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Fasting is practiced by people for religious reasons and by those desperate to lose weight. But it has been alleged that fasting is a bad way to lose weight because we lose the stimulatory effect of eating which encourages our metabolism to burn more calories. It’s alleged that when we fast our bodies think we are facing starvation and shut down our metabolism, preventing or at least slowing down, weight loss.
This is why we are often told we should not skip breakfast if we are trying to lose weight – it is after all the meal that ‘breaks’ the ‘fast’. In addition, it is said that we should eat regular, small meals to keep our metabolic fire stoked up, burning up those calories.
But research is increasing, which seems to show the opposite – that fasting can be an ideal way to lose weight.
The bad news is that restricting calorie consumption is the only method that’s been proven to extend life – at least in animals. For some years now there has been a small group of people called CHRONies (Calorie Restricters on Optimal Nutrition) who seem also to bear witness to this. They are a group of biologically very fit (low cholesterol and low blood sugar), very lean people who achieve this goal by severely restricting the number of calories they eat every day. They also obtain those calories from the most nutritious sources. They look incredibly fit and young for their years – so why is this group very small? Probably because few of us have the willpower to sustain such long-term self-discipline.
But the good news is that there is evidence that fasting for no more than two days a week may lead not only to weight loss but improvements in other measures of health such as cholesterol and fasting blood sugar levels, body mass index etc.
And for once, it’s not too good to be true…
Known also as the Fast Diet or the ‘5:2 plan’ devised by British physician, Dr.Michael Mosley, intermittent fasting is causing a stir in nutritional, anti-ageing and weight-loss circles. Intermittent fasting involves restricting calorie intake on ‘fast’ days to a quarter of normal intake i.e. about 500 calories a day for women and 600 for men. These should be spread out – ideally with at least 12 hours between – to give that all-important fasting period.