There are a lot of food myths I used to eat up, but it turns out breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day (no data actually proves that it makes you healthier or thinner), eating frequently doesn't necessarily boost your metabolism (with a constant supply of carbs circulating through your system, your body can't burn fat) and, contrary to popular opinion, hunger pangs don't automatically lead to overeating. I used to answer the call of cravings like I spring to the ding of a text—often and with urgency—but fasting taught me how to be comfortable with the discomfort of hunger. Now I think of pangs like I think of my mother: Sometimes overbearing, always opinionated, but their alarm bell advice isn't always right or even warranted. What helped? Coffee, tea, keeping a schedule (see above) and knowing that hunger is just a sensation that comes and goes. Just make sure you don't take it too far, because intermittent fasting doesn't mean you should be starving yourself.
Another difference between older and newer studies is that the type of patients treated with the ketogenic diet has changed over time. When first developed and used, the ketogenic diet was not a treatment of last resort; in contrast, the children in modern studies have already tried and failed a number of anticonvulsant drugs, so may be assumed to have more difficult-to-treat epilepsy. Early and modern studies also differ because the treatment protocol has changed. In older protocols, the diet was initiated with a prolonged fast, designed to lose 5–10% body weight, and heavily restricted the calorie intake. Concerns over child health and growth led to a relaxation of the diet's restrictions. Fluid restriction was once a feature of the diet, but this led to increased risk of constipation and kidney stones, and is no longer considered beneficial.
If you’re looking to get a jump start on your health and fitness goals this year, you may be thinking about trying the ketogenic diet. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase before — it’s a huge diet buzzword — but aren’t sure what it means. Here’s a primer: The ketogenic diet is an eating plan that drives your body into ketosis, a state where the body uses fat as a primary fuel source (instead of carbohydrates), says Stacey Mattinson, RDN, who is based in Austin, Texas.
Research shows that omega-3 fats can help ward off depression and heart attacks, and walnuts contain an impressive 2.5 grams per ounce. A USDA study found pecans to display four times the antioxidant activity of almonds and nearly six times that of peanuts. And compared to almonds, macadamias deliver about twice as many healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Use the oil to burn fat, too! And click here to see the 20 Best Nuts for Weight Loss!
Because we don't enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it's rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a normal eating schedule.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
So what if you think you could restrict your eating to fewer than eight hours, but aren’t sure you could commit to alternate-day fasting? You might want to try shortening your daily eating window a little bit more. Varady and her team are currently in the process of comparing 4-hour and 6-hour eating windows for shedding pounds. “We are curious to see if these shorter eating windows result in more rapid weight loss compared to 8-hour time restricted feeding,” she says.
Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.
As a lifestyle-leaning research doctor, I needed to understand the science. The Obesity Code seemed the most evidence-based summary resource, and I loved it. Fung successfully combines plenty of research, his clinical experience, and sensible nutrition advice, and also addresses the socioeconomic forces conspiring to make us fat. He is very clear that we should eat more fruits and veggies, fiber, healthy protein, and fats, and avoid sugar, refined grains, processed foods, and for God’s sake, stop snacking. Check, check, check, I agree. The only part that was still questionable in my mind was the intermittent fasting part.
“Tahini is an oft-forgotten option for nut and seed butters, but it sits front and center in my fridge because it delivers major creaminess to sauces and smoothies and packs a powerful flavor punch,” says Willow Jarosh MS, RD co-owner of C&J Nutrition. “Although some advise against eating the spread because of its high omega 3:6 ratio, the super high intake of omega-6s in the average American’s diet isn’t due to things like tahini—it’s mostly from not eating a variety of fats or consuming the majority of fats from fried foods and packaged snacks. As long as you’re also eating foods rich in omega-3s, your end-of-day ratio should be nothing to worry about. Plus, tahini is loaded with tons of healthy nutrients like copper, which helps maintain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in the body. It also provides 6 percent of the day’s calcium in just one tablespoon.”
A ketogenic diet helps control blood sugar levels. It is excellent for managing type 2 diabetes, sometimes even leading to complete reversal of the disease. This has been proven in studies. It makes perfect sense since keto lowers blood-sugar levels, reduces the need of medications and reduces the potentially negative impact of high insulin levels.
In practice, however, I would be concerned with eating enough. Based on my experience, teaching yourself to consistently eat more is one of the harder parts of intermittent fasting. You might be able to feast for a meal, but learning to do so every day of the week takes a little bit of planning, a lot of cooking, and consistent eating. The end result is that most people who try intermittent fasting end up losing some weight because the size of their meals remains similar even though a few meals are being cut out each week.
The Mayo Clinic Diet provides practical and realistic ideas for including more physical activity and exercise throughout your day — as well as finding a plan that works for you. The diet recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and even more exercise for further health benefits and weight loss. The diet also emphasizes moving more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator.