Intermittent Fasting for the Holidays

blur-cafe-cake-907142Holiday weight gain is fast-approaching – from the end of November until the first week of January, many of us are indulging more at parties, events and family gatherings. While avoidance may be one strategy to avoid temptation over the holidays, it is not the most sustainable (or fun!) option. Besides, spending time with friends and loved ones has its own health benefits to self-esteem, mental health, positivity and the list goes on.

Another idea is to try some form of intermittent fasting (IF), which involves splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. IF has been shown to help balance blood sugar, improve brain functioning, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss and increase energy, to name just a few of the benefits.

Where to start? For the next three weeks to a month, consider experimenting with intermittent fasting to curb holiday weight gain and cravings and enter the new year feeling revitalized.

Here are three ideas to consider:

  1. The 12-hour fast overnight

This is simple and a great place to start. Basically, you are fasting for 12 hours each night between dinner and breakfast. For example, you have dinner at 8 p.m. and don’t eat again until 8 a.m. the next morning. Many people do this naturally, but if you’re someone who likes to indulge in late-night snacking—or who feels like they need to eat as soon as they wake up—this is the perfect plan for you. A long overnight fast helps reset multiple metabolic processes (like blood sugar) and potentially reduce the formation of cancerous cells. In some small human trials, this type of fast has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer.

  1. The 8-hour eating window

This is a great beginner-to-intermediate idea for those of us that are more comfortable with the idea of fasting. Essentially, eating is restricted to an eight-hour window each day, meaning you are fasting overnight for 16 hours. Find the best eight hours that works for your lifestyle, which could be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 12 a.m. to 8 p.m., etc. Also, some of us may do this 7-days a week, however for others, 4 or 5 days may be more practical. An eight-hour eating window is associated with feeling lighter and more energized and has been shown to help with weight loss, diabetes and liver disease.

  1. The eat-stop-eat, weekly fast

For those who are comfortable with fasting and would like to experiment with longer periods, consider doing a 24, 36 or 48 hour fast each week. Water, teas, coffee and other non-caloric beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid food. Eating a normal amount of food is important during the eating periods – avoid binges. This style may work well with many of our lifestyles as it allows more flexibility in the schedule.

Experiment with the different approaches and find something that you enjoy and fits your schedule.

Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone; if you’re underweight or have a history of eating disorders, you should not fast without consulting with your naturopathic doctor first.

Lastly, keep in mind that you need to continue to eat healthy as well however the good news is that IF will allow for some additional treats over the holidays while still maintaining your weight.