Right when you're getting used to a “no-carb” world, along comes a weight-loss trend even more difficult than forgoing bread: forgoing food.
Intermittent fasting (cycling between periods of fasting and eating) is the latest dieting craze to devour pop culture. The most buzzed about version is the “5:2” fast: Five days a week you eat like a normal human being, and the other two you, well, basically starve yourself. Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel used the 5:2 to shed pounds, and a small army has joined him. To visit 5:2’s website is to visit some sort of online tent revival: “It’s very easy to do and to maintain!” gushes one dieter. Another enthuses, “It makes me feel healthy and energetic!”
According to science, it’s not bogus. In fact, fasting in short intervals allows you to “surprise” your body, which keeps your metabolism revved. There could be health benefits beyond just burning fat, too. A slew of studies have emerged suggesting that intermittent fasting, or “IF,” can trim cancer risks, lower cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and even blunt the effects of aging. While there are obvious drawbacks (read: misery), the plan is also shockingly simple: On your two “fast” days, you eat 25% of your typical daily caloric intake—for me, roughly 600 calories. A slice of pizza, two Snickers bars, a giant platter of cabbage? All fair game. Sound crazy? It is. And it was, the 10 days I did it...
Jeff Wilser is the author of Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life, to be published by Three Rivers Press in September.