Intermittent Fasting Can Benefit People with Type 2 Diabetes. Can “Mindful Eating” Provide Similar Health Rewards with Less Structure?


To improve holistic bodily health, intermittent fasting may replace snack time for many, possibly even for people with type 2 diabetes. A recent review out of the journal Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology shows evidence that intermittent fasting can reduce not only body weight but insulin resistance as well in people with type 2 diabetes, along with helping regulate levels of the hormone leptin, which signals the brain when a person is full. As worldwide diabetes projections rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045, and 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes yearly, the science and healthcare communities are weighing a wide variety of options for how to treat this epidemic. What role does intermittent fasting play in those options, and are there similar strategies that would act as a better alternative?

The most common method to produce intermediate fasting benefits is time-restricted feeding. It allows for eating during specific hours a day, with 16–20-hour daily fasts. This isn’t the only fasting strategy, though, and the concept of intermittent fasting in fact has a rich history. Another approach is daily fasting from dawn to sunset as practiced during Ramadan. A recent study in Metabolism Open focuses on this type of intermittent fasting which aligns meal and sleep times with the body’s natural rhythm. It may have potential benefits such as optimizing the body’s immune functions.

Common across these versions of fasting is a structured, repeated and consistent pace to eating (or not eating). A less structured approach, though, such as mindful eating, may be just as beneficial. Sheila H. Forman, licensed clinical psychologist, mindful eating coach and founder of TAME Your Appetite, gives a healthy serving of advice on the benefits of intermittent fasting, and why a mindful eating strategy could prove just as useful for scientists and physicians to tackle related health crises. 

Sheila’s Thoughts

“Intermittent fasting is the intentional withholding of food and drink for hours at a time without regard to the body’s hunger and fullness. Proponents of intermittent fasting say that intentionally fasting may have health benefits. For example, giving the body this period of rest gives it a chance to use its own energy and stores things like sugar and fat before more food is consumed. In addition, intermittent fasting is also said to provide health benefits because it purposefully reduces the amount of food, namely calories that a person consumes any given day. We all know that a reduction in calories has been shown to help with diseases. A reduction in calories has been shown to reduce the risk of things like obesity, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and diabetes. In our 24/7 world, it is easy to eat excessively and never truly give our bodies a chance to rest or properly digest the food that it has previously eaten. But you don’t have to use intermittent fasting to accomplish all these health benefits.

Mindful eating can do that for you while also honoring your body’s own hunger and fullness signals, also known as using inner wisdom. Mindful eating very simply is eating with the awareness of your body’s needs and preferences. When a person pays attention to their body and allows their body to guide them what, when, and how much to eat, they naturally have periods of time in their day when they’re not eating and their body is actively and efficiently processing and utilizing the food previously eaten, and those episodes will be in sync with their body’s actual needs, and not created by the specific timeframes that are imposed by intermittent fasting. Furthermore, with practice, the mindful eater learns how to eat the right amount of calories for their body so that any excess weight that they may be carrying is lost. So if a person is looking for a way to enhance their health by making sure that their body is given the time it needs to do its thing, they have to look no further than their own inner wisdom and a mindful approach to eating.”

Article written by Sonya Young.

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