What is Intermittent Fasting?
The most accurate definition is the simplest one: I.F. is merely alternating intervals of not eating (fasting) with times when you are allowed to eat. Or, to use I.F. parlance, you alternate a fasting period with a feeding window.
How long each will be tends to vary heavily, depending on which intermittent fasting protocol you select—and there are several.
Each method of intermittent fasting will be discussed later in the article.
But for now, it’s enough to mention that the differences come from expanding the fasting window.
The fasting period on specific plans can range from 16 hours all the way up to 36 hours (with several stops in between), and each of those specific plans will have benefits.
It’s also important to note that every one of us does some form of fasting, whether you realize it or not. The least technical-while-still-being-accurate definition of fasting is simply “not eating,” so anytime you’re not eating, you’re fasting.
Fasting is constant
Most of us aren’t on a structured timetable of meals where the window of fasting is constant, so rather than fasting intermittently. We’re fasting haphazardly—and there’s no benefit there.
The exception for most people is sleep. When you’re sleeping, you’re fasting; therefore most of us have a fairly rigid fasting period of 6 to 8 hours per night, until we eat in the morning.
It is for this reason, by the way, that our morning meal is called “breakfast,” as you are literally breaking your overnight fast.
I want to be very clear that intermittent fasting (I.F.) isn’t even remotely the same thing as anorexia. Specifically, intermittent fasting is, by nature, intermittent.
In other words, it’s done for brief, controlled periods of time. Some of the best examples of intermittent fasting are those associated with religious practices.
For instance, the 4-week period of Ramadan during which practicing Muslims don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
They’re welcome to eat during the night. And some even eat to excess, but during the day, an intermittent fast is in effect. Anorexia, by contrast, is sustained and extreme caloric restriction with the sole intent of fast and extreme fat loss.