There is a lot of information in this month’s blog so find a notebook and a quiet reading space or break it up into sections. Either way, I guarantee you’re going to want to stick with it until the end. Speaking for myself, what I learned was LIFE CHANGING and I’m beyond excited to share this knowledge with you. The reading is not just about Fasting, or specifically Alternate Day Fasting, it’s about a new way of looking at life, health, and our body. Before we get to February’s Challenge, let’s discuss some history of fasting and a few individuals that may have been light years ahead of their time.
The History of Fasting
The act of abstaining from food, best known as fasting, has been around for centuries. People have undergone periods of fasting for a variety of reasons from religion to health and politics.
Greek physician Hippocrates recommended his patients fast to cure specific ailments in the 5th century BCE—That’s over 1600 years ago! (Britannica, 2015). In 1920’s Europe, fasting was used to treat a magnitude of health related conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, digestive problems, allergies, and headaches (Hicks, 2015). Angus Barbieri lost over 276 pounds during a 382 day fast in a research project back in 1965 (Steward, 1973). Many of us learned about Ghandi’s 1930’s hunger protests in history class and fasting is a large part of several religions around the world.
Present Day Fasting
Today, fasting, or more so Intermittent Fasting (IF), seems to have become the latest health rage. What is IF exactly? One of the world’s leading guru’s on intermittent fasting, Dr. Jason Fung (aka The Diet Doctor and author of “Obesity Code“), defines IF as a pattern of cycling between periods of eating and fasting. There are several types of IF protocols. For example, one may refrain from eating for 16 hours and eat 1-2 meals during their “eating window” of 8 hours. This is refereed to as 16:8. There are multiple time frames that range in a number of set hours for eating and fasting.
It is clear, fasting is not a new concept. However, humans have come a long way in understanding the benefits (of) and science (behind) fasting. I’m not here to tell you that fasting is right for you or encourage you to fast. I’m not recommending anything. My goal with this month’s blog is to provide you with a better understanding of fasting, share the knowledge I’ve gained over the course of the month, and discuss the results from my personal 30-day challenge.
I love food. Yes, you heard me right, I love it. Most of us can relate to this—Food tastes, smells, and feels good. For humans across the world, food plays a large role in social occasions, holidays, cultural identity, and more. As shown in the photo to the left, I made cookies to celebrate Eric’s return. Why? Well, because he loves them. But, he would have been just as happy to see me without cookies. It just felt like the thing to do—Food is a celebration!
It seems normal that food takes on a great deal of significance in our lives. But why? Sure, we need it to survive. Unfortunately, our idea about what food is and how much of it we need to consume has changed over the years. As humans, we went from primarily consuming natural, whole foods when it was available to living off of refined, processed foods which are convenient, addicting, and readily available. As a result, many of us suffer from food addictions, obesity, and according to Dr. Fung, are becoming more and more insulin resistant day by day (Obesity Code, 2015). Even those of us who break the stereotype of donut-eating couch potato; we just keep gaining weight! Well, I know I do! It’s a constant struggle.
Sure, as I admitted above, I do love food. But, having said that, I also consume most processed and junk foods in moderation. So, How could I be SO active yet be THIS overweight? Technically, I’m considered morbidly obese—ah, the dreaded adverb-adjective combo that has haunted me since childhood (and I know I’m not alone). No more. There had to be answers—For me, for you, for everyone!
Bothered by the WHY behind my own personal weight issues, I decided to delve into a world of research for some answers to these questions. What I learned became a major driving force of this challenge—Alternate Day Fasting (ADF).
* * * * * * *
First, a brief side note: Our bodies are complicated and what is right for one person may not be right for another. I’d like to stress that in no way should this blog post be interpreted as medical advice or recommendations to start a fast. Having said that, I do hope you find the blog informative, insightful, and interesting. Thanks for reading!
Before we learn more about fasting, I want to debunk some common myths associated with this topic. There are several other myths listed in the book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore if you’re interested in checking it out in the book section below. For now, let’s discuss the top 4 myths I’ve heard over the years starting with my favorite—Breakfast.
Myth: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Truth: Think about what types of foods we generally consume for breakfast. Usually, they are quick, ready-to-eat, processed foods that we grab on the way to work or school. These include items such as cereal, energy bars, breakfast drinks, instant oatmeal, yogurt, bagels/toast, pancakes/waffles, muffins/pastries/donuts—You get the idea. Who do you think sells us on these products? Now ask yourself…who is breakfast most important for—Me, You, or BIG FOOD? I think the answer is clear. Does that make breakfast the enemy? Of course not! But, breaking your fast (BREAK-FAST) can be done anytime of the day with multiple beneficial food items beyond the ones listed above.
* * *
Myth: It’s not safe to fast.
Truth: Sure, there are likely some circumstances where it’s probably not safe for you to fast. I would also agree that if you have some medical concerns, it’s probably good to check with your doctor or get some blood work done prior to starting a longer term fast. But, having said that, people have fasted for thousands of years for religious and/or spiritual reasons. Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons and Muslims alike have abstained from food for various periods of time demonstrating that fasting is safe and widely practiced all over the world.
* * *
Myth: Eating smaller, frequent meals during the day is better for your health and encourages weight loss.
Truth: Nothing could be farther from the truth. Eating frequently causes constant insulin spikes during the day (which I will explain more on later). If those levels do not return to normal, it can cause insulin resistance over time. This can affect you even if you THINK you are a healthy person. So you skinny folks out there, beware! You’re not exempt and you too may be at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes over time.
* * *
Myth: If I don’t eat, I will burn muscle.
Truth: If you don’t eat, you will drop insulin levels. In turn this will trigger growth hormones to be released, and muscle mass is maintained. Studies have shown it is even possible to improve lean muscle mass while completing alternate day fasting (Fung, 2019).
The purpose of reviewing common myths is to encourage you to read the rest of the blog with an open mind. There are many falsities about fasting. Abstaining from food by choice will not put you into starvation mode, cause nutrient deficiencies, burn muscle, or give you low blood sugar. So, now that we’ve pointed out a few mistruths, let’s talk more about what fasting is/is not and how it can work for almost any lifestyle. Read on to learn more.
Types of Fasts
Thomas DeLauer, ex heavy-dude turned YouTube nutrition/fitness king, has an excellent video on this subject. To save you the 15 minutes it will take to watch the video AND do some research of your own, I’m going to highlight the things I’ve learned. If you are interested in watching the video, you can click Thomas’ name above, or simply click the link that I’ve provided in the video section below: Delving in Deeper. I want to point out that DeLauer does an excellent job of incorporating TONS of evidence based, peer reviewed research into his videos.
I defined this in opening section, but here is another take on it. DeLauer defines IF as doing shorter periods of fasting more frequently. As I previously described, this is simply the ratio of time fasted (F) versus your eating window (eW). It looks something like this, F:eW. Simply think “few” and YOU will be able to recognize and understand any combination of intermittent fasting, no matter how ridiculous (ie: 23:1). The best part, IF is something that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle and will help you change your body over time.
This style of fasting occurs over a duration of time that lasts at least 24 hours (typically 24-72 hours). Prolonged fasting triggers cellular rejuvenation which benefits overall health and longevity. Autophagy, the recycling of old and/or damage cells, is triggered during this type of fasting which may prevent or reverse some diseases, including cancer. It is important to note that prolonged fasting, while longer in duration, is completed less frequently.
You only consume liquids for a period of time. These liquids may include non caloric beverages such as water, tea, and coffee but can also include drinks with calories like bone broth or juicing fruits and vegetables. This type of fast can be beneficial for gut health. It’s also the type of fast that Joe Cross completed in his weight loss journey as seen in the documentary, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” which can be watched on Amazon Prime or for free on Joe’s website if you join his mailing list (click here for the movie trailer). I highly recommend the video, it’s really good!
This type of fasting is EXTREME and should not be done more than once every 3 months at the most! A soft dry fast is abstaining from all food and liquids for 20-24 hours. Even more hardcore, is a hard dry fast, which is not even touching water for the entire duration, yes, that includes showering, washing your hands after toileting, everything! I’m not so sure about this one! Either choice (dry or hard) will force your body to go into “survival of the fittest” mode. When you deprive your body of everything, your stronger cells will draw out the water needed to survive and become even stronger while weaker cells will be killed off. I’m thirsty just thinking about it!
Intermittent Fasting: The Breakdown
There are actually 3 main types of intermittent fasting which can be tweaked to fit most any lifestyle. Here is a brief description to familiarize you with the terms.
- Whole Day Fasting (aka 5:2 diet)- Fast for 1-2 consecutive days and eat normally the rest of the week.
- Alternate Day Fasting– A 24 hour fast with a 24 hour eating window. My personal challenge for the month was a 36-44 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window as I wanted to increase the benefits of a longer fasting period.
- Time Restricted Feeding– Daily 16-20 hour fast with a feeding window of 4-8 hours. This is the common 16:8 or 20:4 protocol.
*There is an excellent website that provides more details information about each type of IF protocol and the pros/cons of each. Click here to view. Also linked below in website section of Delving in Deeper.
Well isn’t THAT Interesting
The current recognized record for fasting is 382 days and is held by Angus Barbieri, a 27 year old man who weighted in at 456 pounds. At the end of his fast, he had dropped 276 pounds—that’s like 2 average sized adults! The Guinness Book of World Records no longer recognizes records related to fasting due to concern for potential health hazards or, let’s face it, DEATH! Most of us would not be able to survive on our fat stores for that long!
4 Advantages of Fasting
We are bombarded with news and media promising quick fixes, boxed meals for weight loss (ie: Nutrisystem), pharmaceuticals that “trigger” fat burning (ie: Hydroxycut), weight loss groups like (Weight Watchers) and of course, let’s not forget about those heavily marketed gym memberships—the list goes on and on. Why? According to BusinessWire.com, the weight loss industry was worth $189.8 billion dollars in 2018 with a projected increase of $79 billion in the next 6 years. Wow! That almost seems unreal.
After countless hours of research, I’m determined, much of it is money making scheme. The research does shed light on the subject, but we need to read it! It seems we may be focused on the wrong things. Excessive exercise is NOT the answer. Pills and pre-made, genetically engineered meals are NOT the answer. Eating like a bird or starving oneself is definitely NOT the answer. We need to be looking at other solutions. The weight loss industry has a proven track record of failure time and time again because IT JUST DOESN’T REALLY WORK! Sadly, we blame ourselves one failed attempt after another. No more!
That leads me to speak about some legitimate advantages to fasting.
Not much more to say about this. Fasting costs nothing! In fact, fasting will SAVE you money in the long run (CrossFit, 2019). Note from experience, you do need to learn to shop a little differently so that fresh foods do not rot before you can eat them!
Fasting can be added to any diet! Whether you’re Vegan, Keto, Paleo, Gluten Free, or on a SEE FOOD diet, fasting is an option.
You choose when you fast and when you don’t. Overall, fasting is pretty easy and convenient (CrossFit, 2019). I’ve found it to be much easier that counting calories, measuring food, spending hours at the gym, frequent trips to the grocery store, preparing 3 healthy meals a day, and the list goes on. It’s pretty easy to fast when you can, eat when you want (or need). That way you can plan around events and functions where you can feast with friends and family without those feelings of guilt!
In addition to the previous 3 advantages, fasting is a healthy option! Research shows that fasting may help slow the progression of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and CANCER! Fasting has also been found to be a more effective approach in fighting obesity with the exception of pre-pubescent children (Nair, 2016) and pregnant women (Fung, 2016). Volter Longo’s research also has some incredible findings. Articles can be found in the links in the research section below.
Disadvantages of Fasting
Disadvantages can be found in the box below.
Ok, I’ll try harder than that. It wasn’t easy to find solid, researched-based disadvantages of fasting. Now, depending on your fasting style (short vs long), you will need to be aware of the following.
- Electrolyte imbalance (though this is generally NOT an issue)
Both of these are easily remedied by drinking plenty of water and occasional salt intake.
According to WebMD, a website that collects MILLIONS of dollars from big PHARMA and other industry leaders will lead you to believe that fasting causes a slue of negative side effects such as anemia, muscle aches, kidney problems, diarrhea and several other issues. NOT to say that some of these things can’t occur in extreme situations, I have not encountered any of these problems, nor have I read any high quality research that backs up those claims. There is no hard evidence that fasting is bad for you, especially if you are a relatively healthy person.
In my opinion, if abstaining from food for health benefits makes you healthier, of course LARGE CORPORATIONS would want you to think it’s detrimental to your health. A healthy YOU is an unhealthy THEM. There is no money to be made in our well being.
Something to think about.
Knowledge IS Power
Ok, so I’ve gone on and on about what fasting is and why I believe in it. Now let’s talk about the information I used to strengthen my understanding on the subject.
* * *
One of the most eye opening bits of knowledge I obtained while researching was this:
“EAT LESS, MOVE MORE is a lie.Dr. Jason Fung
This quote changed my mindset and led me down a path of finding answers. It’s one of those statements (backed by a magnitude of failed research trials) that I wish would have heard years ago. After reading this quote over and over again, I thought about the hundreds of attempts I’ve made over the years to lose weight and keep it off. I know I’m not alone. All those feelings of failure, anger, guilt….all for nothing because the strategy of “calories in versus calories out” simply DOES NOT WORK.
How many of us have dieted by significantly reducing our caloric intake? We eat like birds then race off, day after grueling day, to the gym (or if your lucky, somewhere outdoors) for that heart pounding, sweat pouring work out trying to melt away those extra pounds. After months of time, sacrifice, and misery, the scale seems like it’s finally on your side and you see those numbers drop. But, eventually you plateau. Soon after, those lost pounds seem to find their way back onto every inch of your body because you just can’t realistically maintain the low calorie intake/high energy output lifestyle. Sound vaguely familiar? Yeah, join the club.
A few examples
Look at the contestants from The Biggest Loser. Those trainers (like most of the world) use the same, “eat less, move more” approach. Sure, each individual looses a massive amounts of weight during the show. They sell us on this idea that it can be done, and it is, at least temporarily. Marketers push their products and they make millions of dollars on the blood, sweat and tears of their contestants all while hiding the truth—This technique just doesn’t really work. Most, if not all individuals, gain their weight back; quite quickly might I add. The NY Times did an interesting write up about this, click here to view. It feels so unfair to the contestants. I’m curious to know if they educate them on what will happen at the end of the challenge. My guess is, No.
Mrs. Obama’s 2010 campaign, “Let’s Move”, aimed to help fight childhood obesity, was doomed from the start. Now, don’t get me wrong, several components of this movement were valuable such as educating and empowering caregivers, improving accessibility of healthier and affordable foods, and increasing physical education (a program that seems consistently targeted by budget cuts). But WHAT we were educating people on and promoting was flawed. These kiddos will someday be adults and will carry along this misinformation for years!
*I’d like to point out that I’m not encouraging the notion that children should fast as a way to fight childhood obesity. Research shows that developing children should not fast as it could lead to health issues later in life (Nair, 2016). I simply wanted to state that a proper education about nutrition and exercise would be far more beneficial.
Why Doesn’t “Eat Less, Move More” Work?
There are several reasons why the eat less, move more approach will lead to failure every time. The list below barely scratches the surface of a complicated subject—the human body.
1. We are not a machine.
- Basal metabolism, the energy required for basic body functions, is dramatically reduced with this approach (information known since 1917). If you eat less, your body will respond by burning fewer calories and vise versa. Remember basic biology—our bodies like homeostasis!
In a perfect world, there would be balance as demonstrated in the photo above. We eat, energy is burned (during activity and basic body tasks) and fat is stored (as needed). It would all balance out and we’d be happy little skinny people delightfully frolicking about the earth. Ha, pipe dream. This is because Energy OUT is not stable (Fung, 2019). It actually changes any time we mess with Energy IN to maintain that balance (homeostasis).
What really happens when we restrict our eating is that we drastically decrease Energy IN which decreases Energy OUT—Fat Stores virtually remain untouched. This is exactly why eat less, move more is a fallacy. The sad part is, as I mentioned before, scientists/researchers have known this for over 100 years!
- If you lose weight using the method of eat less, move more, you WILL get hungrier due to hormonal changes. Grehlin, “the hunger hormone”, increases and causes you to be and stay hungry. It’s physiological NOT lack of willpower that creates that burning desire to eat.
This is going to sound counter intuitive but, when you fast, you actually get LESS hungry. Sure, Grehlin will spike (generally around routine meal times), but then it will go back down (Fung, 2019). Here is a perfect example, I’m sure it’s happened to everyone at some point in time: You get busy at work and miss lunch. At first, you may feel hungry enough to eat your paperwork, or maybe your co-worker’s meaty thigh because you were forced to skip a meal due to their slack. You ride out the hunger pangs and after about 10-15 minutes and a few sips of water, poof, you’re not really that hungry. You go about your day and eat a normal sized, non-ravenous dinner with your family when you get home—Life goes on.
3. Willpower is finite
- With the eat less, move more approach, it is inevitable that you will be utilizing bounds of willpower during your quest. Unfortunately, willpower is not an unlimited resource. You’re setting yourself up for failure, because eventually, you can’t ignore the human physiology and increased hormone activity that is working against you.
According to the American Psychological Association, willpower is defined as the ability to delay short-term instant gratification in order to reach a long-term goal. Willpower is like a muscle—with overuse it becomes fatigued. Similarly, with effort, it may be possible to strengthen that muscle and improve our overall self control (American Psychology Association, 2012). Studies show that it may become more difficult to exercise willpower when your mental resources are strained, but there seems to be inconclusive evidence on whether or not willpower can be ultimately depleted. Personally, I think willpower IS limited and I don’t trust the idea of using IT alone to help me achieve my goals. I’m done fighting the endless battle! How about you?
* * *
I bet you’re thinking, if “eat less, move more” doesn’t work then what does? Great question.
The key is controlling insulin!
Dedication + Education = A Better Understanding and Improved Health!
The Truth About Insulin
Now that we know a little more about fasting, we can start to learn why fasting can be an effective and sustainable path towards improved health and longevity. Ultimately, this section could be summed up in one sentence: Insulin will make you fat. While accurate, this statement isn’t very informative. So, let’s talk about it!
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a protein chain or a peptide hormone made in the pancreas (Utiger, 2020). Its primary role is to lower blood glucose levels. In addition to regulating blood glucose levels, Insulin is a key hormone that promotes energy metabolism as well as fat storage (Fung, 2016). Insulin facilitates the uptake of glucose to use for energy which is important in our every day functions or our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). If insulin wasn’t present, glucose would build up in the bloodstream and may lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis, a life threatening condition. While insulin production is important, excess production is not. As the old saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing.
What is Insulin Resistance?
When blood glucose levels in our bloodstream remain at elevated levels for long periods of time (months, maybe years), it causes our cells to inadequately absorb the sugar needed for energy output. This is insulin resistance. Our pancreas attempts to adjust insulin levels by producing more, but often this is not sustainable forever (Felman, 2019). Eventually, insulin resistance leads to diabetes. We are ALL at risk if proper measures are not put into place.
Impact of Eating Frequency
Everything we eat increases our Insulin levels which is why eating frequency is so important. Often, we focus on WHAT and HOW MUCH we eat, but rarely do we think about HOW OFTEN. Have you ever wandered what happens when we graze throughout the day eating 3, 4, 5+ times? Well, that frequent intake, no matter how small, keeps our Insulin levels elevated. The high levels of Insulin in our bloodstream never have time to reset to normal. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance. Yeah, scary.
Fasting or reducing the eating window can largely help reduce Insulin levels and aid in the burning of excess fat. Depending on your needs, abstaining from food for 16+ hours is actually a very healthy approach to fat loss if done properly. Snacking increases insulin levels and will make losing weight nearly impossible. Eating 3 meals PLUS snacks is really bad advice.
The “Set Point”
Anyone who has ever been on a diet understands the body “set point” even if you’re not quite sure what it is. Dr. Jason Fung talks extensively about the set point in his book, “Obesity Code”. There is also some interesting information on the Set Point Theory on the website entitled, “Mirror Mirror” which I will link in the website section below. Their take is from an eating disorder point of view, but relevant nonetheless.
Ultimately, we have a weight that our body likes to be at (our set point). When we loose weight by eating less and less, over time, we will lose the battle and gain the weight back every single time. Why? Because our body tells us to! Without our permission, hormones are released which will bring our bodies back to where it THINKS it should be—Our “set point”.
The good news is that with fasting, the set point can be reduced (in time), helping us to keep that unwanted weight off for good! No more YOYO dieting! Ok, speaking for myself, that is not just good, but GREAT news. It feels like a weight (no pun intended) has been lifted off my shoulders. When you’ve fought the battle of the bulge long enough, it feels good to know there is research that shows you’re not willpower deficient or just flat out lazy! Especially when deep down inside you KNOW how hard you work at it only to fail time and time again.
Well isn’t THAT Interesting
Most of our organs are able to utilize the fatty acids produced during fat-burning (ie: muscles, liver, heart, and kidneys) however certain cells (ie: red blood cells) and our brain can NOT. Great news though. The liver can produce glucose molecules for the cells. Ketone bodies produced during fasting power our brains without a single drop of food (Fung & Moore, 2016). Pretty cool stuff! If we train our brain to resist those crafty marketing and advertising tactics designed to deplete our willpower and trigger our ‘happy’ hormones, perhaps we can let our bodies do what they were designed to do—BURN FAT!
A Brief Discussion about Leptin
Leptin is our satiety hormone, basically it tells us to STOP eating (Berg, 2017). Leptin is stored in fat cells. So, the fatter we are, the more Leptin we have circulating in our blood. Unfortunately, when this hormone forms in excess, we become more and more resistant to its effectiveness. Similar to Insulin resistance, Leptin resistance is formed as a result. When this happens, our brain no longer knows when to stop eating. Obviously this is a problem, that over time, causes more and more weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle.
The best way to restore Leptin levels is to lose fat. Fat loss occurs by reducing Insulin levels in the blood. Insulin levels are reduced by decreasing eating frequency. ********Is it all coming together now?********
IT”S ALL CONNECTED!
For the Thinner Readers in the Crowd
After talking with a friend (Thanks Jacquie!), I felt like I might be leaving a sub section of readers out. Fasting can be beneficial to all, not just those of us with a few (or maybe several) of those unwanted extra pounds, so I wanted to include some information for those of you who may fall in this category as well. After all, thin folks are equally at risk for having high blood sugars, developing insulin resistance and eventually Type II Diabetes. Skinny does not necessarily equal healthy.
Now of course, if you are a lean, athletic (or highly active) individual, the chances are your risk factors for developing insulin resistance are low. But that doesn’t mean fasting is bad for you. There are several health benefits beyond weight loss. Think Buddha, Ghandi, Monks, etc. Thin people fast too!
I highly recommend reading some of Dr. Volter Longo’s research and checking out his book, “The Longevity Diet”. If you YouTube “Volter Longo”, you will find several interviews and lectures that are extremely helpful. What you will learn will be a game changer! I truly believe in the good work being done here and I think he is really helping people! I will include one of my favorite lectures in the video section below. Dr. Longo also has an informational website which discusses scientific research and a variety of other topics. Click here to view.
There is SO much information out there and it can be difficult to decipher what we should or shouldn’t pay attention to. The section I put together entitled, Knowledge IS Power, only scratches the surface. I tried to include the most helpful bits which have guided me throughout this journey. Hopefully, you will find the information relevant, educational, and useful. The important thing to remember is that there are many ways to be successful, it’s just finding what works for you and sticking with it!
HELP SPREAD THE WORD! If you think that this information could help a friend or someone you love, PLEASE SHARE the link on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE below!
Next up, my progress this month including final results, interesting facts, and links to informational books, videos, and websites.
Progress: The Ups and Downs of Alternate Day Fasting
I admit, I did do a little preparation prior to starting this challenge. Success was my main priority and I knew that we would be right in the middle of moving back to Boise the first of the month adding to the already challenging challenge!
I started decreasing my carbohydrate intake and intermittent fasting around the 10th of January. Interested in making fasting my challenge for February, I experimented with both the 16:8 and 20:4 protocol. Using this approach helped quite a bit considering we were way more sedentary than normal due to the winter weather in the Arizona Mountains. It was the perfect time to fast to keep from gaining weight AND prepare for the upcoming challenge.
Looking back, easing into alternate day fasting was the smartest thing I could have done. The transition from IF to ADF was surprisingly easy both mentally and physically thanks to a little trick I picked up while doing the Keto Diet back in 2018—It’s called being “Fat Adapted“. Basically, I was burning fat for fuel instead of glucose which kept me feeling fuller, longer (amongst other things). It makes going longer periods of time without food a lot more comfortable and I do believe it’s my body’s preferred energy source. Carbohydrates, mostly those highly processed, refined and addictive carbs, make me feel tired, hungry, and blah!
Just to clarify, I was NOT on the ketogenic diet during this challenge. During the month, I ate pretty much like I always do. I didn’t want to tweak my eating habits too much so that I could collect good, solid data on the benefits of fasting.
Some of the books and materials I read for January’s blog, “Breaking Bad Habits” were quite helpful in focusing my mind in a new direction.
Unfu*k Yourself helped me answer the question regarding my “willingness” to get what I want out of this life. The book also made me realize how negative I had become and how I was the one getting in my own way! Hey, the truth can hurt, but eventually you patch up the ego and become a better person.
Atomic Habits was another exceptionally inspiring book that helped me realize I didn’t have good systems in place to help me reach my goals. Author James Clear said it best, “Success is the product of daily habits, not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” Habit Stacking, a concept covered in the book was a GAME CHANGER! Click here to check out a section of the book in a FREE, online format.
* * *
This month I read 3 new books that unlocked even more doors in the endless chambers of my mind. I’ll be sharing those titles along with a brief summary in an upcoming section, Delving in Deeper. Stay tuned. First, let’s get to those results you’ve all been waiting for!
Despite the preparation, I have to admit, day 1 was tough. Eric and I hit a few snags with the move (the house was disgustingly dirty…urg) and we had to spend a lot of time cleaning before we moved anything inside. This obviously created some issues because there was no way I was going to cook until the kitchen was spotless. So, we went out and I consumed a bit more carbs that I normally would. The next day, I paid for it with a headache, hunger pangs, and thoughts of food almost all day long. I was feeling mentally strong though, and of course, I made it through it. Those willpower reserves had not yet been depleted.
I’m happy to say, although day 1 was challenging, the rest of the week was a breeze. My energy levels were high, I didn’t think about food or have many hunger pangs for the rest of the week. The headaches went away and to be honest, I felt great. I even managed to reach my secondary goal which was to hit 10,000 steps/day and I cycled about 25 miles.
PRO-TIP: On my fasting days, I went walking when Eric started cooking dinner to avoid the smells and yummy temptations coming from our kitchen. It helped out tremendously!
In order to avoid sounding like a broken record, I’ll talk about some surprising things that happened this week.
First off, about 8 days into my fast, I had a severe outbreak of acne. I’m almost positive I don’t even know what a REAL breakout is like. Considering I was one of those lucky people who rarely had more than an occasional zit 3-4 times a year, this FELT like a breakout to me. It did clear up after about 10 days or so. Considering one of the benefits of fasting is helping cure/reduce acne, it was a surprising outcome that I have to think is related as I’ve never had issues in the past.
The second thing I noticed was that my mood was incredibly stable. Not that I was a raging lunatic beforehand, but I have noticed a significant increase in feeling mentally and emotionally AWESOME. I don’t feel up or down, I just “AM”. I’ve found it much easier to cope with life and work stressors in a natural and effortless way which was also surprising.
Last, my energy levels were off the charts. Physically, I felt like a powerhouse and I was able to capitalize on that by taking longer and more frequent hikes, bike rides, and walks.
PRO-TIP: Exercise is perfectly acceptable during a fast and can help promote additional fat loss and good cardiovascular health. It’s all about moderation.
This is going to be hard to believe, but this week, I hit some type of euphoria that seemed to go on for days. My energy levels and overall mood exceeded the previous week 10 fold. To be honest, it’s kind of weird, but I’m going with it! This is the first time, in all of my weight loss efforts throughout the years, I feel what I’m doing is completely sustainable. It’s exciting.
I’m not starving. I want to be clear that the biggest difference between starving and fasting is that I can eat my next meal whenever I choose—Fasting is a choice. Overall, I feel super energetic, motivated, and happy. Interestingly enough, I ran across a potential answer to my question as to why I may be feeling so energetic while fasting. While reading “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore, I discovered that my energized state may be due to the increased adrenaline being released into my body which stimulates metabolism and triggers fat-burning.
Either way, I’m accomplishing tasks that I used to get tired just thinking about doing. My work flow seems better and my head is just in a good place. These feelings make me wonder, is this what healthy people feel like all the time? If so, why aren’t we all breaking free from the sugar highs and lazy lows and living the life of freedom?
PRO-TIP: Sometimes setting affirmations for yourself may seem lame, but, positive, uplifting thoughts can help when your down. It’s easy to follow through when life is going well, the true challenge is pulling through the more difficult times. My mantra for this year is: “I can do hard things“. It’s really helped alleviate some of the struggle and help me see through these 30-day challenges.
If I could sum up this week with one single word it would be—Believe. There are several reasons why, but here are a few:
- I now, without a doubt, 100% believe in the power of fasting to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
- Learning to believe in myself and what I’m capable is a notion that became increasingly clear during this challenge.
Every single day this week was not bliss. It would be unfair to paint a picture of perfection. I was energetic, exhausted, fueled, zoned out, and occasionally zoned in. Life wasn’t perfect, it was real. But, I did genuinely feel fantastic a majority of the time. I felt so good about my fasting regimen, I extended my fast to 72 hours the last 3 days of the month!
Overall, this was an excellent challenge and it truly did change my life. For the first time in a VERY long time, I felt focused, driven, and on the right path. Without further ado, let’s talk about the stats. Of course, I could yammer on and on about how amazing fasting is and belch out zillions of facts while sharing some legit research that backs my claims, but, NUMBERS are NUMBERS—They don’t lie.
PRO-TIP: Putting the time in and doing what you set out to do allows you to build credibility with yourself. Credibility leads to self worth. Set realistic goals and see them through. I highly recommend a habit tracker (I use Loop Habit Tracker because it’s simple and straightforward). It has helped me stay on track and build new and improved habits one or two small changes at a time! One rule—Never skip twice!
Numbers aren’t the most important thing, but I do think it helps to document progress over a period of time. Below are my results from February’s Alternate Day Fasting Challenge.
While fasting is not the end-all-be-all, it is a useful tool in gaining control over your life, your attitude towards food, and overall health and well being. It can be used in a variety of healthy ways in conjunction with a good, whole-foods diet and regular exercise. I’ve probably said this at least 20 times now, but fasting has truly changed my life. I hope you enjoyed the blog and gained some useful knowledge about the health benefits of fasting.
DON’T FORGET! If you found this blog helpful, spread the word! SUBSCRIBE and SHARE!
Continue reading for information on the books, videos, websites, and research articles I used to generate a knowledge-based reading experience.
Delving in Deeper
Here are some books, videos, and websites that enhanced my learning (either directly or indirectly) on the topic of fasting.
I have been overweight since I was about 4 years old; therefore, I would say I’m an expert on storing fat. Well, at least my body is. Without a doubt, I have to say, This book changed my life.
Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist who specializes in patients with diabetes, has laid out a great foundation for (as his book suggests) unlocking the key to weight loss AND this isn’t a gimmick. This book is well written and full of facts and high quality research to back it up.
If you struggle with your weight or want a greater understanding about the way your body works as a method of prevention (especially as we age), I highly recommend this book. If you are worried about developing diabetes later in life, and want a better understanding of how your body works, I highly recommend this book.
* * * * * * *
I can only imagine your surprise! No, I don’t smoke, but I had access to this book so I read it. I mean, the book has to have some major insight into stopping addictions, right? And, well, food can be an addiction. So here me out!
While I don’t agree with everything Allen Carr has to say (as a lot of research has been done on habits since 1985), he does lay out a very clear philosophy that is 100% common sense and may help change the way you think about EVERYTHING—Not just smoking! There is also “EASY WAY” books for drugs, alcohol, and weight. Same principles, just more specific subject matter.
Some key points I learned:
- Fear is what keeps us in our habit loop—fear that we can’t stop or perhaps don’t truly want to stop. Imagining a life of deprivation and misery because we are giving up something we enjoy (be it smoking, eating, etc.)
- Replace negative thoughts (ie: I don’t get to eat that bagel smothered in cream cheese) with feelings of excitement and anticipation (ie: I’m not going to eat that bagel smothered in cream cheese because I know that I’ll feel more energetic and clearheaded while writing my awesome adventure novel).
- Forget about deprivation and ask yourself, What will this (enter food item) really do for me? How will I feel about (enter food item) after I eat it? Will (enter food item) actually help me achieve my goals? If you answer yes, eat and be merry. If you answer no, walk away and know you had a choice!
* * * * * * *
Written by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore, The Complete Guide to Fasting is an excellent resource. Full of countless bits of information, it will answer many of your questions about multiple types of fasting options from HOW TO to BENEFITS OF and everything in between.
I only wish that I would have discovered this book BEFORE I was nearly done with my blog instead of AFTER! It’s a great tool to get you going if you are interested in embarking on a fasting journey of your own.
While I understand that you may have time constraints, THIS is a fantastic, educational, eye-opening video and I HIGHLY recommend making some time to watch it. Dr. Fung discusses causes of obesity, insulin resistance, and how fasting can improve overall health and well being.
* * * * * * *
Dr. Eric Berg (actually a chiropractor) is a knowledgeable guy who lays out a lot of complicated information in an easy to understand manner. This is a comprehensive video that explains what happens to our body as we fast anywhere from 0-72 hours.
* * * * * * *
Running short on time? This next video does a pretty good job at breaking down a lot of information in only 16 minutes. The author actually incorporates some of the very same research that I found when writing my blog!
* * * * * * *
Not to Jason Fung you to death, but this is another great video that discusses Leptin and Insulin Resistance. Another highly recommended video to get a ton of information and gain a better understanding (in an easy to understand format).
* * * * * * *
Last but not least, here is a video from Dr. Volter Longo. Here he shares his vast knowledge surrounding the health benefits of fasting on longevity (and fighting age related diseases). This is probably my favorite interview of his. Another noteworthy mention is his interview with Dr. Rhonda Patrick, another great researcher extraordinaire, can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2).
Videos as referenced in the blog
- An explanation of the various types of fasting protocols by Thomas DeLauer.
- SHORT, 4 minute video on 5 BIG FOOD INDUSTRY LIES by Vishen Lakhaiani.
- Trailer for the movie, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross.
Types of Intermittent Fasting Protocols can be found here.
A keto friendly site geared towards lifestyle change. There is tons of evidence based information available on this site written by doctors, dietitians, and other experts. They do not take industry money, advertise, or sell/push outside products on their site. https://www.dietdoctor.com/
Information on The Set Point Theory can be found here.
Dr. Volter Longo’s web site about fasting, longevity, and his fasting mimicking diet (FMD) can be found here.
Valter Longo (2014). Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Longevity Institute, Davis School of Gerontology and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, the National Institute on Aging, AND the Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Click here to read.
Catherine Marinac (2015). Frequency and Circadian Timing of Eating May Influence Biomarkers of Inflammation and Insulin Resistance Associated with Breast Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute Centers for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer. Click here to read.
Krista Varaday (2013). Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago. Click here to read.
Surabhi Buhtani (2013). Alternate day fasting and endurance exercise combine to reduce body weight and favorably alter plasma lipids in obese humans. University of Illinois, Chicago and the American Heart Association. Click here to read.
Adrienne Barnosky (2017). Effect of alternate day fasting on markers of bone metabolism: An exploratory analysis of a 6-month randomized controlled trial. Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago. Click here to read.
Pradeep M. K. Nair (2016). Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview. Journal of Mid-Life Health. Department of Intramural Research, Office of Research and Development, National Institute of Naturopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India. Click here to read.
For Fun: I found the original research article for the longest fast in world, completed by 27-year old Angus Barbieri in 1965.
Note: I only included research articles whose authors had no conflicts of interest or funding from companies with potential ulterior motives.
Many of you reading this know me. While I do have an advanced degree in the health field, I am not an expert. I’m just an ordinary person, just like you, who is trying to make positive changes in my life. Everything in this post is written with honesty and integrity to the best of my ability. Please do not take my concepts as a recommendation, do your own research and consult your physician if you have questions or concerns about your own personal health. Thanks for reading! I hope you learned a lot and are motivated to continue your journey towards a more healthy YOU!
American Psychological Association. (2012). What You Need to Know About Willpower: The Psychological Science of Self-Control. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower[Dr. Eric Berg DC]. (2017, Jan 24). What is Leptin. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-K9xpu1pzo
Contributors of the Encyclopedia Britanica. (2020) in Encyclopedia Britanica. Retrieved February 5, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting.[CrossFit]. (2019, July 27). Dr. Jason Fung: Fasting as a Therapeutic Option for Weight Loss. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nJgHBbEgsE&feature=youtu.be.
Felman, A. (2019) in Medical News Today. Retrieved February 23, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305567
Fung, J. (2015). Obesity Code. Berkeley, CA: Greystone Books.
Fung, J. & Moore, J. (2016). The Complete Guide to Fasting. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.
Fung, J. (2020) in Diet Doctor. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting.
Hicks, C. (2015) in The Telegraph. Retrieved January 26, 2020, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/11524808/The-history-of-fasting.html.
Kolata, G. (2016) in The NY Times. Retrieved February 6, 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html
Lakhiani, Vishen. “5 Big Food Industry Lies”. YouTube. July 15, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJc1nKi7HG4
Winterman, D. (2012) in BBC News. Retrieved January 26, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20243692.
Contributors of Business Wire. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190826005243/en/Global-Weight-Management-Market-2019-2024-Breakdown-Diet