Figuring Out Fasting

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Matthew Ray Garza used to weigh 280 pounds. Whenever he walked, his ankles would pop. Then, in 2019, he learned about a lifestyle change from actor Terry Crews: intermittent fasting. After conducting online research, Matthew Ray Garza began altering his eating behavior by fasting for 16 hours and eating in an eight-hour window. He came into this intending to manage his weight, as he was inching closer to becoming diabetic.

Now, he has lost over 100 pounds. His waist size went from 42 to 38. Although he used to feel hungry, his body adapted to his new schedule after two weeks. His friends noticed his new look. When he visited them in Brownsville months after graduating from college, they commented that he lost “a lot of weight.” That gave Matthew Ray Garza a confidence boost.

Fasting has garnered attention since 2012. According to Google Trends, “Intermittent Fasting” was the top-searched dieting topic on the search engine in 2019.

However, Ari Garza, a registered dietitian, said that while there may be some anecdotal evidence of success, the practice is not necessarily sustainable — or for everyone.

“I think it is important to note who fasting may and may not be appropriate for,” Ari Garza said. “I mentioned individuals with metabolic issues, blood glucose control, or diabetes, but it also may not be appropriate for those with a history of eating disorders, such as anorexia/bulimia nervosa, or restrictive or disordered eating habits. Though fasting may have health benefits, it is essentially a restrictive dietary style that may be triggering for individuals with, or in recovery for, eating disorders.”

Eating disorders are damaging to mental health as well as physical health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are “actually serious and often fatal illnesses.”

“Also, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, [fasting is] definitely not something you want to do because your energy needs during that time are more significant than any other period,” Ari Garza said.

Dietary changes have an impact on one’s social life. Food is often central to hanging out with friends.

“A lot of our social gatherings are designed around food,” Ari Garza said. “If you’re fasting, it can sort of feel alienating for you to try and hang out with people in that setting and be like ‘oh, I’m fasting, I’m not going to eat.’”

A popular reason for fasting is weight loss. Addressing caloric intake is a key part of losing weight.

“I think it’s a simplistic way of cutting out calories,” Ari Garza said. “I think a lot of the issues people have with weight management is overindulgence or calorie intake. If you follow a regimen that is designed to reduce calorie intake for a given period of time, it’s sort of taking out the guesswork.

“You may not lose weight during fasting, but it’s a simplistic, black and white version of cutting calories.”

Stephanie Watson, a freelance health writer, wrote on WebMD that fasting could cause some problems, such as with metabolism.

She wrote, “It helps people lose weight, but not for long. In one study, people who fasted every other day shed weight, even when they ate all they wanted on days when they weren’t fasting. But the weight loss didn’t last over time.”

Ari Garza recommends talking to a local dietician or a physician to learn more about fasting. She warns people to be wary of reading information on social media platforms like Facebook, as medical misinformation runs rampant on it.

Steven Hughes