28 Jun I TRIED IT, YOU DECIDE!: Fast Mimicking Diet
For ages, fasting has been a part of our worldwide culture. Before it was ever a fat-burning, lose-weight-quick technique, it was a religious practice in Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism to demonstrate sacrifice or serve as a gateway to a greater spirituality. Only recently has it become mainstream as a dietary approach.
Over the past year I’ve spoken with a handful of people, including doctors, who have done water fasting, both for weight loss and longevity purposes. While drinking nothing but water for seven days sounds horrible to me, the idea of fasting for cellular regeneration and living a longer, healthier life stuck with me. So, I started researching and talking to others in my wellness community. My research led me to the work of Dr. Valter Longo, who heads the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California and has spent over 20 years researching the health effects of fasting as well as Blue Zones across the world (areas where populations have been shown to live the longest, healthiest lives). His book The Longevity Diet examines what our diets should look like to increase longevity and decrease chronic disease, and describes his method for fasting called the “Fast Mimicking Diet.” Long story short, by fasting for five days with his ProLon method and prescribed food, you’re supposed to be able to lessen the effects of major diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, and potentially lose a few pounds of belly fat. If you’re healthy, you would fast to regenerate new, healthier cells. If you’re overweight or obese, Longo recommends doing a few cycles sequentially (under the guidance of a healthcare professional) to lose weight.
Given my family history of cancer, I felt like his research, and that of others he referenced, was strong enough for me to try his Fast Mimicking Diet (FMD). The fast includes five days of a calorie-restricted meal plan that is low carbohydrate and low protein. The first day is about 1150 calories, and each day thereafter about 800. ProLon provides you with a box of everything needed for the meal program. I hate olives, but olives and kale crackers were part of the meal plan so olives I ate.
I made it 2 1/2 days before having to come off of the fast for severe headache and vision reasons, and I wasn’t at all ravenous during that time, like I expected. The food tasted pretty good, despite coming out of a box, and I didn’t have cravings to eat anything else. My problem wasn’t that I felt hungry but that I had a severe headache the entire time. The second day I even started getting spots in my vision. As a lifelong migraine sufferer, I’m sensitive to anything that affects vision. I started getting migraines when I was nine and was only able to eliminate them three years ago by changing my diet and lifestyle. There was no way I was going to suffer a migraine now just to continue the fast. I’ve always been an advocate for LISTENING TO YOUR BODY. No matter what anyone says, you know what’s best for your body, and you must be willing to listen to what it is telling you. Mine was telling me to stop, rest and replenish.
Even from two days of fasting, I noticed a benefit. I’ve been working to overcome sugar cravings for months, and now in the short span of a couple days, they were gone! That alone was significant for me. I’m not sure if anything happened on the cellular level, but on the dietary level there was certainly a shift. Even though my body couldn’t sustain the fast for five days, I still believe in the benefits shown through Dr. Longo’s research and others in the fields of anti-aging and longevity.
A few things I would do differently next time around to give me a greater chance at success:
- Wait until my schedule and body had adjusted to being back home, as I had just returned from traveling internationally.
- Wait until the summer cold I’d been fighting the for two weeks was completely gone.
- Do the fast when I wasn’t menstruating– sorry, men–but this can definitely affect the success of a fast for women.
If you’re interested in Dr. Longo’s research and methods, check out his book The Longevity Diet or his company ProLon that produces the products for the FMD. I tried it, now you decide if it’s best for you!