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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Patella


Many of my readers are asking about fasting – · Is it good? · Does it really help with menopause weight loss? · Is this something I should incorporate into my lifestyle? First it is important that you understand that I am not a nutritionist or registered dietician. I am an experienced trainer and life coach. My work has evolved around weight loss and everything included in creating a strong body for where you are at in life. That may include menopause, increasing your metabolism for weight management, surgical and orthopedic recovery, pro-active aging disease prevention, lifestyle, or just wanting to look and feel better. There are many opinions and diets involving fasting. It is very popular and I hear a lot about it from my clients. I was prompted to do this research and write the article because of the misinterpretations of fasting. Including my own. Here are some facts I discovered.

Origins Fasting is first documented from the famous Greek philosophers, thinkers and healers who used fasting for health and as healing therapy. Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Galen all praised the benefits of fasting. Paracelsus, one of the three fathers of western medicine, is quoted as saying "Fasting is the greatest remedy - the physician within." Early healing arts recognized the revitalizing and rejuvenating power fasting promoted.

Early religious and spiritual groups used fasting as a part of ceremonies and rites--most often during spring and fall equinoxes. Today, every major religion practices fasting for various spiritual benefit. Christianity, Judaism, Gnosticism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, South and North American Indian traditions--all utilize fasting in one form or another, whether for purification, spiritual vision, penance, mourning or sacrifice. Yoga practices, including that of fasting, dates back thousands of years. Paramahansa Yogananda said simply, "Fasting is a natural method of healing." To this day, the ancient healing practice of Ayurveda includes fasting as therapy; its most distinguishing method uses kitchari, a dish of rice and beans. It is agreed that fasting originally was used for health benefits. It still is today. Often, when I need to cleanse my system, and break habits I tend to abuse like desserts and eating out, I will restrict myself and follow a regimen of fruit and vegetable juices for several days. With my clients who are needing or wanting to lose weight I recommend a diet of lean protein and vegetables and fruits – in small portions, eating every 3-4 hours a day, and later you can add back items, but sparingly. Fasting simply means to refrain from food, or certain foods, for a period of time.

One of the most popular fasting diets is Intermittent Fasting (IF). There are a variety of IF diets. Here are some I found: ,16:8 Diet This involves fasting every day for 16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to eight hours You might eat between noon and 8 p.m. How does this compare for weight loss? A small study was done in Nutrition and Healthy Aging on 23 people resulting in a moderate amount of weight loss. ,5:2 Method On this method you eat normally five days a week and cut back to 20 percent of your normal daily calorie intake for the other two days. Women are supposed to have about 500 calories on "fasting" days, while men have about 600. ,Alternate Day Fasting As it says, this diet involves fasting every other day. There are several different versions of this plan, some allowing about 500 calories on the fasting days, and some encouraging that you eat fewer or close to zero calories on fasting days. Many of the existing studies on the health benefits of intermittent fasting used some version of this particular diet, though much of the weight loss-focused research hasn't been conclusive. ,Eat-Stop-Eat Diet This method of intermittent fasting involves a full fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. Two days a week you fast with days of eating normally in between. There's no research currently on this specific method of IF, but because of calorie reduction, it's likely to result in weight loss if it's a fasting schedule that works for you. 14:10 Diet This is similar to the 16:8 but allows for a 10 hour window for eating which may be easier to stick to. This could be the perfect intro IF diet for you if you are looking to try IF. Warrior Diet This diet is different from the rest. You have one large meal between 4pm and 8pm with restrictive snacks of raw fruit and vegetables during the day. It was made popular by fitness author Ori Hofmekler. It also follows the paleo foods. If you can follow it you may achieve weight loss as a result. IF has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, delay markers of aging, support your immune system, and improve your skin, sleep, and concentration. Overall benefits of fasting:

  1. rest the digestive system

  2. allow for cleansing and detoxification of the body

  3. create a break in eating patterns, while shining a spotlight on them

  4. promote greater mental clarity

  5. cleanse and heal "stuck" emotional patterns

  6. lead to a feeling of physical lightness, increasing energy level

  7. promote an inner stillness, enhancing spiritual connection Which is best for you? The answer is the one you are able to follow. Any reduction in overall caloric intake will cause weight loss. Some people do not eat all day and eat one big meal at night – usually sleeping on that meal. If that is how you normally eat and you start an IF diet that follows the same method there is no change in your diet really and it will not result in weight loss. To lose weight there must be a change: a reduction in caloric intake and an increase in activity which burns up more calories than your usual activity level. One pound is 3500 calories. If you normally eat 2000 calories a day and your activity level burns between 2000 and 2400.You stay about the same in weight. If you are 200 pounds or 120 pounds your weight remains the same. But if you want to lose one pound a week you need to reduce – either in caloric reduction or in activity, preferably both, 3500 calories a week.

If you choose a fad diet that you follow for a month and then return to your normal habits that may not be exactly healthy you will gain your weight back. Best to clean up your diet and allow for “treats” occasionally after you get to your realistic weight goal. I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this – email me at: *NEW EMAIL Cheryl Patella, MS, CPT, CLC Total Conditioning

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