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Weight Loss - Intermittent Fasting

Weight Loss - Intermittent Fasting

by Dr. Laura Hieb, ND on May 14, 2020

So we talked about the importance of movement in losing weight.

Today's topic is fasting--intermittent fasting to be exact. Please keep reading--I know most of us have a bit of an aversion to the word "fasting".

So what is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is regularly abstaining from food for a certain period of time, such as part of the day or part of the week.

Benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides and lower inflammation levels
  • Lower blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity
  • Increased muscle endurance
  • Improved memory and learning
  • And of course, weight loss!


The simplest way is to fast for 12 hours daily--wait for it! Don't stop reading! It's not that bad!

Start your fast from the time you finish dinner, then eat breakfast 12 hours later. 

If you eat dinner at 6 pm and finish eating by 6:30 pm, you would not eat from 6:30 pm until 6:30 am.

So most of your fasting is while you're sleeping. Who says multitasking can't work!


To get the benefits, you do have to fast for 3-4 hours before bedtime--no more late night snacking! And you have to sleep for 7-9 hours. Studies show that getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night actually promotes weight gain!

To prevent late night snacking, be sure to eat enough during the day. Eat at least 3 meals that contain 20-30grams of protein each.

What if you eat a late dinner? Say you eat dinner at 9 pm and go to bed at 10 pm. If you do this, and you wait until 9:30 am to eat breakfast, you still won't get the benefits. This is because our bodies are very metabolically active while we sleep. And because of this, our bodies burn fat while we sleep--unless they are still digesting the food we ate, or the beverages we drank, before bed.


So if you want to lose weight, avoid eating (and drinking anything besides water and plain herbal tea) for 3-4 hours before bed. This not only saves you those calories, but your body will also be burning up your fat stores! This is amazing! Plus your body will be healing, repairing and even helping to prevent dementia!

Eating dinner at a time that allows you to fast for 3 -4 hours between dinner and bedtime can be a challenge. Some tips:

  • Flex your work time to get home earlier, or get up later in the morning so you can stay up later at night to fit in those 3-4 hours from after dinner to bedtime.
  • Have dinner ready when you get home--crockpots, premade meals you can pop in the (microwave) oven, a salad ready to toss, can make this easy.
  • Eat dinner at work at the end of your workday, before you leave for home.
  • If you work long hours, schedule your dinner during a work break so you don't have to eat when you get home.
  • Rearrange your schedule so you have less to do before dinner. For example, if you exercise after work, switch to the morning; or do some gentle exercise/yoga/stretching before bed.
  • If your family has evening activities, consider eating dinner after school lets out. Then eat a protein-based snack 3-4 hours before bedtime.


Once you've mastered the 12 hour fast, you can decide if you want to extend it. You could limit your eating to a 10 hour period, up to a 6 hour period every day. Many people eat 2 meals in an 8 hour period. For people who have a healthy blood sugar metabolism (no light-headedness, "hangriness" or shakiness when skipping a meal) fasting for 14-18 hours daily can be beneficial. But just fasting for 12 hours daily is also very beneficial.

If you do get "hangry" or have trouble sleeping if you don't eat something close to bedtime, decrease or eliminate the sugar in your diet and slowly increase your fasting time from 8 to 9 to 10 hours and then to 12 hours.


Bonus Weight Loss Tip!
Studies show that the calories we consume between sunrise and midday are the ones we are going to use. For that reason, if losing weight is your goal, I  recommend eating breakfast no later than 8-8:30 am. This also allows you to have a midday lunch and early dinner and may also prevent between meal snacking.

Other methods of Intermittent fasting:
Fasting every other day. Eat normally on day 1, then eat half of your calories or fewer on day 2 and alternate. Again, if you have low blood sugar issues, this probably won't work for you. Some people feel too hungry and weak on the fasting day and overeat on the normal day. But if you are someone who doesn't like to eat a lot, this could be a good fit.

Fasting 2 consecutive days of the week. Cut your calories by 75% or more for 2 days in a row, and eat normally for the other 5 days (aka the 5:2 Diet). The 2 best days to fast would be the weekend since fasting when working is more of a stress on the body.

Note: While coffee or other forms of caffeine are typically considered to not break your fast (that is you can drink coffee, etc 1 or more hours before eating breakfast),  I disagree. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands. If you stimulate your adrenal glands but don't eat anything, you are more prone to the negative effects of caffeine. Better to wait until breakfast to have your coffee or green tea. If you can't wait that long, please seriously consider getting more sleep.