Do You Know the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Plus 6 Ways to Improve your Health at Meal Time

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Do you know the many benefits of intermittent fasting? If you are like most people, you probably have been raised on “three square meals” every day. And chances are you also believe that breakfast is the most important meal.  The truth is, the benefits of intermittent fasting are proven, and yet there is little to no evidence that shows eating three meals per day is good for your health.  In fact, some evidence suggests that this pattern of eating three meals and snacking in between may be partially to blame for the obesity and diabetes epidemic. And the breakfast myth — this stems from really good marketing by the cereal industry!

So, how did we become a three meals culture?  One theory states that settlers brought this tradition from Europe. By eating three meals the settlers considered themselves to be more civilized than the natives whose eating patterns varied with the seasons and included fasting.  Now there is research to suggest that fasting (deemed uncivilized by our ancestors) could actually help you lose weight and make your immune system stronger.

Yet, it’s become a cultural norm to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if it doesn’t always suit our schedules or our bodies.  And, in today’s society the stress surrounding meal timing and planning may actually have more negative effects than benefits.

Why Intermittent Fasting May Make You Healthier

Our ancestors didn’t have access to food 24/7 the way most of us do today.  And they certainly didn’t have as many food choices or access to all of the processed food out there now. In medieval times in Europe, the morning meal for most people consisted of ale and bread. Later, they would eat whatever they brought in from the fields, usually around 2 pm.  This was called “dinner.”  Some people would also grab a light meal at the end of the day.  But, the last meal of the day (what most of us call dinner now) was not a formal or large meal, and was often skipped.

Today, most of us are on autopilot when it comes to eating three meals so that when we skip meals (or eat foods that we think should be eaten at a different time of day, such as pasta for breakfast or eggs for dinner), we often feel guilty.  But, our bodies were actually designed for intermittent periods of fasting, and many modern diets are coming back to this. The reason why is that intermittent fasting helps to lower your insulin levels.

Excess insulin is the final common pathway that has led to the obesity epidemic. So anything you can do to lower insulin levels naturally is very healthy for your body. Breakfast means to “break the fast.” A 12-hour fast is a very easy way to lower insulin levels.  Because it takes 12 hours of not eating for the body to clear its stores of glycogen (stored sugar) in the liver.   It’s easy to go without food for 12 hours if you do it overnight. 

It is high insulin that drives cellular inflammation as well.  So, that is the key point of the benefits of fasting. But, there are other benefits, such as an increase in growth hormone.

6 More Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Fasting to improve health dates back thousands of years. Hippocrates and Plato were both said to tout the benefits. And fasting has been used in all major religions for its ability to clear our minds, hearts and bodies. In recent years intermittent fasting for health reasons has become popular, and there is now scientific evidence to support it.

Here are 6 more benefits of fasting:

  1. Intermittent fasting may have many of the same benefits as calorie restriction even if you don’t restrict calories on other days.
  2. Fasting may stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. This can help you stay alert and at the same time more resistant to stress.  So if you are under pressure at work, laying off the heavy mid-day meal could benefit your performance.
  3. Fasting can lower your insulin levels. In addition to lowering insulin, it also can lower another hormone known as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor,) which is linked to cancer and diabetes. This is the single most important benefit of fasting.
  4. Fasting shifts your body from burning glucose for fuel to using fat stores. During this process, fat is converted to ketones, a more efficient energy source.
  5. Fasting can reduce inflammation. Fasting has been shown in some studies to lower inflammation markers including CRP, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more.
  6. Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to feel like a diet.  You can choose which version of intermittent fasting works for you so that you can eat what you want within a certain window of time that suits your body and your schedule.  When done this way, you may not even notice that you are going longer between meals.

Easy Ways to Start Fasting

Here are a few ways that some experts recommend incorporating fasting into your diet:

Alternate Day Fasting. This has become known recently as the 5:2 diet. It involves eating only 500 calories two days per week. The rest of the week you eat normally without any calorie restriction. The theory is that eating only 500 calories on those two days gives your body time to reset. For some, this can lead to weight loss, reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and can even increase your lifespan.

Time Restricted Eating. This diet requires you to eat all of your daily meals within a short window of time – usually six to eight hours.  Dr. Mercola is a fan of eating all of your daily meals within an eight-hour window. This involves skipping either breakfast or dinner (not both) to allow your digestive tracts to rest for a longer period of time each day.  So for example, if you eat your first meal at 8 am, you would have your last meal no later than 4 pm.  Then you would fast until 8 am the next day — roughly 16 hours.  However, he does not recommend this for normal weight teens or growing children.

Fasting for 1-4 Days. Proponents of fasting for days on end say doing this once every six months forces your body into survival mode so that it uses up stores of fat and sugar, and also breaks down old cells. This causes the body’s entire immune system to regenerate, providing better protection against infection and disease, experts said. 

Other popular intermittent fasting diets include; Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon where you fast for 24 hours one day per week. Probably the most popular is The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler, which started the intermittent fasting craze and claims that as humans we are nocturnal eaters, programmed for one meal per day.  In this program, you eat one large meal every day and fast for up to 20 hours.

Is Intermittent Fasting for You?

While there are many studies supporting the different benefits of fasting, there are also studies that show fasting is not for everyone. One study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that alternate day fasting could lower glucose tolerance and actually crash your metabolism.  

However, in his book The Obesity Code, Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist and top expert regarding intermittent fasting, points out that fasting actually increases one’s metabolic rate. Many of his patients are on dialysis for the kidney damage from diabetes, so every day he sees the sobering results of a diet that raises blood sugar too high over long periods of time. Many people with diabetes do well with fasting. And Dr. Fung points to research showing that, contrary to popular opinion, fasting does not result in decreased muscle mass. He recommends exercising in a fasted state to improve your recovery time and build muscle faster. I’ve certainly found that this is easy to do. 

Fasting is not only safe but beneficial for most people.  However, you should not use intermittent fasting if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  Children and teens should not fast. Finally, if you have a medical condition or take medications, you need to check with your health care provider to see if fasting is recommended for you. 

How To Adapt Your Meal Times to Your Body 

The only way to know if intermittent fasting is right for you is to trust your body. You may want to try one or several of these popular intermittent fasting methods.  Or, do some research of your own and see what intermittent fasting approach resonates with you.

If you feel that fasting is simply too difficult, or have other reasons why you don’t want to try it, I urge you to explore your resistance.

Often this hesitancy is emotional.  Maybe there is a habit, or even an addiction — such as having a sugary breakfast and caffeine as soon as you wake up, or drinking a nightcap before bed — that you are not willing to change. Or perhaps you are a continuous eater at a certain time of day.  If this sounds like you, then you may need to explore your 5th Chakra to understand why you use food to suppress your emotions and what it is that you are not willing to say.

Once you identify what’s behind your resistance and come to terms with it, you will find that intermittent fasting is easy. But remember, it doesn’t work if you go right back to your old habits as soon as the fast is over. 

One way to ease into fasting is to understand when your body needs nourishment. To do this you will need to tune into your own body and learn its signals. Then, choose to eat at the right time for you. Once you have discovered your personal 24-hour meal clock, then start to introduce intermittent fasting.  Try to go without food for 12 hours on a regular basis three to four times per week.  For example, if you have your last meal at 7PM, then you would not eat anything until 7AM the next morning.  Easy, right?  During that 12-hour window, your body will switch from using stored glycogen for fuel and begin using fat. 

6 Ways to Improve your Health at Meal Time

No matter how many meals you consume per day or what time you eat them, here are some ways you can improve your health at mealtime:

  1. Eliminate sugar in all forms. Sugar — including pasta, grains, cereals, alcohol, and even “health bars” — keep you hungry. So, reach for healthy fats instead.
  2. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. These should be the staples in any diet, whether you are including intermittent fasting or not.
  3. Eliminate processed foods. Processed foods contain sugar and tons of chemicals that not only cause weight gain but have other serious consequences to your health. Plus, sugar keeps you hungry so you want to eat more frequently. It’s best to eat fresh, whole foods 80 percent of the time.
  4. Limit alcohol. Alcohol is sugar. Try to reduce or eliminate this from your diet.
  5. Drink pure water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and is the cause of overeating for many people.  Aim for drinking half of your body weight in ounces per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water per day.  You will also have more energy when you’re not dehydrated. Fresh juices and smoothies are also good and may even replace a meal, which can give your digestive tract a rest similar to that achieved while fasting.
  6. Listen to your body. Tune into your body’s hunger signals and eat when you are truly hungry. But don’t overeat. And don’t worry about what time it is. Your appetite may not chime at the times our three-meal culture dictates.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes

As is true with any eating plan, when it comes to intermittent fasting, there are some easy ways to ensure that you are successful. Here are some ways to ensure that you avoid the common pitfalls.

  1. Go slowly. If you typically eat every 3-4 hours, fasting for 12 hours at a time right away will cause you to feel hungry and may set you up for failure. Instead, try easing into Intermittent fasting by gradually lengthening your fasting window over a period of a couple of weeks.
  2. Eat the proper amount. When your fast ends, you may feel the urge to overeat. This will send your glucose levels soaring and counteract the benefits of your fast. Instead, plan your meals in advance. Create healthy portions and spread your meals across your entire eating window. Also, be sure you don’t under-eat, which can throw your body into starvation mode.
  3. Avoid junk food. While trying intermittent fasting it is still important to eat a wide variety of wholesome foods. Be sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy carbohydrates. Avoid junk food and sugary drinks.
  4. Get moving. Many people exercise in a fasting state, including elite athletes. However, when you first start intermittent fasting you may want to lower the intensity of your workouts until your body adjusts. If you plan to exercise during your fasting period, start with brisk walking or light to moderate weightlifting. You can move on to higher intensity workouts when it feels right, or you can save them for when you are in your eating window.
  5. Stay hydrated. Just because you’re fasting doesn’t mean you should stop drinking fluids. Dehydration can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, and constipation. Sipping water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and also help you feel less hungry.

One More Benefit of Intermittent Fasting

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it can help your body initiate autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s way of clearing out cellular debris and recycling useable cellular parts to regenerate healthier cells. It’s like your body’s natural clean up mode.

Autophagy, which translates as self-eating, is one way your body adapts to stress. In the 1980’s researcher Yoshinori Ohsumi observed how cells consume their own proteins in order to meet energy requirements during starvation. More recent studies, including a 2018 study, show that caloric restriction caused by temporary food deprivation is a powerful autophagy stimulator. This is due to increased levels of glucagon (and decreased levels of insulin) when fasting.

Stimulating the process of autophagy through intermittent fasting is linked to many positive health benefits, including healthy metabolism and weight, improved skin health and appearance, better digestion, enhanced neurological function and memory, reduced inflammation, slowed aging, and increased life span.

Have you tried intermittent fasting?  Do you have an eating schedule that doesn’t fit the cultural norm?  What mealtime practices work for you?  Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Last Updated: June 6, 2022

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Danni
    2 years ago

    I do intermittent fasting without really thinking about it. I just don’t eat after dinner and since I am a night person, I get up later and just don’t eat breakfast. I haven’t had much weight loss but I have a huge increase in energy. I am sure cutting down on carbs has also helped this. Great article. Putting lots of info in one place. Thank you!

  2. I honestly don’t intend to fast but I find that when I have a lot to do &/or are passionate within myself about completing tasks that I forget to eat. These times haven’t been depleting my energy as I’m finding that my energy levels have improved some, so I think intermittent fasting does suit some people.

    Reading this article though reminded me that I need to remember to keep my fluids up while doing this unintentional intermittent fasting when I’m completing jobs & things I’m passionate about. I may be unintentional about the fasting but I need to be intentional about keeping my water intake up.

  3. Ben
    2 years ago

    Thanks for this article.
    Fasting now and then for 36 hours works for me.
    It gives my digestion a rest.
    Often though not always, I follow the idea of chrono-nutrtion, which suggests eating larger meals (with protein, such as steak, turkey, fish, or eggs) at breakfast or lunch (or both) and then small meals of fruit in the evening.
    I am happy to be healthy.

  4. gretchen
    4 years ago

    id like to intermittent fast, but I have Diabetes medication I must take twice a day with food (metformin). Any suggestions?

  5. Susan
    5 years ago

    I tried intermittent fasting and passed out from hypoglycemic. Doctor told me not to fast. I’m 70

  6. Carole-May Coty
    5 years ago

    I dislike diets and dieting. I like the sound of 12 or 16 hour fasting, which would take place at night for me and I feel would be fairly easy. My main goal is to stop sugar intake as it is collecting way too much around my mid-section – uncomfortable!
    Thank you for your Blogs.

  7. Monica Santos
    5 years ago

    I started IF last September and lost 25 pounds in about six months. I sort of plateaued and slipped into old habits and gained back 3 pounds, but I’m back on IF again. What I found though is that my body feels calmer. Everything inside slows down, but I still have lots of energy. I originally started with 14 hr fast and now I can easily do 18 – 20 without issue. It also gives me more TIME and money! Less meal planning, making, shopping etc. I’m building back up to making really large salads for our main meal in the evening, I like to make and be done with dinner by 6:30. I include a wide variety of vegetables and shrimp or grilled chicken. I want to lose another 20 pounds and get back to what I consider my healthy weight before menopause.

  8. Nancy
    5 years ago

    I have been eliminating sugar and processed foods for a few months, but found the sugar I consumed in the daily wine in the evening to be so difficult to give up. When I started intermittent fasting – once a week I fast for 36 hours and most days I easily go 12 hours (while I sleep) – I found the desire to have that glass of wine greatly diminished. Not sure of exactly why that is, but I am happy for it. Thanks for this blog.

    1. Christiane
      5 years ago

      I love hearing this! I suspect that your insulin levels are now much lower and hence, so are the cravings. Nice work!

  9. Barbara
    5 years ago

    I am using the 12 hour fast. But was wondering if taking supplements just before bed and having black coffee with Splenda during the fast is harmful.

    1. Christiane Northrup
      5 years ago

      Many people
      Do this and do not have a problem. I would use stevia or monk fruit instead of stevia. Healthier! Thanks for posting

  10. Daisy
    5 years ago

    After reading Dr. Fung’s book “The Obesity Code” I have started 18/6 fast daily since the end of last year and lost 20 pounds so far. Additionally I cut out sugar and included more fats and I have never felt better. More energy, slimmer waist line and I love looking at my glowing skin in the mirror.

    And I’m not hangry or hungry all day like I did with WW.

    I still need to lose 20 more pounds, but I know I’ll get there. Best part: You can “slip up” for a day or more and not gain the weight back.
    IF for life as far as I’m concerned!

  11. Lois Manella
    5 years ago

    I am in the middle of intermittent fasting right now doing the 16 hour fast. So far it has really been easy. I find that I actually crave healthier foods when breaking the fast and it has helped me stay away from many of my usual junk foods. I do have to remind myself to drink more water though. After doing it for the past 9 days I feel great, not hungry and feel lighter. I’m pre diabetic and in the am my blood had tested below 100. Yeah!

  12. Christabel SINAMAI
    5 years ago

    I am interested in starting the intermittent fasting. My issue is that I am a shift worker who does mostly night duty. How best can I do the intermittent fasting? Please help with ideas.

  13. Barbara Barnett
    5 years ago

    After three years of intermittent fasting, drinking ‘Living Fuel’ at 12:30 noon daily, and having last meal at 7:00 PM, I feel energetic and healthy.

    It’s wonderful to be well beyond crone status with no major health problems!

  14. Geoff
    5 years ago

    HELLO I am 81 yrs young and I eat at 15.00 hrs with a light salad and protean, then at 18.00 hrs I have some berries and fruit. I drink lots of water and during the day green tea and some herbal tea. I do rebounding, Qi Gong, an hours meditation in the morning and at night, also I hum a lot (see humming for health by Johnathan Goldman and Bees CD by Dr Valerie Solheim) I am a scientist and still am doing heavy research into neuroscience and the brain at the Quantum field, I only sleep for five hours, I live in the UK and my doctor is horrified yet I am well, another secret for me is juicing and I follow the late Dr Norman Walker and prepare two pints of veggie juice a day one pint morning and one pint sometime in the afternoon, my main veggies are garlic, carrot, cucumber, celery, beet, kale, spinach,broccoli, I recommend a good juicer such as those slow one’s with a ‘crushing’ action. Been doing the fasting ten years now. Also you might like to try listening to an approved binaural beat rhythms. Please be aware of EMF’s and especially WI FI, smart meters and the new 5G cell / mobile phone roll out. Thank you Dr Northrup for your wonderful work. Geoff Freed PH.D

  15. Martha Garvey
    5 years ago

    I am now going to a holistic health center, and they had a blog regarding intermittent fasting. The director said that for those who drank coffee in the morning, she would recommend not eating breakfast, but having a cup of coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil in it. She says this is satisfying until lunch.

  16. Emily
    5 years ago

    I have tried intermittent fasting over the years. It is very beneficial for me. I am overweight now, and I will be fasting again to regulate what I eat and when I eat to lose the extra weight. I am more focused this time around. I will start with extending my eating times. I wait to eat every 4 hours and my meals consist of half vegetables, fruit and a small protein.
    Another observation I have made is with my daughter. I found she naturally fasts. She is 7 years old and can eat a lot one day, and then the next she eats very little, skipping meals sometimes. This seems to be common among her friends too, when I’ve discussed it with parents.

  17. pei
    5 years ago

    I have been thinking of fasting but not sure about committing to it in the long term due to health conditions like sjogrens and raynauds. There have been advice to reduce animal meat (beef and pork) as they are found to absorb too much moisture in the body which is a symptom of sjogrens. So drinking lots of water and having mostly vegetarian meals is not a problem but in the winter, my circulation become limited which is a symptom of raynauds that need constant warming up in the body by eating regularly. Probably will try it for short while but not when my health become compromised during certain time of the year.

  18. Kathy
    7 years ago

    I have just begun the 8-hr feeding schedule; I eat between 8:00am and 4:00pm (more or less) and was wondering if a cup of herbal tea in the evening (with no sugar or milk) would affect my results. I am 60 years old, a type II diabetic, vegan, and weigh 111 pounds at 5’3″, so I am not concerned about weight. I am concerned about blood sugar numbers. I am hoping that eating this way will help lower my morning levels. Thank you so much!

  19. Adnarim
    7 years ago

    Can I eat from 12pm – 8pm mon – Thur and then on Friday and Saturday 4pm – 11pm? Can I change my fasting times to go along with my schedule?

  20. Judy
    8 years ago

    Lost 20 Lb’s on 5:2 a few years ago. Was able to give up Metformin for type 2, Prilosec, anti-depressants, and HBP medication. I now follow IF 16 hours, eat for 8. I’ve lost 10lb in the last few months. I fast from 10-11pm to 2-3pm, which works very well for me. My recent A1c slipped up to 6.1. I believe it was due to the daily smoothie, loaded with honey, fruit, juices, coconut milk, & yogurt, delicious! I’ve cut back somewhat on amount of honey and now my fasting glucose is 119, as is my 4 hour postprandial. I’ll be waiting to see what my A1c is come March.

  21. I do IF for years from 3pm to 8am every day, till after my mid forties, when I get into the perimenopausal stage….
    I am 52 now, when I fast over 14 hours, I usually still dont eat from 6pm to 8am, but has a cup of chai with 1/2 honey at 5am before my daily 90mins yoga. However, going hungry thse days makes me super anxious and worsen my heart palpitations and nervouseness. All my blood tests including my fasting blood sugar is fine, so not pre-diabetes etc.
    I read that its because over the many years of over work and over training, it seems my adrenal glands are producing too much cortisol?
    I am no meds, and no health conditions, besides this anxiety since my mid 40s…
    I am still light weight, 50kg at 163cm.
    I would love to still do the 2pm to 8am daily like I did for years, its so convenient not having to eat or think about food!
    Any thoughts?

    1. Cindy
      7 years ago

      Why don’t you try giving up the chai tea and honey and still having something else without the sugar and caffeine. Caffeine and sugar will definitely jolt your system into that anxiety state you talked about.

    2. Cindy
      7 years ago

      Also, I have all the symptoms you mentioned and can be hypoglycemic. Kefir is something I use to hold me over to the next meal, light on the glucose and has protein.

      1. Jacqueline
        7 years ago

        Thank you, Cindy, my chai tea is made with rooibos, no caffeine, i dont take any caffeine or alcohol and barely any chocolate, stimulants or sugar in other forms, even fruits, and the 1/2 tsp honey is the only honey I take in a day, but as you said, even that 1/2 tsp might be too much. Thanks for thr reminder.

      2. Jacqueline
        7 years ago

        Thanks for the tip on kefir, will give it a try

  22. Roxy
    8 years ago

    I have been doing this for about 9 months now on a daily basis using the 16 hr. fasting/8/hr eating method. I have not found it too difficult, altho I am a very disciplined person. If I have a day I feel I need to eat earlier or later, I do, but as time goes by I am finding that my body and appetite are changing. I feel great! I have more energy, emotional clarity, my body feels light (easier on my 65 yr. old joints). After all these months, I am not as hungry as I used to be. I feel my life used to revolve so much around food on the 3 meal a day method. Now I think my appetite has become natural to what my body needs rather than what custom has dictated. I am realizing how much of my former eating habits were based on emotional eating/boredom, rather than being hungry. I have less cravings, especially for sweets. When I only have 8 hrs. in which to eat, I can only eat so much food in that time period, so that now, my food choices are the highest quality fats, veggies, fruits, and protein. After eating those, I have little room left for lots of grains and sweets. And, of course, I am sure my stomach has shrunk, so I am not able to eat as much in one sitting. I don’t think this for everybody, but after you try it and see how great you feel, you will know this is the plan for you.

  23. Anna
    8 years ago

    My doctor told me I am pre-diabetic. Speaking with a nutritionist she says I need to eat 3 meals a day. All my life I basically ate 1 meal day, dinner. I have never been overweight. People say it’s my genes, hmmmm. Therefore, I am on the right track. I should be fasting and only eating one meal a day.

  24. Betty
    8 years ago

    I have gotten into the habit of eating my last meal around 730, then usually don’t eat in morning (aside from lemon juice, aloe, and matcha tea with cinnamon and chia) until sometime between 1030 and 12. I then eat lightly one to 2 more times before which, which is a big salad with healthy protein on it. I have had borderline glucose since the early 90’s, and three sides of my family had diabetes, including my dad. I am 61, weigh 110 (5’4″, small frame), exercise regularly, and eat cleanly. My doctor and naturopath both want me to eat 5 times daily. When I did that my glucose did still stay 101-121, but my A1c lowered from 6 to 5.6. On the current regimen, my glucose was 99, but my Aic had crept back up over the last 2 years to 6. My inflammation factors are low. My insulin in 15 was 4.2. My naturopath thinks my red blood cells are healthy and raise the A1c. Would like your opinion re whether my current eating schedule is good for me. Thank you!

  25. A Trotter
    8 years ago

    I lost over 20 lbs in just over 2 months on 5:2!
    I love it-I have found the answer I have been searching for my whole life. 2 Days To Skinny on Amazon by Adam Revsen is the easiest most helpful book on this incredible way of losing weight.

  26. Pearl
    8 years ago

    I did lots of research and tried Michael Mosely’s 5:2 for 5 weeks, it was easy but I lost..Nothing. Not effective for me-maybe more effective if you are male or really overweight ie obese.

  27. yoohoopetunia
    8 years ago

    Thank you Dr. Northrup and
    Thank you to everyone who has succeeded with fasting for giving your feedback. I was nervous about trying this and now feel more confident because of you. My son and husband never want to eat breakfast and I find my self fussing about how they need to eat to get their body going in the morning. I’ll fuss no more. I also find myself feeling guilty when I forget to eat. I’ll guilt no more. Only eat when I’m hungry, brilliant.

  28. Gary
    8 years ago

    “Fresh juices and smoothies are also good and may even replace a meal”…. Uh, not if fruit is involved. Fruit juices are loaded with sugar. Even raw fruit should be limited to berries for the low sugar and high anti-oxidants. Melons, oranges, etc are insulin spikes waiting to happen.

  29. Sharon Bates
    8 years ago

    Really interesting article. I was brought up believing that eating three meals a day was necessary. Sometimes I didn’t feel like eating at the set times. Now that I have retired from employment, and free from time constraints, I often eat breakfast later than I used to as im not always hungry first thing in the morning. I noticed that grains were on your list of foods to avoid eating. I always thought that grains were nutritious, supplying B vitamins. Does this mean that we are not to eat porridge or toast? (popular breakfast items).

    1. Jean S.
      8 years ago

      Sharon, Check out Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Grain Brain”. It is the gluten (whether you are sensitive to it or not) that does most of the damage. Our health, especially brain health is being chinked away at. My husband and I gave up all grains, sugar, alcohol, soft drinks, junk food, and incorporated lots of good fats. Without trying we lost ALL of our excess weight. It is amazing! Or go to Dr. Perlmutter’s website for more information. He also has a new book out. You can get all the nutrients found in grains in other foods. We might eat a bit of organic brown rice once in a while. We also only eat organic. Monsanto is destroying our precious food sources by spraying everything grown non organic with Roundup…..highly toxic!!! Save your health and your life……eat organic!!!!

  30. Kay Garriott
    8 years ago

    Dr. Jason Fung’s book is The Obesity Code, not Obesity Cure. I follow Appetite Correction/Fast 5. I’m 62 years old an have lost 35 lbs so far. Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle not a diet, it’s free, and it works!

  31. Deborah
    8 years ago

    Very interesting article. I have heard of the night fasting for 12 hours recently which makes sense to me and sounds doable. I have had some unpleasant experiences in the past with fasting as I tend to have very low blood sugar and normally have to eat every two hours or so to avoid this happening, so that did not work well for me, but I am willing to give this a try, especially after the excesses of christmas and the New Year!

  32. Debbie
    8 years ago

    This sounds interesting. Can u still drink anything other than water while fasting

    1. Deborah
      7 years ago

      No. Apparently you set your circadian rhythms by when you eat. I was drinking tea when I woke up, even if 12 hours had not passed yet. I then read an article in the New York Times that you set your circadian rhythm with your first cup of coffee. Eating is as important as light and darkness it said, which is news to me. So I no longer drink herbal tea right before bed. I drink it earlier. I am motivated to stop eating and drinking earlier at night so I can enjoy my first cup of tea when I awaken.

      1. Deborah
        7 years ago

        Here’s the article.

  33. Bill Cashell
    8 years ago

    I have actually been doing a combination of two types of fasting for the past year. I use the 5/2 diet and eat only one meal on Monday and Wednesday. I’m not too focused on the 500-600 calorie target, but usually this one meal is about that. I eat that meal between noon and 2pm. I make sure it is high in protein – usually an omelet with veggies to keep me satisfied through the evening.

    On the other days, I try to eat only 2 meals between 10am and 6pm. I usually have a handful of nuts in the early afternoon. The interesting thing I have found is that my energy is higher on the fast days, and higher overall since giving up all day eating. I make sure to have my workout in the morning before I eat.

    At first, it was a challenge to eat later in the day, so I gradually moved my first meal back later in the morning and stopped eating after 6pm. It does not take long for your body to adjust, and now I am never hungry (or even in the mood for food) until later in the day. Another thing that has happened is, by eating fewer meals it makes me more conscious of what I eat at each meal. It forces me to make sure I eat mostly healthy foods.

    I am about to turn 70, but I feel like I am 30 (actually, I feel younger than that, but I don’t want to push it).

  34. Jennifer
    8 years ago

    I have used IF in the past and it does work very well. I used Brad Pilon’s “Eat-Stop-Eat” program for about 9 months. This required me to fast 1 – 2 days a week for a 24 hour period. The first few times my stomach growled so loud I thought people could hear it next door! LOL But the stomach is a creature of habit, and after a few weeks it did adjust. What also happened was that my appetite was naturally reduced creating an overall caloric deficit. I ate very healthy and drank a lot of water. I also continued my exercise program of cardio and weights even on my fast days, which were never hampered by the fasting. Within that time I lost close to 15 pounds. I had to have all my clothes taken in by several inches and my old wardrobe hung on me like an oversized coat. Hello, shopping!! 🙂 So if you can find a fasting program that fits into your lifestyle and can get past the first few days it really does work and you feel surprisingly good! It also won’t mess up your metabolism if you don’t eat every 3 hours like we are taught and that most of the info we see about this is largely fed by the meal supplement industry. Every person’s experience is different however so listen to your body and if it truly does not feel right then it’s not for you. For me this was the only thing that worked to lose those stubborn pounds.

  35. Patricia
    8 years ago

    I drink tea with coconut milk in the morning hours and found that having a typical breakfast (gluten galore) only made me hungry. Does drinking that milk constitute BREAKING the intermittent fasting? Bummer if so!

    Keep up the wonderful work, Dr. Northrup :))

  36. Juli
    8 years ago

    I am a wellness advisor and have been doing “intermittent fasting ” for a long time instinctively. I follow and alkalarian plant base lifestyle . Sometimes i have dinner at 9-10 pm and dont feel hungry until 4 pm next day. Despite the fact that I do drink 4 to 5 lt of alkaline water with chlorophyll I was feeling a little guilty about it. (Because of the 3 meals doctrine) But reading this article reinforced my intuition and it made sense to me. Thank you !

  37. Juli
    8 years ago

    I have been doing “intermittent fasting ” for a long time instinctively. I follow and alkalarian plant base lifestyle . Sometimes i have dinner at 9-10 pm and dont feel hungry until 4 pm next day. I was feeling a little guilty about it. (Because of the 3 meals doctrine) But reading this article reinforced my intuition and it made sense to me. Thank you !

    1. Juli
      8 years ago

      I forgot to mention that i do drink about 4 to 5 lt of water every day with liquid chlorophyll. And i recommend the same to my wellness clients. 🙂

  38. Jennifer Bell
    8 years ago

    How would this work for someone that’s hypoglycemic? At the moment I have to eat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours or I get into serious trouble. When I was younger I didn’t have hypoglycemic symptoms but now I have it very severely and would really like to not live in fear of if the next hypoglycemic episode.

  39. Katherine
    8 years ago

    For a year and a half now, I’ve been fasting over 24 hours, once a week. Basically, I don’t eat for 24 hours from finishing my evening meal to dinner the day after. During that fasting day, I drink a lot of warm water. Occasionally, I will make barley water (just boiling pearl barley, nothing else added) or a herbal tea such as fennel, because I enjoy them.

    I started off doing two 24-hour fasting slots with one light dinner halfway. Now, I do it once a week, although I do eat if that day happens to fall during my period.

    I must admit that I’d tried to fast several times over the years but my body would rebel with headaches, nausea, tremors, etc. The fasting suddenly turned easy when I began to practise it with an intention (as opposed because people said it was good for you). Now, I use fasting like a re-set button. When I fast, I affirm that my body is shedding excess weight, or whatever ailment I happen to have at the time, or that my mind is shedding some pattern or emotion I wish to dissolve.

    The 24-hour fast once a week seems to work for me. It just feels, as I said, like a welcome re-set mode.

  40. Patricia A Weiser
    8 years ago

    I have been type 2 insulin dependent for 25 years. How can this apply to me? And won’t forcing our bodies into starvation mode trick our bodies into using fewer calories?

  41. Charlotte Sison
    8 years ago

    I’ve been doing this and i find that i can hold my appetite for food for longer. In fact, i sometimes don’t even feel hungry nor weak even if its hours since my last meal. For example i started doing it for 12hrs then 13 & so forth. Now i can work up to 18hrs without food already. I can’t say there were major results but i found my belly fat to have reduced and it’s easier for me to lose weight since i have enough time to burn my stored fat. This is working for me so far. Thanks for the validation, Dr. Northrup!

  42. Julie
    8 years ago

    I’ve been doing IF. For a few years I would do a long fast for 7-10 days usually in the Spring with only protein drinks and vegetable broth. I felt great and broke the fast when I felt my body told me it was time. I don’t do that anymore. Recently I started doing an aprox. 48 hour fast. I begin after my last meal of the day, fast the next day, then eat supper the following day. So 40-48 hours. I drink plenty of fluids. It’s relatively easy for me to do. When I go through a difficult period I recognize 99.9% of the time to be emotional and work through it. I let my health go down the tubes esp. the last few years, after 50. After 50 for me and menopause things change and I needed to adapt to the changes. This IF appears to be the ticket for me. It feels very natural and I feel much better. I’m getting my health back. I also told two Dr.’s about it and expected a scowl, but instead said they advocated it, just to drink lots of water. Was thrilled to receive this article.

    1. Julie
      8 years ago

      I wanted to add one important thing. I do this fast once a week.

  43. Anita
    8 years ago

    I have been fasting 22:2 for several months and, as a result, feel fantastic. At 71, I have more energy then I did at 50! I started fasting 16:8 and when that worked so well I expanded it. I am actually less hungry between my one meal per day now then I was when I ate 2 o3 meals per day. It’s very freeing. My BS and cholesterol numbers are low normal without meds. I have also been following a ketogenic diet for 3 years which has put my rheumatoid arthritis into remission. After 30 years on serious RA drugs, I am now med free and pain free. I’m so grateful.

  44. Zaneta Garratt
    8 years ago

    very interesting article, must try this

  45. lucie
    8 years ago

    I tried it a while ago. I didn’t lose any weight – in fact i think i put some on – and my periods stopped. I’ve since read that it can be dangerous for some women and can bring on early menopause! It’s a shame as I have seen the benefits on other people, I just am too afraid to go there again.

  46. KarenL
    8 years ago

    I’ve been doing IF for about 3 years. I originally started with the Warrior’s Diet and then did FastDiet 5:2 after watching the BBC documentary and buying the book. I lost about 10 pounds and have kept it off by fasting one day a week and using “the window” on a daily basis but other than that, I don’t overly restrict myself. Some days I find it very difficult but so far, I prefer this method of eating for many reasons. In the beginning, I had headaches but after a month or so, they subsided and I didn’t feel as so “chained” to food schedules.

  47. Sara
    8 years ago

    Since I first started reading about this a few weeks ago, I have found that if I intentionally listen to my body, I find that I’m simply not hungry at specified times when I’m “supposed” to be, and I’ve taken to eating accordingly. For example, if I don’t feel hungry at breakfast time, I skip the meal altogether, and my cup of morning tea suits me just fine. If I’m not hungry for lunch at noon, I don’t force myself to eat just because it’s “time.” This alone has made a huge difference for me. Not only am I not consuming calories I don’t even need, but I feel so much lighter. And eating two meals a day instead of the typical three has sustained me wonderfully.

  48. Madeleine
    8 years ago

    Hi Dr Northrup! Thank you for being such an amazing resource to all of us! You truly help people to become their best!
    I have done intermittent fasting now for over a year. I can say that in the beginning it was hard but now my body and mind is used to it. In fact I think it has undone my conditioning to feel the need to eat just bècause you’re supposed to by cultural norms. I adapted the fasting schedule to suit me, since I do vigorous and physically demanding yoga in the morning I have to have breakfast afterwards and my last meal is at 4pm.
    The week before my period it helps to balance out the pms!

  49. Zena
    8 years ago

    I have been on the 5:2 since last April and lost 2 stone. In between fasting my appetite seems to be re calibrated and I eat less naturally. I fast two days each week on 600 calories and plan each day and prepare mentally. If I have social events that I would rather not fast for I move the days around. My husband has had equal success. Great for me but I know not everyone can manage it. I live in the UK and read the Fast Diet by Dr Michael Moseley. I feel sharp and energetic and with my Am a Ta supplement I feel on top of the world !

  50. Barbara Dean
    8 years ago

    I am concerned that fasting will lower my blood sugar very low and then when I start eating again it will shoot up very quickly. I was told to keep sugar levels steady.

    1. Marci Bowman
      8 years ago

      Hello Barbara,

      First, let me say, I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on tv). But I read a lot about this subject and I’m a health coach who’s worked with many clients who have been given the same advice as you.

      What I’ve seen is that actually the opposite occurs. When we fast our bodies become better attuned to mediating our blood sugar levels. We’re not continuously causing insulin to be released (as happens when we eat), which leads to insulin resistance. I make sure that my clients slowly adapt to this way of eating and that they eat plenty of healthy fats for energy, too. After a few weeks, usually they feel fantastic. Their blood glucose readings improve. They can go long periods without feeling “hangry,” and when they do eat, they thoroughly enjoy it. The majority of them lose weight, too.

      Anyway, as Dr. Northrup says in the article above, trust your body. Try out the overnight twelve-hour fasts and see how you feel. I hope it works for you!

  51. Cheryl Edwards
    8 years ago

    I have been practicing IF for a year with great results. I also gave up all grain products and sugar at the same time. I lost ten pounds and have kept it off without difficulty. I also exercise moderately either walking or using a stationary bike for 30 minutes and strength training twice a week. At 61, that keeps me in fantastic shape without injury. When practicing IF I keep my fruits to two a day but eat copious amounts of vegetables. I eat at 10am and stop eating at 7pm. 7pm to 10am is my natural fasting window. It goes with my individual eating pattern. It took me a while to figure that out but it works well for me! Great article Dr. Northrup.

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