It’s all very well for scientists to research intermittent fasting. I mean, we need them to figure stuff out for us, and to deal with all those pesky scientific things like how metabolism works, growth hormones, insulin levels, and ketosis and… stuff. They’ve totally got an integral role in intermittent fasting. But have any of them ever actually done a fast day? Have they felt the twang of heartbreak at needing to pass up a French fry? Or experienced the true face of hanger? Or, for that matter, felt the intoxicating joy and supreme glee of finally sliding easily into that pair of skinny jeans? Krista Varady PhD has. Not only is she the global go-to guru for intermittent fasting research, and an associate professor of nutrition, but she’s also actually tried intermittent fasting for herself. Here, she shares her own story of what works for her, what doesn’t, and why.
Dr Krista Varady on her experience with Intermittent Fasting…
“I have used intermittent fasting on and off throughout the years to lose weight and improve my health. I personally find it much easier than most other diets as it allows me to eat freely on non-fast days. I also love the simplicity of fasting regimens. There are so many diets out there that require you to count carbs, avoid whole food groups, or consume meal replacements multiple times per day. Intermittent fasting is different, in that it only requires you to do one simple thing: stick to a 500-calorie goal a few times per week. If you do this, you can be guaranteed to see some weight loss within a week or two.
I first tried alternate day fasting after giving birth to my son. I desperately wanted to lose the 15 pounds (6.8kg) of baby weight that my body refused to shed. I tried daily calorie restriction first (which is kind of embarrassing since I am an intermittent fasting researcher!) I soon realized this was a mistake. I found daily restriction very difficult to stick to, since it required me to vigilantly monitor all of my calorie intake ALL day long. No matter what I ate, I had to record it in a mobile app on my phone. Every. Single. Bite. I found this so tedious that I quit the diet within a week.
Right after that, I tried alternate day fasting. Again, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this was my second resort. Why didn’t I try it first? In all honesty, I was worried that intermittent fasting would be too intense to take on while caring for a newborn baby. I thought that consuming only 500 calories every other day postpartum would lead me to feel even more exhausted and irritable than I already felt. But boy, was I wrong. To my surprise, after a week of alternate day fasting, I felt great! I had plenty of energy and my mood improved considerably. In addition, I started losing about 1 pound (0.45kg) per week. It was terrific! I continued this fasting regimen until I reached my goal weight (it took about 12 weeks), then I returned to my usual eating habits.
I also regularly use alternate day fasting after the holidays each year. Like many of us, I find that I gain about 5 pounds (2.2kg) after engaging in weeks of cocktail parties, massive dinners, and other food-centred celebrations. In early January, every year, I incorporate four fast days into my week and find that I can shed those extra holiday pounds in a few weeks.
Most recently, I have discovered that fasting helps me to control my ulcerative colitis. Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that can make it very painful to digest food. I was diagnosed with this disorder about a year ago, and I was devastated. However, I have found that fasting is extremely helpful when I am experiencing a flare-up. Whenever I feel a flare coming on, I go on a water fast for a few days. Like magic, my symptoms subside almost right away. This has prompted a desire to study the effects of fasting in other people with inflammatory bowel disease. Hopefully, we will start this study in the next year or two.
All in all, I use fasting several times a year to manage my weight and keep healthy. I love the flexibility of the diet and the immediate results I see every time I use it!”
Why Intermittent Fasting Is So Effective
- Intermittent Fasting is easy to follow: no counting carbs, no avoiding entire food groups and no meal replacements
- Intermittent Fasting is simple: just stick to your 500 calorie allowance on fast days
- Intermittent Fasting allows flexibility: no need to monitor every single bite every single day
- Intermittent Fasting makes you feel good: I had plenty of energy and my mood improved
- Intermittent Fasting works quickly: it’s easy to shed holiday pounds or drop an extra few kgs in just a few weeks
- Intermittent Fasting may improve your health: some people experience improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance (which may decrease future risk of heart disease or diabetes)
- Intermittent Fasting can help you maintain your weight loss long-term