Can fasting help you lose weight? Fasting seems to be this year’s magic weight-loss trick, but dietitians always seem to pooh-pooh skipping meals. What’s the story?

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If you eat less, you lose more. If logic outpaced Mother Nature, that would be the end of it. But when eating ‘less’ equals completely skipping meals to squirrel away calories, au contraire.

Depriving yourself of food causes your body to slow down to conserve energy, which effectively means you burn a smaller amount of what you do eat. And you may still be hungry, which predisposes you towards a blowout when your body seeks to reclaim the calories it was dudded out of – like an ageing rocker hitting the record company up for a decade worth of royalties.

Research has found that caloric restriction results in acute compensatory changes that last way longer than your weight loss kick. According to recent research at the University of Melbourne, changes following prolonged extreme caloric restriction include a crippled metabolism, a decrease in the hormones that make you feel full (hello, hollow legs), and increases in appetite hormones. And in the study, the hungry, hungry hippo thing persisted for at least 12 months after initial weight loss. Two words: false economy.

Nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume, author of What’s Eating You?, says regular eating is essential, even if your aim is weight loss. “If a current eating pattern is working to help shed weight, or stop weight gain, then there’s little reason to change eating frequency purely based on the latest fad diet.”

Next: Find out your ideal weight, browse low-fat recipes and choose a healthy eating plan.

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