16-Hour Intermittent Fasting
When most people hear the word “fasting” they tend to think of a religious ritual first, followed by unpleasant gnawing hunger. We’re raised with the expectation of three square meals a day and feel deprived on anything less. We’re even used to between-meal snacks, snacking while watching TV, snacking when we’re stressed, snacking just to be snacking, and on it goes.
We Americans eat a lot.
The result is sad but not unexpected. In about five decades, Americans have become increasingly overweight and unwell as a result. The overweight is due to high caloric intake; the unwellness is a result of poor food choices. As one observer put it, we suffer from high-calorie malnutrition. Life expectancy in America peaked about a decade ago, and now is in decline. I don’t know about you, but to me this doesn’t sound like progress.
Since the 1970’s we have never lacked for weight-loss plans. Diet books still outsell most every other category. Pretty much every diet works, but most people who lose weight dieting put it all back on (sometimes we do it over and over again). Weight loss, in and of itself, offers many health benefits but the inability to maintain the weight loss inevitably leads to problems.
This is where fasting comes in.
I can imagine some of you will immediately think, “I can’t stand being hungry.” I’m right there with you. Hunger is difficult to withstand for long, and this is especially true for those on the Standard American Diet (SAD). For many it works this way: the pastry or breakfast sandwich at breakfast will have them ravenously hungry for lunch, and the burger and fries for lunch will have them ravenously hungry around 2 in the afternoon, and after the candy bar and soda at 2 they’ll be ravenously hungry for dinner. Yes, this is the way many of us live our lives – controlled by food.
Let’s dive into the concept of fasting – what it is, how to do it, how to make it work for you.
What and How’s of Fasting
First of all, let’s be clear on what fasting is not. Fasting is not eating a SAD dinner at 8 p.m. and a SAD breakfast at 6 a.m. the next morning. Yes, I know they named it break-fast. This is a misnomer, because not eating SAD foods for 10 hours (the time between your last meal of the day and breakfast the following day) does not constitute fasting, because it cannot eliminate all the excess calories you stored the previous day. That’s not how God made the human metabolism. He knew we’d be sleeping for six or eight hours a night, and that we’d likely eat our evening meal a few hours or more before going to sleep.
You may be asking, “Why isn’t 12 hours without eating a fast? That’s an awfully long time.” The fact is, there was a time when a 12-hour fast was sufficient for people to maintain a normal body weight. This is because people of normal weight for their height ate three mostly-balanced (non-SAD) meals daily and did not snack. This allowed them to avoid insulin-resistance, the number one cause of obesity. With the introduction of snacking into the American diet, insulin-resistance became a fact of life for most and the weight started piling on.
If you’re overweight, it’s virtually impossible to lose weight and maintain the weight loss with a normal meal schedule. You can certainly lose weight fairly quickly and fairly easily with the Atkins Diet or similar low-carb regimens, but the problem ends up being long-term maintenance. I know this because I have had this experience many times since the 1970’s. It gets even worse as you get older, because your baseline metabolism (otherwise known as Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR) naturally declines. Fasting properly, however, makes long-term weight-loss maintenance a snap.
How is this done? The 16-hour fast works very well. Why? Because the typical person will eliminate almost all their glycogen stores by fasting for 16 hours daily. What is glycogen? It’s how we store excess calories, which all non-athletes store every day for use as needed in the normal course of things. Glycogen is not a bad thing, by the way; it’s how God designed us. We cannot, nor were we made to, eat constantly in order to carry out our daily activities. So, God gave us this marvelous way to store up calories and then release them as needed. The problem comes when we store calories and fail to use them up. This leads to insulin-resistance, and the long-term glycogen stores end up being converted to fat stores as our BMR slows. Not a good situation.
For the overweight person, the keys to success are a diet plan that maintains the BMR combined with a 16-hour daily fast that clears out the glycogen stores daily.
We have found through personal experience that weight loss is steady and easy to maintain once you’ve achieved your goal.
Check This Out
For a more thorough understanding of fasting, I highly recommend the book The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung with Jimmy Moore.