I read an article today in the Washington Post that made me chuckle. It said that intermittent fasting had no more effect than restricting daily caloric intake. However, the methodology of the study they cited was flawed in that the people who were on the fasting regimen actually CONSUMED 25% of their regular daily caloric intake on their fasting days. That isn’t fasting; that’s eating.
There is a lot of evidence mounting that fasting has a host of benefits. In particular, it has been used to help people reverse diabetes without medication. All too often, we eat too much – far beyond what we need to survive – and we tend to eat a lot of sugar, salt, processed foods and refined carbohydrates which amplify the problem. This isn’t what our bodies were designed for. But the most egregious error in any of these discussions about fasting is using calorie counting as the basis of measurement. Why? Because it has less to do with calories and everything to do with insulin.
For instance, if I ate the same amount of calories in fat versus sugar, my insulin response would be totally different. And this is important, because insulin is what tells my body whether to burn or store the calories that I’m consuming. I know several people, including myself, who lost weight (and kept it off) by simply changing the mix of food in their diet without altering the caloric amount.
If you are interested in fasting, then the main thing is not to consume anything that will provoke a rise in insulin on the days that you are fasting. That means hydrating but not eating. If you are really finding it difficult, then you might consider eating a little fat (like some butter in a cup of coffee – without sugar, of course – or drinking some bone broth), because fat provokes a low insulin response despite having a lot of calories.
The optimal diet is not the same for everyone. Our bodies are different and so is our metabolism. This means that you have to experiment for awhile to find the combinations that suit your lifestyle best and enable you to remain committed in the long-term.
Here are some of the approaches to diet that I have found particularly effective for myself (don’t do them all at once in the beginning; introduce them gradually):
- Over a period of six months, I cut down my added sugar to zero. I still got sugar from occasional fruit but didn’t eat anything that had sugar added to it. I also cut my alcohol consumption.
- I replaced complex and refined carbs with vegetable carbs. That meant not eating wheat (pasta, bread, etc) and other grains. I do eat white rice once or twice a week. When you eat a lot of green vegetables, they can be very filling and tide you over to the next meal for long periods. If you aren’t used this, you’ll be surprised at how much greenery you have to eat but after awhile it will become second-nature and far more satiating.
- I make fat about 40% of every meal I eat. I do this by adding lots of butter and oil to everything.
- I only eat animal fat (butter, ghee, tallow) and nut/fruit oils (olive, avocado, macadamia, walnut, coconut, peanut); I do not eat vegetable oils or any oil that had to be extracted by a combination of heat/pressure/chemicals. For example, the absolute worst is canola oil, because it uses all three methods and is compromised in the process; then, when it’s heated it oxidises so rapidly that it becomes dangerous to your body on a cellular level.
- I eat my most carby meals at the end of the day.
- I use intermittent fasting. I tried doing several days in a row but prefer to do one day off 2-3 times a week (for example, I alternative days in the week and then pick one day on the weekend).
By using these simple guidelines, I lost one-quarter of my body weight and kept it off for two years. In addition, I have more energy than ever before and don’t have lethargic cycles due to eating. I have trained my body to predominantly burn fat (ketosis), rather than sugar, but it’s not healthy to be in ketosis all the time, hence the white rice once or twice a week.