Woman in winter clothing smiling and holding a cookie

How to Manage Weight Without Intermittent Fasting

The holidays are coming! It’s a time for sweet treats, sumptuous feasts and celebratory spirits. As we all know, the abundance of temptations makes it hard to stick to a weight management plan.

In fact, people often ditch their diet plans altogether during this time of year. With so much food and drink calling out our names, your diet probably feels too restrictive, especially if loved ones are indulging all around you.

But healthy eating should be a part of everyone’s lifestyle – even during the holidays. Importantly, it should be maintainable, so any outlandish and restrictive diet program that promises quick weight loss is usually not a good approach in the long run. Plus, avoiding major food groups can result in nutrient deficiencies.1,2

Any nutritional program that limits calories should be carefully designed to ensure an adequate intake of key essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. So skip that trendy fad diet your friend told you about and consider trying a method that is more sustainable, and that’s been shown to be supportive of healthy weight management in clinical research studies: intermittent calorie restriction.


man watching the clock for mealtime

What is intermittent fasting?

One of the most popular weight-loss programs right now is intermittent fasting, an eating pattern that involves regular, short-term fasts when a person consumes little or no food.3 While the pattern can vary, most choose to limit their eating to a small window of time during the day (6 or 8 hours). Others may choose to fast for longer periods of time, going without food for as long as 24 hours at a time one or two times a week. People who are considering trying this kind of diet should consult with their doctor to make sure they can do it safely.

Calorie restriction, or “counting calories” as most people know, is a mainstay of weight loss diets: just consume fewer calories!

While calorie restriction and intermittent fasting in their traditional contexts are two types of dietary approaches that have been shown to be beneficial in promoting weight loss and longevity, the issue for most of us is that these diets are just too restrictive.

Man exploring intermittent calorie restriction

What’s the best diet for weight management?

So, what is the best diet to lose weight? The one that you can stick to and allows you to consume enough of the nutrients you need!

While traditional calorie restriction and intermittent fasting are more well-known, scientists have studied and developed a hybrid pattern called intermittent calorie restriction. This approach may be more sustainable, and has been shown to help people maintain or lose weight. It also has been shown to beneficially impact blood lab values, such as cholesterol profile.4-6

Research has found that less restrictive dietary programs like intermittent calorie restriction may be as effective as continuous calorie counting — promoting weight management along with other health benefits.5,6

Studies also show the practice of calorie restriction can help improve metabolic parameters such as insulin sensitivity, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and markers of inflammation.4-7

Scientists at Life Extension® studied a program that utilizes intermittent calorie restriction only two days per week, with the added benefit of supportive nutrients to help make adherence to dietary restrictions easier and maximize beneficial outcomes. Plus, during the pilot study of this program, participants successfully avoided weight gain during the holiday season, making it a great time to consider trying this regimen.4


woman choosing nutrient-dense foods

What’s the best way to manage weight?

Of course, it’s important to note that simply counting calories is not the be-all and end-all answer to all of our weight management woes, no matter what meal plan you follow. Healthy eating involves weighing the nutrient composition of your food. Is the food nutrient-dense (providing vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals)? Or less favorably, is it “empty calories”— a high number of calories, yet not a significant source of important nutrients?

Making those smart, balanced, nutritional choices is key to any eating program, whether you want to lose weight or not.

Exercise is also important. You should increase your physical activity so that more calories are burned on a daily basis than taken in. Adopting a healthy diet and exercise plan encourages gradual weight loss and a long-term lifestyle change that will help keep your weight under control, no matter what the season.

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a food & nutrition expert, registered & licensed dietitian-nutritionist, health & wellness writer, blogger, and social media specialist. She graduated from Florida International University and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In her free time she enjoys photography, travel, cooking, art, music, and nature.


  1. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 20;10(1):108.
  2. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jun 10;7:24.
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156
  4. J Nutr Sci. 2019 Mar 25;8:e11.
  5. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 Jul;28(7):698-706.
  6. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Nov 1;108(5):933-945.
  7. Ageing Res Rev. 2017 Oct;39:36-45.