This is the third and last blog post on losing weight easily and naturally — and that’s because this is the very last week you can sign up to join my in my 5 day Weight Reset Class!
- The first article was on losing stress-related weight.
- The second was on naturally boosting your metabolism.
This last one will be a quick intro to fasting — a great lifestyle modification that has long term benefits that are hard to beat: decreased heart attack risk, decreased diabetes risk, decreased cancer recurrence rates, even boosted longevity. I review all of these benefits for you right here.
I’m also going to give you a list of fabulous quick alternatives to fast food at the end of this article… so even if you aren’t into fasting, keep reading and print out the list at the end of this free healing article. You might even want to keep it in your car so that you can look it over before deciding to head through that drive through.
The 2 Easiest Ways To Fast:
1. Nighttime Fasting
Fasting at night is the easiest way to fast, even easier than daytime fasting. After all, every night as we sleep we naturally enter a mini-fasting period without even trying, and then we *break-the-fast* with breakfast each morning. And if you can simply prolong the amount of time you spend fasting at night — just by not snacking after dinnertime — you can have a profound impact on your health.
Increasing the time spent fasting at night — from 12 hours to 14 hours a night — was found to promote clinically significant weight loss, as well as to improve fasting blood glucose levels, researchers found in this study, published in Nutrition & Diabetes in Jan 2021.
Another study found that fasting for 13 hours a night reduced the risk of breast cancer. Researchers followed thousands of patients for over a decade and published those results on March 31, 2016 in JAMA Oncology. They found that the patients who ate at night had a 36% higher rate of breast cancer recurrence as well as higher HbA1C levels, along with significantly less restorative sleep. But, by simply increasing the length of nightly fasting to 13 hours or more, subjects enjoyed significantly lowered HbA1C levels, increased sleep length at night, and decreased cancer recurrence rates.
This medical study, published in Aging Research Reviews in 2017 found that fasting may play a role in preventing and reversing chronic disease, even when total nutritional intake isn’t altered at all. In other words, these researchers suggest that you can literally improve your health just by restricting when you eat, even if you eat the exact same foods, in exact same quantity each day.
This suggests to me that if you don’t like dieting, and want to choose foods and food quantities freely, you might consider simply shortening the window that you eat them in and you are likely to still enjoy significant health benefits.
2. Daytime Fasting
Love to eat at night? Feel stressed out at the thought of fasting all night long? You may just be in luck! If you are willing to fast during the day instead, you may be able to eat freely at night and still enjoy tremendous benefits.
This medical study, published in the Journal of Proteomics in April 2020, found that subjects who ate only at night (fasting during the daylight hours) had massive health benefits. Odd but effective…. researchers followed patients who ate only during nighttime hours for one month.
After only 30 days, they had significant improvements in blood glucose and lipids levels, boosted anti-cancer blood markers, improvements to their circadian rhythm, improved markers of DNA repair, boosted immunity, even improved cognitive function! All with just one month of eating only when the sun was down. Fasting from sun up to sun set… simple enough.
Fasting vs. Dieting
How does fasting intermittently stack up to dieting? It turns out, they both provide health benefits and similar weight loss results, so whichever one is easier for you to stick with is the one you should do!
Published in the JAMA Network on July 20, 2018, researchers randomly assigned 137 adults to either a program of intermittent fasting two days a week or to a continuous calorie restricted diet.
- Fasting group: Two days a week caloric intake was restricted to 500 — 600 calories a day, and eating their normal diet the other five days a week.
- Diet group: Calorie intake was restricted to 1200 — 1500 kcal/day every single day.
Participants were followed for an entire year, and monitored to see what changes these two diet plans made to their weight, body mass and fat composition, HbA1C levels, lipid levels and more.
What did they find?
Both groups had an equivalent reduction in HbA1C levels over the course of one year, both groups required less oral hypoglycemic drugs over the course of the year, and the intermittent fasting group was able to use significantly lower insulin amounts than the daily dieting group. Both groups had a significant weight loss: participants who dieted every day lost an average of 11 pounds during the study. Excitingly, the group who intermittently fasted lost even more: an average of 15 pounds during the study. Both groups had an equivalent decrease in body fat, both groups had equivalently lowered serum lipid levels, and both groups had a similar compliance rate, with similar drop out rates.
So if you find dieting difficult, fasting two days a week and eating normally the other five days a week is every bit as good as dieting every single day… and may even result in a bigger weight loss.
In other words, it should be up to your personal preference in what you can stick with more easily: if it’s easier for you to fast twice a week and eat your normal foods freely the other 5 days a week — do that! If it’s easier for you to maintain a daily calorie restriction every single day to lose weight — do that!
I find it’s easier to fast every few days than it is to worry about watching my calorie intake every single day. If you are like me and dislike dieting, try picking two days a week to fast, knowing that you will enjoy the same results as if you had dieted every single day.
As a physician I feel this has major implications in relieving the anxiety that is associated with calorie restriction and strict diets. I also feel that this is a wonderful way to maintain your ideal body weight, boost metabolism and probably has applications to other diseases such as PCOS, hypothyroid, and other hormone and/or weight related diseases.
Guidelines for a two-day-a-week fasting diet (sometimes called a 5:2 diet):
- You can pick any two days to do the fast, as long as they are not consecutive (i.e. don’t fast for two days in a row)
- On fasting days, stick primarily with drinking water and one or two small meals that total 500 -600 calories.
- Most people start the day with a small meal, stay well hydrated all day long, and have a small dinner.
- In addition to staying well hydrated all day long, drink a few small fresh pressed juices if you feel hungry and end the day with a small dinner.
- If you are currently taking medication to treat diabetes, such as insulin or oral hypoglycemic prescriptions, consult with your physician to have these medications adjusted to minimize glycemic events.
Foods that can fit easily into a 500 — 600 calorie fast day:
- water and more water!
- black coffee
- herbal tea
- yogurt and berries
- fresh pressed juices
- soups and soup broth
- salads with oil and vinegar dressing
- steamed veggies
- hard boiled egg
- small portion of fish
- almonds, cashews or pistachios
- a tablespoon of peanut butter
Quick Alternatives To Keep You Out Of The Drive Thru:
A study, published by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that on any given day, over 1/3 of all adults in america aged 40 – 59 years old (37%) are consuming fast food. One out of three! That’s 85 million adults eating fast food on any given day.
And sadly, for younger Americans that number is even higher — almost half of Americans (45%) aged 20 – 45 years old are eating fast food on any given day. One out of every two of us, every single day.
Wowza. This makes me feel sad for hard working Americans who are so beyond stressed that they have little choice but to drive through fast food between jobs in order to have something to eat.
This makes me feel angry at corporate America, who lures consumers in on taste and does not give a crap about their long term health, all so a few folks at the top can be so wealthy it’s almost unfathomable. Corporate America is tricking customers to trade in their health for convenience and taste. They know that close to half of our country is eating this “food” that has poor nutritional content and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
This makes me feel completely defeated as a health care provider, because I know that the only way this will change is for there to be a complete restructuring of government programs to provide actual nutritional support to its citizens. That will require legislative, structural & policy changes that prioritizes the health of it’s citizens (instead of health being a corporate venture) as well as dramatically raising wages so that everyone is able to have a decent quality of life… enough that it’s possible to slow down and prepare decent quality of food.
It also means that we need to figure out a way to make high quality food — like organic produce — much less expensive.
All of those thoughts were running through my mind as I read this study.
But one thing I wasn’t expecting is to find as I continued to read the study is that the percentage of folks who consume fast food actually increases with increasing family income. Middle income families ate more fast food than lower income families, and higher income families ate the most fast food of all.
To me this suggests that saving time is the biggest reason we are choosing fast food.
And that’s not our fault, that is the fault of a system designed to capitalize on how hard we have to work and how little time we have for ourselves and our families that we would be willing to accept trading something that will save us a few minutes in exchange for poor health outcomes.
Damn. After reading that study, I sat down to make a list of foods that are so quick and easy to prepare that many don’t even require cooking and absolutely all of them provide more nutrition for your body than a fast food meal does. Here is what I have come up with so far. I hope you will freely forward this to your friends, co-workers, and family, especially your grown children who are working so hard and need to have really easy options to can reach for — options that don’t take any more time to prepare than waiting in line at the drive up window.
Quick Substitutes For Fast Food:
- yogurt with fruit — anyone can layer some yogurt, berries and granola to make a parfait ready to eat within minutes
- nuts and nut butters — spread a dollop on veggies like carrot sticks & on fruits like apples for a protein and fiber rich snack or light meal
- veggies or crackers with hummus
- hard boiled egg — eat as is or slice and put on a piece of toast (this is my go-to dinner on long work days)
- avocado toast — as simple as toasting a piece of toast and mashing half an avocado on top (add a drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper if you like)
- smoothies — zero cooking, just have frozen fruits & veggies on hand and blend
- soup — find some one pot recipes you like, throw ingredients together and you can eat this all week long
- pizza — keep ingredients on hand to make yourself in 2 minutes flat: pre-made cauliflower crusts, some pizza sauce or just a sliced tomato, a sprinkling of cheese and any other veggie toppings you like, then bake.
- tacos — if you keep a can of beans, some taco toppings like lettuce and shredded cheese, and possibly even some ground beef on hand you can make a taco dinner that combines healthy protein and fresh veggies for your family in the same 10 minutes you could be waiting in a drive through
- wraps — likewise, even without cooking or heating anything up, if you can keep some wraps, veggies, cheeses, and/or meats that you like on hand, you are never more than 2 minutes away from a simple meal that is as easy as roll up and enjoy
- baked oatmeal — bake this once a week and grab a scoop for breakfast every morning
- grass fed burgers — it barely takes any more time to form a patty and cook it (or heat up a veggie alternative) than it does to wait in a drive through. Eat it with some cheese, or on a bun, or simply dip into a condiment of your choice
- veggie frittata or omelet — this is the most ambitious of the entire list and it still literally only requires whisking a few eggs, folding in some veggies and/or cheese, and cooking it. You can make a frittata either stovetop or baked and similar to the baked oatmeal — make it once and eat it all week
I hope these ideas are helpful. If you find you still miss the lure of fast food, it’s 100% not your fault, that is what our government, our healthcare system, and our capitalistic advertising is hoping for.
But keep some simple ingredients on hand and you truly can eat something healthier — even cutting your fast food intake in half would make a noticeable difference to your health.
You already know that I have a nice broad definition of what defines a healthy weight. And, in fact, I believe it’s slightly healthier to be a bit overweight than it is to be underweight. Read this article I wrote for you about that for more info on why.
So today’s medical literature review isn’t so much about losing weight as it is about finding an easier, simplified, more holistic way to keep HgA1C levels down and to decrease the stress associated with the traditional, strict diets that conventional physicians might insist on. Today’s medical study shows… you have more flexible options that are every bit as good as being on a strict daily diet. This is more about relaxing into what serves you more than fitting into a particular diet.
And what if you don’t want to fast two days a week and you don’t want to diet at all?
Then you should absolutely join in my 5 Day Weight Reset Class.
In it, I go over the medical literature on different ways you may be sabotaging your own weight loss goals… and it’s got nothing to do at all with what you eat. Or very very little to do with what you eat. In fact, what you eat is such a minor part of your metabolic profile that we don’t even address diet until the last day of class on Day 5.
What are day 1, 2, 3, & 4 looking at? The other things you can do to help reset your metabolism and boost your weight loss, that have nothing at all to do with food.
I know weight feels like a heavy and sticky topic but it truly doesn’t have to be. Let me show you how to lighten it up in your mind, heart, body and soul in a way that feels good, not bad.
xoxox, Laura Koniver MD