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Does Intermittent Fasting Really Work for Weight Loss?

Tim Boyer's picture
Intermitten fasting and weight loss

You’ve heard about it, but does intermittent fasting for weight loss really work? Here are some facts about intermittent fasting that can make the difference between weight loss success and weight loss failure.


In a recent article in Shape magazine online, Dr. Mike Roussell shares with readers his take on the facts surrounding whether intermittent fast really works for weight loss.

Fasting Fact #1: Fasting is not preferable to diet and exercise

Fasting has been around for a long time, although for other health reasons than for losing weight such as giving the body time to detox and cleanse itself from the inside. The recent rise in popularity with fasting for weight loss is attributed to celebrity fasters and therefore is perceived as being better than traditional dieting and exercise. However, Dr. Roussell states that this is not true, but acknowledges that if fasting is done correctly that it can lead to weight loss.

Fasting Fact #2: The most popular styles of fasting today come in two flavors—24-hour and 16/8 fasts

The 24-hour fast is one typical method in some dieting recommendations. Essentially, all you do is choose 2 days of the week that are non-consecutive and simply avoid all foods and stick to just water or some cleansing tonic recommended for weight loss.

The 16/8 fast is one in which you gradually shorten your eating period to an 8-hour time slot while leaving the remaining consecutive 16 hours as a time for fasting. And then you do this every day until you’ve reached your weight loss goal.

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Fasting Fact #3: You need to follow 3 important components of fasting to make it work

The first component is that of maintaining a calorie deficit. Dr. Roussell explains that with traditional dieting you try to cut approximately 500 calories per day from your normal eating habits in order to achieve a weekly calorie deficit of 3500 calories which factors as losing 1 pound per week.

However, in comparison to 24-hour fasting with complete fasting for two non-consecutive days, you still achieve the same overall calorie deficit, but without having to eat less than normal every day.

The second component is that of exhibiting self-control. In other words, that first component of creating a calorie deficit does not allow “rewards” or “compensation eating” just because you stuck to your fast. It’s still a calories-in type of math that can be for naught if you overeat later because you fasted or ate less throughout the week.

The last and hardest component is being consistent. According to Dr. Roussell, this means that fasting really works for weight loss only if you adopt it as a long-term habit that allows your body time to, “…ramp up the right enzymes and pathways to maximize fat burning during your fasted state.” He points out that fasting is not a quick fix for rapid weight loss as many mistakenly believe about fasting and how it works.

Fasting Fact Conclusion: Despite its growing popularity, fasting is just another approach to weight loss that can work, but can also fail if not done properly. Dr. Roussell recommends that if you try fasting and find yourself uncontrollably overeating after a fast or become shaky and light-headed while fasting―signs of hypoglycemia―that fasting is not the dieting approach that your body will adapt to and that you should find a different dieting method for successful weight loss.

Reference: Shape magazine— “Ask the Diet Doctor: The Pros & Cons of Fasting for Weight Loss