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Joanne Peterman had tried pretty much every other weight loss diet before she decided in January 2018 to experiment with intermittent fasting. She cut out all sugar and gluten and limited her eating to between noon and 8 p.m. every day. She lost 22 pounds in a month, and by sticking to her fasting routine and gradually reintroducing sugar, she’s kept them off. “It’s been easy,” says Peterman, now 52. “I feel empowered by it. If my stomach starts growling at 9:30, I just ignore it.”

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity as a health improvement tool in recent years. Some follow the same schedule as Peterman, while others eat only during narrower windows and some do a full 24-hour fast one day a week.

Linh Gordon, a diabetes education nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and a nutrition expert, says fasting is a simpler way of cutting down on calories than meticulously tallying them up after every meal.

“We don’t necessarily need three meals a day,” she says. “Just the fact that you’re taking in fewer meals and fewer calories, that’s the main reason it feels better.” Consuming fewer meals helps the body “repair” itself, according to Gordon, because it’s not spending energy processing food all day.

The biggest challenge for many aspiring fasters is skipping breakfast. Peterman drinks a cup of coffee with a bit of creamer when she wakes up, but that’s it. She says it hasn’t hindered her mornings at all. “I’ve felt clearer in my head,” she says, “and more energized.”

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