Count time not calories for weight loss

Many people turn to calorie counting when trying to lose weight. It’s a method that has been drilled into our collective consciousness for decades as the go-to strategy for losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. However, if you’ve ever tried it, you know it can be tedious, and tough to get right. 

Now, a new approach is gaining traction – one that focuses on the timing of meals rather than the meticulous counting of calories. Intermittent fasting is a straightforward method of weight management that does not require you to follow complex diets or weigh out every morsel of food.

Intermittent fasting, first popularised by British journalist Michael Mosley, has become more widespread in recent years as it has been found to offer a host of health benefits that go beyond weight loss.

Understanding calories

Before we delve into the world of intermittent fasting, let’s take a moment to understand what a calorie really is. A calorie is a unit of energy, specifically the amount needed to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C. Our bodies use this energy to function – from physical activities such as walking and gardening to involuntary processes such as breathing and maintaining body temperature.

Counting calories is a method where you track calories consumed through food and beverages and then compare them to the calories you burn. The point is to consume fewer calories than you burn each day. Sounds simple, right?

However, the practice of counting calories is fraught with challenges. Accurately tracking every calorie that enters your mouth is a daunting task. Portion sizes can be misleading, and it’s easy to forget to account for the little extras such as dressings and cooking oils. When dining out or attending social events, it becomes even more difficult to estimate calorie intake. 

For example, a 115g serving of raw chicken breast has around 136 calories. But if you fry it, the calorie count goes up to 312. If you roast it instead, it comes up to 220 calories. This shows that how you cook your food can significantly change its calorie content.

Also, not all calories are created equal, and nutrient-dense foods provide essential phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Focusing solely on calorie quantity undermines the quality of food consumed, and there’s always a risk of neglecting important fats and proteins that are vital for our overall health. 

Is intermittent fasting a better alternative?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is the method of limiting your eating to a specific window of time each day. During this time, you consume all your meals and then fast until the next eating window begins. Unlike calorie counting, which focuses on limiting the overall calorie intake, intermittent fasting limits the timing of meals, which causes the body to use the fat stored and convert it to energy.

One of the most popular methods of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 diet, where a person eats within an 8-hour window and then fasts for 16 hours. Another popular diet is the 5:2 diet, also known as the fast diet, which involves eating normally for five days and restricting the intake of calories for the remaining two days.

Studies show that IF reduces body weight and calorie intake while preserving lean muscle mass, which is essential for preventing weight regain and maintaining metabolism. It increases insulin sensitivity, which is defined as the body’s capacity to break down and efficiently use glucose, leading to lower blood sugar levels. This helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

IF also triggers a process called adaptive autophagy, which helps cells live longer. It has also been linked with reducing inflammation markers in the body, which in turn lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s.

Transitioning to a focus on time

For those accustomed to counting calories, the idea of switching to a time-based approach might seem daunting. However, the transition can be gradual. Start by experimenting with extending the time between dinner and breakfast. As you become more comfortable, you can increase the fasting window to suit your lifestyle and health goals.

While there are no specific diet rules with intermittent fasting, a high-quality diet, based on plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, nuts, and lentils, will help you reach your goals sooner. In a similar vein, including plenty of protein and fibre in your diet can help you feel full and reduce cravings. Aim for 20 to 40g of protein per meal. 

During the eating window, take the time to listen to your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues. Over time, you’ll learn to trust your body to tell you when it’s time to stop.

Staying accountable is also key. Whether it’s through a support group, family, friends, or a digital app, having a system in place to track your progress and stay motivated can make all the difference.

Other ways to manage weight

In addition to IF, here are some ways to manage your weight:

  • Eat a balanced diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, lentils, and grains, and avoid processed food.
  • Exercise regularly. Try to incorporate at least 120 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Make sure you sleep well. Lack of sleep decreases the hormone leptin, which signals fullness when we consume food, and increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger.
  • Try to manage your stress levels. High stress levels cause changes in hunger and satiety hormones such as cortisol, causing you to crave foods high in calories and processed sugar.

Incorporating these methods into your day-to-day life can help you achieve your weight loss goals. However, it is important for individuals, especially those with medical conditions, to consult a professional before starting any fasting routine.

Have you tried intermittent fasting? Does it work for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Can you really target specific areas for weight loss?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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