There are dozens of intermittent fasting success stories that come out of my office, month-after-month. But what really warms my heart is to see this incredible tool for your health making national headlines.
As I am known to do, I was perusing Apple News this morning and noticed a story about intermittent fasting. And that’s exactly what it is, a story of one man named Marwan Jamal.
The most interesting thing about this particular story is the level to which Mr. Jamal took his intermittent fasting.
First of all, he did 20 hours of fasting per day. That essentially means he only ate dinner. For reference, I usually recommend to my patients who are just getting started with intermittent fasting to do 16 hours per day of fasting, meaning they eat both lunch and dinner. So right out of the gate, Mr. Jamal is going the extra mile.
The other interesting facet of this story is that Mr. Jamal went 171 days IN A ROW. Again, for reference, I usually recommend to patients to take one day a week (usually a weekend) and eat three full meals and snacks. Of course, that doesn’t mean eat anything, but I don’t require them to fit their meals into a window of time. There is a reason for this. A body not used to fasting will see major dietary limitations as starvation and react by storing everything you eat as fat as a sort of emergency procedure. It helps to have a cheat day so your body doesn’t go into panic mode.
That being said, your body adapts pretty quickly, which is what it appeared to have done for Mr. Jamal because in that time, he lost 39 pounds. And due to an injury, the only form of exercise he was able to do was some light walking. So basically, no exercise, intermittent fasting and he lost quite a bit of weight.
Why am I telling this story?
Well, for one, I find it a nice intro into the benefits of intermittent fasting. But also, I like to have a reference point for people new to the practice. My intermittent fasting protocols have gotten patients amazing results, and they are even less “extreme” than what Mr. Jamal did. So basically, if he can do it, you can DEFINITELY do it.
The benefits of IF beyond weight loss
Intermittent fasting gives your body an incredible gift: time. During the time you don’t eat, your body has time to take care of all sorts of business.
When you eat, your body dedicates a lot of energy to digestion, nutrient allocation, energy storage and energy production. When you don’t eat, it has all sorts of time and energy to address healing.
Every time you eat, all sorts of things happen. Hormones spring into action, physiological processes grind into action, the cardiovascular system is flooded with (usually) sugar.
This is normal and great and what should happen unless you eat unhealthy food and eat too often. You body isn’t designed to be in a state of high blood sugar ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. Hormones get out of balance due to being in high demand at all times and eventually, your body–even at the cellular level–becomes deaf to hormonal signals. Cue insulin resistance, then diabetes. Or TSH resistance, then thyroid dysfunction. Or adrenal fatigue. Or the constant drip of cortisol and weight gain.
Add to that the problem of sleep in the modern world. Almost no one gets enough sleep these days. Then you’re constantly eating and your body has no time to heal. You start developing “modern” health conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
If you give your body TIME, hormones balance out, your body dedicates resources to healing rather than digesting, you start using stored energy reserves for energy rather than the constant supply of sugar that would otherwise be present. You lose weight, you feel lighter, more agile. You have more energy because ketones (the by-product of burning fat rather than sugar for energy) are a more efficient energy source than sugar. Your mind becomes sharper, your inflammation recedes. I’m not going to say it’s a health magic bullet, but it does an amazing amount of good.