my 2-Week Tune Up to help you jump-start healthy habits.

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