More on Fasting

Thanks so much to everyone for the positive comments and feedback about my last post on fasting and The Fast Diet.

Today, this piece of research turned up in my Facebook feed.

It explains that they’ve discovered a cellular deficiency in people with triple negative breast cancer. It seems our bodies aren’t as good at ‘autophagy’ (the natural process of cell death) as other people.

Given that fasting promotes cell recycling I think this research gives me one more piece of evidence in favour of this way of eating.

It also strikes me that my fibromyalgia might be a consequence of the same phenomenon; it’s known that the mitochondria (essentially the engine room of the cell) are slow functioning in fibromyalgia patients. It’s just possible that the two are related. Certainly it’s worth further research. I wonder how many triple negative patients are also fibromyalgia patients.

Some people have asked me about ‘starvation mode’ and the popular advice regarding dieting that fasting will cause your body to ‘hold on to fat’ because starving will trigger a defence mechanism that makes it difficult to lose weight. I’ve found lots of places that offer this advice but not one piece of research. Here’s an article which is pretty typical of the kind of thing we’ve all been told for years (and it’s apparently just plain wrong).

It would appear that this myth originates with something known as ‘The Minnesota Study’ or ‘The Minnesota Starvation Project’. The study dates from 1944 and involved 36 men being put on a diet that was 50% of the recommended calorie/kilojoule intake. They were also required to walk 22 miles each week. It was observed that as they lost weight (lots and lots of weight) their metabolisms slowed down.

What’s important about this study is that there is no evidence that this slowing of their metabolism caused them to stop losing weight. It’s certainly nonsense to suggest that eating less might have caused them to gain weight. The body just doesn’t work that way.

And yet I can remember being told time and time again that if I wanted to lose weight I would need to make sure I ate regular meals and had some snacks in between to ‘maintain my metabolic rate’. I was first introduced to this notion about a decade ago when I went through the Weight Watchers program. Interestingly, even Weight Watchers now recognise that it’s a myth:

When I went through Weight Watchers I was told to never skip breakfast and to have ‘healthy snacks’ between meals or I would put my body into ‘starvation mode’.

Just to be clear, this is nonsense. There is no scientific basis for these claims and if fear of ‘starvation mode’ is the reason you don’t want to try fasting then fear no more.

I would add that the main benefit of this style of eating is that I really can see myself sustaining it for the rest of my life. Once I’m at my goal weight I can cut down to one fast day every week. Although the first few weeks were difficult I now find fasting both easy and pleasurable. I feel somehow sharper, more alert and I have more energy on a fast day.

Weight Watchers, on the other hand, made me miserable. Everything needed to be counted, checked, measured and weighed. The last five kilos were particularly torturous as the amount of food I was ‘allowed’ became less and less. I diligently stuck to my maintenance program once I’d achieved my goal weight. I became a ‘lifetime member’ and they gave me a cheap charm to hang on my handbag.

I realised very quickly that this was no way to live. I was anxious about gaining weight again. I was resentful of all the restrictions. Over time the weight came back on.

The big difference with The Fast Diet is that for five days a week I eat what ever I want. You would think that I’d use it as an excuse the empty a packet of tim tams but like most people eating this way I don’t feel any desire to binge.

My daughter started yesterday and made a really good observation; when you’re hungry all food looks delicious, and if you don’t care whether you have a delicious biscuit or a delicious apple then you may as well have the apple.

I agree with her. We’ve always been a family that enjoys a predominantly healthy diet. I also think that fasting makes you very conscious of the way you feel when you eat different kinds of food. I’ve discovered that anything with gluten makes me bloated and very sweet foods make me mildly nauseous. That’s a strong incentive to cut back on both.

Now having evidence that this way of eating might actually help to compensate for a genetic deficiency in my body that predisposes me to triple negative breast cancer gives me one very compelling reason to keep going.

I hope you’ll consider it too.

And just to round things off, here’s Michael Mosley’s take:


2 thoughts on “More on Fasting

  1. Very interesting and hopeful article, thanks for sharing. Also read the article – …about epigenetic signatures that differentiate triple-negative breast cancers (by Australian researchers). There is much to learn about genes!

    We are fortunate to be living in a time of such great research with hope for those that follow in our footsteps J

    Thanks for your posts…always excited to see your emails pop into my ‘inbox’.

    Ricki xx

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