Of all the diet trends that have crossed our paths in the past couple of years, fasting is likely to be the one that sticks around long term.
With strong and growing scientific evidence of its benefits for both cellular health and weight control, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about ‘fasting’ as a routine part of their diet.
But how do you know if fasting will work for you, or if it’s even appropriate? Here are some signs that your body may specifically benefit from including a regular fast as part of your week.
1. Your diet is no longer working
The human body is very adept at becoming ‘used’ to dietary regimes quickly. This is the reason that diets may often work initially before weight loss slows over time.
One of the reasons fasting appears to be so effective is that it is a drastic change to our usual food regime. It is this significant change of either consuming very few calories (as per the 5:2 diet) or going for extended periods of time without eating (the 16:8 fasting approach) that forces the body’s cells to work a little harder, increasing metabolic and inducing weight loss.
So if you have been eating the same thing, day in and day out, for some time with no change on the scales, fasting occasionally may be the exact push your body needs to get things moving again.
2. You can’t remember when you last felt hungry
Human beings rarely eat because they are hungry, rather we eat because it is a meal time, there is yummy food on offer or because those around us are eating. This, in turn, means that we can be a little out of touch with our hunger and fullness signals.
Fasting can be a simple yet effective dietary strategy to remind us what it feels like to actually be hungry. In turn, when you actually do break the fast, you’ll notice how much better the food tastes and how much less food you need to feel satisfied.
3. You are not a breakfast eater
Another key reason fasting works for many is that it tends to fit in very well with modern life and long working days which see many of us home relatively late and not eating dinner until 8pm or 9pm at night.
As the 16:8 fasting approach suggests, followers simply limit their eating hours rather than calories, if you are a late dinner eater, all you then need to do is not eat again until lunchtime the next day. This skips the need to have breakfast altogether while meaning you can still finish your work day and enjoy a meal at dinnertime.
4. You can’t stick to a diet
All diets work when they are followed, even the ones that are not so good for your body. But the issue for most of us is that we find it difficult to stick to any one regime for an extended period of time.
Fasting, in particular the 16:8 approach, helps to bridge the divide between calorie control and dietary compliance by focusing on hours in between eating occasions rather than calorie counting.
This, in turn, allows for regular life events such as eating out, late night meals and dealing with food cravings to all be manageable within the fasting regime. All you need to do, is make sure you consume all of your calories within a set number of hours each day, which eliminates the need for strict the calorie control and meal planning often required to successfully lose weight via more traditional diets.
5. You have hormonal issues
While fasting is associated with modest weight loss, more powerful is its association with reducing a number of inflammatory conditions and their metabolic markers including cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin levels. This means that if you suffer from the relatively common hormonal conditions of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance, fasting could be of particular benefit in helping to reduce your insulin levels overall, supporting weight control long term.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.