Part 1 – What is This Journey About and Why Do It?
Welcome to this blog series on the beginning of my adventure with several days each week of semi-fasting. This journey begins after an encounter with a patient who I suggested make this specific lifestyle change. The same question that I have answered many times – “Do you do this?” – was their immediate response. In the past I have always answered that I largely follow what I am asking them to do in my own ongoing lifestyle. That response has been honest but left me feeling as if it were an evasive one.
I am not sure what struck me to respond differently this time, but here I am beginning the same journey that I suggested to my patient would be the ideal one for them to resolve several health issues. I had suggested that this patient begin a 5:2 dietary pattern, a modified Paleo pattern that is perhaps more palatable and yet effective in the right circumstances.
The 5:2 dietary pattern was developed by Dr. Michael Mosley, although the credit for the scientific basis really should go back to our Paleolithic period ancestors. Of course their contribution came out of survival rather than scientific curiosity concerning health issues. These distant relatives survived by basically eating what they could find or catch only when they could find or catch it. This led to a diet with the following characteristics:
- · Animal based protein and fat
- · Plants that grew naturally without agriculture
- · No grain or dairy
- · Periods of eating interspersed with long periods without eating
- · Fairly intense physical activity in pursuit of food
In an interesting video about this eating pattern.
Dr. Mosley explains some of the rationale from the scientific perspective as well as his personal perspective. I disagree with him somewhat on the exercise portion and will discuss this later in this series.
Currently it is estimated that 80% of all chronic health problems are the long-term effects of lifestyle related factors with diet and exercise being foremost. Back to the Paleo diet characteristics; it seems that the long periods where humans were without food (fasting) but pursuing food required a specific genetically determined metabolic efficiency that helped the body function optimally. These periods of shifted metabolism actually help the body over the long-term and not just during fasting. If we fast some, we appear to benefit all of the time.
As fertility is one of the first victims of a mismatch between metabolism (one’s chemical functioning) and diet (the fuel provided), the early population became fairly uniform in genetically determined metabolism as the dietary pattern was fixed and uniform. We are thought to be over 99% genetically identical to these distant relatives who thrived in this dietary environment.
The reality is that we are wired to thrive in the above lifestyle pattern and, unfortunately destined to be ill in the environment of constant availability of high amounts of refined grain, added simple sugars, higher amounts of carbohydrates and no energy expenditure to obtain food.
So this is the background with which I approach this six months of soup. I am committed for the rest of the year which is actually 5, months but that title has no rhythm so we will use “6”. The 5:2 dietary pattern suggests only a cup of soup (grain-less) twice a day at 12-hour intervals. The soup meets the above food criteria and provides enough energy to function yet induces the positive benefits at 12 hour intervals of fasting. (refer to the cup of soup recipe at the bottom of the post)
The idea is that it is a simple plan that closely mimics the Paleo metabolic state. This is done on two non-consecutive days with 5 days of one’s typical eating pattern. Complete overhaul of lifestyle 7-days each week is difficult for most leading to long-term failure, but most can comply with a couple of days each week. This begins to induce positive metabolic changes; and between the results and progressive reality that good lifestyle is not that difficult, progressive improvements to the daily diet become doable.
Plain tea or coffee is allowed as is water. Exercise and activity is also needed. The whole goal is to exploit the beneficial effects of a dietary pattern that maximizes the positive aspects of our genetically determined metabolism and minimizes the negative side.
The real essence of this lifestyle pattern is that it is supported by broad scientific research suggesting that it can prevent or help lower metabolic disease risks such as the current diabetes epidemic, improve and maintain cognitive function, reduce the epidemic of affect disorders (anxiety, depression) as well as other benefits. In this series I will share the ups and downs, ins and outs and lessons of this journey. I will also share the extensive science behind all of this and how it applies to my life.
More about what happens is “fasting” mode in the next report and, of course, how I am doing with all of that. Soup for breakfast at 5 AM and a little coffee and water today until soup between 5 and 6 PM tonight. So far so good!