I could no longer ignore the benefits of fasting. I tried, really I did. When the studies came out about longevity associated with eating less, I promptly buried my head in the sand. It wasn’t until they kept coming, and kept coming, that I lifted an ear and then two. I love food. I love gourmet meals, street food, and everything in between. I think about food…constantly. So when I saw the studies and heard the doctors researching the health benefits of fasting it was time to do my own research.
These are the benefits:
- Slows down aging
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Decreases inflammation
- Decreases the risk of diabetes
- Benefits brain function
- May help with autoimmune disease
- May be protective against cancer
- Weight loss
My friend and fellow doc, Dr. Eric Mintz, had just completed a 4-day water fast. Other than being cranky the first day, he felt pretty good on it. He believes that after three days the body goes into “clean up mode” killing mutated and damaged cells. That sounds like a great benefit but I kept looking. Another friend and fellow doc, Dr. Joel Kahn, started posting about a program called ProLon. It is a fasting mimicking diet which has the benefits of fasting…with food! Although he hasn’t convinced me to go vegan yet, I did do the 5-day ProLon program.
When I opened the kit I found 5 individual boxes labeled for each day. In them was all the food I was allowed to consume for that day. Gluten-free and lactose-free, each day consisted of two soups, teas, and a variety of either kale crackers, olives, nut bar, or chocolate rice bar. Since the box doesn’t change for a person who is 150 pounds or a person who is 240 pounds they include a drink that is mixed based on your weight for the remaining calories. It comes out to about 1150 calories on day one and about 800 calories on days two to five.
I really thought I would be starving. So I waited as long as I could to eat each day and I rationed my food with the precision of a watchmaker. I’m prone to get light headed if I go too long between meals so I was paying close attention to how I was feeling. I found that if I drank a lot of herbal tea and water I could wait to eat until 2pm to eat before feeling too uncomfortably hungry. Based on the food that was allotted every day, I was then able to eat something every hour until I went to bed. I came to know that that wasn’t necessary. The soups and the nut bar would last me a few hours so I didn’t even need to eat one of my soups on day 4. I was hungry but I wasn’t starving. I ate a quarter teaspoon of sea salt on the first two days to prevent potential headaches or dizziness but I probably didn’t need to. I found that I am often reaching for food when I am bored or avoiding a task that I don’t want to do. I became aware of true hunger.
The benefits that I experienced
- Mental clarity without the brain fog that can come with the 3pm slump.
- No bloated feeling (I will check for food sensitivities now)
- I found that I can survive on a lot less food per meal and be satiated.
- Yes, I lost weight but I think that varies greatly from person to person.
- I felt comforted in the fact that I was doing something good for my body.
So, overall I felt it was a good and comfortable experience. It is recommended to practice the Fasting Mimicking Diet once a month for three months and eat a healthy plant-predominant Mediterranean diet when off the fast. Doing this yearly will certainly help many conditions including diabetes and heart disease. The downside is the cost. There are posts from people who duplicated the ProLon program with groceries, and I may do that in the future but the studies are behind the details in the ProLon program so I started with that. The hardest part was when my family came home with leftovers or we went to an event that served food, so I will plan social activities better next time.