Tapping Into Ancestral Hunger: Your Personal Roadmap to Fat Loss Success

By Emily Wei Feb 16, 2015

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In part one of a four-part blog series, I will present the basics on Intermittent Fasting (IF), what its merits are, and provide a summary of three practical IF methods. In parts two, three and four, I will detail the pros and cons of each method and document our top hacks for IF in the real world, and show how InsideTracker can be a valuable tool in monitoring your progress.

Reframing Our Perspective on Hunger

Many of us started 2015 with diet and fitness resolutions. If this applies to you, take a moment to ask yourself… Are you finding success? Or are you struggling to remember why you even made a weight loss resolution in the first place? If the latter applies, consider what’s holding you back from your goals.

Speaking frankly, I think that an unnecessary fear of being hungry often plagues and prevents us from reaching our goals. For some, myself included, a mere five hours until the next meal can seem like a lifetime.  But the truth is that the majority of us have never experienced true hunger. There is a world of difference between the physical state of hunger, as most of us define it, and hunger in the sense of starvation or famine.

For the sake of our health and goals, we need to get a grip on reality and change our perspective on hunger. Fearful of hearing our stomachs grumble, we let our unfounded hunger fears get the best of us; we eat to excess and then question how we are carrying extra weight. This type of hunger fear, which is largely learned, is not only detrimental to our goals, but also dangerous to our health. Consider this: our ancestors never ate three, let alone six, perfectly spaced-out meals each day.

What if I told you that you could lose fat for good, simplify your life, and regain appreciation for food as both nourishment and blessing? And what if I shared that you could achieve all of this (and more!) in a number of ways that are adaptable to your personal lifestyle? What would you sacrifice in order to turn your hopes into reality? Would you be willing to have breakfast at noon, or take one day a week to focus on other pleasures in life?

Like anything in life worth having, these benefits won’t come free. Though fad diets promoting miracle foods and promising the body of your dreams continue to pop-up at unprecedented rates, there is something to be said for eating less. If you are willing to accept this and make a couple of small sacrifices, you can reap considerable and sustainable gains from a bit of well-timed hunger.

What is Intermittent Fasting?  

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Put simply, intermittent fasting is a form of dietary restriction in which an individual cycles between periods of fasting and non-fasting. It is a dietary pattern that can take numerous forms, with fasting periods lasting anywhere from 8-72 hours. For example, one method of IF involves a daily fasting of 16 hours, followed by a feeding period of 8 hours. Another IF form consists of eating normally for six days a week and then fasting one day - or a full, consecutive 24 hours - in a week.

IF advocate and author of Eat Stop Eat, Brad Pilon, boils it down to this

“A human being can only be in two states: fed or fasted. We are either in the process of eating and storing the calories that come from our food, or burning these same calories as we burn stored energy [1]”

Why is Everyone Talking about Intermittent Fasting?

In recent years, IF has caught the attention of researchers, fitness fanatics, yo-yo dieters, and the average Joe alike. While research on IF is still in its early stages, its proclaimed benefits are spreading faster than wildfire in the nutrition and fitness world. While some find the IF pattern easier to follow than the traditional daily caloric restriction, others appreciate its simplicity and adaptability [2].

You might be thinking, “Duh. If I skip meals and eat less, of course I’m going to lose weight,” but studies have shown that IF may offer significant benefits beyond weight loss alone, including optimization of biomarkers, as measured by InsideTracker.

The research has shown that IF can bring benefits of:

The Process behind My Intermittent Fasting Trial

I wanted to know whether IF was actually practical or beneficial, so I hunkered down and tried three different IF methods on for size.  My process was simple: I read up on the most popular IF methods, delved into both the research and mainstream publications, and then experimented with three IF methods that I found to be most practical for the course of two months. I then simplified the methods and adapted them in ways that I believe could work for anyone (not just the body builder extraordinaire)!

Disclaimer: Individuals with a chronic disease or metabolic disorder, such as drug-treated diabetes, should consult their doctor before making any changes to their dietary patterns.

My Motivation Behind Intermittent Fasting and Personal Philosophy on Food

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While I love to workout, I hate dieting (not unlike most people on planet Earth).  I struggle immensely when it comes to restricting myself on what I can or cannot eat.  For anyone with less than superhuman self-control, I have found restrictive diets to work for a few months max.  Beyond that, they are simply not sustainable.

I believe in eating healthy, eating whole foods, and eating well.  Food tells the story of who we are; it is fundamental to how we socialize, how we nourish ourselves, and how we choose to care for one another. Food is immensely important and is crucial to the way I interact with the world.

So why would I choose to put myself in the fasted state?

In short, IF caught my attention because I want to improve my quality of life.  I’m tired of following restrictive diets that turn me into an angry monster. I also feel that too much of a good thing absolutely exists. While food is amazing and life-sustaining, it’s easy to fall prey to excess food in today’s society. As many know the overconsumption of food is paramount to the obesity epidemic.  I also tried IF because I wanted to:

  • Lower my InnerAge.  When I found out through InsideTracker that my InnerAge was 35, despite being only 26 years old, I was absolutely floored… I eat a healthy diet and exercise frequently, but I do tend to overindulge in sweets. Before getting tested, I thought my blood glucose levels were fine, until I saw how they were driving up my InnerAge, which brings me to my next goal…
  • Optimize my blood glucose level.  Though my glucose levels were not in a dangerous zone, they also weren’t optimal. Blood glucose is also a tangible, specific marker measured by InsideTracker that allows me to measure whether I am properly intermittently fasting, and whether I am improving my health on the inside.
  • Regain self-control over my eating habits.  The sense of control we feel we have plays a huge role in motivation and weight maintenance.  I was at a point where I felt that my habits had more power over me than I had over them, and I was ready to change this once and for all.
  • Reduce my body fat percentage.  Though I admittedly want to look my best, excess fat is not just a superficial matter. Excess body fat can be absolutely detrimental to our health, as central obesity (or abdominal obesity) is linked to numerous metabolic and vascular diseases.

While there are multiple forms of IF, the three methods that I tried were:

  • The 24 Hour Fast: Once a week, fast for 24 hours.
  • The Breakfast Skip:- Fast from dinner the night before and eat nothing until lunch time.
  • The Weekend Wind Down: On Saturday and Sunday, reduce calories to 25% of your normal consumption.

In the upcoming weeks, I will take you through my trials and successes with these three IF methods. When done properly, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool for caloric restriction, and therefore, long term weight loss and weight management. I encourage you to take some time to think about your health goals and what you are looking to achieve by using your InsideTracker data and strategies. Think about what may be holding you back and consider reframing your perspective on hunger.

 

 Find Your Personalized Nutrition Plan

 

List of References

[1] Pilon, B. (2012). Eat Stop Eat (5th ed.). Strength Works, Inc.

[2] Skaznik-Wikiel, M., & Polotsky, A. (2014). The health pros and cons of continuous versus intermittent calorie restriction: More questions than answers. Maturitas, 79, 275-278.

[3] Barnosky, A, et al. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: A review of human findings. Translational Research, 164(4), 302-311.

[4] Duncan, G., Jenson, W., Fraser, R., & Cristofori, F. (1962). Correction and Control of Intractable Obesity: Practicable Application of Intermittent Periods of Total Fasting. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 181(4), 309-312.

[5] Heilbronn, L, et al. (2004). Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: Effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81, 69-73.

[6] Barnosky, A, et al. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: A review of human findings.

[7] Heilbronn, L, et al. (2004). Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: Effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Anson, R. (2002). Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 6216-6220.

[11] Barnosky, A, et al. (2014). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: A review of human findings.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anson, R. (2002). Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake.

[14] Mattson, M. (2014). Lifelong brain health is a lifelong challenge: From evolutionary principles to empirical evidence. Ageing Research Reviews, 1-9.

[15] Zilberter, T., & Zilberter, E. (2014). Breakfast: To Skip or Not to Skip? Frontiers in Public Health, 2(59).

[16] Sohal, R., & Weindruch, R. (1996). Oxidative Stress, Caloric Restriction, and Aging. Science, 273(5271), 59-63.

[17] Ahmed, T., Das, S., Golden, J., Saltzman, E., Roberts, S., & Meydani, S. (2009). Calorie Restriction Enhances T-Cell-Mediated Immune Response In Adult Overweight Men And Women. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 64A(11), 1107-1113.

[18] Shimokawa, I., Higami, Y., Tsuchiya, T., Otani, H., Komatsu, T., Chiba, T., 931 Yamaza, H., 2003. Life span extension by reduction of the growth hormone-insulin-like growth factor-1 axis: relation to caloric restriction. FASEB J. 17, 933 1108–1109.

[19] Lv, M, et al. (2014). Roles of Caloric Restriction, Ketogenic Diet and Intermittent Fasting during Initiation, Progression and Metastasis of Cancer in Animal Models: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 9(12), 1-17.

[20] Mattson, M., & Wan, R. (2005). Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 16, 129-137.

 

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