Occasionally, women who tried intermittent fasting for weight loss before come to me for advice. They tell me why intermittent fasting wasn’t for them but they are thinking about trying again because they haven’t been able lose weight and/or are still gaining weight. In the back of their minds, they are wondering: Does intermittent fasting really work for weight loss? I can relate that used to be me! If that’s you too, you will find this article helpful. We will discuss studies that show that intermittent fasting really works for weight loss, why sometimes it doesn’t work, and how to make it work.
Does Intermittent Fasting Really Work for Weight Loss: Studies
Before we dive into troubleshooting your intermittent fasting for weight loss, let’s look at what studies say about whether intermittent fasting does in fact really work for weight loss.
Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
I enjoyed reading the article Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss by the Harvard School of Public Health. The article is a systematic review of 40 studies that found that intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss.
Will You Overeat After Fasting?
A common objection to intermittent fasting is that it causes you to overeat later. The article states that this concern is unfounded and that participants in the studies did not compensate on their nonfasting days. The reason is that fasting produces metabolic changes that will have a stabilizing effect on your appetite. If you are anything like me, you have probably noticed that when you eat, you frequently want to eat more and not out of hunger!
Is Intermittent Fasting Superior to Other Weight Loss Methods?
The Review concludes it is unclear whether intermittent fasting is superior to other weight loss methods “in regards to amount of weight loss, biological changes, compliance rates, and decreased appetite.” Certainly, the weight-loss equation is simple and if you want to lose weight, you need to consume less energy than what your body needs. Intermittent fasting makes possible to achieve this without measuring food and counting calories. Plus, it will produce metabolic changes that support weight loss (improved insulin sensitivity, for example). However, if you don’t stick with it, you will not succeed. It’s simply a universal law! More on this later.
When Intermittent Fasting Doesn’t Work
I often emphasize how unique each of us is. What works for one person may not work for another. You may even find one approach that is effective at one time isn’t later.
Most Common Reasons Intermittent Fasting Doesn’t Work for Weight Loss
As you consider if intermittent fasting really works for weight loss, let’s look at some common issues that make intermittent fasting difficult and then, we will discuss how to overcome them.
One woman was telling me she started snaping and losing her cool when she was intermittent fasting. That’s what we call becoming “hangry”, an explosive combination of angry and hungry.
When you haven’t eaten for a while, the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood decreases,” she explains. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, including cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone). These hormones are released into your bloodstream to raise and rebalance your blood sugar.Clevand Clinic
In the same vein as feeling hangry, chronic stress can complicate intermittent fasting. Stress, which causes the release of cortisol, is not a bad thing. In fact, cortisol has many benefits, including reduced inflammation and fat loss. The problem is when your body experiences too much stress. Too much cortisol will cause weight gain, depression, and irritability.
Some women have come to me saying they have hypoglycemia. When your blood is 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower, you start experiencing symptoms such as:
Keep in mind that nondiabetic hypoglycemia is extremely rare.
How to Ensure Intermittent Fasting Works for Weight Loss
If you have experienced some of the reasons why intermittent fasting doesn’t work, you may wonder if you are a lost cause. Do you need to accept that maybe you will never be at your goal weight? No, you don’t! Let’s look at your options.
Believe in Your Mind You Can Make It Work
If you go into intermittent fasting for weight loss because you are desperate but deep down you think it may harm your body, you will not see the results you want as you are likely to give up quickly or do it halfway.
Let me put your mind at ease: intermittent fasting is the most natural thing in the world. Generations and generations of people have practiced it throughout the world and throughout history. It’s God’s natural reset for your body. It will not make you sick and “wreck your hormones.” The key is to find the right approach for you.
Be Prepared to Be Your Own Detective
Intermittent fasting is not about skipping breakfast. In fact, the 16:8 method is rarely the best approach for women. Finding the intermittent fasting method that will allow you to lose weight and maintain your weight loss may require some detective work.
Measuring Your Ketones and Glucose
Measuring your ketones and glucose when you fast and don’t fast is one of the first step that will help you achieve intermittent fasting success when you have struggled in the past. Whether it was mood issues or stress related, you may find that your glucose and ketone numbers is helpful. Why? Because, you will learn if they fall in the normal range and when your metabolic switchover happens.
What is the metabolic switchover exactly? It’s when your body stops using glucose for energy and starts using your fat cells to produce ketones. That is the most natural healing mechanism behind why intermittent fasting works for weight loss.
If you would like a recommendation for a ketone monitor, check out the Keto Mojo (get a 15 percent discount with my affiliate link).
Keeping Track of How You Feel
Aside from tracking your glucose and ketone level, monitoring how you feel will be essential to finding the right intermittent fasting approach. When you fast long enough on your fasting days, you should notice that your sleep improves, your mood becomes more balanced, and your energy level increases.
We talked about the effect of cortisol on your body. Since intermittent fasting is a source of stress on your body, it is essential that you reduce any other unnecessary sources of stress. Here are some possible sources of stress that you may need to consider removing:
- Carb restriction
- Intense exercise
- Poor sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Stressful relationships
Moreover, when it comes to reducing fasting stress, limiting your fasting days is a safe approach. Don’t limit carbs and don’t limit snacking during your eating window. Don’t fast too frequently. Maybe start with only one 24-hour fast each week. Monitor your glucose and your ketones. Stay attuned to how you feel and see what happens. Overtime, you will need to learn to find the balance between pushing through when it’s hard but not pushing yourself too much and stress your body too much. You can achieve this by starting slow while keeping track of key indicators such as your sleep, your energy level, and your mood.
Setting realistic weight loss goals and tracking your progress are crucial. Many women obsess over the scale as they hold on to unrealistic expectations like losing 5-10lbs a month. Safe weight loss with intermittent fasitng takes time. If you have 20 lbs or less to lose, expect to lose an average of 2 lbs a month with no weight loss some months. Slow and steady wins the race.
If you would a step-by-step formula to practice intermittent fasting for weight loss in a way that works, don’t forget to check out my 30-Day Intermittent Fasting Transformation.
Does intermittent fasting really work for weight loss? Of course, it does! Does it work for everyone? No, it doesn’t. Whether it will work for you depends in part on how much time and effort you want to invest in your success. How much belief you have that you can truly reach your health goals. You will find your path even if it is one that doesn’t include intermittent fasting.