Does Intermittent Fasting Work? We Asked An Expert

If your Instagram newsfeed is filled with a sh*t ton of fitness influencers, then amongst all the sweaty workout selfies and workout apparel discount codes, odds are, you’ve at least heard the mention of intermittent fasting. But what exactly is this scheduled way of eating if it’s not necessarily a diet? Well, to the average person (myself included) intermittent fasting probably just seems like a psycho routine where one only eats in a short window of time throughout the day and starves themselves the other hours all in the name of dropping a few pounds. Well, because I’m curious as to why someone would endure such torture when there’s like a million other ways to lose weight, I spoke to Kristin Koskinen, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and founder of Eat Well Pros—a site that hooks you up with an RDN to help you adapt to new, healthier eating habits and lifestyle changes—about what exactly intermittent fasting is, what it requires, and most importantly: is it even sustainable?

Read on if you’re as skeptical about intermittent fasting as I was, because apparently the strategized way of eating isn’t as torturous as it may sound.

Betches: What is intermittent fasting?
Kristin Koskinen: Simply put, intermittent fasting is the strategy of cycling eating with fasting. Unlike dieting, calorie counting, macro calculating, and food group exclusions aren’t required. Regimens vary, but can include the following:

The Crescendo Fast: 12-16 consecutive hour fast for two or three days a week, on non-consecutive days.

The 5/2 Fast: Eat normally five days a week, for the other two days, eat 25% of your usual intake, allowing at least one day between fasting days.

The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 consecutive hours per day; all food is consumed within an eight hour timeframe.

What does it do to the body?
The body requires fuel, and its preferred sources of energy are glucose and fat. Protein is an option, but a very expensive one, metabolically speaking. When glucose isn’t available, as during a fasting period, the body uses fat. The human body was not developed to graze, but rather, is well-adapted to deal with the absence of food.

Losing weight from fasting is the result of reduced calorie intake as a consequence of limiting eating hours paired with hormonal changes that occur. Fasting decreases insulin levels. All food, not just carbohydrates, stimulates insulin secretion. Lowering insulin levels has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which is important in preventing and managing diabetes, as well as attaining long-term weight loss.

Insulin resistance can lead to pre-diabetes, diabetes, and heart disease. So what is insulin resistance?  Essentially, it’s when the cells no longer respond fully to insulin. Insulin is a hormone, the proverbial key that unlocks cell doors, allowing glucose in from the bloodstream. The backlog of glucose causes the pancreas to produce and send out more insulin to drive open the cell doors. Over time, the beta cells of the pancreas can’t keep up, or wear out, and the person develops diabetes. In the meantime, the excess insulin load has lead to increased weight, which typically deposits around the waist.

What does a typical intermittent fast look like?
A starting fast might be for 14 consecutive hours. That could mean finishing dinner at 7:00pm and eating an early lunch at 11:00am. Water, herbal tea, and black coffee are not restricted. Mornings without food are one thing; without coffee, that’s quite another. Because most of the fast is overnight, you don’t have much time to think about the fact you aren’t eating. For some people, especially those in the habit of eating late into the night, they may find it easier to just go to bed earlier, and that is a win-win. Studies consistently link lack of sleep to excess weight. Sleep for as many of your fasting hours as you can, keeping in mind that seven hours of sleep is considered a minimum, 8-10 ideal, for health and wellness.

Is intermittent fasting recommended for weight loss?
Intermittent fasting has been an effective weight loss tool, especially in overweight or obese individuals. If a person has diabetes or  a history of hypoglycemia, they should consult with their health care provider before starting any sort of fasting program, as fasting will decrease blood glucose levels and medications may need to be adjusted. People with hypertension should also consult with their health care provider before starting a fasting regimen, as blood pressure can become low during a fast, which often presents as light-headedness. Fasting is not recommended for everyone and generally discouraged for those with a history of eating disorders, children, and pregnant women.

If you choose to go the intermittent fasting route, what are some things you should remember?
If choosing to pursue intermittent fasting, it’s important to continue to drink plenty of water and eat nutrient dense foods during the feeding times. Food should be eaten mindfully and slowly, and without the mindset of getting-it-while-you-can or making-up-what-you-lost when fasting.  Before recommending intermittent fasting, I suggest cleaning up your diet. Replace processed foods with whole foods, eat more plant-based foods, cut way back on refined sugars and sweeteners. Then, if you want to try intermittent fasting for weight loss, your nutritional status and improved eating habits will support your success.

How long should someone follow an intermittent fasting regimen?
This depends on the individual. For some people, they find it becomes a part of their lifestyle. Some people hop in and out of fasting routines seasonally, for a few weeks, such as just after the holidays or when favorite jeans are becoming too snug. Each person is absolutely unique and there are always many considerations, including overall health, activity levels, and the quality of their diet. The first step is to clean up your diet as recommended above. Get clearance from your health care provider if you have any health issues or suspect you may. If you decide an intermittent fast is something you want to try, start with a Crescendo fast for 4 weeks. See how you feel, stop if you experience persistent fatigue, high or low blood sugars, dizziness or light-headedness, nausea, vomiting or lethargy.

Images: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash; Giphy (3)

This Diet Followed By Jennifer Aniston & Kate Hudson Is A Total Scam

I have the benefit of sitting next door to a real, live dietitian—the kind that went to school for a million years and will probs pay off her student loans for the next several decades. Recently, she informed me that a diet followed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, and other celebrities, is too good to be true. The diet in question is called the alkaline diet, and it is apparently 100% a scam for a multitude of reasons. I nearly spit out my iced coffee when I heard this. The internet has led me astray?! Say it isn’t so.

So, before you set off on a journey to reset your body’s pH levels, here’s everything you need to know about the alkaline diet and why it’s a waste of time and money.

What The Alkaline Diet Is

According to WebMD, my source for anxiety, the alkaline diet is a diet based on the theory that “some foods, like meat, wheat, refined sugar, and processed foods, cause your body to produce acid, which is bad for you.” It also claims, “eating specific foods that make your body more alkaline can protect against those conditions as well as shed pounds.” So that’s the science behind this plan—eat healthier foods, avoid processed garbage, fix your pH levels, and SHED THOSE POUNDS.

As for why people ever subscribed to this in the first place? “The theory goes that consuming acid-inducing foods and drinks creates an unhealthy cellular environment and sends distress signals throughout the body, leading to colds, outbreaks and inflammation. It’s suggested that continual acid-dumping via food can create chronic disease such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer,” says Greatist. Sounds like a conspiracy theory, but ok. So, again, the idea is that if I eat basic (IT’S A PH JOKE, EVERYONE) food and avoid acid, I’ll live forever and be skinny. Yah, totally!
Sure Sarcastic

Why It Doesn’t Work

So basically, and for those of us who didn’t go to dietitian school, here’s the bottom line: the only way you can change the pH in your body is by hypo or hyperventilating, which means adding more oxygen to or taking oxygen away from your blood. No amount or type of food is going to have an effect on that. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

According to WebMD, our bodies are slightly alkaline to begin with, with a pH of 7.35-7.45. Our stomachs are obviously acidic, with a pH of 3.5 or less. WebMD says, “nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood. Your body works to keep that level constant.” Thanks, WebMD, for the science lesson (NERDS!). But, yes, at the end of the day, a diet that claims to fix your body’s acid levels—which are perfect as they are—is utter crap. That’s what you get for following a diet peddled by self-proclaimed doctors like Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop followers.
You played yourselfAnd, as a note, the guy who literally invented the alkaline diet, Robert Young, PhD, MAY BE GOING TO PRISON FOR PRACTICING MEDICINE WITHOUT A LICENSE. Yeah. He helped to write the book on this whole alkaline diet and the theory that all diseases are caused by too much or too little acid. According to Health.com, he was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. As an added bonus, “A jury was deadlocked on several other charges against him, including defrauding patients out of money.” He allegedly convinced terminally ill cancer patients that they could be cured by dping some weird expensive baking-soda treatments “to flush dangerous acid out of the body.” Yeah… This guy DEFINITELY sounds like someone who could make up a diet based around acid in your blood. What a jackass.

“But I Lost Weight, So You’re Wrong”

Here’s the thing: the alkaline diet may “work” in that you lose weight, but you’re not losing weight because of any kind of radical pH changes or sorcery in your blood. You’re losing weight on the alkaline diet because the cornerstones of said diet are to EAT HEALTHY. WHAT AN IMPRESSIVE CONCEPT.  By cutting out things like meat, refined sugar, and processed foods, you’re most likely going to lose weight. Granted, this diet says you don’t have to exercise—which, no, yes you do—but starting with eating better and cutting the crap is definitely going to give you a leg up. So fight me in the comments, and I’ll teach you about why the diet industry is a billion-dollar system and you’re a dope for getting duped by these shenanigans. Oh, and why you shouldn’t follow a diet invented by a quack doctor so he can swim in his dollar bills.

I hope I ruined everyone’s day. Bottom line: Diets in general don’t work because you’re applying a temporary fix to what should be a lifestyle change. Eat better, exercise more, and don’t inhale pizza every meal, and you’ll be healthier.

Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (3)

7 “Healthy” Foods That Are Actually Making You Bloated

It’s summer, which means everyone’s scrambling to look good in a bikini. Cue the crash diet and endless crunches. But be careful with your diet overhaul: There are some seemingly healthy foods that actually could be making your body retain water—making you look super bloated as a result. Like, if you’re wondering why you look six months pregnant after a huge kale salad and a Diet Coke, it’s not your imagination. It’s just minor bloating, and it will go away eventually, but in the moment, it literally sucks. Here are some examples of “healthy” foods that are blowing up your tummy:

1. Gum

People think sugar-free gum is the key to dieting, but it could actually backfire on you if you OD on all those sugar alcohols. The reason gum has basically no calories is because it’s loaded with fake sugars, which are known to cause bloating. Plus, when you chew gum, you’re swallowing a lot of excess air, so that air may show up in your stomach and make you look like you have a food baby. It could also cause abdominal pain. Gum isn’t terrible for you, but if you’re going through three packs a day, you need to chill.

2. Kale

Kale is a tricky bitch. It’s basically a cruciferous vegetable, along with things like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. While these vegetables are obv super healthy for you, they’re also loaded with fiber, which means your large intestine has to work to digest them through bacteria. All of the fiber makes your stomach bloated when you eat too much of these foods. So, if you’re wondering why you feel huge after eating a box of kale chips, it’s the fiber.

Broccoli

3. Miso Soup

Miso soup is a go-to healthy appetizer to order when you’re out at a sushi restaurant, and while it’s true that it barely has any calories, most miso soups are loaded with sodium, which makes your body hold onto water. When your body takes in more sodium than it’s used to, you’ll puff up a bit for about a day. You might even see it in your face, so it’s probably not the best idea to order miso soup the day before you’ll be in bikini pics.

4. Corn

You might be eating a huge plate of corn at your family BBQ because it’s the only thing that resembles a vegetable, but it turns out corn is actually super hard to digest. (If you’ve ever looked into the toilet after you ate a few cobs of corn, you’d already know that.) There’s a certain type of carb in corn that is hard for your body to break down, which can lead to bacteria fermentation and trapped air in your stomach.

Corn

5. Diet Drinks

Diet drinks are another risky diet hack because there are literally no calories in them, but they’re loaded with fake sugars, which trigger sugar cravings later on and actually make you bloated for like, the whole day. I mean, getting a diet vodka soda is fine now and then if you’re out for drinks, but drinking a Diet Coke with every meal is a bit excessive and like, probably gonna kill you.

6. Dried Fruit

Dried fruit probably brings back Birthright memories of eating dried mango on every bus ride, but it’s also kind of sketchy when it comes to its nutrition. I mean, even though it’s fruit, it’s loaded with fiber and added sugar, so you just have to control your portion sizes. Experts recommend like, two tablespoons at a time, which is basically two dates, or like, three apple rings. You’re basically better off just eating fresh fruit.

Banana Ron Swanson

7. Sparkling Water

Drinking water is one of the things that actually helps get rid of bloating, but as much as we love our Pellegrino and Perrier, sparkling water isn’t doing your tummy any favors. The carbonated bubbles in seltzer are literally air pockets, so by swallowing them, you’re allowing air bubbles to build up in your stomach. I mean, who wants that?

How To Get Skinny By Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is in less than three weeks, and while some boring over-achievers have been dieting and hitting the gym since February, we’ve been busy like, eating cheese fries on 4/20 and slurping down margaritas on Cinco de Mayo. The point is, if your body is nowhere near summer ready, you’ve got just under three weeks to get your shit together before it’s time to day drink in a bikini for three days in a row. Here’s how to lose at least three pounds before Memorial Day:

1. Start Paying Attention

Whether you’re still recovering from Coachella or regretting that Unicorn Frap you ordered “just to see how it tastes,” you haven’t been making the best decisions lately, and it’s time to get your head on straight. You don’t get a good body by mindlessly snacking while watching 13 Reasons Why or by eating Matzah pizza three weeks after Passover. You get it by paying attention to what the fuck you’re eating, so start making good decisions.

Make Good Choices

2. Choose Whole Foods

We’re not talking about the grocery store, but I guess that works too. When you’re trying to lose weight, whole foods are your best friend. It’s not the 100-calorie snack pack or the sugar-free protein bar that promises to help you lose weight that will get the job done. You don’t need to go on some insane diet, but try eating REAL food, like vegetables, fruit, chicken, and eggs. You know, shit that can be found naturally in nature. Crazy concept, we know.

3. Don’t Buy Anything That Promises To Help

Here’s a little confidence boost for you: YOU’RE the only help you need. Stop buying bullshit SkinnyTeas or online nutrition coaches to tell you what to eat. The health industry is an INDUSTRY, so they’re trying to sell you shit. You probably know more than you think you do, so just listen to basic nutrition rules and try not to be a lazy shit. You don’t need a $95 subscription to Khloé Kardashian’s meal plan to get healthy.

Joanne The Scammer

4. Do HIIT Training

If you haven’t visited your gym since November and don’t even remember how to book a SoulCycle bike anymore, it’s fine. Everyone gets lazy and falls off the bike/wagon, but getting back on is the part that counts, so start now. HIIT, aka High Intensity Interval Training, is the fastest, most effective way to burn fat in a small period of time. Think like, 10 minute workouts—we conveniently already made one for you here. (We’re like, such a good friend.) If you go hard enough during each interval, your body will actually continue to burn calories later in the day, so you’ll basically be a fat-burning machine for the next few weeks.

5. Don’t Eat Late At Night

It’s hasn’t actually been scientifically proven that you gain weight from eating later at night, but it’s definitely not the healthiest thing for you. Going to bed feeling full AF will just make you wake up feeling bloated and not skinny, so eat earlier and have a little snack later if you must. Sorry if it makes you a loser for saying no to a late-night dinner at Catch, but nothing good can come of eating a spicy tuna crispy rice roll at 11pm.

Midnight Snack

6. Prioritize Breakfast

On the same theme of not eating late, you should actually be filling up on calories earlier in the day to prevent snacking and bad eating decisions later on. By having a legitimate breakfast in the morning, your body will fill up with enough fuel to get you through the day, so you’re not starving yourself to binge later on. I mean, everyone knows that feeling of skipping a meal and then getting home and going HAM with whatever the fuck is in your pantry. Have a real breakfast. And just to be clear, coffee with a splash of milk isn’t breakfast.

7. Choose Your Alcohol Wisely

We’re not telling you not to drink for the next three weeks. I mean, we’re not AA, nor do we live in the land of make believe. Alcohol is probably a staple in your week, so you don’t have to completely cut it out. Like, no one wants to be at happy hour with that girl who can’t order a drink because of her dietary restrictions. Drinking a couple times a week is fine, but make sure you order drinks that aren’t going to kill you, or like, add 60 grams of sugar to your night. Skip anything with syrups or tons of sugar, and instead stick to a simple vodka soda or a classy glass of wine. #Health 

Vodka

Read: The 6 Changes To Make To Your Coffee Order If You’re Trying To Lose Weight