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The Fasting Cure Is No Fad (wsj.com)
247 points by paulsutter 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

I'm about 6 hours away from ending a 5 day fast. I can't confirm all of the benefits from the article (I'm neither a diabetic, spiritual person, nor suffering from cancer), but I can attest to the power of the final quote in the article: "'Anyone can reach his goals if he can think, if he can wait, if he can fast.'”

Two main takeaways I've gained from fasting (I've done multiple 24 hour fasts prior to this 5 day one):

1. You don't need to eat nearly as often as you think. Hunger pangs are usually just food cravings, and drinking lots and lots of water, water you should probably be drinking anyway, will mask them more easily than one would expect.

2. The successful self-deprivation of food (in a healthy, reasonable way) and the almost exclusively positive benefits that it brings makes you wonder how much of an economic and nationwide health impact the USA would see if everyone practiced some form of fasting.

By the way, the phrase "if he can think, if he can wait, if he can fast" comes from the book Siddartha by Hermann Hesse[0] which is (roughly) about Buddhist philosophy.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/431428.Siddhartha

I really don't think you should be giving vague advice like this -- it could be dangerous for some people.

> drinking lots and lots of water

People who are sedentary and probably drinking more water than someone who finished a marathon does not sound like a good idea to me. I was drinking a ton of water throughout the day based on ideas like this and got sick from it. I feel much better now having cut my water intake. Could the converse also be true, that we're overestimating how much water we actually need?

> Hunger pangs are usually just food cravings

Are you sure? For me cravings and hunger pangs are entirely different feelings.

I don't doubt there are benefits to some forms of fasting, but people should consult their doctors first and tread carefully.

Unless you have a specific health condition, do you really need to consult a physician before trying out an activity that humans have engaged in for thousands of years? Especially with all the information accessible online these days, plenty of it from experts in the field.

>Especially with all the information accessible online these days, plenty of it from experts in the field.

How would information online from experts in the field helps someone determine their cellular hydration levels or their various levels/requirements of sodium/potassium/calcium/magnesium? These are things that should be monitored over a 5 day water fast not guessed at based on information read online.

You don't know whether you have a health condition if you don't consult a physician beforehand.

I don't know how we as a society came to accept physicians as the general arbiter of health, rather than as a mechanic that fixes us when we're broke, but a lot of why health care in this country is so expensive is due to that. Similarly, why education is so expensive is because we as a society have allowed the college degree to be the marker of who deserves opportunity or not.

Really sad.

In part because we came to assume that commercial speech was anything but self-serving: in this case, being litigation protection rather than public health.

Typically, you also don’t know that after you consult a physician.

The risk of hyponatremia is pretty low - you'd need to sustain drinking over about a quart per hour, or much larger amounts in a short period of time. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318619.php It takes some sustained effort for most people to do that (and many bathroom breaks).

Drink when you're thirsty. Realize that often "wanting something to eat" can be a symptom of thirst or satisfied by getting a drink. Drink a full glass of water 15 minutes before eating. You'll be fine.

I think it's worth pointing out that even the most successful medicine can be dangerous for some people and so it's absolutely meaningless to bring it up.

I was drinking a ton of water throughout the day based on ideas like this and got sick from it

I get your point, but what was in your water? Did you just drink too much water once or this happened over a period of time?

I was drinking Essentia 1.5 liter bottles throughout the day for a few months. I started noticing I didn't feel right after drinking it -- it was almost like a headache. I know this isn't scientific and there could have been another cause, but drastically cutting my intake removed the symptoms.

Drinking multiple _liters_ of water in a relatively short time can cause water intoxication [1] due to the drop in relative electrolyte levels. I got it once at scout camp where, unfortunately, the medic misdiagnosed me with dehydration and had me drink a gallon of water. I ended up urinating about every ten minutes for the next 24 hours, and is one of the most unpleasant experiences I've gone through.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication

It sounds like potentially your water/electrolyte balance was more the issue than simply saying you over consumed water. As the water consumption increases your intake of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium should have been equally increased. Did you do that? Did you have a blood panel done to see if you were deficient in any vitamins/minerals?

The easiest medical problem to get from drinking far too much water is hyponatremia.


I'm sure you don't have any reason to try this again, but this condition could be confirmed by a blood test.


Drinking too much water is dangerous. People have died from hyponatremaia. The original poster should not be spouting general advice unless he knows his stuff, which I doubt.

I'm normally not going to fuss over petty downvotes but as hyponatremia can kill, perhaps you can hold off this time?

I'd like to add something to 1). Often a food desire is really just boredom/anxiety speaking. As if your brain decided it needed to feel good, and right now food was the closest thing to fulfill the goal. When I force myself to do something else, I feel .. let's say a bit manic, but I can often work on other things deeply, and the hunger vanishes rapidly.

I can relate to this. I definitely eat when I'm bored or annoyed.

I've found it useful to distinguish between "mouth hunger" and "stomach hunger". When I'm actually hungry, I feel sensations in my stomach, and will often burp or feel like I'm about to reflux.

The "mouth hunger" is when I think of a croissant and start salivating, even though I wasn't hungry a moment ago. Or that store checkout-line "hunger" when you see all the tempting treats they've put there. So, not hunger at all, but craving.

Yes true hunger feels different. You also aim at different things, less about taste but more about actual nutrients. Even as a kid I never drank 2L of sodas when I was deep into soccer or running. It was straight to water.

Similar experience here, perhaps. Wife and I run and our training involves running in the morning before work. I've done a couple runs, up to ten miles, before breakfast and not eaten afterwards until lunch (typically 1100-1200.) I was surprised that following the runs, I was not starving. It really was no effort to not eat. On the ten mile runs, I put a sports drink in my water bottle which includes carbs as well as electrolytes, so I suppose that's not really fasting. Pre and post run I do drink water and black coffee.

And then there are mornings like today where I ran 10 miles and then had 2 eggs, 2 strips of extra thick bacon, two buckwheat pancakes (with butter and syrup)and a piece of rye toast with marmalade. Definitely not fasting!

Similar to my experience. I live in the mountains and if I go on a strenuous hike first thing in the morning then it takes a while until I get my appetite back. This applies any time of the day: following a strenuous hike, I am just not hungry for an hour or two.

is it hard on your bones and joints ? I wondered if hikes in the hills would be too tough 24/7

I cannot prove anything but it feels that modern lifestyle was seriously absurd. It was just comfort pushed to eleven. Since I took jogging back, I can also go 5 km or even 10 km by foot with ease. It's "worse" than that, I actually crave doing so. It's more pleasure than effort. Mind and body. Maybe that's just me...

Industrial revolutions required us to specialize and not spend time walking or working hard physically, but now that we're so comfy we're somehow deprived.

ps: I'd say it's super healthy to get some big big meals at times just because you enjoy it so much. Life's not just about being on a tight rope.

I do intermittent fasting since a couple of months, initially started with 16:8 and then moved to 18:6 after the first 4 weeks.

It took around 3-4 weeks until I noticed results which seems in line what I was told by others.

What stood out beside the weight loss (I was very close to my ideal weight anyway) was my ability to concentrate. I noticed a huge improvement after around 5-6 weeks. When I try to come up with the right words in a conversation it feels I have immediately in mind what I want to say.

I will verify this claim by going through your post history and report back here! (j/k)


I struggle to gain weight (always have), and fasting sounds incredibly easy to me - all you have to do is not do something. On the other hand, eating to gain weight if you have no/little appetite is hard work - you actually have to take the time to do it.

Is there a relatively easy way to boost one's appetite? Drinking a gallon of full fat milk a day on top of one's usual meals is the easiest option I have found, but even that is a lot of hard work.

Wow, that's almost incomprehensibly different from my own experience. I do like two push ups and notice myself bulking up. But it's so hard to not eat when I'm bored/have cravings. There's a whole suite of self-delusional and deceptive behaviour around eating, for me.

To increase appetite you’ll want to increase your hunger hormones (ghrelin in particular), and minimize your satiety hormones (leptin, cck, peptide yy etc).

Sugar has the least satiety of any of the macros (protein has the highest satiety) so if you’re looking to simply pack in calories, sugar sweetened beverages are good (I saw an interesting study that discovered that carbonation increases ghrelin response, so most soda will give you a twofer).

Something like a donut (sugar and fat in combination has been shown to be particularly obesogenic) and you can get some of the hyperpalatability effect.

Kevin Hall recently published a study showing ultra-processed food increased ad libitum food intake by about 500 calories per day: https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/pdf/S1550-4131(19)30248...

Also eating/snacking throughout the day will keep insulin high and increase hunger signals and driver fat storage in your body as a result.

Of course, this basically sums up the Standard American Diet and explains why most people have the problem of putting too much weight on.

Also, as a caveat to all these “interventions,” while they are effective for weight gain, they are almost all also generally terrible for your metabolic health, and will drive MetS, diabetes, CVD, cancer, etc (basically the things killing everyone eating the SAD).

Yeah, recently due to an illness I lost all of my appetite. Initially, it was actually quote amusing - I went from being casually hungry and snacking every now and then to just.....not needing food. Like, I could have a piece of toast and then not eat anything for the rest of the day and I would feel absolutely fine. After few weeks though I lost a lot of weight and it went from being amusing to being a major pain in the ass, because actually forcing yourself to eat when you're not hungry is extremely difficult. It's not that I have any physical difficulty with eating, it's just that I would have a couple bites and I feel my body telling me "you're full, you don't need more", and I know that's a lie and I have to eat to actually get better. I'm a lot better than when it first started, but yeah, the first two-three weeks were just amusing with how little food we can actually consume and how little effect it had on my daily life.

When I wanted to gain weight from lifting I had to set alarms on when to eat. I was never hungry. The gallon of milk each day is a good one. I kept peanut butter at my desk and would eat it whenever my alarm went off. I would eat an early dinner, and then eat again right before bed. It is work if you're not used to eating that much.

> Drinking a gallon of full fat milk a day on top of one's usual meals is the easiest option I have found

That's actually part of Mark Rippetoe's bulking diet. It's apparently the best combination of calorie density and beneficial nutrients. There's a section on diet on Starting Strength, if you are interested.

Never thought I’d see the day when Dr. Fraud Rippetoe gets recommended on HN. That guy is overweight and out of shape and his lifting advice injures 99%+ of people who take it. Tread lightly when following the incredibly stupid teachings of Mark Rippetoe, man.

Yes, milk and cheeses are appetite enhancers. So is cumin.

Believe it or not, for me, low appetite is often goes hand in hand with not getting enough salt. I have found that I can fix low appetite by getting more salt.

I don't know the exact mechanism, but I suspect the Chloride part of Sodium Chloride contributes to the Chloride part of Hydrochloric acid in my stomach.

I read a book years ago on fasting, and the author discussed people who couldn't gain weight sometimes had issues with their intestines, that after fasting recovered from. And then were able to gain weight more easily. I got the impression it was not just one day of fasting though.

I'm struggling like hell to eat enough to keep weight on at the moment, I've stomach issues though so that's the root cause.

I've had to resort to body builders weight gainer which is mostly sugar, protein and dairy as I seem to be able to tolerate that OK.

rather than full fat milk go deeper into the crevasse, melted ice cream

> The successful self-deprivation of food (in a healthy, reasonable way)

I would argue that perhaps you aren't "depriving" yourself but more like adjusting your intake to meet your actual needs.

In other words, most of us overeat, and it just feels like deprivation when we eat less. (until we get accustomed to it)

Hunger pangs are caused by a hormone called Ghrelin. It's more of a reminder to eat than an actual signal that you need more food. But it makes you feel like you're starving.

Ghrelin is also entrained and pulsatile - you get hungry when you’re used to eating, and then the signal goes away whether you’ve eaten or not (until your next meal time).

It also decreases in severity over time, which is why anyone who hasn’t ever done any extended fasting imagines that you’ll get hungrier and hungrier until you’re gnawing your hands off, but anyone who has usually has the opposite experience.

> drinking lots and lots of water, water you should probably be drinking anyway, will mask them more easily than one would expect.

I've recently started intermittent fasting (22:00 - 12:00, still cheat too often, but it's a start) and I've noticed this too. Two cups of coffee and a couple of glasses of water really keeps me alright until lunch. That's when I really start feeling hungry.

I wasn't afraid to start IF either, because I often used to skip breakfast because I couldn't get out of bed on time.

Is it not normal to not eat between 10pm and noon? I'm not sure it counts as fasting if you are eating on the normal schedule.

It's a 14 hour fast, as was mentioned in the article. Most people i know eat breakfast when they go to work, between 6 and 8am and people often tend to snack late at night. There's even the saying that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day', so yeah I'd say that not eating until noon is not normal.

The whole breakfast being the most important meal of the day, was merely a marketing stunt by Grape Nuts.


The history of breakfast cereal preceding that is even more bizarre, being driven largely by John Kellogg’s desire to stamp out masturbation. Also by the Pricenomics guys: https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2016/05/17/the-sur...

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is a saying too, but it doesn't mean people are eating apples regularly. If anything, it means people are not doing it as much as someone thinks they should. It could easily be the case that we have such a saying because people don't regularly eat breakfast.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away only works if you've got good aim.

I haven't eaten before noon regularly, since I was 10, nor does my wife. I'm not unique among my friends, each who are thin and eat 2 meals a day (sometimes snacks). I'm over 40. My mom, who is losing weight, eats exactly twice a day at 10a and 10p with a snack for lunch. I don't know a person who eats a regular measurable breakfast at work, excepting the occasional company bagels and morning coffees (we don't drink coffee either). I never questioned the normalcy of it, since I know so many others who have the same pattern shrug

Or your normal schedule involves a fasting period.

This comes back to the whole "is breakfast the most important meal of the day or damaging our health?" question. A lot of people who skip breakfast are still consuming calories anyway (e.g. that morning coffee with cream/sugar in it).

If eat == any caloric intake beyond negligible, then yeah, it's abnormal, in American culture at least.

A lot of people who think they don't eat until late are ignoring calorie-loaded and frequently sugar-loaded lattes, cappuccinos or juices that fill them up with calories in liquid format.

No, it is not normal. A large majority of people eat before 9 a.m. on most days.

I'd be interested in a citation to show how large a majority.

I'm one of those "haven't eaten breakfast since I was a kid" types (I have a coffee with semi-skimmed milk, if I eat breakfast I'm ravenous and want a snack before lunch).

It counts as fasting and is one of the easiest ways to start doing IF.

How much milk and/or sugar do you put in your coffee. Not doubting, just reminding that this can be a significant source of calories.

If you're truly doing IF, you shouldn't add either to your coffee.

Martin Berkhan, the guy that popularized the 16:8 "Leangains" approach puts milk in his coffee. From [0], "So, it’s a question of a dose-response effect. Can you have some milk in your coffee? Sure, I wouldn’t worry about it and I have it myself. Life would just be too damn boring with only black coffee, especially if you’re used to having some milk with it. How much milk/cream? I would put the limit at 50 kcal total used throughout the fast. That’s about 1 deciliter or 1/2 cup 2% milk."


None. I drink a cappuccino after lunch.

Capuccino has milk in it.

Yes, that's why I wrote that drink it after lunch, when I've already had calories and therefore am no longer in the fasting period.

I'm sure they're aware. After lunch is when the fast breaks, so they are free to put whatever they like in their coffee.

From what I've been told you shouldn't have anything other than water during fasting (for IF). That includes coffee & tea.

I read up on this before starting and one or two cups shouldn't matter if there's nothing added to it. Also, the size of the coffee matters slightly, but here in NL we get small cups, not Starbucks size.

Some herbal tea is fine, and even recommended for certain kinds of fasting

There was that really obese guy who fasted for 6 months or so under medical supervision so it's clearly something that some people can do.

This [0] classic study where a guy fasted for 382 days. He only took multi-vitamins during this period. His weight decreased from 456 to 180 lbs (0.72 lbs/day). [0] https://pmj.bmj.com/content/postgradmedj/49/569/203.full.pdf

That's very dangerous due to potentially deadly refeeding syndrome on breaking the fast: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refeeding_syndrome

> "under medical supervision"

Indeed. That's just one of several dangers.

People seem to effectively conduct 7-10 day fasts regularly, but beyond that you should talk to a doctor/registered dietician and also take nutritional supplements (and exit the fast in a very gradual way, not feasting).

Another related point is to increase eating raw/uncooked food. I'm noticing how much less I eat as I decrease cooked food portions. It may be easier or better than outright fasting.

Of course, I am only referring to certain veggies or soaking things like peas/beans/lentils in water overnight (instead of cooking). Please don't eat raw meat or anything after you see my message!

The way you phrased it — “outright fasting” — makes it seem as if eating uncooked food is a form of fasting. To be clear: it isnt. Decreasing the amount of cooked food you eat provides NONE of the health benefits that fasting provides. Eating less cooked food is not a form of fasting, and your phrasing is hilariously laughable.

Do you have any recommended reading on how to do this “correctly?” I get it that you just don’t eat, but I’m wondering how you should resume eating at the end, and about vitamins / minerals, etc. during the fast. What’s recommended?

I'm not sure there is a "correct" way to do it. There's lots of variations that work differently for different people. But even at its simplest (fasting 16 hours, eating for 8) doesn't really require a ton of extra planning. The point is that during the 8 hours, you fill up about as quickly as you do when you don't fast, so you don't really end up consuming more. What does change is you remove the snacking/overeating that occurs throughout the rest of the day. So even if someone eats the way they normally would during their 8 hour period of non-fasting, many people will see benefits.

Obviously there's lots of other additional dietary steps one can take, but most of them don't actually differ much from traditional healthy eating advice: limit carbs and sugar, balanced meals, don't drink your calories, etc.

Checkout A Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung

This is a bit verbose https://link.medium.com/WKzY5QxeSW but has good general guidelines. It's easier to proceed gradually rather than going into it cold turkey.

3 years ago

This changed our lives for the better


Watch, learn, try

And remember we are in charge of our own health.

The healthcare system, your providers and their team get PAID for seeing patients usually with a broad range of conditions (unless they are volunteering in a region in need of health services)

I have a lot of trouble trying to gain weight. How easy is it too actually eat enough calories fasting that much?

"I have a lot of trouble trying to gain weight. How easy is it too actually eat enough calories fasting that much?"

Although I do not wish to gain weight, I do have trouble maintaining a set weight that I would like to live (and compete) at.[1]

And yet, I am on a 16/8 or even 18/6 fasting schedule about four days per week.

The answer, for me, is almond butter. Tremendously dense in calories and very easy to add 1/3 cup (or more) to a meal replacement shake. It's one of the easiest ways I have found to have a 1500 calorie meal that doesn't involve a tremendous bulk of food. Avocados are another food that fits this same bill.

[1] I am a "lightweight", or 168 pound, fighter as per IBJJF.

You're probably not a great candidate for fasting. Not every modality works for every person.

Did you drink "snake juice" to replenish your electrolytes?

I was forced by circumstances to have several of these fasting periods in my life, the longest being ~100 days. During this time I consumed no solid food or food supplements (like vitamins). I replaced that with clear vegetable soups (meaning only the water from boiling the vegetables) and sweetened tea. Very little actual water now that I think of it.

Very quickly after starting it just sort of became normal, the hunger pangs were gone, there were no particularly strong cravings even when sitting at the table with people eating normal food. Surprisingly many times I even felt more energetic but this may have been purely a subjective feeling.

I inadvertently started fasting during college due to my class schedule, living off campus, and not being able to afford eating out. I'm now at a point in my life where my schedule is more flexible, I'm not spending as much time commuting, and I can afford to eat out if I choose to, but I've continued to maintain a one meal a day lifestyle. I don't feel the sensation of hunger anymore though I still have an appetite. My coworkers get noticeably anxious and antsy if they don't have their lunch by 11 AM while hunger no longer affects my ability to concentrate. I've also been able to maintain a healthy BMI as I age; I'm neither overweight or underweight.

I will say that when I was younger I often wanted a bodybuilder physique, but I didn't have the discipline to eat enough to support proper muscle growth. Now I'm just glad I'm not going the seemingly inevitable route of becoming an overweight middle-aged office worker that morphs into their chair.

Edit: To be clear, I still go to the gym regularly to lift weights and do cardio even with fasting, but I never have and never will compete in any bodybuilding competitions (which I'm OK with).

> I will say that when I was younger I often wanted a bodybuilder physique, but I didn't have the discipline to eat enough to support proper muscle growth. Now I'm just glad I'm not going the seemingly inevitable route of becoming an overweight middle-aged office worker that morphs into their chair.

This can't be reiterated enough. Fasting helped me NOT eat all day while sitting at a desk. I eat no breakfast during the week and have a light salad for lunch and then have a regular dinner. The only byproducts I've come across is a slightly higher sensitivity to caffeine and I'm more alert.

I was forced to a fasting schedule in college too since I could only afford a 14 meal a week plan during college, luckily it was all you could eat once you were inside!

> when I was younger I often wanted a bodybuilder physique

As someone who has competed in both bodybuilding and powerlifting, I can attest that you don't want that physique. It's not worth the pain, time, and effort for it. Plus, anyone you see with rock-hard abs looks like that for maybe a 3 hour window. Almost no one looks like that year-round all of the time.

Instead of gaining 15 pounds my freshman year, I lost it. I wasn't consciously fasting--I was just too lazy to leave my dorm room to grab snacks. I didn't keep up the habit as I got older and put on weight. Now I'm consciously fasting every day since the start of the year. I'm about 25 pounds down so far and I don't see myself ever giving up this lifestyle.

Does the exercising during fasting cause you to feel hunger pangs more intensely?

I haven't noticed any. I've been intermittent fasting for about two years with 16 hours no eating 8 hours to eat. Occasionally a 24 hour fast. Usually the most intense hunger pangs occur when I have eaten a lot of carbs the day prior.

I do weight training and running. Usually after a workout I feel like the cravings I do have are more manageable. You do need to be careful though. I wouldn't recommend doing any weight training if you're doing more than a 24 hour fast and if you are weight training while fasting make sure you have a spotter. At least at first.

I personally eat one meal a day typically and exercise fasted because it's a convenient time for me to exercise. After exercise I usually feel almost no hunger, usually much less than before. Hard to say if that ends up with more 5 hours later when it would be close to dinner time, I haven't noticed much difference on days when I skip the gym.

When doing cardio, I feel like I have more energy fasted than if I eat before. That might not be normal, might just be what I'm used to.

I did read the recent research in support of intermittent fasting, but a lot of the quotes in this article seem like pseudoscience.

> It also reduces the time spent each day processing food and lengthens the period devoted to cleansing and restoring the body’s cells, both of which have positive health effects.

So "cleansing and restoring" the body's cells only happens when one isn't eating?? Gonna need a citation for that one.

I haven’t read the article so I don’t know the context but it’s probably specifically referencing autophagy, which is very nutrient sensitive: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6321489/

If you’re looking for the science, “autophagy,” “AMPK”, “MTOR” are probably good search terms to start with.

Here’s a recent review/introduction on how fasting stimulates autophagy that you can scihub: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S156816371... (if you just want PubMed access you can give this one a read: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783752/ ) and a couple more starting points (follow the citation chain) if you’re looking into molecular mechanisms: https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00008.20... or https://www.nature.com/articles/ncb2152

> So "cleansing and restoring" the body's cells only happens when one isn't eating?? Gonna need a citation for that one.

But the article specifies exactly what they mean:

> When we eat, our body releases insulin. That disrupts the process of autophagy (from the Greek, meaning “self-devouring”), by which cells deconstruct old, damaged components in order to release energy and build new molecules. Autophagy helps to counteract the aging of cells and builds immunity. Fasts stimulate autophagy and allow the full molecular process to take place, as a team led by Frank Madeo at the University of Graz in Austria found in 2017.

Now maybe insulin doesn't have anything to do with autophagy, but if if the claim that insulin stops autophagy is correct, then "lengthens the period devoted to cleansing and restoring the body’s cells" has a specific well-defined meaning.

Interesting, it seems this could explain why a ketogenic diet has a cleansing effect, as it also reduces insulin production which may trigger autophagy.

I think people feel the need to add a scientific explanation to things where in my view the pure observation that it seems to work would be enough already. It reminds me a little of Semmelweiss who observed that washing hands reduces infection rates but was ridiculed because he couldn’t explain it.

When I meditate or fast from time to time I can observe that it makes me feel better and I don’t really feel the importance for someone to explain it.

>I think people feel the need to add a scientific explanation to things where in my view the pure observation that it seems to work would be enough already.

I really could not disagree more, given how much conflicting health information I see talked about seemingly daily.

Agreed. But if you try something and it shows benefits then you don’t necessarily need an explanation. For example exercise and mediation done regularly make me feel better but I don’t really care if it’s endorphins, hormones or any other mechanism that causes this.

For now. But what if it stops working? What if someone else wants the benefit but can't do the same things? What if there are other undesirable consequences that you'd like to avoid? Knowing how something works is generally much more valuable than knowing that it works in the long term.

Sure. It’s good to have people trying to understand things but while they are findings explanations we can take advantage of the benefits already and don’t have to wait. I am thinking the same about placebo effects. As long as it works let’s use it and in parallel make an effort to understand the mechanism.

One way to look at it is that health tips are subjective: they may be useful depending on the person and their lifestyle.

Another way to look at it is that, if we try hard enough, science will offer explanations that take into account all of these differences. But it might be really hard, like multi-billion dollar studies to reach basic conclusions.

Pure observation comes from your own experience, not from reading others'.

>I think people feel the need to add a scientific explanation to things where in my view the pure observation that it seems to work would be enough already.

Thank you, I could not agree with this more.

Observation is the basis of science and yet many still need to be passively hand fed how to live and need constant validation from a constantly changing dynamic field where "experts" get fame, power, and attention for their true gospel [1]

Even after I graduated with a science degree and went onto healthcare, my mother would still lovingly remind me, "Son, you may have book smarts, but you need more common sense" :-)

[1] http://nautil.us/issue/74/networks/the-flawed-reasoning-behi...

If you want to make subjective observations like "fasting makes me feel more alert" that is completely fine by me. I fully agree that it's possible to observe positive changes like this without knowing why the change is happening.

However if you make a specific scientific claim about cell "cleansing" then you need to be able to back it up with evidence; without evidence, such claims are just nonsense. There is no "subjective observation" of what cells are doing.

... and when he tried to explain it, he was wrong, in ways any attentive observer could work out.

We should separate observation from explanation. There are plenty of valuable observations made by people and these observations should stand on their own without the observer also having to explain it.

This is something I've noticed as well. As both a client and as an IT troubleshooter, I try to be keenly aware of this distinction. When I'm at the doctor's office, I relay what I've observed, and try to refrain from any speculation of the cause. Likewise, when asked to fix a problem, I try to ignore the explanation the client is offering and focus solely on the observation.

I think it's very easy to get hung up on refuting or confirming the observer's explanation and ignore the observation. For as much as observations are worth, if someone says they saw a strange animal, I might believe them, if they said they saw Bigfoot, I wouldn't, but that's a very good moment to ask questions.

Maxwell's laws continue to work just fine despite Maxwell's explanations for them being complete hookum. If an observation is insufficiently precise the lack of explanation can be a problem. But high quality observation is useful regardless of the explanation for it.

...and lives were lost because people couldn't accept a correct procedure with an incorrect explanation.

(Would you only take a cancer drug if the oncologist can explain exactly how it works?)

Off topic, but this is seemingly everything in management. So often, "Doing what feels right" can really pay off from a team/individual happiness POV. But, there is no "methodology" that could justify what I need to have a conversation with someone.

Someone once told me the benefit of management theories is that they motivate people to take action, try things, and think.

Or they have to come up with some bullshit metric that justifies things.

How do you differentiate a correct procedure with an incorrect explanation from an incorrect procedure?

Let’s simplify the question. How do you differentiate an correct procedure from an incorrect procedure? The correct procedure can be observed to work.

The correct procedure has been observed to work, but not everything that is observed to work is correct. This is particularly true when "correct" still comes with a probability of failure in specific cases.

Explanations need to be tested to verify they are correct. Incorrect explanations delivered authoritatively lead to bad extrapolations, which in turn lead to incorrect procedures. So, if something has been observed to work but an explanation has not been verified, the proper response at the practitioner level is "This tends to work, but we aren't sure why".

> The correct procedure has been observed to work, but not everything that is observed to work is correct.

Procedures are neither correct nor incorrect but rather effective or ineffective. Whether the explanation is correct or incorrect is irrelevant if the procedure is effective. Of course we would prefer to have both the effective procedure and the correct explanation but if we insist on only applying procedures with correct explanations we are not doing the best we can.

So, I would extend the proper response to, "This tends to work, we don't know why, but you should try it."

It works.

Yeah they're taking some of the woo-woo shit a bit too far sometimes, but it's pretty clear that the human body didn't evolve with 3 meals a day + snacks &c.

It's less about fasting being magic and more about our current lifestyle putting too much/unnecessary strains on our organs.

The real deal with IT is that after a while you became more aware about hunger. Then you can chose to eat when you are hungry vs when "it's time to eat". A lot of it is due to Ghrelin[0] and Insulin afaik. Basically the more regularly you eat the more your body will signal you to eat when the regular time approach -> you feel hungry but in most case your body doesn't _need_ to eat at that time.

There are some "easy" and basic tricks that really helps. One of the best is eating very light dinners, which helps not feeling hungry in the morning (you can easily reduce your daily calorie intake by 30%+ like that). On the other hand eating a big dinner -> feeling super hungry the day after thanks to insulin [1].

[0] https://www.diabetes.co.uk/in-depth/fasting-may-change-bodys...

[1] https://steemit.com/stemng/@pangoli/why-you-wake-up-hungry-a...

I'm very wary of all evolutionary nutrition arguments, because a) we know very little about prehistoric lifestyle, b) there have been many generations since agriculture started and agricultural societies regularly outcompeted hunter-gatherers.

Furthermore it's really not clear that something is better just because it was that way during the time we supposedly evolved. For example, we didn't evolve with antiseptics either and yet disinfecting wounds seems like a pretty good idea.

70% of Americans are obese or overweight. Every other major countries are following the trend. It's crystal clear that we're fucking up. IT is one of many ways to stay healthy that's all, no more no less.

> there have been many generations since agriculture started and agricultural societies regularly outcompeted hunter-gatherers.

Never refuted that, it's more efficient in every aspects. The only problem is that we're way past "eating for survival", we eat for fun, when we're bored, when "it's time to eat" no matter if we truly are hungry or not.

> we know very little about prehistoric lifestyle

I'm sure we can all agree they were not eating 3 times a day at regular interval, every single day of their life while sitting 80% of their awake time. Not even talking about the amount of calories or how processed their food was.

> Furthermore it's really not clear that something is better just because it was that way during the time we supposedly evolved. For example, we didn't evolve with antiseptics either and yet disinfecting wounds seems like a pretty good idea.

I fail to see the link. We evolved a way to keep bacterias out (skin) and antiseptics were designed to help with that in certain cases. Regular mealtime is something we came up very recently, especially for the average joe (ie. industrial revolution). Try putting SP98 in a diesel engine, that's what we're doing with our stomachs. It might somehow run for a bit but in the long term it's no bueno.

The human body is simply not designed for what we throw at it, and is incapable of handling the changes in such a small timeframe. Looking out of the window is enough proof that our lifestyle is not adequate.

Animals are getting fatter too, including lab animals whose diet is pretty tightly controlled. Perhaps there are more causes for the obesity epidemic than eating three meals a day and working in an office.


And back when almost no Americans were overweight intermittent fasting wasn't a thing.

IF may be great but it is definitely also riding a diet fad wave right now.

At least IF doesn't involve the sale of anything... that elevates it above almost all the recent diet fads where you end up buying lots of highly processed supplements.

Actually intermittent fasting was the norm - Americans averaged three meals a day with no snacks (you’ll spoil your appetite!), and typically spent 12-14 hours between supper/dinner and breakfast. Insulin response remained pulsatile with enough postprandial time for it to return to baseline.

The reference I have handy shows that Americans average 5 meals/snacks per day now: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29574043 although I’ve seen even higher numbers (closer to 6) mentioned.

Ah, found a source analyzing eating frequency (and timing) changes since 1977: https://idmprogram.com/the-critical-importance-of-meal-timin...

I'm not sure how that's fasting.

I don't consider myself as someone who fasts and it is typically 13-14 hours from my supper to my breakfast.

Eat dinner around 6-7PM Eat breakfast around 7:30-8AM

My schedule I would assume is shifted forward from say my grandparents schedule. They would have eaten dinner & breakfast earlier due to differences in work hours 50+ years ago.

If that's fasting it seems like a strange/new definition. But maybe a lot of people are indeed still eating something substantial closer to midnight as they watch TV or something?

I actually spread out my lunch into several smaller meals during the day.

But I also exercise a lot, and I'm not buying lunch like so many engineers I work with. My lunch is 1/4-1/2 the size of a sit down restaurant meal.

The old norm was so much more physical activity than today too.

One of those articles is totally right about kids though. When I was a kid I took a lunch to school and that was the only time I ate. My son is going into first grade and all the day cares he went to and his current school have dedicated snack times, 2-3 extra times eating that are not lunch. The day care that had 3 snack times porked the kids up pretty good.

Per the article, 14h is actually what’s being spoken about: “There are different ways to go about it, but I advise patients to omit either dinner or breakfast, so that they don’t ingest any food for at least 14 hours at a stretch.” This should probably more specifically described as Time Restricted Eating/Feeding, but IF is sort of used as a catch all for this and other eating patterns, so what can you do.

Sadly, due to snacking and the misconception that they should eat as soon as they get up, I suspect that most Americans probably have an eating window that spans 14-16h instead of 8-10h (which has been RCT’d to show a significant difference in hunger and ad libitum food consumption).

That references this for that mechanism:


Autophagy is not "cleansing and restoring". We need to stop using these wellness-ad terms like "cleansing", "restoring", "toxins" and "detoxification", "building immunity". Please.

The benefit of seeing the word "toxins" is that the alert reader can be reasonably certain that the rest of the article or ad is baloney.

Can you explain what autophagy is and specifically why "cleansing and restoring" are incorrect layman terms to use? I'm curious.

I think if there's any problem with the term "cleansing," it's that too many people have used it in a totally meaningless way, and almost caused the term to drift. This is unfortunate, since it clearly does fit a (more sane) colloquial definition of "cleansing and repairing."

Autophagy translates to self-eating. Cleansing and restoring are incorrect terms because they don't describe the process, but our hopes about its outcome.

How would you describe autophagy in layman's terms?

A controlled self destruction at the cellular level? I'm sure there's many ways to express the concept simply and clearly enough for people to get an idea.

What irks me is the usage of vague but positive terms to indicate what is a neutral, mechanical process. It might have positive impacts in certain circumstances, but if the body were so concerned about "cleansing" and "restoring", it would do it, fasting or not fasting.

Projecting on nature our own intentionality, sense of purpose and good/ bad categories is a pre-scientific attitude.

/rant :)

"Self eat"

I have some personal anecdotes that support this to some degree - I have dermatitis, and acne on my forearms - the longer I fast, the less acne I have, and my dermatitis recedes. The effects are very visible, and quite quick, 2 days of fasting will completely clean my scalp.

My father had psoriasis - after a week of fasting, his scabs would completely disappear, even in winter, when he had the worse flare-ups. Even eating healthy, even avoiding all sorts of foods that he knew he was sensitive to (lemons, garlic, spices, etc) didn't have nearly the same effect.

IIRC intestine cells do cleanup and repair mostly when not busy processing food. Intestine is large, and is definitely a lot of work for immune system as an attack surface.

I think they are referring to autophagy, which is upgregulated during fasting.

Sure autophagy is an important process in cellular "cleansing", if you want to use the pop definition here. But more autophagy != good outcomes, generally speaking. For instance, too much autophagy is associated with reduced cellular division and growth.

It sounds like someone just did a s/cleansing toxins/autophagy/ here to make this sound more science-y.

Note, I am NOT saying that there's no value in fasting. There certainly could be. I'm just saying that the article seems to be playing a bit fast and loose with the science.

Agreed. There is some science around limiting insulin spikes that come with eating is where the benefit comes from. Check out Peter Attia's podcast sometime. He's an MD who reads a tons of research and does a lot of self experimentation (he wears a continuous glucose monitor and meticulously tracks metrics). He's also the first say something isn't conclusive, but based on what he has personally seen in his practice there may be some merit to an idea.

It's a Murdoch publication after all. Try not to set your sights too high.

I've been doing IF (18:6) for 6 months and OMAD (23:1) for 2 months, while I've lost a decent amount of weight, slowly but surely, I've mostly plateaued. I don't weigh myself and I'm very active (ice hockey 3-5 times a week) but I've noticed a difference in body fat qualitatively.

But... that's not why I am doing it. I've suffered for years from migraines. 2-4 times a week, I've been to half a dozen doctors with no solid recommendations besides medication.

Now, not only do I take zero medication, but I get migraines about once a month, and way less severe than I used to. Ive also correlated the migraines with times followed by poor fasting behavior (for instance, eating all day on a weekend with family and friends).

I also need less sleep, am less groggy, and have far fewer stomach issues.

Overall its a massively net positive change.

Do you grind your teeth at night? I used to have severe migraines at least once a month until I got a night guard from a dentist that prevented grinding. Now I get a migraine maybe once a year.

I have a guard from a company called NTI. It’s a small piece of acrylic that sits on my upper front teeth and has a sort of “shelf” that my lower incisors rest on. This apparently tricks the brain into refusing to clench down because at a deep level it knows not to bite when it’s incisor on incisor.

I recall reading that this style of night guard, while certainly better than a whole tooth guard that still allows you to grind but just protects your teeth, is not great for long term. However I can’t recall why and I need to research more. In any case I’ve been using mine for over 10 years and I would never go back to not using it.

Anyway, a bunch of unsolicited info that will maybe help you or anyone suffering from migraines who stumbles across this post.

Just a note on the NTI device, I had one of these for years as I am a bad grinder.

After a while I noticed that my front teeth were not coming together any more when biting, and I could not force them together. It turns out it is known that for people that really force their jaws together, the NTI device actually changes and collapses the jaw joint, changing the pivot point of your whole jaw.

I stopped using it, but the change is permanent. I had to have the dentist actually grind down my molars so that my front teeth could touch again. Beware.

It can adjust your bite if worn too many hours in a day. Worth asking dentist, bit prob not serious if worn only during sleep and bite is monitored.

I should add I’m thinking specifically of anterior bite planes. Unsure if you have that or something different.

Thank you for your note! I don't grind my teeth, but I'll ask my dentist on my next check up!

Just an idea, but the migraine might be coming from inflammation in the brain. Eating less food causes less inflammation. You could try something like Aspirin or Glycine to bring inflammation down, it might help that last bit.

Glad you've found what works for you! Just wanted to comment that I love that you abbreviated OMAD. I've done it too and after a week or so of feeling a little dizzy around 3pm, my body fully adapted to OMAD. I just find it funny that the strategy may be well known enough to use an acronym.

Are you doing both IF and OMAD (on different days obviously) or have you switched entirely over to OMAD?

I am doing OMAD 4-5 days a week, and if I don't do OMAD I most certainly do 18:6.

On the weekends its a bit of a crap shoot since my social life is mostly around eating but I tend to stick to 16:8 (still IF)

YAA (Yet another anecdote)

Fasting has changed my life. I put a ton of weight on in B-school (yes not afraid to admit I went to b school on HN) that plus my consulting lifestyle (lack of good quality sleep for days at a time) really started to take a toll on my health (lines and bags under my eyes, poor health and energy levels in general).

My wife is due with our second in august, so I decided to get in shape as a gift to my baby girl. I’m not a gym goer, so fasting looked appealing. There’s so much research around IF, circadian rhythms, effect on anti cancer factors, autophagy, anti Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc, definitely a lot more to motivate people now than before when it was likely for spiritual reasons.

I dropped forty pounds in the last three months, and probably look almost ten years younger, I feel like my body has almost reversed the damage I did to it from school and over work. I was addicted to eating and I’ve broken through that, and now I can just work non stop all day for 12-18 hours as needed, whereas my colleagues are still fixated on six small meals, which I’ve now realized is so disruptive to work and concentration. No more after lunch coma, I haven’t even had to set foot in a gym. I don’t do Omad but will do 48h and 72h fasting, and I feel fine, have not felt a huge drop in muscle that everyone freaks out about. All in all I will keep going with this fasting focused lifestyle, and would definitely recommend anyone who is struggling with this to try it.. first week is toughest, once you break through the addiction, you won’t even think about it.

Don't fool yourself thinking that after few weeks or even months of dieting/fasting you've broken the addiction. That was my mistake the first time I began IF.. after 8 months I decided that eating normally for a few weeks will not change anything.. 10 months later I'm back at my pre-diet weight trying to restart the whole process again.

Great advice, thanks! Yes for me it’s committing to weight myself everyday (at least for the next year or two) and adjusting the fasting protocol if the weight starts to go out of normal range.

On the other hand, I dropped 40 pounds in three months on a calorie-restricted regimen combined with strength training, and kept it off permanently (even years after abandoning the diet and training).

That said, doing this successfully does require a mindset change. It requires a "new normal" at the end of the period.

what’s your fasting schedule, roughly?

Let me preface this by saying this is for weight loss purposes, and not recommended as a generic all purpose diet. That said I started eating one low calorie meal (under 1000 cals) every other day. Once i got used to that I switched to two days fasting and one day eating (again the same under 1000 kcal meal). On days I’m fasting I make sure to consume electrolytes (basically sodium and potassium). Those help out with the general fatigue experienced on pure water fasting (which tends to drain your electrolyte stores). But nothing other than that.

Another anecdote, but others might find it useful: I have been doing intermittent fasting for years now. I currently eat once per day. My eating window is usually an hour or less. I eat dinner, have dessert, go to bed. I run five miles every morning on an empty stomach. During the day I drink only water and I put an electrolyte fizzy tablet in my first glass.

It works great for me for maintaining my energy level and managing my weight. It probably does not work for everybody, but I think more people should try it.

Most humans currently living and who have lived didn't eat three meals every day. It's a recent phenomenon driven by those marketing food and snacks. Observing obesity rates, more people should try hunger and learn how to manage it.

I should add: I do occasionally have breakfast and lunch meetings or social engagements at which I feel compelled to eat or have a treat. I find that once I break my fast for the day, my hunger is awakened and it is harder to abstain.

Fasting has a side-benefit of saving lots of time. Less time planning meals. Less time shopping. Less time preparing food. Less time eating. For me, the extra N hours a day I save is very noticeable.

I also notice more easily how food is pushed on us. Food advertising is pervasive. In the city, you cannot even walk 50m without seeing a signboard enticing you to eat something. Everywhere people are eating, carrying food, talking about food. When I am in a more natural setting, thoughts about food come from within. I get hungry, and then I think about eating. If I am not hungry, I do not think much about eating (aside from having basic food security). The desire for food is not broadcast to me.

I did the CRON diet in the early 2000s, and our motto was that we eat to live, rather than living to eat. I don't deliberately restrict calories anymore, but it gave me a unique perspective in a world of celebrity chefs.

Mostly I agree with the idea of limited eating to a window of roughly 12 hours; however I disagree with skipping breakfast.

I never use to eat breakfast until a recent hockey injury where I damaged 6 teeth including losing 2. My weight dropped rapidly because I couldn't eat solids so I started to eat eggs and tofu a lot (mostly eggs). The byproduct of all this was I would wake up so hungry I was dizzy so I started having 3 eggs for breakfast.

I'm mostly over the injury now (still waiting for the implants to be implanted), however I've continued to eat a large breakfast and my weight has remained the same - roughly 20 pounds lower than before the injury. I had already gotten in the habit of not eating at night, and if I have anything it's a little bit of yogurt.

Long/short I think it's a mistake to skip breakfast, I had done that for most of my life and now I'm sharper and more productive in the AM than I have ever been.

Just an anecdote as proof to the opposite. If I eat breakfast, I ruin my entire day.

It seems for me digesting a meal early in the day makes me lazy and sleepy. In high school, I use to eat a very light breakfast to avoid terrible hunger just before lunch. Even then, I'd get a bit sleepy. As I've gotten older, it just gets worse.

My solution is to skip breakfast, but eat lunch an hour earlier than most people.

What are you eating for breakfast? Foods that are high in carbs (such as cereal or pancakes) are often eaten by people, but these are terrible because they spike your blood sugar (and insulin), and then you have the blood sugar crash right before lunch.

I had a lot of luck with eating breakfast foods high in fat and protein, like boiled eggs and bacon. It works best if your body is adapted to a ketogenic diet, and you avoid carbs in general.

One you are adapted to a ketogenic diet, you will find that you can skip entire meals without hardly even noticing a reduction in energy. Your blood sugar will stabilise over time, and you just always have a low and slow burn of energy.

It really doesn't matter what I eat (I've tried tons of combinations). If it's anything substantial, it makes me sleepy.

There is an interesting twitter thread [0] that relates to your experience of difficulty eating while in need of enough food for recovery. It is about a treatment using large quantity of eggs (35 per day) for severe burn victims where 7 out of 8 survived.

Also my 2c about breakfast, it is important to have a diet that works for you and I don't think skipping breakfast for me is a mistake simply because I'm not hungry at that time. IMHO forcing yourself to eat for breakfast because you have been told otherwise would be a mistake is the mistake, and listening to your body is more important.

[0] https://twitter.com/mangan150/status/1156697355875307520?s=2...

Agree it is entirely an individual thing.

I’m probably an outlier in that I workout 6 days a week and play hockey 3-4 times weekly.

I typically burn around 800 or so calories on my non-hockey days; when I play hockey I hit 1600-1800 regularly (years of data in case anyone is wondering).

It would be interesting to get more information. Having a severe appetite while your body rebuilds seems reasonable. And needing more of a particular kind of food during that time (calcium? protein?) also seems reasonable. I wonder if you moved the three eggs to lunch time what would happen? In other words, is it now the three eggs or the skipping breakfast?

My own experience is that unless I have been strenuously active skipping breakfast does not have any negative effects.

From what I've heard/read, time-restricted feeding works best when you skip dinner versus skipping breakfast. So I'm not surprised that's been your experience.

But it's also socially difficult to maintain a no-dinner lifestyle, so I still choose to skip breakfast instead. I'll take the 80% benefit I can maintain versus the 100% I can't.

>Long/short I think it's a mistake to skip breakfast

I'm not sure your experiment of n=1 is enough for anyone else to take the advice that contradicts empirical evidence. But, do what works for you.

Gonna join the anecdote club. Before I started doing IF, I had a lot of stomach problems. I was taking omeprazole and eventually pantoprazole (more powerful) but still frequently had heartburn overnight and woke up with a horrible taste in my mouth. I had some bad flareups where I'd wake up puking bile and felt horrible all day long. Prior to that even I had two endoscopies and got tested for Crohn's disease (my dad has it, I tested negative). I was seriously considering that I'd never be able to eat Indian food again (my favorite!). On top of that, I would get EXTREMELY hangry every day, multiple times a day.

Then I tried IF.. after just a couple weeks I was able to stop the pantoprazole and my heartburn problems went away. The first two weeks were hard, I had a constant dull headache and the hunger at night (I'm 'skipping dinner' in my 16/8 schedule) was pretty hard. But after I got used to it, I felt much better over all. No more getting hangry, no more heartburn, no more trouble sleeping, no more groggy mornings, better mood overall.

It's ridiculous how much food and your eating patterns can affect you. I've seen it multiple times now when I've 'fallen off the [IF] wagon'... my mood deteriorates, and often other symptoms come out: headaches, upset stomach, all sorts of stuff. I don't think it's absurd to think that the stuff you're putting into your body "for energy" actually has a lot of other affects on your system.

Oh, and I dropped some of the weight I started gaining in my 30's when I did IF, too, which is a benefit of course, but not my reason for doing it.

Are you able to eat Indian food again? And at what time do you have usually eat now?

For a diabetes/obesity focus on this point, read anything by Jason Fung. For instance, "The obesity code" is thoroughly researched and persuasive.

As a diabetes researcher myself, it makes sense. While I do not investigate type 2, I understand that having a decent stretch of time where the body's insulin levels drop is a really good thing.

For anyone who wants to go a bit into the weeds, I really enjoyed this episode of Peter Attia's podcast where he interviewed Jason Fung: https://peterattiamd.com/jasonfung/

I've been doing intermittent fasting on and off for years now. In the past few months, I have become more extreme and am doing OMAD (One Meal a Day). I typically do a 23/1 fast where I only eat within a 1 hour period (dinner). The Keto diet + OMAD has enabled me to lose more than 100lbs and keep it off.

I haven't been perfect but I have noticed that it (obviously) has cut my mindless snacking and has made me more mindful as to what I'm actually eating. After about a week your body adjusts and you're hungry during the day.

What I've been doing now is during lunch, instead of eating I go for a 30-45 minute walk.

I did an over-the-top version of intermittent fasting for about two months last year where I would fast (no calories, just water and black coffee/tea) for at least 24 hours and then would eat normally the following day and then fast again. So alternating >24 hr fasts with a day normal eating (3 normal meals).

During this experiment I felt mentally fantastic. Mood was improved. Energy was higher. Not to mention I spent way less money on food, spent way less time thinking about or having to find food on my fasting days, and felt more in control of my hunger.

I tried increasing my fast from 24 hrs to 48 hrs, it went fine. But when I broke my fast with a large bean rice and cheese burrito, I felt like I was dying about 30 minutes later (lightheadedness, tachycardia, nausea). Ended up being hospitalized with refeeding syndrome or something similar, which was surprising to physicians because they only saw refeeding syndrome (had critically low phosphate) in people who had gone without significant caloric intake for weeks or months at a time.

I’ve never been the same since then. I think Ive developed gastrocardiac syndrome because I frequently (1-2x week) get less severe episodes of nausea, lightheadedness and tachycardia that generally self resolve but still feels like I’m dying for about 30 minutes. It’s been about a year now, so seems somewhat permanent damage.

So, I definitely recommend intermittent fasting but if you have a tendency to take things to the extreme, just don’t. It’s not worth it.

Have you heard of POTS? I wonder if electrolyte imbalance was/is driving some of your symptoms. Doing low-ish carb (nowhere near keto) and IF 18 hours a day, I have to supplement electrolytes or else I have very similar symptoms to you. YMMV of course.

Yes, that was considered as a possibility, and it still could be. But as the name suggests (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), there should be orthostatic tachycardia which I don't have. I just get (as far as I can tell) random episodes of sinus tachycardia + lightheadedness, which have happened while being seated. I got an echo and many EKGs that were all normal. I can't seem to connect the dots on any triggers or things that help. Been trying to exercise more which does seem to help, but exercise probably helps everything.

What they're describing here is close to the popular 16:8 variant of intermittent fasting. I found that it doesn't really work for weight loss for me.

Instead, I'm using the Every Other Day Diet variant of intermittent fasting which arguably is the best researched one. It helped me drop weight significantly in 2015 with little trouble (details: http://lukasz.langa.pl/9/i-lost-26-pounds-in-3-months/).

Sadly, since I stopped cycling regularly two years back and dropped the diet a year ago, I regained what I lost and then some. So I'm back on intermittent fasting now.

Recommendations based on my experience:

- weigh yourself daily in the morning, as the very second thing you're doing

- a Withings scale or similar helps putting this in a database efortlessly which helps seeing trends

- observe your moving average of 7 days

- eat just a light lunch (circa 500 kcal) every other day; it's easy to skip breakfast knowing there's going to be lunch soon and it's possible to skip dinner knowing "it's Eat Day tomorrow!"

- eat what you want on Eat Day but do it slowly, your body will quickly adapt to your fasts, the stomach will shrink and it's going to be easier to get full

- let people know you're losing weight and how, they will probably tell you you're more grumpy on Non-Eat Days

Good luck!

Anecdata: I've tried fasting of various kinds over the last few years, both IF (18:6) and 5-day fasts. Personally, I found great cognitive benefits from fasting, starting day 3 or 4 in the 5-day fast. That said, I found the most benefit from:

1. Maintaining a very low-carb diet (~20 net carbs spread out through the day, mostly from lemons) which I have sustained for a year so far. I occasionally cheat but not often as it takes me about 8 days to get back into ketosis after each cheat and never feels worth it after the fact

2. Exercising (weight lifting and cardio) 3 times per week

3. _Never_ eating anything with 'added sweetener', so pretty much no desserts of any kind. This includes 'neutral' sweeteners with no calories (e.g., monk fruit). It has been almost 2 years since I have eaten any kind of dessert and I very rarely miss them at this point

Doing the above, I feel amazing almost every day. I have no known bodily ailments, never get sick, have sustained energy levels all day, every day, and am my ideal weight with little fluctuation. The hardest part of sticking to my rules has been maneuvering through incessant social expectations and demands to eat particular foods, like breads, desserts, etc.

I've written previously of how I got sick after a tick bite, and how I stayed sick for a very long time, even after taking antibiotics, and how, in the end, fasting helped bring about a permanent cure:


I've never fasted, but I HAVE lost 62lbs and counting over the past 18 months or so. All I've had to do is eat a lot less, and work out a lot more! It's primarily down to meal tracking, so I know what my inputs and outputs are. It's easier than ever with apps to do all this stuff, and fitness watches that can estimate how much you burn in your daily activities and workouts. Once you start getting that feedback loop of something that works (rather than "I ate healthy for a few weeks and my weight stayed the same, so fuckit, I give up"), I find it so much easier.

It's interesting to me that the author proposes skipping breakfast, which is generally considered to be "the most important meal of the day". Most folks say your smallest meal should be dinner, but I think for most of us, it's the biggest. You have more time for it, and you're worn out and hungry from the day. I do it all wrong; I eat 3 meals a day plus a few snacks, and after getting off work, doing a workout, going home, showering, prepping dinner, it seems like it's 9pm before dinner most days, and in bed within 90mins.

I actually did have a period where I probably stuck fairly close to the proposed schedule; for several years I didn't eat breakfast at all, because I was too lazy to bother. By 11:45 I'd be aching for food, and annoyed that my coworkers took forever to decide where to go. I started eating breakfast, and found that it delayed my hunger pangs by only 15 minutes -- that is to say, it was a habit, rather than purely food driven.

But I wasn't light back in the days when I was skipping breakfast, and I didn't gain weight when I started eating breakfast.

I think the key here is that you have to be skipping breakfast intentionally, as part of a method of restricting ourselves, of being mindful about what you eat. And you can do that in any number of ways.

To me at least, food is like chemo, I’ll die without it, but it makes me feel terrible.

I'd love to eat socially once a week and just have a pill on other days

I can't fathom this. I have a condition that makes me incredibly nauseous and STILL I long to cook and eat beautiful meals, even though I can barely tolerate them.

Oh I love to eat too but it always makes me feel like trash.

Do you have undiagnosed food allergies/sensitivities? Food shouldn't make you feel like crap.

All foods? What do you macros (Fat, protein, carbs) look like? If you have a carb heavy diet, that could be what's making you feel terrible.

In my experience, it's anything that's processed enough to be easily digestible. I can have a whole bag of dried fruit with no consequences, but half the amount of something fatty/cheesy will make me want to just take a nap.

Very odd. Fats and proteins should help you feel satiated versus the fast burn and decline after having processed carbs. Consider trying a few meals of salmon or chicken breast, with only veggies for sides. That should provide quality macros, and you shouldn’t feel like garbage after each of those meals. If I can be of any further assistance, please email me (email in profile).

I've been curious about intermittent fasting for awhile but I think it's important to keep in mind what the literature has to tell us. I've linked to a NCBI article from 2016 which I recognize is a little old but I think it's worth reading the conclusion section if you are thinking about giving intermittent fasting a try. I think the jury is still out on whether or not the "Fasting Cure is No Fad"


For those who want to try extended fasting but are worried that this might be too hardcore, It's helpful to know that the fasting mimicking diet can be approximated by simply eating ~700 calories (around 16oz) of avocado/guacamole per day. I often extend a fast by eating avocado. Research suggests that you extend the benefits of autophagy with less stress.

I would recommend reading "The Circadian Code" by Dr. Satchin Panda and judging for yourself. My takeaway was that it is more than fasting, it is about getting your body's cycles to sync up (sleep cycle, digestive cycle, repair cycle, etc.).

Also, I think it is interesting that a lot of religions have a fasting component.

Fasting has been known for a very long time, and people often practiced it for religious reasons. Intermittent Fasting is actually a Fad, and don't expect any magical from it. Some people simply don't eat breakfast, but they don't call it intermittent fasting. My mother never eats breakfast, simply because she is not hungry in the morning. She is not super healthy, nor she aged better than people who do eat breakfast. I also find it funny when people finish dinner at 8PM, and immediately start tracking fast while they have a stomach full of food which is not going to fully digest for several hours. Wait till your food is digested before start tracking your fast.

Starting in 2012 I began regular fasting, first with one day a week (36 hours) and later 2 days a week. My weight went from 95 kg to 70 kg and stayed there until I got into a bad relationship which devolved into alcohol and stress (but which was kinda fun as well). I stopped fasting for the 2 years it lasted and my weight crept up to 85 kg. I've started fasting again (3 days a week) and it's down below 80 for the first time in a year. I record my weight every day and have done so since 2012. Fasting works like clockwork for me. I can predict what my weight will be in 6 weeks (f.ex), depending on how many fasting days I decide on. I lose between 220 to 230 grams per fast.

I do intermittent fasting. Stop eating around 4pm and start eating around 9am. (no food around 17hrs/day).

The first two weeks are the hardest (hunger pains during fasting hours). Afterwards, hunger pains still occasionally occur but are a lot less severe, and sipping a herbal tea is enough keep my mouth busy.

I also find that cheat days (pigging out due to social occasions) don't really mess up my cycle on following days, which I found very surprising.

The only problem I have is when doing lots of physical activity. This summer I'm working on my house and gardening a lot, so I need to be sure to pig out before my 4pm cutoff or I'll be at a super calorie deficit and make the labor miserable.

I am surprised this is even something that needs much discussion.

On a personal, one data point, level, when I go 12 to 14 hours a day without eating, I simply feel better. On a personal level I don’t so much care for the science because if I feel better, then intermittent fasting is a good thing to do.

On a scientific level, I participated in a Stanford fasting experiment where I used their app to record data. Also, there have been sufficient studies performed on the physical/biological benefits that I also believe in that.

All that said, if intermittent fasting is not your thing, I would expect that just getting exercise and eating a healthy diet is good enough.

I believe this is the author. https://gero.usc.edu/fasting-conference/professional/andreas...

So let's check a few boxes. Is promoting his own book. This is the WSJ not a medical journal. Mice are not a perfect analog to humans. One study is hilariously small at 69 women. The cancer study is from self reported information. He specializes in alternative medicine, including homeopathy.

Science VS covered this topic a while back. Click on the transcript to get all the references they used when building the episode.


There may be something to fasting diet and findings warrant further research. I am willing to wait until it is better understood.

>One study is hilariously small at 69 women. The cancer study is from self reported information. He specializes in alternative medicine, including homeopathy.

>There may be something to fasting diet and findings warrant further research.

You do know Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2016 for discovering and elucidating mechanisms underlying autophagy right? There isn't really any debate that Fasting/caloric restriction triggers autophagy only in mice not humans, or that autopaghy and its benefits are limited to mice.

What is your standard of proof?

My standard of proof is recommendations from Mayo Clinic, AMA/JAMA. I am not a medical researcher, so I turn to experts.

I am not familiar with Dr. Ohsumi, but looking at a summary of his award in 2016 indicates his research for the genetic and chemical pathways of autophagy. The author of this article is the one linking fasting to autophagy.

My last statement is trying to state that there is room for additional research. Currently the impact (on many things, weight loss, cancer, heart health) of intermittent fasting isn't clear. This is the horrible wishy/washy statement that you get because there is a hypothesis that hasn't been proven/disproven. Personally, I'm ignoring IF until proven otherwise by larger human trials.

This probably reflects poorly on me but the #1 reason why I think it's difficult to fast is because of boredom more than anything else - does anybody have any strategies for this?

I'm shocked by how often my "hunger" goes away after a cup of hot coffee or tea, or water with himalayan salt added. Part of it I'm sure is the action of getting up and getting myself something, though salt craving feeling like hunger is very real too.

Yeah that's true, one thing that sometimes helps manage it is drinking LaCroix but ~1 hour later its back and feels worse.

There could be a few different things at play. I'd try a bit of sea (or himalayan etc) salt and see if that helps. Otherwise, perhaps you really are just hungry and need to eat. Many people doing IF do larger meals with minimal snacking (since part of the benefit is to keep insulin low most of the time). Higher fat content and lower carb content in the meal before a fast will also help.

It may also just take time for you to work your way up to longer fasts.

Cool idea, thanks!

I lost 35 pounds in 40 days of on/off fasting.

I feel so much better and healthier now.

Longest stretch was probably 5 or 6 days. I'd lose 5 or 6 pounds.

Regular stretch was 2 or 3 days.

Big con: I did throw up a lot from keto flu. I recommend eating right away after that (slowly but solidly) then resume, drink heavily vitamin water (no sugar) and maybe and egg a day.

I am currently in the middle of my 3rd 6 days fasting. Every time it gets easier. The benefits are obvious for me. I was never so relaxed as after the fasting. The mind goes clear, there is no better time for deep thinking. Energy levels are going up. An insteresting journey to myself and my body.

I've never fasted for multiple days at a time, but I've been eating what most people would consider 1 meal a day for the past 10 years. Not that I set out to do this. It is what felt adequate naturally.

I've been 5'6" 125 lbs since I stopped getting taller in highschool and I'm 30 now.

Cure for what exactly? If you're a T2 you're still a T2. Fasting doesn't mean a T2 can eat a chunk of cake and have a normal glucose response. But being a controlled T2 is infinitely better than what most T2s experience. It's just that the "cure" talk is misleading.

So you're telling me that if I exercise restraint in the way I eat, I can lose weight as a result? Wow.

My trick to skipping breakfast:

Forgetting to eat in the morning because I work from home and get engrossed in what I do.

Anyone here relate?

I started skipping breakfast when we moved to a new house and I no longer had a microwave to heat up my oatmeal (I never learned to cook; the microwave is the only way I know to make oatmeal). On top of that, I had a longer commute, so I had less time in the morning anyway.

If you can boil water, you can cook oatmeal. There is nothing else to it.

I love skipping the middle meal (lunch) but there is no research for that unfortunately

I would like to try out fasting more, but I get too hungry!

Seriously though, cutting breakfast does seem like an easy way to do it! Eating in the morning is more of a habit than a need, plus it would be an easy way to cut calories too.

What made a huge difference for me is lowering my intake of carbohydrates and transitioning to a lower carb and higher fat diet. I think the way it works is that our bodies have a lot of energy available from fat stores and becoming more fat-adapted means that during fasting hunger is satiated by energy coming from fat.

I agree with this completely. For some of us carbs generate craving - they are addictive. The way to test if you are one is to stop all carbs, as much as you can. If I eat a doughnut I gain a pound, not because of the doughnut, but because I then crave more food.

Yes I have heard that fat has gotten a bad reputation in recent history - it is carbs which are the problem. It looks like bread, rice and cereal is still at the base of the food pyramid!

Protein also seems to be better at keeping satisfied after a meal, although that can be harder to do cooking at home if you don't do meat.

People often confuse thirst and hunger. I find if I am keeping water or something near by I can avoid eating for quite a while longer

Up your water intake and actively try to enjoy the hunger sensation. Tell yourself that it's your body deciding to burn fat and clean up old damaged cells. Eventually you'll adapt to the fasting period and won't care about the hunger that much anymore.

What does "too hungry" mean to you, and what do you think will happen if you deny yourself food when you feel this?

I know I'd be fine of course, but after going a long time with less sleep (baby is finally sleeping 6+ hours, normally) I know my willpower is less than it used to be!

Sometimes only thing keeping me from eating every chocolate chip cookie in sight is that I am now lactose intolerant and even that wasn't enough motivation during my most sleepless days.

That sounds less like hunger and more like craving, to be honest. How often do you feel the same way about roasted veggies as you did about the cookies? A diet full of processed junk food is much more likely to induce constant craving that a healthier one.

Coffee and tea helps me in such cases. Plain, no sugar, no milk. Brushing your teeth can also reduce hunger. Also, try to take it gradually - I don't eat at all on Wednesdays, making a ease-in and an ease-out -the diner the night before and the next day's breakfast in an apple, a carrot or a glass of kefir. Fasting more days in a row take an incredible amount of willpower (one of the reasons why I do it), and also takes a toll on your concentration, physical power.

I used to do it on Saturdays, because then I could reduce my physical activity to an appropriate level - but lately I've been going to festivals, or going out with friends, and it was not doable. Try to find a way where it works well with your schedule. Also, it may be a good idea to be discreet about it, because coworkers, friends and family will pester you.

Hunger is an odd thing. When I first started fasting, just the concept of going too long without food stressed me out. The interesting thing is that I feel less hungry during a fast than I do when I'm eating on a normal schedule.

I eat one meal a day (OMAD), and have my normal meal at 5:30 or 6:00pm. I don't feel hungry all day unless someone puts food where I can see it and smell it. But it feels like a craving and not hunger, so I can skip it. If I eat like normal people do on a particular day, I'll feel hungry the next day when I go back to fasting. Then pretty much not again until I go off of it. It's very strange.

When I go off my diet, I can really feel the food that is in my system and it's not a good feeling. I feel much better fasted.

Definitely agree with the dietary (lower carb, higher healthy fat) advice but it's also helpful to ease into it -- benefits of fasting start at just 12 hours, so if you stop eating a little earlier and start eating a little later every day it's pretty easy to start at 12. Then you can play with increasing your fast time gradually. Most of it is learning your body and the difference between "nope, I need food now" and "I don't actually need to eat".

When I read „a 5 day fast“, does that mean avoiding food for 5 days? No food at all?

I started with IF a few weeks ago and skipped meal for 20 hours max. And I am wondering how people manage to skip good for five days or longer.

I've been doing IF since 2014 and still haven't managed to get much past 24 hours -- partly admittedly for lack of trying -- I can't imagine trying to do an extended fast (more than 24 hours) only a few weeks in. You need more time to work up to it and get familiar with your body's signals and needs.

Wow, that‘s for quite some years. Do you have any book / website (about how to do IF) you can recommend?

Yes, I went a couple years doing a very easy 14:10 fast, which was easy to maintain and is what I credit for stabilizing my blood sugar, which used to crash all the time (especially bonking during bike rides). My body now is fine exercising without having eaten, no problem. That alone is worth it.

Due to other health issues and related sensitivities and metabolic problems I have gotten more serious about it and learning about the science, and thus moved to an 18:6 fasting schedule. I have continued to be very happy with the results and the lifestyle.

The book I'd absolutely recommend is The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung (see an article by him on IF 101 here: https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting). I'd also recommend the Intensive Dietary Management program's various blog posts such as https://idmprogram.com/the-failure-of-the-calorie-theory-of-...

How the hell do you "fast" in an open plan office environment... I just dont have the stamina and will power to deal with all the people/food etc

Alternatively, You could eat breakfast early, say 6am, and have dinner at 8pm and skip lunch (i.e. just have a banana or apple). That's something I have kind of been doing and it's working well.

A banana or apple for lunch isn't fasting. Fasting is, in most circles, the exclusion of caloric intake. Some would suggest that it's the specific exclusion of calories and anything that triggers an insulin response in the body, but that's debatable.

Not debatable though is if eating an apple for lunch means you're still fasting; you aren't.

History, the term "fasting" is often used to mean the reduction of food, omitting or only eating specific foods, or eating at only specific meals.

If you're interested, the wikipedia page has several examples:


I don't know.. I've done intermittent fasting.. aka one meal a day and it hasn't worked for me..

What were your goals? What kinds of meals did you eat for the one meal?

That what worries me is "He fed a group of mice a high-fat diet around the clock for 18 weeks...". I fail to see any trace of scientific experiment run on people. There is some anecdotal evidence "I’ve employed what’s called intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, to help patients with an array of chronic conditions". How it helped? Helped everyone? What about control group?

The only cited research is that: "Among 2,400 women with early-stage breast cancer who provided information on their eating rhythm, roughly 400 suffered from new tumors within seven years. But women who fasted for 13 hours nightly had 26% less risk of recurrence than the control group". Was this only difference between those two groups of women for seven years? Maybe those who were fasting has been doing for 7 years 100 other things and that was the reason they didn't get cancer? But "Fasting cures cancer" looks like a great headline. Clicks are coming.

Will we see in 3 months another article, also based on such vague research, claiming the opposite?

This kind of "science" and journalism contributes to general lack of trust in science. Eggs are bad, next week, eggs are good. Fat is bad. Fat is good. Cholesterol causes heart diseases. No it does not. Yes it does. Global warming? Phew, next week they will announce that global winter is coming. Doctors say vaccines are good and safe. Better be careful, those are the same guys who were paid to say that margarine is healthy and butter not, while it turned out the opposite...

Fasting is anorexia rebranded for tech bros.

Christ, some of these comments are indisguishable from pro-ana forum posts. "I starved myself for 7 days and I can think so clearly!"

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