Intermittent fasting

Diet plan requires patience, willingness to abstain from food for extended periods of time

By David L. Podos

Intermittent fasting has received lots of attention lately.

For some straight talk on this form of fasting, Bridget Shea and Emily Clairmont, both registered dietitians at the University of Vermont Medical Center, have this to say.

“Fasting has been part of the human experience throughout history and is often tied to religious and spiritual rituals. Intermittent fasting has been a part of our evolution; it just didn’t have the fancy name until now,” Shea said. “There are various ways to carry out an intermittent fasting plan — the two most common are alternate day fasting and time-restricted feeding.”

In alternate day fasting, one fasts every other day and then eats normally on the days in between.

Time-restricted feeding is where food is only consumed during defined periods during the day and there is a longer overnight fast. For example, someone may only eat during four-, six- or 10-hour periods a day.

“The research is mixed as it always is with nutrition,” cautions Shea. “Weight loss is generally the desired outcome when people attempt intermittent fasting, and like all other diet plans, eating patterns and programs, intermittent fasting works for some people and does not work for others.

“Some studies show that intermittent fasting results in the loss of visceral fat, the type of fat around the internal organs that is associated with poor health outcomes.”

There is a need, however, for people to be aware of possible complications and restrictions before starting this kind of fasting. According to Clairmont, intermittent fasting is not appropriate for everyone. “It boils down to who is choosing this dietary pattern and to what extent they are restricting food intake,” she said.

“I would never recommend intermittent fasting during pregnancy or breastfeeding, in youth who are growing, and with anyone who has a history of restrictive food behaviors or eating disorders,” she added. “Food cravings may increase after periods of food restriction and over time, this may lead to an unintentional and unhealthy obsession with food and eating.”

Joe and Fran Guerino are residents of Frankfort.

“We tried many different types of fasting over the years but settled for intermittent fasting. For us, it was just easier, and we also knew at some point during the day you were eventually going to eat, which made the commitment easier as well,” Joe said. “Our schedule is pretty simple — one meal per day.”

“We follow the fast for one month with two to three months off, then back again,” Fran added.

Both agree it is very important that the one meal per day is as nutritious and clean as possible.

“We try and eat foods grown organically,” says Fran, adding that once off stops fasting, it is necessary to continue to eat highly nutritious foods.

“We have experienced significant health benefits, including less bloating, a clearer mind, no more puffiness under the eyes, weight loss, and a reduction in inflammation,” Joe said.

Nutrition counseling vital

Becky Martyniuk is the owner of In Touch Massage located in New Hartford. A licensed massage therapist, she is also a certified nutrition counselor who received her training from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition through the Teacher’s College of Columbia University.

She received her nutrition counselor certification in 2008 and has been a licensed massage therapist since 2002.

“My nutrition counseling is always tailored to a person’s individual needs,” she said. “Regarding intermittent fasting, first off, I would like to let people know that when people think of fasting, they usually think of withholding food all day or for multiple days, and oftentimes, that is what fasting can be.”

“In the case of intermittent fasting however, it is tying down a specific block of time within the day to abstain from food, but only in that time period,” Martyniuk added. “For example, I will eat in the morning and afternoon, but will stop eating after 4 p.m.

“There are many benefits from this kind of fast, such as your body is forced to use its stored body fat for energy,” she said. “It saves time and money when compared to other fasting methods that require a lot of meal preparation or special meals that you need to purchase.

“Because intermittent fasting helps to regulate your insulin levels, it can reduce hunger pains, cravings, and sugar addiction.”

“Doing this kind of fasting for about 15 days will help reset your insulin levels. In Type 2 diabetes, clinical studies have shown that intermittent fasting can actually play a part of reversing this condition, but always check in with your medical doctor first before starting any kind of fasting. It’s also good in helping to reduce inflammation in the body.”