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IS INTERMITTENT FASTING A DIET OR A PUNISHMENT?

Should you go with the chicken or the salmon? The arugula salad or the sweet potato fries? Or perhaps, if improving health is your goal, you should make a different choice: none of the above.


Intermittent fasting is alternating between periods of eating and fasting during the week is on the cusp of becoming the latest weight loss fad, according to many in the health and wellness field. There have been several recent documentaries on the topic in North America and Europe. A book called The Fast Diet, already popular in the United Kingdom, just hit bookstore shelves in the United States.


Some advocates recommend fasting every day for up to 16 hours and consuming food only during a short “eating window.” Others suggest going without food once or twice a week for 24-hour periods — having dinner one night, for example, and skipping breakfast, lunch and snacks the next day, then eating a normal dinner (no gorging).

But many nutritionists, physicians and medical researchers are skeptical. Sure, obesity is a major problem and leads to a host of health problems, and cutting down on weekly calorie intakes would be a smart move for many people. Nobody disputes that.

But getting people to eat healthier is difficult enough. Getting people to stop eating altogether for stretches of up to 24 hours? Yeah, good luck with that.


Advocates for intermittent fasting suggest that periodically going through stretches when you drink plenty of water or other calorie-free drinks, but abstain from eating, can improve health, which is true.

Almost all diets focus on the “what” rather than the “when,”. Problem is, the “what” gets confusing. One diet guru suggests dropping wheat products, another says avoid fats. One says eat more fruits, another says many fruits are too high in sugar. And on and on it goes. Even people who make healthier choices tend to eat too much. If they become less active as they age, that will still lead to weight gain. Despite the benefits of giving your digestive system the occasional vacation, health professionals are reluctant to suggest that patients put down their forks.


“Health care practitioners across the board are so afraid to recommend eating less because of the stigma involved in that recommendation, but we are more than happy to recommend that someone start going to the gym”. “If all I said was you need to get to the gym and start eating healthier, no one would have a problem with it. When the message is not only should you eat less, you could probably go without eating for 24 hours once or twice a week, suddenly it’s heresy.”