Intermittent fasting – unnecessary and can be dangerous

There is a fad of late called intermittent fasting, or IF for short. Adherents promote various versions. For example, eat only every other day, limit eating time to just a 6 or 8 hour window a day, go on a water fast for multiple days, etc. Some even go on prolonged water fasts for multiple days at a time – or even weeks!

These people claim various benefits, including faster weight loss, changing the body’s metabolism, better long term weight loss, curing disease, and whatnot.

Dr. Michael Greger, the author of “How to Not Die” and the upcoming “How to Not Diet” has researched fasting intensively for his new book, and has been releasing videos at his site lately ahead of the release.

His very reasonable conclusion, I’m happy and relieved to say, is that not only can IF be dangerous if not done under strict medical supervision, but there are no benefits at all for weight loss, as compared to just ordinary reasonable calorie restriction.

Here are some of his recent videos. Note: I can’t stand listening to his voice, so I watch these on mute. They are all closed captioned.

This video shows that eating every other day can actually increase your cholesterol: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-alternate-day-intermittent-fasting-safe

IF can actually slow body fat loss (like keto): https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-fasting-beneficial-for-weight-loss/

It doesn’t make any difference at all whether you do intermittent fasting or continuous calorie restriction. In other words, a regular calorie restricted diet has the same effect. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/Alternate-Day-Intermittent-Fasting-Put-to-the-Test

There is no advantage to intermittent fasting for weight loss. It might be dangerous. It’s completely unnecessary. Plus, to me, the whole idea seems contrived and unpleasant. I like eating. I eat healthily now. I’m down 101 lb and just have 16.5 lb to go to achieve a normal BMI. I did this without any fasting at all. I don’t ever feel deprived. I eat lots of healthy foods (whole food plant based) on a normal, daily schedule.

My personal feeling is that IF is just one of those fads. If you’re interested in it check the actual research out before trying it.

Major Milestone – down over 100 lb!

Today is MyFitnessPal streak day 2,726 (I’ve had ups and downs) and I’m happy to report that as of this morning I have lost a total of 100.5 lb (45.6 kg). 

I follow WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) eating. This means being mostly vegan, eating mostly whole foods, avoiding as much added sugar as is practical, and also avoiding oils. It’s all “mostly” rather than 100% inviolable rules. It’s a basic guideline I stick to as much as possible. 

For example, I will eat white rice if brown rice isn’t available. I’ll have miso soup in a restaurant even though I know it contains bonito extract. I might very occasionally even have some fish in a sushi restaurant (though I mostly stick with the vegan options). I think this is all in the spirit of WFPB eating. If I’m on a 14 hour air flight I’ll order the vegan meal even though I know there is probably some oil in it. That’s probably the only time I have any oils.

I’m also down over 62 lb since recommitting to WFPB in September last year after reading Dr. Michael Greger’s, “How Not to Die.” His book was a trigger to get me back on the right path again. Chef AJ, Potato Strong, and Plant Based Gabriel have all also been inspirations and supportive during this process.

During this time, all my blood values have returned to normal. In particular, my dangerously high HbA1c came down over time and has been in the normal range for months now, and my cholesterol values are all super great, and the doctors are very pleased.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have tweaked Dr. Greger’s advice to suit me (everybody is different), in order to (1) keep on track with my weight loss and (2) have really great digestion.

Some of my tweaks include:

  • More careful “sequencing” to eat more food from the low calorie-density side of the chart. This just means starting meals with lower calorie-density foods like large salads and non-starchy vegetables before moving onto more satisfying starches, like potatoes.
  • Avoiding some foods from the low side of the calorie-density chart which I personally still feel are too high in calories, like bananas. Blueberries and watermelon have much lower calorie densities, while bananas have a higher calorie density than potatoes!
  • Having potatoes rather than rice when possible, because of lower calorie density, and they are more filling to me. They are really great when topped with nutritional yeast and moistened with a bit of soy milk. Air fried they are also great.
  • Not having too many potatoes. About 10-12 ounces seems good for a main portion, rather than a couple of pounds, like some people do.
  • Avoiding nuts. Sorry Dr. Greger, they do count. They are extremely high calorie. I do add flax seeds to my salads though. They contain healthy fats and have a slightly nutty flavor and make the salads more satisfying.
  • Logging food and exercise calories, and my daily weight, in MyFitnessPal (calories count whether you count them or not). MyFitnessPal has been my weight “sanity check” for 2726 days now, which has prevented me from having a full rebound even when I fell off the wagon a couple of times in the past.
  • And I don’t eat a lot of legumes because no matter what I try they cause unpleasant digestive side-effects. However, instead, I have lots of firm tofu! That doesn’t seem to bother me, and provides lots of protein, and also healthy fats, and is definitely on the lower side of the calorie density chart.
  • For exercise, I basically walk as much as possible. I track that using MapMyRun, which syncs to MyFitnessPal. It’s good for health, and it gives me an extra calorie buffer each day. I’m trying to work up into resistance training also so I can build some upper torso strength and muscles, but haven’t really gotten into it yet.
  • I do not do intermittent fasting. I do not think it is necessary, and it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Eating this way seems long-term sustainable to me. There is no sense of deprivation, which is important. It may seem like I’ve been doing this a long time, but consider this:  time passes whether you are dieting or not, so you might as well take up healthy habits along the way.

This morning I’m down to 83.4 kg. According to BMI charts, that’s just 8 kg from a normal weight! (And yet, here in Japan, I still find it hard to get clothes that fit me in a regular shop!)

My short term goal is to get into the 70s by the end of the year. At this rate I might or might not make it – it’s a slow pace. But I am slowly and consistently losing weight, so I’m not too worried about that.

And onward!

A diet update – things going well

I love milestone reports, so I’ll take any occasion for one. 

Today I’m down exactly 45 kg (99.2 lb) on WFPB eating. I’m also down over 60 lb since recommitting to WFPB in September last year after reading, “How Not to Die.”

I have tweaked Dr. Greger’s advice to suit me (everybody is different), in order to (1) keep on track with my weight loss and (2) have really great digestion.

Some of my tweaks include:

  • More careful “sequencing” to eat more food from the low calorie-density side of the chart,
  • Avoiding some foods from that side of the chart which I still think are too high in calories, like bananas (blueberries and watermelon have much lower calorie densities – bananas have a higher calorie density than potatoes!)
  • Having potatoes rather than rice when possible.
  • Not having too many potatoes.
  • Avoiding nuts. Sorry Dr. Greger, they do count.
  • Logging food and exercise calories in MyFitnessPal (calories count whether you count them or not).
  • And I don’t eat a lot of legumes because no matter what I try they cause unpleasant digestive side-effects. A small amount is ok though. Instead, I have lots of firm tofu! That doesn’t seem to bother me, and provides lots of protein, and also healthy fats, and is definitely on the lower side of the calorie density chart.

This morning I’m down to exactly 84 kg. According to BMI charts, that’s just 8.6 kg from a normal weight!

My short term goal is to get into the 70s by the end of the year. At this rate I might or might not make it – it’s a slow pace. But I am slowly losing weight, so I’m not too worried about that.

And no intermittent fasting. 🙂

One year of “How Not to Die”

Just a little milestone to report. Today marks exactly one year since recommitting to WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) eating after reading Dr. Greger’s “How Not to Die.”

Besides all the vast improvements in blood tests (great cholesterol, blood sugar down to normal) I’m down 25.6 kg = 56.4 lb this past year, and down 43.2 kg = 95.2 lb total on WFPB in all.

I’ve made a few adjustments along the way, balancing his reports with my personal experiences (they aren’t always 100% in sync – everybody is different), and continue to make adjustments as I slowly get closer to goal.
But overall I am very pleased and satisfied with this way of eating.