“Studies have shown time and time again that while periodic or short-term caloric restriction can lead to fat loss and improved metabolism, long-term caloric restriction does not work at all,” says Stephenson. “Our bodies are incredibly adaptive—when we restrict calories for extended periods of time, hunger hormone regulators increase, which often leads to increased appetite.”
If we continue to count calories and lose weight, we end up having to lower our calorie intake even further to continue losing weight. This can lead to increases in stress hormones, cortisol, changes in the immune system and hormonal balance, and loss of lean muscle mass, which is essential for good metabolic health. Nutrient deficiencies are also not uncommon.
If you’ve ever tried to count calories, you know that it can also be emotionally difficult — especially if you do it for extended periods of time. “This often leads to dissatisfaction, social withdrawal, excessive fear of food, and of course, when the stress is too great, rebound periods of overeating,” Stephenson said. “It’s not usually a very pleasant way to eat, Enjoying food is one of the great joys of life.”
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Which brings us back to intermittent fasting fasting. Contrary to research findings, time-restricted eating is supported by numerous scientific papers showing that it is actually a very good way of managing our health, weight levels and general well-being. “It’s been shown to benefit the gut microbiome (and overall gut health),” Stephenson said. “It gives our microbes the digestive break they need to recover and stay healthy, generally helps reduce total insulin exposure in the body, and allows many physiological processes to run more smoothly.”
She cites a 2011 study in the Journal of Obesity that compared two groups over a six-month period — one that restricted calories daily and the other that Implement intermittent fasting two days a week. While weight loss and improvements in markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and lipids were similar in both groups, the intermittent fasting group had greater improvements in insulin resistance, making it a good way to manage blood sugar levels.
How to Introduce Intermittent Fasting and Improve Your Diet
While there are many different approaches to time-restricted eating, it’s best to do it slowly , Start gently. “Start by reducing your eating time to eight to hours three days a week,” advises Stephenson. “The best way to do this is to eat a hearty, balanced breakfast and cut back on portions in the evening on those days.” She recommends consuming nutrient-dense soups early in the evening—with or without simple proteins, like roast chicken or fish. Of course, many people who take this approach choose to skip breakfast and instead eat between the morning and 6 pm.