Does Intermittent Dieting Work?

Health Professional

What is dieting?

Dieting is when you restrict yourself to small amounts or special kinds of food to lose weight.

Does dieting work?

Many people do lose weight when dieting. The problem is a diet is a temporary, short-term plan, not a long-term solution. Many regain lost weight after the diet ends.

What about intermittent dieting?

Continuous dieting is very restrictive and often difficult to maintain for the required length of time to hit goal weight levels. This has led to increased interest in intermittent energy restriction. An example of intermittent energy restriction is alternate-day fasting. This type of dieting involves a “fast day” with reduced or no energy consumed followed by an all you want “feast day”. Another intermittent energy restriction example is a 5 and 2 regime where you eat however you desire five days and fast on two days.

A review of research found intermittent energy restriction leads to approximately six to eleven pounds of weight loss after ten weeks.

However, the greater problems with diets is seen at the six month mark when weight regain often occurs.

An evaluation of nine studies with intermittent energy restriction greater than six months in length found weight loss to occur in all groups containing a total of 981 participants.

Unfortunately, long term trials are limited and data is not conclusive on whether or not intermittent energy restriction is superior than continuous energy restriction when it comes to long term results. Both do lead to weight loss.

Surprisingly, dropout rates were similar between intermittent and continuous energy restriction groups.

Is intermittent dieting good for heart health?

As with continuous energy restriction, intermittent energy restriction results in improved heart disease risk factors, such as improvement to blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, it is not conclusive that intermittent energy restriction results in greater improvements than continuous energy restriction. More long term research is needed in this area.

What type of dieting is best?

I’m not a fan of dieting. The whole short term approach to a lifelong issue – your weight – sets you up for failure. The changes you make to your diet and lifestyle should be part of a long-term plan and not a short-term fix.

That being said, intermittent dieting may be a good tool to help you move past plateaus as you work to lose weight. This does not mean I support an “eat all you want feast day”. This means you could play with intermittent energy restriction to see if it’s a tool that would allow you to stick with healthy eating long term.

Many people get frustrated dieting because it’s restrictive and they don’t see results. Intermittent dieting would allow you to follow a less restrictive plan X number of days each week and then a more restrictive plan X number of days each week so you feel like you are denying yourself less, while still seeing movement of the needle on the scale.

A word of caution would be doing the extreme “fast day” where you consume nothing for 24-hours. Going down this road could lead to metabolism problems that counteract your weight loss efforts. Your body needs calories and good nutrition for optimal health. Select your weight loss plan wisely.

As with anything, change is hard. Access my free guide on “How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits” to ensure your success making needed changes.