How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do About It?

One of the things that has piqued my interest as I read so many health and wellness books, is the idea of fasting.

How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do About It?

One of the things that has piqued my interest as I read so many health and wellness books, is the idea of fasting. There are many different ways you can fast and I wanted to learn more about it so I grabbed the book Life in the Fasting Lane by Dr. Jason Fung, Eve Mayer, and Megan Ramos. I learned a lot of great things in this book and also had many things that I’ve already learned reinforced with great information that they’ve shared and I wanted to share some of it with you.

In this book, I loved the fact that it was written by three different people from three different perspectives. All three shared stories that were personal in nature either about themselves or about clients/patients they worked with. It’s nice to hear stories about people who have gone through similar things so you know you’re not alone in your feelings.

Something that I’ve read in other books before, and is a statement that’s reinforced in this book, is that obesity is not our fault. It is not because we eat too much and don’t exercise enough. Period. That’s not the reason ANY of us are overweight. Obesity is caused by a hormonal imbalance and NOT by how many calories we eat. Read Dr. Fung’s words about his own education and findings…

In medical school, we were taught that losing weight is a simple matter of eating fewer calories than you expend. “Calories In, Calories Out,” right? The truth is that this strategy will not help you lose weight, and that’s not just my opinion. The success rate of calorie restriction is roughly 1 percent. Obesity has become a global epidemic, even as people have counted their calories more obsessively than ever…. It stunned me to discover that this entire theory of calorie restriction is without scientific merit. There are no physiologic pathways in the body that rely upon calories. There are no studies that prove that reducing calories reduces weight. On the contrary, every study shows that calorie restriction is futile. If we already knew it was pointless, then why were medical professionals championing this failed method? It boggled my mind.   - Jason Fung, Life in the Fasting Lane (emphasis mine)

Isn’t that just maddening? It blows my mind to think we’ve been told for the last 50 years or so that all we need to do is count calories, watch what we eat, and exercise enough to burn those calories we’re eating. That’s not how this works. If this were true, why didn’t we have an obesity epidemic on our hands before the 1970s and 1980s? Before that time nobody counted calories - nobody even knew how many calories were in anything we ate! We also didn’t have gyms on every corner making us think we needed to be spending at least an hour a day getting some good cardio in and watching the calorie counter on the machine while working out. So those people weren’t counting their calories and they weren’t working out like crazy yet they weren’t obese. Hmm….

It didn’t exist back then because they didn’t eat the same way we do now.

So what changed? What have we been told over the last 50 years?

  • eat low-fat foods and eliminate anything with saturated fat
  • count your calories and make sure you have a deficit for the day or you’ll gain weight
  • eat 6-7 smaller meals throughout the day rather than 3 meals

I could go on and on with things like this that we’ve been told that are simply not true.

Eating low-fat foods is one of the biggest reasons we are in this obesity epidemic. We have removed healthy fats from our diet (fats that our ancestors have eaten and enjoyed going back to the beginning of time!) and replaced them with high-carb, sugar-filled, overly processed foods. If you take the fat out, which gives it the good flavor, you have to add something in to make it taste good - enter sugar. Read the labels of most foods that are marketed as low-fat and you’ll probably find a lot of added sugar in the ingredients.

We have also replaced real food like butter with processed, fake food like margarine that was made in a lab. (Seriously, please don’t ever put that in your body!) It’s crazy to think that we have been told to eliminate natural, healthy fat in our diets and replace it with garbage. How about this for proof that we don’t need to do this -

A 2010 Japanese study followed 58,543 men and women over 14.1 years and discovered that eating more saturated fat helped protect test subjects against heart attack and stroke. - Dr. Jason Fung, Life in the Fasting Lane (emphasis mine)

MORE saturated fat! So let’s stop the low-fat nonsense and eat good, healthy fats again.

Another problem is that many doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians regularly tell their patients/clients to eat a bunch of smaller meals throughout the day. This is a horrible idea! When you eat, you get an insulin response because your body has to go to work to get that glucose out of your blood and into your cells - insulin is how that happens. But when you never really stop eating and you’re continuously feeding your body, your glucose will continue to spike over and over again and insulin will never stop being released. At a certain point it isn’t effective anymore and it can’t get the glucose into your fat cells (because that’s where it’s stored) and it takes more and more insulin to do that job. This results in insulin sensitivity and ultimately type 2 diabetes. And what happens when you have those? Besides the metabolic issues that come up, you gain weight. Insulin causes weight gain. Period. End of story. No question about it.

…How do we gain weight? The answer to this question shouldn’t be a surprise to any doctor who has ever prescribed insulin to a patient with type 2 diabetes. As soon as the person starts taking insulin, they gain weight, and they put on more and more each time their dose increases. It doesn’t matter if they eat less or move more; they’ll gain weight regardless. Therefore, the answer to weight regulation lies in insulin. - Megan Ramos in Life in the Fasting Lane

If we elevate insulin levels (by eating foods that stimulate insulin) and keep them persistently high (by eating constantly—say, by consuming six or seven snacks or meals per day instead of three), then the body must stay in the “fed” state. The body stores calories because those are the instructions we’ve given it. If all the calories are going into storage, then there are fewer calories to use, and therefore the body must slow down its energy expenditure, or BMR.
Suppose we are eating 2,000 calories per day and burning 2,000 calories per day. We neither gain nor lose body fat. We now reduce our calories to 1,500 by eating high-carb, low-fat foods six or seven times per day, as many health professionals urge us to do. Insulin levels stay high but calories drop. Now, the body cannot burn body fat stores because insulin is high, and we are in the “fed” state. With only 1,500 calories coming in, the body must reduce its calorie expenditure to 1,500 as well. We cannot make up this caloric deficit because insulin prevents us from burning fat. We are in “fat storage” mode. This is the dirty little secret of the low-fat diet. At first, the weight comes off, but as our BMR drops, the weight plateaus and then eventually returns. - Dr. Jason Fung, Life in the Fasting Lane

So not only does eating more frequently cause an increase in insulin which causes weight gain, if you’re eating a calorie-restricted diet and not giving yourself the proper food and nutrients you need when you eat your meals, you’re also slowing down your metabolism. It’s a vicious cycle that you’ll never get out of until you kick this bad advice to the curb and do what’s best for your body - feed it good quality, healthy foods and only eat when you’re hungry - and then eat until you’re full. If you’re eating decent food and eating until you’re full, you will not be hungry all the time and you won’t feel like you need a snack.

This brings us to fasting. Fasting will allow your body to use the fuel it already has - your fat cells - to fuel your body without food. Anybody who has extra weight can safely fast for extended periods of time. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of how fasting works in this post but rest assured that you can do this and you can do it safely. You can get your body back into shape and get it operating at it’s highest capacity.

These are the basic ways you can choose to fast:

  • The first step is don’t snack between meals. Only eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nothing else.
  • When you’ve accomplished that, skip breakfast. Breakfast is the easiest to fast through. If you eat dinner by 6pm (and don’t snack after) and then you go to sleep for 7-8 hours, you’ve already been fasting for 12-14 hours or so. A few more hours will get you to the 16 hour mark - what is typically recommended for intermittent fasting. So eat during an 8 hour window and fast for 16 hours.
  • After that you can extend to 24 hours, 36 hours, or even more. I definitely recommend checking out what they have to say about these in this book so you can learn how it works and what it does for your body.

A littler personal note from my life - as of this writing, I had already been waiting to eat in the mornings until at least 10 or 11 am as a form of intermittent fasting. But I decided to see if I could easily go longer so yesterday I tried that and basically did a 24 hour fast. I had dinner the night before and then didn’t have a meal again until dinner last night. I did have a small snack about 2pm or so but I kind of got in my head about being a little hungry and I caved. I really think I could have gone the full 24 hours if I’d had a little more will power though. haha! I just had a few nuts and a couple of pork rinds that I had nearby so it wasn’t much but I did eat. But my point in sharing that is to say that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. It was actually pretty easy.

And you might be wondering why I’m experimenting with this now - I lost quite a bit of weight when I switched to a low-carb lifestyle and I’ve managed to keep that off for almost four years. So that diet has served me well and I’ll never go back to eating high carbs and sugar. But I still have some extra weight that has never come off. It’s like I just hit a wall and my body won’t go past that. So this is what I’m trying so I can try to break through that barrier and get the remaining 15-20 pounds off that I’d like to lose.

Have you fasted before? Are you considering giving it a try? This book could be a great tool to help you understand it.

I also recommend the book The Obesity Code Cookbook by Dr. Jason Fung. The Life in the Fasting Lane book doesn’t have a lot of specifics about what to eat/what not to eat and this cookbook does. It gives lots of recipes as well as a sample menu for different levels of fasting. It can help you visualize what type of menu to put together for yourself so that you get the full advantage of fasting.

Some extra notes:

If you are on any medications, please consult your doctor before beginning any extended fast - a fast that lasts longer than a day. Medications that control things like blood pressure and diabetes will be affected by the change in diet and could require a change in dosage so you want to discuss this with your doctor and monitor your health closely. The good news is by eating healthier foods and using fasting as a tool to get healthier, you could completely eliminate the need for some of those medications and you can get off of them completely!

Another thing to be aware of is that you could become dehydrated if you aren’t consuming plenty of fluids so make sure you’re drinking water. You can also drink tea, coffee, pickle juice (without sugar), bone broth, or water with lemon or lime added.