Fasting is the most powerful and natural way to lose weight. The science of nutrition explains why.
A very short biology lesson
Before starting with how we are going to diet we need to talk about human physiology. Human beings are not wind up clocks or combustion engines, rather we are living organisms made of trillions of cells.
We evolved to eat many different foods. And one of the most important aspects of this evolution involved metabolism. That is, either burning energy or storing it away for later.
There are two main forms of food storage - glucose in the form of glycogen and fat.
Most cells in nature will breakdown glucose first to run the cell. Fats will not be released as a significant fuel source if glucose is in the blood stream. Simply put, the regulation of fuels is controlled by hormones. If you have extra glucose in the blood stream the body automatically shuts off fat burning. That's why it is not a good idea to snack all day on carbs, even if these are "healthy" snacks.
As an analogy, we can think of glucose in the bloodstream as the upstairs refrigerator. Fat is stored in the basement freezer. To access food in the basement you must first empty the upstairs frig. By fasting, you are depleting your glucose storage in the "upstairs frig."
Again, snacking is a problem because you don't reach into the storage fuel of your body. You don't burn the fat.
So What's the plan?
Why focus on fasting? Common sense tells us that if we don't eat, we will lose weight. That is true, but in actual fact much more is happening. Inside the cells, the cell machinery is being reprogrammed to burn more fat.
A great way of preparing for a fast is to eat more fat and less carbohydrates. With this diet the body will "learn" to burn fat. This is called a low carb diet.
A "moderate" low carb diet has between 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. To put this in perspective, four slices of bread would put you over this limit. (A slice of bread has 15 grams of carbs.)
But beyond numbers, if you are overweight there are a few things that you will have to figure out:
1) What are you eating everyday? Is it mainly fat, carbohydrates, or protein? Keeping a food log is a great start.
2) Do you feel dizzy or weak when you change your diet? Make sure to talk to your doctor if you are on any medications. Also, are you getting enough electrolytes? That is salt, potassium and magnesium. When you reduce carbs or fast, you will need more salt. Low sodium levels can lead to dizziness and overall low energy.
3) Are there addiction issues involved in your life? Many people experience binging behaviors with certain foods such as ice cream and pizza. Addiction is a big part of the puzzle.
4) Are you snacking all of the time or do you leave some time to digest between meals? This is where intermittent fasting comes in. When you fast, you learn to feel ok when you are hungry.
5) Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep and addiction issues are often overlooked when people are trying to make lifestyle changes.
6) Do you have a support group that will help you with your diet? Many people fail because friends and family don't understand the struggle they are going through. For what ever reason, close friends and family can often unintentionally sabotage lifestyle changes.
People need to experiment with the right combination of fasting and eating because this is a process and not a one size fits all. I would recommend going slow at first and see how you feel. Test the waters. For example, skipping breakfast might be a good start.
What about exercise?
Exercise is a huge topic, and it has become a religion for some people. The truth is that the first line of attack should be nutrition and not exercise. This is because exercise alone will not change your insulin levels. If the body remains insulin resistant the weight comes right back.
Exercise does make a difference in other ways. See the section on exercise in the menu above.
What about addiction?
Many people in the health community still don't understand the connection between obesity and addiction. New science on addiction shows why we have food cravings. Studies also show that various addictions feed into each other. For example, some people give up one addiction and jump right into another, such as smokers eating more after quitting cigarettes. This is called addiction transfer. My thinking comes from the work of Dr. Lustig and others that show how the food industry has used our cravings to make money by inducing us to indulge more. Developing an understanding of addiction will help people take back control of their cravings. Again, this is a science and it is the science that will help you take back control - not wishful thinking.
As with any lifestyle change surrounding yourself with supportive people can make all the difference. This website and meetup will attempt to provide this support. Please let me know of any suggestions and comments.
Cell metabolism is complex. And to understand how this became so complex I have added a short video on cell evolution. How cells evolved billions of years ago has an influence on us today.
You will notice that I have several links to dietdoctor.com. This is a major low carb site with a powerful team backing it up. They take no money from industry, sell no products and have no ads. It will give you an overall look at the low carb and fasting community in a easy to understand way.