I discovered intermittent fasting completely on accident. It was my freshman year of college. I remember that time being marked by my first taste of independence, a sense that I finally ruled my own world, but also the boatload of anxiety that comes with moving out of state, surrounded by strangers, adjusting to a different way of living and learning. College is a crazy time.
I was living in the dorms, and many of my first classes started at 8am. Now the dining hall opened at that exact time, so I didn’t have time before class to grab breakfast; I’d have to wait until my 10am break. After spending hours debating which clubs and organizations to join, I decided I wanted to learn something new, get back on a turf field (soccer was my favorite sport growing up), and join a club that wasn’t as much of a financial strain as other campus organizations (do you know how insanely expensive big school sororities are???). The rugby team it was. We practiced 6pm-8pm a few days a week. This meant I’d eat dinner around 4:30pm, then get ready to head to practice. The dining hall closed at 8pm – just about the time I was taking off my cleats – so I’d go home and maybe only have a granola bar before studying and going to bed.
Before I knew it, all of my pants (most of which I’d had since early high school and were way too tight) were way too big! I jumped on the scale at the rec center, and saw that I had lost 15 pounds. I was in complete shock and aw. I had heard the term “freshman 15” so many times, that I had already come to terms with gaining an extra 15 pounds at the end of my first year. Here I was, having lost that exact amount.
At the time, I wasn’t trying to lose weight. In fact, when I looked in the mirror I felt as though I was seeing a skeleton, and it scared me. I had to force feed myself back to my normal weight. At this point in my life, I had never heard the term “intermittent fasting” – it was not yet this fad that it has become today – and I didn’t know that was essentially what I had done to lose weight.
But I was 18 at the time, and a “slowing metabolism” was something only old people got.
Now, at this point in my life, I realize I can intentionally utilize this tool I had accidentally discovered to manage my weight – and I have already seen how effective it can be.
I know why people rave about this diet method. Study after study not only show the benefit in weight management, but also the benefits against aging, cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. According to this research article, intermittent fasting can decrease inflammation and oxidative stress (both of which are thought to lead to chronic disease), but just as importantly, it is easy for participants to stick to.
Why is this important? Well, most fad diets are harmful to ones health largely because they facilitate yo-yo dieting and lead to more weight gain in the long run. The trick to finding the right diet is not finding the diet that leads to the quickest weight loss, but the most sustainable weight loss.
But with all the craze on intermittent dieting, there are so many ways to do it and the research isn’t always clear of which fasting schedule they studied. 24 hour fasts once a week? Twice a week? 16:8 fasting? It’s possible that it is simply calorie restriction itself that promotes these benefits and not the fasting that promotes the benefits.
But as I don’t see the craze on intermittent fasting going anywhere anytime soon, I’m sure more and more research will be published on how to take the most advantage of this diet technique.
Adiós for now.