Why Intermittent Fasting Isn’t as Effective as You Think and What You Can Do Instead

For a while now, there’s been a buzz about intermittent fasting for weight loss. This weight loss method involves regular periods with little to no caloric intake, with popular variations including fasting daily for 16 hours or alternating between normal eating and fasting every 24 hours. Studies have found intermittent fasting promising for treating obesity, but whether this method can sustainably manage weight in the long term remains to be seen.

Instead, more recent studies are finding that portion control is still more effective than intermittent fasting. Read on to learn more about the research behind this conclusion — and how you can better control your portions.

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Why portion control is more effective than fasting

In intermittent fasting, non-fasting periods may be restricted to specific diet compositions (targeted toward achieving a 125% caloric intake) or have no restrictions. Because it focuses on limiting the time window for eating rather than the food groups consumed, individuals continue to enjoy a wide range of foods without steep calorie restrictions.

Yet, in this case, the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAMA) reports that it may take many years of intermittent fasting to see visible weight loss. Instead, the frequency and size of meals have a more significant impact on weight gain than the window for eating. This ultimately means that intermittent fasting can be ineffective for long-term weight loss. For better results, watch your portions: eat fewer large meals and more small meals. JAMA researchers define a small meal as having fewer than 500 calories and a large meal as having more than 1,000 calories. Following their advice can help you yield more sustainable results in the long run.

How you can better control your portions

Be flexible about unplanned food choices

When you dine out with friends or hang around coworkers who are snacking, you’ll likely slip up and make food choices you didn’t anticipate. However, you don’t have to fully abstain from eating out – one of the common motivations for weight loss is ensuring you set a sustainable and flexible approach that suits you. In truth, unplanned food choices shouldn’t make you feel guilty or shameful. Instead, you can view them as an opportunity to manage portions, treat yourself but not take a backward step in your progress.

Portion your food when eating out

Restaurants prioritize customer satisfaction over health, so serving sizes aren’t always the standard for regular diets. That’s why when eating out, it’s best to either share your meal or have half of it packed in a to-go box. This can be effective for portion control: a study in the Netherlands reports that serving yourself food in smaller units leads to higher customer satisfaction despite consuming less. This keeps you from accidentally over-indulging in a restaurant’s possibly misleading portion sizes.

Eat slowly and mindfully

It takes your brain around 20 minutes to register feeling full. As a result, you’re less likely to recognize when you’re overeating when you eat quickly or with distractions. To avoid this, eat slower and more mindfully. Avoid distractions like using your phone or watching TV. Chew carefully and lengthen the gaps between bites. If you’re still hungry after your standard portions, wait 20 minutes before going for seconds. You can control your portions and listen to your body better when you allow yourself the time to feel full.

Although intermittent fasting may be effective for weight loss, controlling your portions may be more sustainable. With these tips, you can better regulate how much food you eat for long-term results.

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