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    7 Surprising Wins Of Intermittent Fasting

    For many years, adopters of intermittent fasting (IF) schedules kept it a secret because they didn't want to hear a lot of criticism from uninformed friends, family and coworkers. Some of the longer-term benefits of IF might not be obvious to those just starting or considering adopting an IF schedule, but because the Fast-5 version of IF has been around since 2005, a 2016 survey was able to reveal some long-term benefits. (Fast-5 is a simple daily schedule of a 19-hour fast, including sleeping, with a 5-hour eating window). Many of the survey respondents have maintained their intermittent fasting schedule for years, long after reaching their goal weight, because of these benefits:

    1. Decluttering

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    One of the most common and unexpected changes intermittent fasters notice is a drive to declutter their living spaces. I experienced this personally and find it intriguing that it’s spontaneously reported by many other people who have adapted to an appetite-correcting eating schedule. The desire for stuff drops and a strong preference for simplicity emerges. Lucky for those who have many things to purge, the lifestyle also increases energy, so there is plenty available to make the decluttering happen. People find themselves cleaning out closets and taking on tasks that have long waited for “someday.”

    2. Time

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    The most valuable aspect of an intermittent fasting schedule is that it gives you more of something you can’t get anywhere else for any amount of money: time. Intermittent fasters plan, shop for, prepare, consume and clean up after fewer meals, so the time they save each week can be really add up. Our 2016 survey respondents estimated the weekly time savings at ten hours per week. That means that on average, living an intermittent fasting/Fast-5 lifestyle for one year captures 22 days more lifetime to spend as one wants.

    3. Money

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    Time is money, so some readers may have already heard “ka-ching!” in their heads as they read about all the time saved by preparing fewer meals. But wait, there’s more! Daily intermittent fasters save money, too! Fewer meals consumed adds up to big savings, especially if some of those meals come with restaurant price tags. That may

    be why the one restaurant management company has fired off a shot to fight against intermittent fasting: people eating fewer meals could seriously hurt food and food service industry profits. For those of us on the consumer side, more money stays in our pockets. Our survey respondents’ estimated food savings averaged US$50 per week—US$2,500 per year!

    4. Appetite Shift

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    Many people find that when they adapt to a daily intermittent fasting lifestyle, their appetite shifts. Their interest in sweets and other processed and refined junk food decreases, and their natural interest in fresh whole foods, such as vegetables, fruit and salads, increases. The change can be dramatic and goes a long way in supporting their weight loss efforts as they more naturally and spontaneously avoid a lot of calorie-rich carbohydrate content and increase their intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

    5. Less Waist = Less Waste

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    The benefit of fewer meals show up in another, Earth-friendly way: a reduction in the amount of trash one produces. By preparing fewer meals, intermittent fasters produce significantly less trash than they did on a three-meal-a-day (3MAD) schedule. That means less packaging waste goes into landfills and less carbon is released into the atmosphere during production of all that packaging and processing of all that food. The appetite shift intermittent fasters experience makes an impact, too. As their preference moves away from processed and prepared goods delivered in boxes and bags to unprepared whole foods, the need for packaging drops and so does the overall size of their carbon footprint.

    6. Study of One

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    There’s been little research on short-term intermittent fasting in humans for a couple of reasons. Early on, few researchers thought people would voluntarily sustain a schedule with more than a few hours between meals and there’s no payoff drug with its potential for price gouging and no patentable product to incentivize big investments. That’s why the “Study of One” has come in so handy. Instead of relying on industry-influenced government recommendations or variably informed health gurus, people who have adopted intermittent fasting lifestyles have checked themselves to see whether things like weight, body measurements, menstrual cycle, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are going in the right direction. They haven’t had to go it alone. Most often, when they ask their personal physicians to assist by ordering lab tests for cholesterol and inflammation markers (e.g., HS-CRP), and for guidance in their Study of One, the request is welcomed. Sometimes their doctors suggest other tests that might be helpful and will typically offer assistance in interpreting test results.

    The most commonly reported benefits reported in the Fast-5 survey were reductions in symptoms of inflammatory problems like allergies, asthma, skin conditions, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis.

    7. Appetite Correction

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    Intermittent fasting doesn’t cut calories by just by shortening the time available to eat. Most people adopting an intermittent fasting schedule like Fast-5 experience appetite correction, which means their natural appetite guides them to reduce intake enough to burn off surplus fat. When a person’s natural appetite is working, no calorie counting is required and the person is not fighting hunger or feeling “hangry” all day. When a person experiences appetite correction, the feeling of unshakable willpower and comfortable control over food often comes as a welcome surprise. If you want to see what natural appetite looks like when it’s working, look at all the wild animals in the world: they don’t count calories, but naturally eat enough to have some reserve without adding surplus fat.

    8. The Biggest Gain

    If we look at each of these seven wins as a stand-alone benefit, it's easy to overlook the biggest gain that intermittent fasters talk about: a more enriched life. With the burden of excess fat lifted, and more time and energy available, a few more dollars to work with and a shift toward working with their body's natural rhythm rather than fighting it, the world becomes a brighter place with new opportunities.

    Simplicity opens new possibilities for expanding life in ways that get lost in our culture. Perhaps the best part about these seven wins is that, taken collectively, they can help people become more responsible, thoughtful citizens of the planet. The capability is built into all of us as humans, and because it's built in, it's free for life.

    The word "diet" can change from a burden to encouragement by reading it as an acronym: D-I-E-T, short for "Did I enrich today?" An enriched, whole-life diet goes far beyond food and weight loss; it's about filling life not with food but with meaning, challenge, human connection and play.

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