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A fasting diet doesn’t mean you feel like you're starving.
Numerous studies have shown fasting impacts the reduction of chronic disease risk, longevity and weight loss. Most diets are all about giving up what you love and feeling deprived; whereas fasting diets may actually make those cravings go away. Here are five ways to get started.
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1. Ease into it with a 'time restricted feeding' approach.
This essentially means front-loading all of your calories to avoid consumption after a cut-off time, like 5 p.m. Many of my patients fast while they sleep, or skip dinner all together, allowing at least 12-14 hours between their last meal of the day and their first meal the following day.
Choose your plan based on your goals. Fasting is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and success often means trying different models.
2. If your goal is to lose weight or reduce belly fat, try a traditional 5:2 plan.
You'll have two "on” days, where you'll consume 500-600 calories, split between breakfast and dinner. The other five days of the week are your “off” days, where you'll follow a healthy diet without calorie restriction. This intermittent fasting plan may help to reduce hunger and cravings and may also have beneficial impacts on insulin and C-reactive protein.
3. Try a monthly periodic approach.
Studies show a monthly, periodic approach to fasting can help to increase longevity and reduce your risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
For five consecutive days each month, consume about 35 to 50 percent of your normal calorie intake, divided between 10 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate and 50 percent fat. For example, if your normal intake is 1,800 calories, you’ll bring it down to 700 calories, and focus on lean proteins, healthy fats and high-fiber carbohydrates.
4. Upgrade your healthy carbohydrates.
While on any of the plans listed above, try to choose carbohydrates that are higher in protein and fiber — they'll help you stay fuller, longer. Here are a few changes to make:
- Instead of whole-wheat pasta, choose bean-based pasta
- Instead of whole-grain bread, choose flourless, sprouted bread
- Instead of whole-grain crackers, choose seed or nut-based crackers
5. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration is often misinterpreted as hunger. Fill yourself up by choosing calorie-free herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee and sparkling or plain water. Avoid artificially sweetened beverages, which will only increase sugar cravings and appetite.
6. Get plenty of rest.
If you’re attempting a fasting diet, lack of sleep is a recipe for disaster because it negatively alters your hunger and satiety hormones. Finally, as with any new diet, have a discussion with your doctor beforehand.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter @KristinKirkpat. For more diet and fitness advice, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter.