Intermittent fasting: An accessible alternative to dieting

Andrew Bailey and Andrew Bailey

According to a study in the journal “Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology,” intermittent fasting, an eating habit wherein participants partition their normal diet with regular intervals of fasting, provides “a valid — albeit apparently not superior — option” to continuous calorie restriction.

With the popularity of dieting as a way to lose weight and become healthier, intermittent fasting has become one of the more popular options. When paired with another dieting plan, it can be an especially effective way to reach a desired weight.

Junior communication major Max Grueshaber heard about it through browsing the internet for ways to lose more weight after he had hit a wall with the weight he lost on another plan. The features that appealed to him were the flexibility and challenge accompanied with intermittent fasting, which he has experimented with extensively.

There are various methods, such as blocking out a time each day for eating, eating normally for five days a week and fasting two days, or fasting every other day.

He opted to block out time each day, picking the 20:4 plan, in which he fasts for 20 hours and eats 12-4 p.m.

“I hardly ever ate breakfast as it is. The little time window gave me the opportunity to eat either right before I went to work or during the time I would usually have a break,” he said.

Being able to alter the plan around a schedule makes it simple to incorporate into a college student’s busy life. Junior public relations major Stefanie Delrosso who used to participate in intermittent fasting, enjoyed working out in the morning, but preferred not to eat beforehand. Thus, the 18:6 plan was the optimal fit for her, with an eating window of 1-7 p.m.

“It was just what worked best with my schedule. To keep track of it, I was hungry by 1 and then at 7 I would make sure I had dinner and then I’d just be done,” she said.

Intermittent fasting isn’t as simple as sticking to a schedule though, because eating junk food during the allotted eating times can be counterproductive.

According to Christine Haar, director of the dietetic internship program at BGSU, overcompensation during eating windows can actually lead to weight gain. She used the term “adherence.” Adhering to the specific method and refraining from overcompensation and unhealthy foods are as important as the schedule itself.

Haar recommends above ground, non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes as a healthy food option, as well as physical activity, to see the desired results that one would expect.

As an addition to his intermittent fasting, Grueshaber started on the Keto diet, focusing on high fats and low carbs.

“When paired together and with regular exercise, you can see some serious results,” he said, reflecting on the weight he lost and increase in energy he gained. “I wasn’t as fatigued after a long day at work, a workout or school.”

However, Delrosso, while she saw physical results she liked, disliked the unhealthy mindset it gave her. She cited the desire to challenge herself by pushing back her eating window, the trouble she had while going out to eat with her friends during fasting windows and the general stress accompanying the clock-watching eating habit as reasons for discontinuing her intermittent fasting in September of her sophomore year.

“It got too obsessive,” she said.

Whether or not intermittent fasting can work for someone ultimately depends on personal preference, Haar said.

Is it something I can fit into my day easily? Will I become too obsessive and focus on the time constantly? Will I be able to power through the fasting without breaking rules? These are some of the questions to take into consideration while participating in intermittent fasting. With his 20-hour fasting window, Grueshaber has found that “the hunger can be unbearable.” However, he was able to find ways to keep himself goal-oriented and not stray from his schedule.

“To ground myself I just look at old pictures or pump myself up to remind myself to keep grinding,” he said. “Hunger is mostly a mental game and two days is the hardest.”

Eventually, the challenge became enjoyable for him.

“The challenge for me is half the fun,” he said.

Now, Grueshaber has begun to see admirable results, dropping about 40 pounds over four to five months.

“I would always recommend this to anyone who would like to lose weight, and it’s pretty effective if done right,” he said.

Dieting habits can be an effective way to lose body fat healthily, and intermittent fasting, while not for everyone, is one of many options to achieve this. However, its emphasis on an eating schedule over restricting particular foods may be a key to its accessibility and appeal.

“You’re not being told what to eat, per se,” Haar said. “When to eat might be a lot easier for people to adapt to than what to eat.”