People may want to lose weight for different reasons, from health concerns to lifestyle changes. Today, this demand has spurred the growth of the global weight loss industry. In fact, data from Expert Market Research found that the global weight loss and weight management market reached $175.44 billion (A$272.57 billion) in 2022. Aside from this, the market’s expansion is also attributed to the rising rates of obesity worldwide. As such, by 2028, the market is expected to reach a value of $282.53 billion (A$438.96 billion).
Presently, among the many fitness facilities and diet plans, one of the most popular diet trends that Hollywood and the Internet love to recommend is intermittent fasting — a diet strategy that alternates feeding days with fasting days. However, while this diet has received much support, evidence suggests it may not be all it claims to be. Below, we’ll explore why intermittent fasting doesn’t work and how holistic dieting can help better with sustainable weight loss:
The side effects of Intermittent Fasting
Studies in past years have highlighted the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, albeit in the short term. But other studies have found that intermittent fasting comes with many concerning consequences, too. According to an intermittent fasting study published in Public Health, while intermittent fasting can reduce up to 5% of one’s body weight, there is a risk of overeating during feasting days. Researchers also argue that sticking to fasting days can be challenging to sustain long-term. Nutrient deficiencies, such as lack of protein, are an inevitable side effect of fasting — even if only on alternating days. For those new to this diet plan, intermittent fasting can also cause headaches and more intense hunger, possibly due to dehydration.
Another recent study focusing on the impact of intermittent fasting on people with diabetes warned of potential safety issues in which fasting may conflict with medications that diabetics typically take. In a Time feature focusing on type 2 diabetes, people who are taking medications aimed at reducing the amount of glucose in their blood may experience fatal hypoglycemia as a result of fasting. Hypoglycemia — low blood sugar — can cause rapid heart rate, sweating, shakiness, and other symptoms and may induce weakness, seizures, or even death. As mentioned above, intermittent fasting may also cause general dehydration, a condition that people with Type 2 diabetes are already at risk for.
Outside of diabetic-specific side effects, intermittent fasting may also lead to stroke, migraine headaches, and kidney damage, especially if a person has other health conditions related to said risks.
Shifting towards a holistic strategy
Understandably, the popularity of intermittent fasting is rooted in basic nutrition, metabolism, and weight loss factors. However, everyone’s bodies and lifestyles are different, which calls for a personalised approach to nutrition instead of a restrictive and generalised intervention such as intermittent fasting. Good weight loss programs emphasise how restrictive fad diets rarely work long-term. Instead, research has found that nutritional and behavioural science must work in tandem to change your relationship with food and build healthier habits. People can sustainably lose and manage weight through tailored plans, given that these plans account for their unique needs and goals without deprivation. Another beneficial aspect of a personalised holistic diet is the practice of tracking your meals, drinks, and snacks. This leads to a more visual way of seeing the impact of the food you eat and is a great way to track your progress on your weight loss journey – it also means you can occasionally indulge in so-called good foods as long as you have balance.
Ultimately, a holistic approach to weight loss also invites people not to rely solely on food intake and dietary changes. Of course, establishing a simple physical exercise routine will also complement your weight loss efforts while keeping you healthy overall. One study from the open-access journal Nutrients found that adequate sleep is also key to weight management. Disturbed sleeping patterns can lead to increased energy intake from excessive snacking, usually on foods high in fat and carbohydrates. Engaging in a healthier sleep cycle prevents neuroendocrine appetite control system dysregulation.
There are no shortcuts to losing weight. With hard work and perseverance in sticking to healthy habits, you can achieve holistic weight loss and fitness that will benefit you for years to come.