There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So I had written off IF as no better or worse than simply eating less, only far more uncomfortable. My advice was to just stick with the sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet.
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in various forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012 by BBC broadcast journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrison’s book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code. IF generated a steady positive buzz as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.
Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain, especially the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as Tryptizol/Saroten (amitriptyline), and Anafranil (clomipramine); as well as newer drugs such as Remeron (mirtazapine). Lithium (for manic-depressive disorder) often causes weight gain. The most common antidepressants known as SSRI’s, for example, Celexa (citalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline) do not appear to impact weight significantly. More on depression
Some people feel better supplementing the already active T3 (sometimes prepared from pig thyroid glands), as it can give a stronger effect than the T4 hormone, but its effect is often harder to control. Most health professionals rarely prescribe or offer such T3 treatment, as it appears to lack significant advantages and may pose a risk when doses are high for an extended period of time. However, T3 replacement is popular among some functional medicine practitioners and naturopathic doctors. Regardless, the key is making sure you follow your levels and symptoms to make sure you aren’t over- or under-replacing thyroid hormones.
This might be because the body increases insulin secretion in anticipation that sugar will appear in the blood. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar drops and hunger increases. Whether this chain of events regularly takes place is unclear. Something odd happened when I tested Pepsi Max though, and there are well-designed studies showing increased insulin response when using artificial sweeteners.
So here’s the deal. There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. (However, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them.)
Chronic stress and inadequate sleep may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger and may result in weight gain. If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, it may immediately affect your stress hormone levels, and perhaps your weight.
For even more impressive effects on body composition, aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Probably the most popular option is fasting for 16 hours (including sleep), which is usually easy to do on a keto diet. It requires trading breakfast for a cup of coffee (or some other non-caloric fluid) and having lunch as the first meal of the day. Fasting from 8 pm to 12 noon – for example – equals 16 hours of fasting. Another option is to skip dinner: eat breakfast and lunch within 8 hours — for instance, 8 am to 2 pm — and then don’t eat again until 8 am the next morning.
Your doctor can easily arrange for you to take a blood test to measure the concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If the test comes back and everything looks good, your thyroid gland is probably fine. For a more exact diagnosis, you can ask them to measure the actual levels of thyroid hormones in the blood (T3 and T4), as sometimes these are low even if the TSH is within the fairly broad normal range.

It is important to understand that weight is entirely a function of input and output. The input is the food you eat and the calories contained therein. The output is your energy output. To lose weight the output needs to be greater than the input. It is that simple. Do not believe any of the diet fads. If you are currently not gaining or losing weight then just burning 300 extra calories per week or eating/drinking 300 calories less per week (2 sodas for example or a small burger) WILL make you lose weight - in this case around 5 pounds of fat per year.

Obviously, it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat fewer calories than you burn, right? The problem with this simplistic advice is that it ignores the elephant in the room: hunger. Most people don’t like to “just eat less”, as it may result in having to go hungry forever. Sooner or later, a normal person will likely give up and eat, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”. While it should be possible to lose weight on any diet, some appear to make it easier and some to make it much harder.


Chronic stress and inadequate sleep may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger and may result in weight gain. If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, it may immediately affect your stress hormone levels, and perhaps your weight.
Another program called the 5:2 Fast Diet involves eating 5 days a week and fasting for the other 2 days, when women can get no more than 500 calories and men no more than 600. That’s a quarter of the amount you likely eat on the days when you don’t fast. Whether you eat those calories in one sitting or spread them across micro-meals throughout the day is up to you.

Write down everything you eat this week. People who keep food diaries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lose an average of 6 pounds (2.75 kg) more than people who don't keep a record of everything that they eat.[10] So force yourself to write down the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep these tips in mind:
Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”
This drug is an injected variant of a satiety hormone called GLP-1. It slows down how quickly the stomach empties and tells the brain that you don’t need to eat yet – not a bad idea for losing weight. As a bonus this drug works fine while one is on the keto diet and it works even better with intermittent fasting – for a rapid weight loss with no hunger.
Some people eat three times a day and occasionally snack in between (note that frequent snacking could mean that you’d benefit from adding fat to your meals, to increase satiety). However, there’s some evidence that frequent snacking isn’t wise when trying to lose weight. Some people only eat once or twice a day and never snack. Whatever works for you. Just eat when you’re hungry.

Your doctor can easily arrange for you to take a blood test to measure the concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If the test comes back and everything looks good, your thyroid gland is probably fine. For a more exact diagnosis, you can ask them to measure the actual levels of thyroid hormones in the blood (T3 and T4), as sometimes these are low even if the TSH is within the fairly broad normal range.
Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So I had written off IF as no better or worse than simply eating less, only far more uncomfortable. My advice was to just stick with the sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet.
The final possible issue behind stubborn weight issues may be the main stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain, especially around the midsection. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #11), or cortisone medication (tip #10). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
This is a new area, but the research that has come out since this article is also positive, and promising. One example: In this June 2018 study of 23 people with obesity, 12 weeks of 8-hour time-restricted feeding resulted a 2.6% decrease in body weight and a 7 point decrease in systolic blood pressure, which was significant when compared to controls: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29951594
In addition, the healthy habits and kinds of foods recommended on the Mayo Clinic Diet — including lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and healthy fats — can further reduce your risk of certain health conditions. The Mayo Clinic Diet is meant to be positive, practical, sustainable and enjoyable, so you can enjoy a happier, healthier life over the long term.
×