NEW YORK — On low-carb diets, meat and cheese are OK.
On low-fat diets, fruit and oatmeal are fine.
With the latest diet trend, no foods at all are allowed for long stretches of time.
A diet that forbids eating for hours on end might seem doomed in a culture where food is constantly available, but apps and Facebook groups are popping up for people practicing “intermittent fasting.”
Bri Wyatt, a 32-year-old Tennessee resident, tried it this summer.
“At first I was like, there’s no way,” she said.
But after reading more about it, she thought it might not be that hard. She started by skipping breakfast and night-time snacks, and later moved on to a 60-day challenge of fasting every other day.
Melissa Breaux Bankston, a CrossFit instructor in New Orleans, also tried intermittent fasting as a way to curb her snacking. “I wanted to limit the amount of time that I was eating,” she said.
Studies on the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting are still limited, including for its effectiveness with weight loss. But heading into the new year, you may be wondering whether it could help you get in better shape.
When, not what
Like other diets, intermittent fasting helps you lose weight by setting boundaries around food. But instead of limiting what you eat, it restricts when you eat.
“It’s really another way of fooling your body into eating less calories,” said Krista Varady, who studies intermittent fasting at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Proponents say intermittent fasting helps with weight loss in other ways. For instance, they say it forces your body to start burning its own fat for fuel after depleting the energy it normally gets from food. But any effects would depend on the specific approach you take, and Varady said there isn’t strong evidence yet that intermittent fasting has any unique effects compared with other diets.
Regardless, people should consult their doctor before trying it. It’s not advised for children, people on certain medications and people with a history of eating disorders.
One of the more popular approaches to intermittent fasting is to limit eating to an eight-hour window and to fast during the day’s other 16 hours. This is called time-restricted feeding and isn’t as difficult as some other approaches, since the fasting period can include the time you’re asleep.
Obesity experts have become interested in intermittent fasting, but studies on the diet are still emerging. For now, limited research suggests it may not be any better for weight loss than conventional calorie-cutting over the long term.