More on Intermittent Fasting


As we have seen, intermittent fasting is not a diet but a method with several variations. Intermittent means “sometimes,” and in practice, sometimes there isn’t even fasting in the classical meaning of the word.

As always, Internet commentators have plenty to say when an article about the subject is published. Purists complain that the word “fasting” should not even be used in this context. Scoffers say that it is not possible to, as some zealots phrase it, “eat whatever you want” and still lose weight.

Others point out the important distinction between eating when you want to, and eating whenever you want to. An intermittent faster may decide at what time the day’s single meal is eaten — usually somewhere between noon and 6 p.m. That is eating when you want to, but the farthest thing in the world from eating whenever you want to.

Fans of intermittent fasting say it is sustainable. It works on the same principle as diets that allow a “cheat day,” recognizing that human frailty will usually overcome good intentions. But others say that if a person is following a “diet,” in other words shunning certain foods, the regime is much harder to adhere to, if combined with intermittent fasting. Even highly individualized plans with a lot of personal attention have a high dropout rate.

Different strokes for different folks

As in many other areas of life, there is no “one size fits all” answer. A person can and should tweak the plan until it fits. Filled with post-holiday remorse, and inspired by the “summer beach bod” trope, a person might be an intermittent faster from January through June, and then fling caution to the winds the rest of the year.

But enthusiasts insist that anyone who tastes the benefits of a reasonably doable regime will never turn back. Nick Lesica, who is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, writes:

A number of studies in many different animals have shown that restricted eating throughout adulthood leads to dramatic improvements in lifespan and general health.

In humans, it doesn’t have to be a strict “40 days and 40 nights in the desert” type of fast. Even when practiced as periodic fasting or time-restricted feeding, results are obtained. Intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity and nudge the body into using stored fat as fuel. Genetic expression changes in ways that protect the body from disease and promote longevity. Without the constant demand to do other things cells have a chance to repair themselves.

There is exciting research around cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. A person does not need to be diagnosed with one of those to feel a difference. In well people, mood and memory reportedly improve.

Sneaky food thoughts?

Allison Young, in “6 Things That Happened When I Tried Intermittent Fasting For A Week,” notes that an abrupt initiation might not work for everyone:

Some experts recommend starting with just a couple of days a week and working your way up, while others suggest gradually increasing the number of hours you fast from 12 to 14… up to 18.

By trying the gradual approach, Young found that she was not troubled by thoughts of food. The secrets are drinking plenty of water, and some coffee and/or tea; keeping to the schedule; and most of all, knowing that hunger is “just a sensation that comes and goes.” She gives a ringing endorsement:

All that mental energy previously devoted to food — food prep, food planning, food consuming, food cleanup — seemed to flow elsewhere for improved focus… My energy levels skyrocketed, eating became an experience to be enjoyed rather than just food to be wolfed down, and everything seemed to have more flavor.

Although this method supercharges the fat-burning potential, Young issues a caveat:

But we all know that if you’re only following an eating plan because of weight loss, you’re bound to fail. That’s because, when the scale gets stuck, and it will, we’re quick to throw in the towel. It’s intermittent fasting’s built-in intrinsic motivation that keeps me going.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Intermittent fasting could help tackle diabetes — here’s the science,”, 08/21/17
Source: “Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide,”, 06/04/17
Source: “6 Things That Happened When I Tried Intermittent Fasting For A Week,”, 01/11/18
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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