Q&A on intermittent fasting

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Fasting has become a popular way to lose weight, improve health and boost digestive function. Below we answer some key questions you might have about intermittent fasting.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a period of fasting where you take in no calories. The only thing allowed is water, black tea or coffee. Some people do this every other day, some for 16-17 hour periods, and some on a ratio of five eating days to two fast days.

Fasting has been used historically for spiritual and religious reasons.

What’s the difference between fasting and detox?

A detox is usually where you’ll eat certain foods such as juices, soups or smoothies to help your digestive system. You don’t eat at all on a fast. Detoxification is really a process that our bodies are undertaking the whole time, so detoxes can be a little controversial so you need to get professional advice before doing one.

What are the benefits of fasting?

There is lots of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting: including improved cholesterol, weight loss, and digestive function.

Intermittent fasting has been proven to help you lose weight as an alternative to a standard diet. It can give you a better awareness of hunger, food choices and what your body needs. It can also help increase metabolic efficiency. It benefits the gut by giving it almost a spring clean, and a break which can improve your digestive system.

How can I try it?

It’s best to start with a minimum 12-hour overnight fast. Then you can gradually build this up. For example, you could eat dinner at 8 pm, skip breakfast and have an early lunch. The other alternative is 5:2 – on this method you fast for two days of the week on very limited calories, and then eat a nutritionally balanced diet for the rest of the time.

Start on a day you’re not going to be eating out or socializing to allow your body to adjust and remove temptation. It’s important when you do eat to ensure you have a nutritionally balanced meal with good levels of fiber, protein and lots of color and good fats.

How can I manage hunger?

There are some key elements to consider when you fast so that you can manage feelings of hunger. Firstly, ensure you are hydrated and drink plenty of water. You should also start gradually and build up.

Create a consciousness in your body. If you’re doing an overnight fast it’s not long until you’ll be eating, so when you start to feel hungry, ask yourself what does your body really need.

NB: It’s best to avoid intermittent fasting in specific conditions and advisable to check with a GP if pregnant or ill and on your periods.

Image: Benjamin Wong

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