Call it what you like.
Welcome back to my three part weight loss series, where I go over how to achieve your ideal weight while still maintaining good and healthy habits in your daily routine. Hopefully you’ve spent the last week exploring the supermarket for new flavors and aromas and exploring recipes and videos online for “paleo” style versions of foods you like. Lets face it, long term healthy weight loss is not going to come from just eating less “bad” food. If you are not interested in making 70-80% of your diet “healthy” as we defined it in the previous post, you won’t see much long term success. Remember, losing weight doesn’t have to be a chore, it can happen naturally with just a little bit of effort on your part, but it does not have to interfere with your schedule.
Part Two: The 16/8 Method
Our goal for this week is to understand the process and the benefits of the 16/8 fasting method. This method is one of the most effective healthy eating and weight loss programs, the benefits of which can be felt immediately.
- You’ll have more time on your hands.
- You’ll have more money in your pocket.
- You’ll start to eat healthier naturally.
Intermittent fasting can be done daily, or you can do three (or four or five) days off. It consists of taking in your daily caloric intake within a specified amount of time, and then avoiding consuming any extra calories for the remainder of the day. For instance, in the ideal 16/8 method, you would consume your total daily calorie amount in an 8 hour of your choosing followed by a continuous 16 hour period of fasting (including a resting period).
Remember, over the last week I did not want you to count calories at all, just making choices with foods that fit into the categories we discussed: healthy meats, poultry and fish, vegetables, nut and seeds, and high quality fats. That is because this week we will start by playing with the concept of intermittent fasting.
You might be wondering, “Why is he talking about fasting, when in the last post he said that calorie reduction does not work? Isn’t fasting just a form of calorie reduction? And doesn’t fasting suck?”
These are all valid concerns and common questions, but fasting and calorie reduction are two separate concepts. Let’s start from the top:
- Calorie Reduction does not Work. Calorie reduction is when you try to eat smaller meals i.e., a smaller breakfast, smaller lunch, smaller dinner, and smaller snacks. Someone may have even told you to eat many (4-6) small meals throughout the day. If you currently eat 2500 calories per day, reducing that to 2000 calories per day is exactly the formula that does not work. This is calorie reduction. It is the formula that causes 98% of people to regain the weight they lost after 12 to 18 months. This is unhealthy and actually causes weight gain because your metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of energy.
- Fasting is not Calorie Reduction. Fasting means when you don’t eat, you really don’t eat. And conversely when you eat, you EAT. While fasting, just make sure to drink water, tea or other beverages without calories or artificial ingredients. When eating, you eat to a comfortable full feeling. Do not try to eat less. The quantity of food you eat may actually increase, because choosing fewer grains, legumes and dairy will naturally inspire a greater quantity of healthy meats, veggies, nuts, seeds, and fruit.
- Fasting doesn’t suck, suffering sucks. So let’s do it without causing unnecessary suffering. The reason you think it sucks is because you know what it feels like to be too hungry. When you have fasted inadvertently (e.g., having missed a meal) you might’ve felt some fairly horrible effects. You’ve felt your blood sugar drop and that makes you light headed, you’ve felt the pounding headaches, the brain fog, maybe even that jittery feeling. But this is because your body expected to get food. It was relying on that meal for necessary energy. With a structured fast, you ensure that your body has enough energy to function at an optimum level throughout your day.
With intermittent fasting, you continue to eat full size meals. But imagine that you are eating 2500 calories per day in two meals, with one or two snacks in between, instead with 16 hours between your last meal of the day and the first meal the next day.
When I say, “Just fast 16 hours,” most people gasp and say, “How can I do that?!” But most people already are. If you’ve ever skipped breakfast in the morning you are already participating in a form of fasting, but an extremely unhealthy and destructive form of fasting. This is obviously apparent because you can feel your body shutting down with the headaches, the fog and the jitters. Your body is lacking the needed energy and nutrients to function and it is struggling to conserve resources. The entire idea of a structured, regulated fasting method is that you should never be short on energy or nutrition, your body will always have enough resources to get you through the day.
Here’s what a 12 hour fast would look like this:
- Eating your last calories at 8PM and then going to bed at a decent time like 10-10:30PM (to avoid getting hungry again, resulting in cravings that may be difficult to manage).
- Waking and not eating your first calories until 8-10AM. That is not too difficult for most people. The trick here is to not put sugar in the coffee and not to make the mistake of having any snacks before your next meal. The idea is to not allow any calories in during that time (there is a modification we will discuss in a moment when we try to increase from 12-14 hours to 16 hours).
NEWS FLASH – Myth Revealed
Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.
And after a few days of incorporating this fast into your routine you’ll see that your energy actually remains elevated throughout the entire morning.
This is more than just a conspiracy that health blogs rant about, it’s scientifically validated. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day because you have the highest levels of cortisol in your blood in the morning. Cortisol is sometimes referred to as a stress hormone, and it generally has a pretty bad rep when it comes to feeling good. However when we are sleeping, and not under stress, we release it during the night so that energy stored as glycogen (the storage form of glucose) can be slowly released into the blood. This increases our blood sugar, so that we wake with the energy we need to get the day started.
This system is no different than it was for our genetically identical, hunter gatherer ancestors who did not have the luxury of refrigerators to open in the morning for a quick bite. They had to have enough energy when they woke to get out and start their day’s work. It benefits us to use up that available blood sugar and benefit from its release, if we start our day with eggs, bacon, oatmeal, and orange juice, we are adding more sugar to the system which will release another blood sugar regulating hormone called insulin, which counteracts the cortisol and results in the storage of excess sugar, for most of us, as fat.
The 12 Hour Fast
Start with a 12 hour fast followed by a 12 hour eating period. Try doing it at least 3 days in a row per week. Most people will do Monday through Friday and eat normally on the weekends, it’s really a lot easier than many people might think. Remember, you might be going 12 hours in between meals already if you have an extremely busy routine!
The Next Steps
After getting comfortable with this process, increase to a 14 hours fast followed by a 10 hours eating period. And then move on to the 16 hour fast followed by an 8 hour eating period. Any 16 hours is fine. 7PM to 11AM or 8PM to 12PM, or whatever works for YOUR schedule. This is what we mean by the 16/8 method.
This involves a 16 hour fast followed by 8 hours of normal eating. This method comes naturally to people who typically skip breakfast. Breaking the cultural myth about breakfast being the most important meal of the day.
A typical pattern is to eat your final calories for the day at 8PM and then not to eat again until noon of the next day. This is a typical two meal and one or two snack day.
Some other tips to consider:
- True Fast: Drink water before bed, upon waking and in hours leading up to your 1st meal.
- Modified Fast: The first 12 hours of the 16 hour fast should be water only. The next 4 hours of the fast can use the MCT or coconut oil as described here.
- Begin the day with an extra virgin coconut oil (2 teaspoons) or MCT oil infused hot tea or coffee. If you are not dairy free you can add a tablespoon of grass fed organic butter or ghee to the coffee or tea and make it “bullet proof”. Adding coconut oil or MCT can be done more than once between waking and eating your 1st meal.
The modified fast using MCT (and/or coconut oil) is a way to drive the ketogenic energy burning process we want to promote. Bone broth can be used as well. Keep in mind bone broth, because of the amino acid and protein content may prevent or suppress ketosis. Ketosis may be more desired for some and less important for others.
- Caution: Oil and fats must be infused into the tea or coffee using a handheld infuser. The oil will not mix well otherwise and can cause an upset stomach feeling and unpleasant taste.
- For Weight Loss: As stated above, it is very important, when not fasting, to eat normal sized meals. Eat until you are full! We are not calorie counting! No! Calorie counting works against you in the long run!
Next week we will go into some variations of intermittent fasting and why it is necessary to make this part of your regular routine. It needs to become “normal” and effortless for you.