When it comes to losing those extra pounds, sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. Now autumn and winter are just around the corner and, of course, we start eating more heartily again. And everything revolves around the question of how to shed the excess weight.
Some try diets, while others swear by fasting. There are numerous ways to fast and countless questions arise: what types of fasting are there, which method is the best, when is the best time to do it, and which fasting regime will suit me the best? Endless questions. The list of potential fasting methods is a long one: intermittent fasting, Buchinger therapeutic fasting, modified fasting, alkaline fasting, the Schroth cure, the Mayr cure, fruit fasting, juice fasting, etc.
Abstention is good for body and soul
Don’t think that you’re going to shed those extra pounds in the blink of an eye or almost overnight, because fasting requires a big fat dollop of discipline. Good resolutions are not enough. For a certain period of time you have to partially or completely restrict your intake of all food and drinks, and not everyone finds this easy. Fasting can last from a few hours to several days.
Fasting has its origins in religion
Fasting initially had nothing to do with losing weight. It has its origins in religion and is still common practice for many religions today. For Jews, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is associated with fasting, and Christians forego various foods for seven weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Alcohol, chocolate and meat are taboo. Muslims all over the world adhere to the annual fasting month of Ramadan.
During this time, believers are supposed to reflect and repent through abstinence. Extensive fasting rules still apply today in the Greek, Russian, Romanian and Serbian orthodox churches. And religious Hindus also often refrain from eating certain foods, either temporarily or permanently.
These days, however, fasting is more associated with health and wellbeing. Intermittent fasting is the most important new trend in nutritional medicine. The method can help you to lose weight healthily and maintain the weight loss, writes the NDR. In addition, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can apparently protect against (type 2) diabetes and may even be supportive in cancer therapies.
So it’s worth taking a closer look to see what the hype surrounding intermittent fasting is all about. There is barely a magazine that doesn’t tout some form of fasting. Eckart von Hirschhausen promoted intermittent fasting in Stern magazine in 2018, and this was when the hype really kicked off.
Since then, people have been talking reverently about the “Hirschhausen diet“. Germany’s most famous doctor reported how he lost ten kilos. He was by no means the inventor of intermittent fasting, but after he had talked about it, everyone wanted to do it. And with that, Hirschhausen was responsible for creating a new food culture.
What exactly is intermittent fasting?
When it comes to intermittent fasting, you can choose between two options.
Firstly, the 16:8 method: there should be 16 hours between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the following day. During the eight hours that you’re allowed to eat, you have two meals. Secondly, the 5:2 method: you eat normally five days a week and almost nothing on the other two days. The goal of both these methods is long-term weight loss.
Intermittent fasting can lead to a healthier lifestyle, better nutrition, and long-term weight loss. The difference between intermittent fasting and comparatively long fasting cures and crash diets is that your metabolism isn’t restricted, so you don’t lose muscle mass. This is not unimportant, as it avoids the yo-yo effect.
Fasting is also a self-cleansing process
Fasting leads to beneficial biochemical changes in the body, such as the improved metabolism of sugar and fat: substances are released that can inhibit inflammation. The emphasis here is on the word “can”. According to numerous advice books and media reports, intermittent fasting also offers protection against diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Intermittent fasting is even said to improve life expectancy. Caution should be exercised here. In order to see how much intermittent fasting actually influences our health, we must first wait for the results of larger human studies. Some studies are starting now while others are already up running, but the results aren’t expected for another 4 to 5 years. The two most common fasting methods involve adjusting your food intake for a specific amount of time.
The 5:2 method
The most popular form of intermittent fasting is the 5:2 diet: The 5:2 diet popularised in 2013 by Dr. Michael Mosley is one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting. The concept is based, among other things, on the research results of nutritional scientist Dr. Michelle Harvie.
Five days a week, you can eat as usual without counting calories. For two days, women reduce their food intake to 500 – 800 calories, and men to 600 – 850 calories. You can drink as much as you like, but only calorie-free drinks such as tea, water, thin vegetable broth or black coffee.
You should avoid fast-release carbohydrates. So: no potatoes, pasta, sugar or wheat bread. The body should live off its own reserves. On your two fasting days, Mosley recommends vegetables and wholegrains as well as protein-rich foods and plenty of fluids. Ideally, on the 5:2 diet, you should fast on days of the week when you are not under stress and have plenty of time to rest.
The 16:8 method
The 16: 8 method currently seems to be more popular in Germany. The advantage: you are asleep for a large part of the daily fasting period, says Nadine Eckert. With the 16:8 diet, you can skip early or late meals, so that you abstain from food for 16 hours at a time. You can then eat normally for the remaining 8 hours of the day.
The NDR also notes: “The metabolism goes into a short fasting process every night. One pleasant side effect: the body has less to digest at night, which improves your quality of sleep.” The advantages of intermittent fasting are:it’s easy to fit into your daily routine, you start to experience feelings of satiety and hunger again, and you pay more attention to portion sizes and what you are eating.
Another advantage of the 16:8 method: you can stick to it for as long as you want, a few weeks, a few months, or even a lifetime. You should eat foods rich in protein and fibre, fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, but nuts and dried fruit are also acceptable. In order to feel full, you need to eat plenty of vegetables (fibre) and sources of protein. Small snacks between meals are not allowed.
Calorie-free drinks help to reduce feelings of hunger, should you suffer from them. So drink plenty! It is important that during the 8 hours you are allowed to eat that you continue to eat normally, but not larger portions. During fasting, you should initially refrain from physical exertion until you have got used to the new rhythm.