To say there is confusion amongst all of us about the various recommendations we hear from ‘experts’ and nutritional guidelines is an understatement! I’m simply going to avoid this topic, except to say, that I rarely see weight or health issues coming from the main meals. It is invariably the snacking during the day or evening that is the problem. Usually these ‘foods’ are highly processed carbohydrates.
How can we simplify things? Well, not eating at all is a good first step. It’s cheap, can be done at home, at hotels, on holidays and at airports. All the research pointing to longevity and minimizing long term health issues is coming from the fasting science.
As people get used to skipping meals or learning to go longer and longer without eating, they feel wonderful. Their bodies adapt (as do their brains), and we begin to use our fat as a fuel. Instead of wondering what you should have for breakfast or lunch, maybe eliminating one meal is the easier option. Similarly you could simply eat in a Time Restricted Fashion, eating from 9 or 10 am to 6 or 7 pm at the latest (this includes no snacks before or after those times). It is estimated that it takes about 14 hours to deplete sugar stores and get the body into fat burning.
Over time, the science suggests, we become less hungry, and find ourselves craving less for those processed carbohydrates.
Many of you know that I was quite a proponent of a protein breakfast for many years, based on what I thought was good science (supposed increased metabolic rate, less hunger later on). Now, although admittedly it has taken me a long time to get over the habit of eating first thing, I rarely have breakfast.
This doesn’t have to be done daily; maybe even a couple of times per week to start. Now I don’t concern myself if I should have 20 or 30 grams of protein, with or without carbs, or with or without fat….I simply don’t eat and hope my physiology will use my own fat as fuel.
Down sides? Most to me are psychological. I find myself and others, allowing ourselves to eat with abandon at times, knowing “well, I can simply fast tomorrow”. Believe me, this doesn’t work. Try to still keep carbs low and avoid evening snacks as best you can.
Extended fasting for periods longer than 3 days? Well, I remain open. Some people feel we really promote autophagy, and increased fat loss; but I do worry that if this pattern isn’t well monitored we might do this too often and too long and affect muscle loss and possibly trigger some nutrient deficiencies. It’s just another tool. It should be done for a purpose. Dr. V. Longo feels a 5 day fast every 3 months might be very effective in promoting longevity, through autophagy.
Fasting is a marvellous tool for health and weight loss. However, don’t think it allows you to eat anything when you are not fasting. You still need to be aware of your macronutrients. You still will need salt, potassium and magnesium (possibly with added vitamins if you are doing more extended fasts).
To really simplify, find out what works for you. Whether plant based or total carnivore, time restricted eating can be a wonderful tool for your health.
Possibly begin with a 12 hour window of not eating and then occasionally extend this to 14 or 16 hours. Some of my patients feel wonderful physically and mentally as their bodies adapt to OMAD (one meal per day). This however will depend on your age, your activity levels, sleep and stress levels.
We need to remove those highly processed carbs, and surprisingly this may ultimately be a great method to reduce brain cravings.
Keep on trying. Find out what works for you. You can do it!