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Why Intermittent Fasting May Be a More Realistic New Year's Resolution for Weight Loss

The health benefits of intermittent fasting may go far beyond losing a few pounds.

It goes without saying that there are some bad New Year's resolutions out there, a lot of which involve crash dieting, extreme workouts, and other unrealistic goals that end up being impulsive and short-lived. For 2020, how about going after something that's more achievable and sustainable enough to be practiced long past resolution season has ended? According to a new report, intermittent fasting may be the most effective diet in terms of both weight loss and improved health overall.

In a new review article, "Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease" from The New England Journal of Medicine, Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, suggests that intermittent fasting can promote a healthy lifestyle.

There are quite a few intermittent fasting schedules people follow, but the most common entail daily time-restricted feeding intervals (which narrow down eating times to between six and eight hours per day) as well as what's called 5:2 (which involves eating normally for five days out of the week and then eating just one moderate-sized meal each day for the other two days).

What are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting?

The benefits appear to go beyond shedding a few pounds. According to Mattson's review, several studies have shown that intermittent fasting may help to improve blood sugar regulation, suppress inflammation in the body, and increase resistance to stress.

As it turns out, alternating between bouts of eating and fasting actually supports cellular health. How? It triggers metabolic switching, which likely stems back many centuries ago to when our ancestors experienced periods of famine. Intermittent metabolic switching is what occurs when you adopt a certain eating and exercise regimen that depletes the body's glycogen (carbohydrates that are stored in the body's tissues) and allows the body to enter into a state of ketosis. In other words, intermittent metabolic switching cannot be achieved if you eat three meals a day.

In a former article about intermittent fasting, Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, and LA-based nutritionist and healthy cooking expert, said that intermittent fasting also ignites a powerful fat-burning process.

"Intermittent fasting causes glucose (sugar) concentrations to decrease and lipolysis (fatty acid oxidation) to increase significantly during the first 24 hours, which helps the body break down stored fat," she said.

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Mattson also says there's evidence that intermittent fasting can potentially alter risk factors linked to diabetes and obesity. Currently, there's research being done on intermittent fasting and cognitive health, although more needs to be conducted before any claims can be made.

So, how does this apply to you and your New Year's resolutions? Instead of cutting back on calories or carbs or trying a diet that restricts food groups, intermittent fasting may be a more attainable way to shed those holiday pounds as well as kickstart a healthier lifestyle.

Keep in mind though that intermittent fasting isn't for everyone, and that's OK. In another article on the topic, Sydney Greene, MS, RD, says, "Fasting may work for one person, but be torture for the next, just as decreasing calories may be successful for some and not others."

Should you choose to try intermittent fasting, just know that it will take your body some time to adjust.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne