During the 13th century, many folks believed eating breakfast was an act of gluttony. Committing gluttony – one of the seven deadly sins – by "breaking fast" too early was a one-way ticket to hell.
Back then, Catholics believed that if you ate early, you must also have other "lusty" appetites – like drinking too much alcohol, for instance – and eating before 10:30 or 11 a.m. meant you were morally weak.
But then in the 1500s, meat, butter, herbs, and caffeine made eating breakfast more appealing to noble families. Attitudes toward breakfast shifted entirely and breaking your fast became a social norm for high society.
And today, thanks mainly to the marketing of cereal companies, we deem breakfast the most important meal of the day...
But do we really need it, or is it doing more harm than good?
These days in the U.S., over 40% of adults are considered obese and nearly 30% of adults over age 65 are obese, which leads to a greater risk of health problems like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Longtime readers know I'm a proponent of fasting. I've written before about its benefits for everything from heart disease to cancer. So today, I want to share some information about how to get started with my favorite "get out of hell" free pass.
How to Get Started
One of the keys to supporting your fasting routine is keeping a journal. Journaling is how my researcher – Misha – is keeping track of her fasting experiment...
Tracking your fasts – particularly in the beginning – really helps you identify any bad habits. Food journaling is how Misha realized her night-snacking problem in the first place.
Here's the table Misha's using to keep track of her fasting habits...
She keeps her goals in plain sight while she's building her new habit. Eventually, these guidelines will become automatic. And she logs a separate table for each day.
Next to the date, Misha writes out any little reminders for the day. In this example, she writes that it's a fast day and she should aim to eat about 500 calories. On a fast day, Misha's also not going to be exercising as much as she normally would. But she does still plan to move around during the day.
As you can see in the red "total calories" table value, Misha ate 764 calories, so she went over her fasting goal by about 250 calories.
But that's still a significant reduction to her typical daily calorie intake. So that's still a win in her book.
You might notice at the bottom that she reported a headache toward the end of the day... And since Misha is just starting her fasting experiment – and trying out Dr. Michael Mosley's 5:2 method – she's still getting used to her new eating habits.
So, it's not surprising that her body would react a bit negatively on her first fasting day. In the first few weeks of fasting, it's actually quite common for folks to experience some combination of:
- "Hanger" – when you're angry from hunger
- Tiredness or exhaustion
- Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or shaky
- Stomach grumbling
- Poor concentration
- Moodiness or irritability
In the 5:2 method, each week you spend two nonconsecutive days eating just 25% of your typical amount of calories... So for example: Let's say you generally eat around 2,000 calories a day. With the 5:2 method, you'd pick two days a week (say, Monday and Thursday) and designate them as your fasting days. Then, each Monday and Thursday, you'd aim to only eat 500 calories (25% of 2,000).
One easy way to get through those fast days is by doing what I like to do: "dinner to dinner" fasting.
When I'm dinner-to-dinner fasting, I'll have dinner the night before my fast. And then on my fast day, I don't eat until dinner. I'll still drink water and herbal or green tea. I'm also doing less vigorous activity those days. I generally spend my fast days reading, walking, and meditating quietly.
Now, before you go...
I have two important fasting tips for you to consider:
1. Don't overeat when coming out of your fast. You'll undo all the benefits. Do what I do and create a simple meal to break out of the fast. Something easy like a piece of grilled protein on a bed of arugula salad.
2. If you're on certain medications, you should consult a doctor first.
For example, folks with diabetes need to be extra vigilant with their blood sugar levels. Some medications, like insulin or metformin, may lead to dangerously low blood sugar when fasting (a condition called hypoglycemia). If left untreated, it can lead to passing out or death. That's why we recommend carefully monitoring after a talk with your doctor.
Fasting, when done properly, yields significant benefits that last for the long term. It's a studied and proven way to achieve long-term weight loss, improve insulin activity, increase brain function, and rejuvenate your cells and organs. Fasting also aids in cancer treatment – it helps decelerate and kill the growth of cancer cells.
So do what I do... fast several days a month...
I'm finding it to be a great way to take back control of my body – paying less attention to the American marketing mindset of eating three or more times a day. And amazingly, several of my fasting friends have lost 10% to 15% of their weight by doing nothing but the 5:2 fasting plan.
So see what fasting can do for you. And stay tuned to find out what Misha learns from her experiment... Don't forget, we appreciate good advice, so if you have any fasting tips for me or Misha, send them to [email protected].
We may even feature your tip in a future bulletin!
What We're Reading...
- Healthy foods to consume when fasting, according to Ayurveda.
- Check out the rest of this month's series on fasting here and here.
- Something different: Our brains want the story of the pandemic to be something that it isn't.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 29, 2022