Vail Daily column: How to use intermittent fasting for optimal health
July 7, 2014
As a youth, I struggled with my weight. I was a chubby kid in elementary school and progressed to obesity in junior high. In high school around the end of my sophomore year, I decided to end the downward spiral. In the spring of 1996, my mother bought me a book "Enter the Zone," by Dr. Barry Sears. Sears was ahead of his time promoting small, frequent feedings throughout the day. Even though this popular eating trend had been around for some time, Sears pioneered the feeding plan that was moderate in fats, proteins and carbohydrates balanced throughout the day to optimize hormonal balance, burn fat, increase performance and reduce inflammation. Although his program was responsible for my weight loss of 80 pounds that summer, the plan left a lot to be desired.
I still believe the Zone and other nutrition plans that advocate small, frequent feedings is a fantastic approach for a lot of people. The research is certainly there, and clearly these approaches promote optimal health and support fat loss.
CHALLENGES OF EATING SMALL FREQUENT MEALS
I encourage these programs for a lot of my patrons. However, the problems with these eating strategies are numerous. Programming frequent feedings can overwhelm individuals with planning, shopping and preparation. For working people who have busy lives, it's somewhat unrealistic to cater to the schedule of consuming food six times throughout the day. Moreover, breaking bread with friends at dinner is a very important pastime for most Americans. Sorry for you though, you will have to decline the feast and eat a small salad, a slice of turkey and skip the wine and dessert. It can be an extreme pain the rear to be on a "diet" and adhere to the principles during social settings.
AVOIDING BINGE EATING
Lastly, the biggest pitfall to eating frequent small meals throughout the day is the urge to overindulge and binge in the evening. These approaches often lead to a caloric deficit early in the day, slow the metabolism and cause people to go to the refrigerator with fork and knife in hand uncontrollably in the evening.
Ori Hofmeklar wrote in his book "The Warrior Diet," "Overeating is an instinctual way of the body to compensate when it's chronically underfed, malnourished, starving, or emotionally or mentally deprived. The urge to overeat can also be triggered when the body tries to pick up its metabolism, which may have declined as a result of prolonged low-calorie diets. Overeating can work for you if you control it — by inducing it at the right time. If you don't let your body overeat when it needs to — this desire or need may haunt you by inducing an excruciating desire to binge. Many people go to the fridge late at night, open it, and start binging."
DEVELOPING A WEIRD RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
How many Americans are chronic dieters who consistently restrict their calories, and are constantly struggling with their weight? We all know several people like this. I have been there, and part of the problem was that small, frequent meals left me deprived and feeling like I never got to enjoy food. I developed a very unhealthy, weird relationship with food. This is very common in our society today. In 2003 I read "The Warrior Diet" and have been following the principles ever since. It was the only of several eating plans that really made sense to me. In a nutshell, Hofmekler contends that as hunter gatherers, we never had the luxury to have plentiful food sources readily available several years ago. Hunting was therefore done in a fasted state when humans were in their sympathetic "fight or flight" state. Once food was harvested it was eaten to the hunter's content. The timing of the next meal was uncertain, and people ate as much as they could, when they could. After eating, the parasympathetic nervous system would take over and help nourish, rejuvenate and rebuild from the hard day's work. The cycle would repeat itself from states of fasting and hunting, to states of overindulgence and repair. In modern society though, fast food restaurants and grocery stores alike are on every street corner, and our waists have been growing ever since.
How can we apply the hunter gatherer techniques of yesterday to our lives today? Concisely, drink black coffee or tea for breakfast and eat raw vegetables and minimal fruit throughout the day. In the evening, eat until you are fully satisfied. Minimize or completely eliminate sugar, processed foods and other garbage. Eat whole foods. Drink a lot of water. Rinse and repeat. No planning or unrealistic schedules, and say goodbye to late night binging because you won't desire to anymore.
This lifestyle will fit any schedule, and leave you feeling satisfied. You may get hungry come 3 p.m. You may even become short tempered. Just like a lion needing to make a kill for survival. In a hungered state, of course the lion is hot tempered! However, you won't feel tired, foggy or ready to take a nap. You will feel mentally sharp, ready to hunt figuratively.
"Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous," William Shakespeare said.
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards' passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.
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