By Dr. Laura Pawlak
Holiday food and spirits may have disappeared, but those extra calories can stubbornly remain as body fat. With each new year, an array of diets emerges, promising to restore your former shape.
My suggestion? This year, follow a new plan called Intermittent Fasting, which has captured the interest of both dieters and researchers. Intermittent Fasting is a structured program without the drudgery of daily calorie deprivation.
Although traditional reduced-calorie diets are certainly science-based, intermittent fasting is a sensible alternative. Studies suggest a modified fast is just as beneficial for weight loss as other diets.
For this program, the term “fasting” is defined as consuming a total of 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men on fasting days. If calorie counting is not convenient, you can eat about 25 percent of your normal calories on fasting days. More importantly, you abstain from eating all calorie-containing foods and beverages for 14 hours (women) or 16 hours (men) on fasting days.
The popular 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet is appealing because the two fasting days each week can be chosen to fit one’s schedule best. On the remaining five days, you eat sensibly. If weight loss is your goal, it is important to avoid overcompensation during non-fasting days.
Alternate-day Fasting is a more aggressive approach to weight loss. You consume only 500-600 calories every other day following the 14- to 16-hour fast. Recently, scientists compared the Alternate-day Fasting program with a standard weight-loss diet for six months followed by a maintenance diet for an additional six months. Persons choosing the fasting program had slightly greater weight loss than individuals following the standard low-calorie diet.
To limit calories during fasting days, consider making a homemade soup, then establish portions and freeze individual servings. A simple vegetable soup with legumes and wild rice or whole wheat quinoa is nutritious, high in fiber, and low in calories. A variety of salad ingredients with fish or turkey and calorie-free dressing is always an excellent choice. An egg-white omelet using fresh or leftover vegetables provides quality protein needed to protect muscle mass.
To dampen appetite during fasting days, choose vegetables high in fiber and protein-rich foods low in fat. Try adding herbs and spices to cooked vegetables. They light up your taste buds with pleasing flavors and aromas.
Dr. Laura Pawlak (Ph.D., R.D. emerita) is a world-renowned biochemist and dietitian emerita. She is the author of many scientific publications and has written such best-selling books as “The Hungry Brain,” “Life Without Diets,” and “Stop Gaining Weight.” On the subjects of nutrition and brain science, she gives talks internationally.