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What is intermittent fasting, and why do I want to do it during the holidays?

December 9th, 2022 | 5 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

Although you may normally eat healthy — kale and lean proteins abound — the holiday season can be a time you let yourself go with more sweets, more alcohol, and more carbs. 


Between Thanksgiving and New Years, when you seem to spend more time at holiday parties than at work, it can be particularly difficult to stay on track. 


Intermittent fasting is a helpful tool that brings counterbalance to the indulgences of the holidays. 


The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that supports members in their pursuit of health and wellness. The club is an eight-acre facility that offers tennis, pickleball, group and private fitness classes, and swimming opportunities.


In this article, you will learn what intermittent fasting is, how you can easily implement it in your daily or weekly schedule, and how it can help you during the holidays.


What is intermittent fasting?

Fasting is just a fancy word for not eating. Intermittent means sometimes, occasionally, or now and again. When you combine the two words, it means that sometimes you fast and other times you eat.


Intermittent fasting (IF) is a concept based on creating a schedule where you abstain from food longer than typical, and condensing the window in which you eat your meals.


IF is not what you eat but when you eat. Many people who practice IF fast for 16 hours and eat their meals for the day within eight hours. 


Commonly, that means skipping breakfast and having lunch, snacks, and dinner between 12-8 pm. Occasionally, people skip dinner and eat breakfast, snacks, and lunch in the earlier half of the day. But this is not the only way to fast intermittently.


What are the different types of IF?

There are four different methods of implementing IF.


Classic IF

Classic IF emphasizes eating nothing for an entire 24 hours. For example, on an alternate day fast, you would fast every other day. Other IF schedules recommend fasting one or two days a week—or a few (or more days) a month.


Intermittent energy restriction

This method is also called partial fasting. You consume less food but still eat some. For example, on the 5:2 plan, you would eat your regular quantity of food five days per week and restrict calories two days a week.


Time-restricted feeding

Time-restricted feeding is the most frequently used system of IF. Eating becomes confined to a pre-specified period or an “eating window.” 


For example, on the 16:8 plan, you consume food 8 hours a day, fasting for the other 16. On the 20:4 plan, you only eat for 4 hours of the day. Good old-fashioned meal skipping also falls into this style of fasting.


Fasting-mimicking diets

Fasting-mimicking diets entail calorie-restricting for an entire week, eating roughly half as much as usual. For the following 3-4 weeks, you eat your normal quantity of food. Then the cycle is repeated.


How is IF beneficial for health?

Intermittent fasting is very effective for anyone looking to increase their health and reach or maintain their ideal weight.


Regulate blood glucose 

Scientists discovered that insulin resistance improves with calorie restriction (IF). Insulin sensitivity increases, and insulin levels decrease after fasting, both during the fast and shortly after eating. This practice results in improved blood sugar levels.


Control blood lipids such as cholesterol

Sub-optimal HDL levels are indicators of cardiovascular disease. In a six-week study reported in PubMed, HDL levels do increase when participants practice IF, which means that IF can be used for preventing, managing, and treating cardiovascular disorders.


Reduce the risk of cancer

Caloric restriction, including intermittent fasting, has proven anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) effects. In studies conducted using mice, tumor growth, metastasis, and overall survival significantly increased when IF was employed. 


Manage body weight 

Maintaining the ideal weight for your body type can be a struggle, especially as you enter middle age and your metabolism naturally slows down. 


Eating in condensed periods and taking extended breaks from food intake can be a very reliable system for helping to achieve the right weight for you. 


In one study from Harvard, IF was proven to be a successful system for weight loss. Participants lost an average of 7-11 pounds in 10 weeks.


How can IF help people during the holidays?

The holiday season is one big block of suboptimal food conditions. Sure, the food is delicious. Sure, some of it is even nutritious — roasts, gravy, veggies, and large crispy birds


But the quantity of food we consume and the frequency at which we consume it—combined with the prevalence of delicious treats and the emotional context—makes for a challenging situation.

It is the perfect scenario to pack on some mass—or the perfect opportunity to employ an intermittent fast. 

IF is the perfect counterbalance to the increased consumption of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods that are ubiquitous this time of year. It will help you minimize weight gain and keep you feeling good.


Three tips for using IF during the holidays

1. Skip Breakfast

Breakfast around the holidays can get quite ridiculous. How many of us have eaten pumpkin pie, a half tin of Danish butter cookies, or a big bowl of mashed potatoes for breakfast? 

Even if you aren’t digging into the leftovers (although a turkey leg is a nice way to begin the day), you’ll see the likes of pastries, quiches (heavy on the crust), bagels, pancakes, and waffles — all high calorie, high-carb foods. 

Instead, skip breakfast. Give your digestive system a rest, keep the fat-burning going, and make any subsequent feasting later in the day more rewarding and less damaging. 

Have some coffee and cream instead. Heck, you could even whip the cream if you want to feel like you’re having a “treat” with everyone else.


2. Don’t snack

In “normal times,” snacking means a handful of nuts, a few pieces of jerky, or an apple. But during the holidays, snacking means candy, cookies, and pie. If you’re the snacking type, you’ll likely make bad choices.

Not snacking doesn’t sound like much of a fast, but going 4-5 hours between meals can allow you to slip into a mild “fasted” state multiple times per day.


3. Don’t nibble as you cook

Whoever’s in charge of cooking the myriad of holiday feasts and meals must learn how to handle themselves behind the stove. 

Quality control is one thing — checking how things taste is understandable and necessary. 

But that’s not what gets you into trouble. The constant nibbling and gnawing and chomping throughout the cooking process is what gets you into trouble.

A spoonful of gravy here. A handful of mashed potatoes there. Oh, how’d that turkey skin turn out? Gonna have to try that. Oh, I wonder how it tastes dipped in the gravy. Boy, that dark meat sure is looking nice. Now the cranberry sauce…

By the time you serve dinner, you are 800 calories deep, and you’re not even very excited about eating more (but you still do).

Imagine if you’d fasted during the 4-5 hours you were preparing dinner. Not only would dinner be more satisfying and taste better, but you also wouldn’t have spent 4-5 hours in “fed mode.” 


How to begin to implement intermittent fasting in your life

Intermittent fasting is a newer concept with ancient roots. Whether it was for spiritual or practical purposes, fasting, in some form, has been in existence for centuries.


IF has benefits for both health issues and weight control. It can be used by any healthy adult, though you should consult with your health provider before beginning any new diet protocol. 


Though fasting can sound difficult to try, it can become a common way of life that is easy to implement and manage. 


Since there are four unique approaches to IF, consider which method will work best for you. 


Many people begin with time-restricted feeding, fasting for 16 hours and eating the day’s food within 8 hours. You can start by doing this one day a week, but many choose to do it daily.

The holidays are a great time to implement IF as a counterbalance to the tendency to overeat and eat more nutrient-poor foods.


If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting, how to eat healthily, or maintain your ideal weight, the Paseo Club has two certified nutritionists available for consultation.


If you want to make health and fitness a greater priority in your life, then the Paseo Club may be just the place for you. Check out the eight-acre facility by scheduling a tour of the club.


To learn more about the Paseo Club and the resources we offer our members, check out these three articles.


Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a person of many talents. She is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!