Intermittent fasting is the latest wellness trend, weight loss fad, or aggressive biohack, depending on who’s talking about it. Celebrities, elite athletes, and medical researchers have made it a household term, but there’s still plenty of confusion about what it means. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of intermittent fasting, what the studies tell us are its potential risks and benefits, and basic guidelines for how to try it safely.
Have you ever been on a diet? Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, DASH, MIND, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, keto, macrobiotic, vegan, and others are focused on what you do or don’t eat — and/or how much. But what if another factor was also important to weight loss and health? Proponents of a modern-day wellness trend, intermittent fasting, claim to have found that factor: when you eat.
Interest in intermittent fasting has exploded over the past four years. Many celebrities swear by its ability to help them lose weight, have more energy, and feel better. Proponents claim that intermittent fasting can promote steady weight loss, prolong life span, and improve quality of life. You’ve probably heard of fasting — not eating for prolonged periods of time on purpose. But what exactly is intermittent fasting? Is it a diet? An eating pattern? A short-term hack, or a long-term lifestyle? In this article, we’re going to explore different approaches to intermittent fasting, as well as its potential benefits and risks. Think of this as Intermittent Fasting 101.
Brief History of Fasting
What are the origins of intermittent fasting? Humans, like many animals, have fasted for most of our existence on this planet. But instead of calling it fasting, for most of human history, it was called “going hungry.” Our ancestors often had a limited food supply and frequently had to go without food for long periods. For them, fasting wasn’t a health fad at all. Rather, it was a part of normal life — and sometimes, if it went on for long enough, a part of death.
Fasting by choice, on the other hand, has been a practice for thousands of years, generally for physical and spiritual renewal, as penitence for sins, or to develop self-control. Many religious traditions incorporate fasting, for as little as a day, but for as long as 40 days at a stretch. Fasting as a form of political protest in the form of hunger strikes is also common. And therapeutic fasting, specifically intended to treat or prevent ill health and chronic conditions, became popular in the 19th century.
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