An Expert Shares 5 Intermittent Fasting Mistakes That Prevent Weight Loss
You've likley heard that intermittent fasting (IF) can help you lose weight when other diet and fitness plans have failed you. Before you jump on the IF train, there are some things you need to know if you want to be successful. We asked fasting expert Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and author of The Complete Guide to Fasting, to share tips when it comes to intermittent fasting for weight loss. Read on to learn his insights and see if IF is for you.
Before starting any new diet plan, including intermittent fasting, you should check in with your doctor first to see if the plan is right for you.
Choosing the Wrong Plan
There are so many different forms of intermittent fasting, so be sure to choose the one that works with your schedule, needs, and lifestyle. "Fit the fasting into your life schedule, not the other way around, otherwise you'll never be able to stick to it in the long term," Dr. Fung suggested.
Do your research and choose an IF plan that you'll be able to stick with. One type called 5:2 involves eating 500 calories a day (600 calories for men) twice a week and eating normally the other five days a week. If you have a demanding full-time job, an active family, and an intense workout routine you want to stick to, eating that few calories will feel impossible on those days. So the 16:8 plan, where you fast for 16 hours every day, will probably be easier to maintain; it allows you to just skip breakfast and have a feeding window from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Remember that you can be flexible from day to day. If you have an important social event, shift your fasting window to accommodate that or skip that day's fast and do it the next day. The flexibility of intermittent fasting is what makes it so sustainable.
Giving Up Too Soon
Dr. Fung said fasting takes some time to get used to. At first, it may seem too difficult, but as with anything new, it'll get easier with time. Ease into this new lifestyle and try different forms of IF before giving up completely. "Give yourself at least one month before deciding whether this plan is working for you," Dr. Fung advised, adding that you should have realistic expectations.
You will get hungry, but understand that hunger comes in waves. You also may experience other symptoms like irritability, low energy, headaches, and trouble sleeping, but these will pass within one to three weeks, so stick with it!
Eating Too Much
One benefit of intermittent fasting is having more freedom in the foods you eat and being able to sit down to larger, more satisfying meals without feeling like you have to strictly count calories. But IF doesn't give you the green light to eat as much as you want. If you eat in a calorie surplus, you will gain weight.
Overeating during your eating window is common for beginners, and this can happen if you jump right into fasting or if you choose a fasting window that's too long. It's OK to take several weeks to build up to fasting for a certain period of time. If done correctly, you'll hardly feel hungry during your fasting window, so once you hit the time when your feeding window starts, you won't feel so famished that you want to inhale the entire contents of your kitchen.
Eating the Wrong Foods
Intermittent fasting does allow you a little wiggle room in your diet, which is why people love it so much. But a person cannot survive on ice cream and pasta alone (even though he or she may want to!). Be sure to get a balance of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and complex carbs. This will satiate you longer so you eat fewer daily calories. If you eat sugar and refined carbs, you'll end up feeling hungrier and eat more than you need, which will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. A balanced diet will help you build muscle, maintain a healthy brain, and make you feel more energetic and happier overall.
Being Around Food When You're Fasting
Sticking to your IF plan is all mental, and it's nearly impossible to stay on track if there's delicious-smelling food around.
Don't make things harder on yourself. If you fast in the mornings, suggest to meet a friend for lunch, not breakfast. If you fast in the evenings, meal prep your lunch before your fasting window starts. Don't scroll through Instagram if your feed is filled with food porn, and stay away from food as much as you can during your fasting window to avoid temptation.