The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting

Daniel Grove, M.D is board certified in general internal medicine, critical care, and pulmonology.He originally sought to make a pamphlet to help educate his patients about their weight in a way that brief office visits allow. He became frustrated with the lack of information and outright falsehoods that are everywhere. Soon, he was prompted to conduct more research and the result is his book, The Weight Loss Counter-Revolution. He also provides information through a blog.  Recently he shared that in 1971, a 27-year-old, 456-pound man went to his local university department of medicine to get advice on how to lose weight.  Their response was startling but simple: stop eating altogether. While most people would look aghast and think the doctors were nuts, this guy was desperate enough to give it a try. His results over the ensuing weeks were so dramatic that he decided to prolong the fasting deprivation—for more than a year!  He ate nothing but vitamins, non-caloric fluids, and yeast for a whopping 382 days. He lost 276 pounds and gained himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. What’s more, he did so with no ill health effects.  When the doctors checked back in on him five years later, he had gained back only about 15 pounds.

Although parts of the report seem unbelievable, and the period of fasting is obviously extreme, this dramatic anecdote highlights a very important point.  Sometimes, extreme situations call for extreme actions.  If you are obese and are suffering from any of the many obesity-associated diseases, I can assure you that extreme measures are warranted.  It also helps us refine the definition of what “extreme” is when talking about weight loss.  Cutting out a piece of your stomach and stretch of large intestines is no longer considered extreme but I would argue it is far riskier than not eating for a year.

Types of intermittent fasting diets:

Alternate-day fasting: Subjects eat every other day. For humans, non-eating days typically consist of one small meal of around 500 calories, amounting to a dietary energy reduction of approximately 65- 80%.

5:2 diet: A person eats five days of the week and abstains from eating the other two (for example eating on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and fasting on Tuesday and Thursday)—save for one small, 500-calorie meal on fasting days (cutting dietary energy by about 65- 80% on those days).

Time-restricted feeding: Calories are not restricted, and dietary composition is not altered. But eating is confined to a window of typically 8, 10, or 12 hours per day.

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