My thanks and appreciation go to Diane Rehm and her staff for hosting a discussion on intermittent fasting today on WAMU and NPR. The biggest hurdle for people adapting to a daily schedule of intermittent fasting remains the same as it was eight years ago when I first offered Fast-5 as a powerful tool for weight loss. The biggest obstacle is not hunger; in fact, even people starting “cold turkey” are usually successful. The biggest obstacle to adapting to and maintaining the Fast-5 lifestyle remains the reflex criticism of friends and family who deem the modest schedule change of limiting eating to a five-hour window to be unhealthy. How such proclamations can be reconciled with the outcome (successfully losing weight and thereby reducing the risk of nine of the top ten killers) remains a mystery to me. The engaging discussion of the topic on Diane Rehm’s show informs the public and helps reduce the hurdles to getting started with an intermittent fasting regimen.
Diane’s guests, Drs. Michael Mosley, Mark Mattson and Valter Longo, helped to dispel one of the most prominent myths that has been perpetuated as dogma for years: that brief fasting will somehow hobble one’s metabolism. The expert panel also offered sound advice regarding dietary content, including what might be summarized as “lose your sweet tooth” by initiating and exercising a habit of non-sweet, non-white (rice, pasta, potatoes, bread) food selections.
Dr. Longo’s point about a little extra weight not necessarily being a bad thing for people over 65 and Dr. Mosley’s comment “people should find something that works for them” underscore an essential key about diets: No one diet is right for everyone, and one diet is not even right for an individual through all phases of life. No study can encompass the entire diversity of environment, genetics and resources that the human population faces; nor can any study precisely augur the effects of a diet across any person’s complex lifetime of events and challenges.
What is left is an approach where people, starting with good information, tools and guidance instead of the latest supermarket tabloid, try different things until they find something that works. It sounds Frankensteinish to call it “self-experimenting,” so I call it a “Study of One.” People have combined Fast-5 with low-carb, 5:2, conventional calorie counting, bite counting and others. Most anyone who finds a tweak that improves results or the fit of the regimen with the unique real-life situation he or she faces will share it with people in their social sphere—people who are likely to have similar genetics, environments and resources.
Underlying this “Study of One” approach is the fundamental axiom that has been the basis of Fast-5’s worldwide spread: the agent of change in the obesity epidemic is not a government agency, academic institution, doctor or me. The agent of change is the average individual who, given clear information and freedom from the barrage of dogmatic dietary commandments, can find, shape and share a dynamic life-long personal best practice for health.