Dear Unsupportive Friend or Family Member,

First of all, welcome and thanks for visiting this page. Your friend or family member (F/FM) gave you a link to this page because you’ve expressed thoughtful concern about their choice to adopt or their interest in adopting an appetite correcting (AC) eating schedule like Fast-5. Before we move ahead, let’s dispatch with some basics: Fast-5 is a way of eating in which one eats according to their preference and appetite within a 5-hour eating window and fasts for the remainder of the day and AC stands for “appetite correction.”

Show Your Concern by Reading This Whole Letter

It’s a safe bet that your F/FM appreciates your concern for their health. I present eight points below for your consideration because misinformation and lack of knowledge (notice I didn’t say ignorance?) often give rise to criticism of a change in eating schedule. These eight points are stated as briefly as possible, so don’t even think tl;dr. Chances are, though, you won’t get to the point of “too long, didn’t read.” You’ll stop reading when you get to the point of “Wow, I’m wrong, but I can’t admit it, so I’ll conclude the author is full of shit and read no further”—hashtag: #WIWBICAISICTAIFOSARNF. For the sake of your F/FM’s health and well-being, please try to make it through to the the Advantages for You section before you go #WIWBICAISICTAIFOSARNF.

3MAD: Tradition, Not Science

There is no scientific basis for our current tradition of eating three meals a day (3MAD). It would properly be said “three meals per day,” but we’re not arguing grammar here, and I’m going with what most people actually say. Ancient Romans favored one meal per day and since that time, a lot has changed. The 3MAD schedule developed as a combination of religious practices and mimicry of wealthy folks who, having already acquired a mansion, had no better way of demonstrating their wealth than by having more meals with more food than the commoners, thereby also gaining an excuse to add yet another room to their mansion blueprints—one exclusively for breakfast. Today’s wealthy elite are still fond of mansions, but nowadays they can buy status symbols like 60-megabuck jets or million-dollar cars instead of eating themselves into oblivion. Unfortunately, the tradition of eating thrice daily, whether hungry or not, grew to be a habit with the commoners and sticks with us today.

The Industrial Obesity Machine

If you were to search for a way to make most of a population overweight, you’d find few more effective methods than mandating the typical eating habits of the people of the United States of America: over two-thirds of the country’s adult population is overweight or obese as are about 18 percent of kids ages 6-11 (CDC, 2012). You’d find the fast track to making a population overweight is to encourage at least three high-carbohydrate meals every day (four if you’re Taco Bell) plus sugary snacks. The 3MAD fast track is so effective that the commonly known cure of “eat less and exercise more” can’t stop the industrial obesity machine. The obvious alternative is to do something differently—something that actually works and is sustainable forever. Your F/FM has chosen to do something differently by changing from a 3MAD schedule to an AC one.

Eating Breakfast Is Not Healthier

Eating breakfast has never been demonstrated to be a healthier choice for people who have adequate, nutritious food the rest of the day. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is a successful advertising slogan, not science. Not a believer? Put this on your plate: a pediatrician wrote this nice summary for The New York Times.

Where’s the Unhealthy Hiding?

The best way for someone to determine if a given lifestyle is a healthy one is to try the lifestyle and follow its effects on indicators we regard as healthy, such as weight, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol, and for women, menstrual cycles. I call this self-testing a “study of one” and it’s a safe and effective approach to removing the fog of conflicting health advice. If a person adopts an AC schedule like Fast-5 and their weight goes down, their blood pressure normalizes, their blood sugar levels are improved, bad cholesterol is down, good cholesterol is up, menstrual cycles are regular for those who should have them, and, best of all, they feel better, where is the unhealthy aspect of AC/Fast-5 hiding?

Living Leaner Lowers Risk

In the USA, obesity increases the risk of death due to nine out of the top ten most common killers. Your F/FM is seeking to reduce that risk by getting leaner. If you’re trying to persuade your F/FM not to adopt an AC schedule, that means they’ll maintain their current, increased risk of death due to overweight or obesity. Is that supportive of your F/FM’s health? Nope.

Address the Problem In Front of Us

There is no association between adopting an appetite-correcting eating schedule and developing anorexia or another eating disorder. If anything, the confidence one gains in having the control over food that comes with successful appetite correction minimizes the urge to use other measures to suppress intake (anorexia, drugs) or expel it (self-induced vomiting, laxatives). Rejecting a great way to lose surplus fat because of some imagined possibility that it’ll go too far is like refusing to board a plane because it might fly into space. Let’s address the problem in front of us, rather than refusing to do so based on a groundless fear.

Frequent Meals Lead to Excess Calories

Eating frequently to keep one’s metabolism up isn’t exactly myth, because some increase in the metabolic rate occurs in association with digesting food. However, the process of digesting the excess food one eats with frequent meals will not burn off all of the calories consumed in each meal, and the excess calories are stored as fat. There are some people who can lose weight while keeping up with six meals a day, and that’s great for them. It’s not effective for everyone and it takes a huge amount of time planning, acquiring, preparing, eating and cleaning up after all those meals. It makes life totally food-centered, not life-centered.

Fasting Brings Health Benefits

An AC schedule like Fast-5 is sometimes called intermittent fasting, even though 19 hours isn’t really much of a fast. People have survived fasts up to several weeks without harm. Fasting has an air of frailty around it as if everyone on a fast is going to turn into a weak waif, so it’s not surprising that you’re concerned about your F/FM. It’s important to determine where this impression about fasting comes from. Is it based on facts, or is it based on vague notions, assumptions, hearsay and advertising? The research on fasting in humans and animals indicates that fasting periods from a good part of the day up to three days may deliver greater health in many ways. If you want details, check out the article described in one of my earlier blog posts.

What You Can Do To Be Supportive
  • Learn from people who live the lifestyle: Look at the public Facebook group or join the private Facebook group and look at some posts. Ask questions. See how an AC schedule is working for people like your F/FM, including some who have maintained an AC schedule—and weight loss—for over 10 years.
  • Offer encouragement: When your F/FM is adapting to an AC schedule, it may be difficult at first. They have to push their body a little bit to get it to adapt to the new schedule, and they may take a few days to a few weeks to make the adjustment. It’s just like lifting weights—you don’t expect to bench press your weight on the first trip to the gym. You have to work up to it. Offer encouragement instead of “I told you so” or criticism.
  • Be patient: As your F/FM is adapting, there is typically a period of compensatory overeating because people naturally feel they have to “stock up” to get through the fasting period. They don’t, and they soon become comfortable trusting their bodies to provide the fuel they need from stored fat. If your F/FM’s consumption during the eating window seems a bit much in the first few weeks of starting the program, give it time. Compensatory overeating is the reason that steady weight loss doesn’t typically start until after three weeks of adaptation.
  • Adapt and make the most of it: You may find social occasions when you’re eating and your F/FM is not to be uncomfortable. Your discomfort is no reason your F/FM should stop making a healthy choice. Adapt and make the most of it. After all, if you go to a movie during your F/FM’s fasting period, you get all the popcorn!
  • Recognize that fat is fuel: When your F/FM achieves appetite correction, they may eat surprisingly little. That’s because the bulk of their fuel is coming from stored fat—all the excess food they’ve eaten over the years but didn’t really need, their bodies stored for later. Now is “later.” Your F/FM has plenty of stored calories to supply the energy their body needs to thrive. There’s no minimum calorie intake required, and they won’t go into “starvation mode” when they’re eating their fill every day.
Advantages for You

Wow, you made it this far without going #WIWBICAISICTAIFOSARNF? Thanks, and well done! I’m seriously impressed. Here are some bennies of your F/FM’s AC schedule that may come your way:

  • You get to choose the restaurant when you dine out during the fasting period.
  • Your F/FM is a cheap date for most meals.
  • Your F/FM is likely to have more energy to do stuff with you and others.
  • If you’re at a lunch meeting that’s not in your F/FM’s window, your F/FM will probably volunteer to do the note-taking.
  • You’ll have fewer stops, less expense and less trash in the car on road trips with your F/FM.
  • Many people on AC report a more even mood. Can you deal with fewer, smaller mood swings?
  • If you’ve never seen your F/FM feeling confident and vibrant, you’re likely to be smiling soon.
If Your Concern Isn’t Based on Facts…What About Feelings?

If your concerns about your F/FM are not based on science, it’s reasonable to ask where they come from. Sometimes being uncomfortable with change is just a reluctance to leave old traditions like 3MAD behind. For your F/FM, continuing to do things the same way means fat surplus, along with its associated health problems, will continue to increase. As Albert Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. There could be other reasons that you’re uncomfortable with your F/FM’s plan—do any of the following statements apply to you?

I’m afraid that when my F/FM adapts to an AC schedule, they will—

  • lose fat when I haven’t been able to.
  • be less available to join me in eating/drinking activities.
  • be spending more time on new physical and social activities and less with me.
  • be attractive to more people.

All of these are valid fears, but they are not valid reasons to criticize your F/FM or undermine their weight loss effort.  If one of these items strikes a nerve, please talk it over with your F/FM, because better health can be a win for your F/FM and all of your F/FM’s friends and family members, including you.

Best wishes to you and for your F/FM’s success,

Dr. Bert