Why are you ‘stuck’? Part 2

By Jason Fung, MD

  • Don’t snack or graze, eat proper meals instead
  • If you’re feeling hungry, try to have a glass of water if you’re thirsty and wait 30 minutes to see if your hunger goes away
  • If you’re fasting and feeling hungry, try to have a cup of bone broth
  • Try to avoid eating at least three to four hours before you go to bed
  • Eat fatty foods and avoid carbs if you’re planning to eat to comfort yourself or celebrate

In last weeks blog we discussed certain food items that may have caused you to plateau.  Today we are going to talk about other dietary habits that are limiting our progress and may have us feeling stuck in a rut.

Snacking and grazing

One of the things people always tell me they love the most about fasting is the ‘food freedom’ they experience.  I, myself, am especially grateful for this.  As crazy as it sounds, I just don’t have time on Wednesdays to eat.  I just don’t.  For people who tell me I need to make time for myself, I can’t.

It doesn’t matter if I prepare good food or not to bring to work with me, I just don’t have time to eat.  What did I end up doing before?  I grazed.  I’d take some pretzels here and some potato chips there because I used to think eating that was better than not eating (ha!).  If the office staff had my favourite cookies, I’d probably eat a dozen by 5:00.  Now I fast on Wednesdays, which is easy since they’re always crazy days.

This is the mistake that I see with patients the most, myself included.  It doesn’t matter if we are old or young, or retired or working.  We are busier today than ever before.  Life is chaotic and each year our lives become more stressful as a result.

It is important to remember to stick to your meals and your eating windows and not to gauge.  If you’re constantly bombarding your body with a little bit of food here and there all day long (this includes heavy cream by the way), then you’re never giving your body the chance it needs to heal, and your body will be producing insulin all day long.

Have two or three meals a day is much better than snacking for six to eight hours straight.  I have plenty of patients who cannot do extensive fasting for various health reasons.  I usually ask these patients to fast for 16 to 18 hours each day.  The patients who elect to eat two meals during their six to eight hour eating window always lose more weight than the group who grazes for their entire window.  This is the case whether you’re male or female, or young or old.

If you have foods at home that you constantly snack on, give them away or put them out of sight.  If you’re not too hungry, try to have something extra filling like an avocado and some eggs.

Eating when you are thirsty

Most of us subconsciously mistake thirst for hunger.  This is especially noticeable on fasting days when people have only been fasting for a few hours and have plenty of body fat to fuel on, but say they feel hungry.  I’ll often ask how much water, tea or coffee they’ve had that day, and they always tell me ‘oh, just one or two cups.’

If you think you’re hungry, try having a glass of water and waiting half an hour.  See if that hunger goes away.  It almost always does and you should be able to carryon with your fast or until your next meal.

If water doesn’t work, try some bone broth and see if that helps you push through.  Sometimes when our electrolytes are low our brain tries to convince us to eat so we can replenish our electrolytes.  Bone broth is just jampacked with electrolytes and other great minerals.

Remember, it is better to take a cup of broth during a fast than not to fast at all.

Eating too close to bed

Having a meal too close to bed is not something we can always avoid.  Weddings, holiday meals, or special dinners out with loved ones can sometimes have us eating late into the evening.  That’s okay once in awhile, but don’t do it if you don’t really have to.  I have a lot of patients who don’t get home until 7 or 8 PM from work.  By the time they have settled in and are ready to eat, it’s close to 9:00 in the evening time.   What do they do after they eat?  They go to bed with a stomach full of food because they must wake-up early the next morning.

Do you think your body is getting any rest while you’re sleeping?  Probably not a whole lot.  It is going to be up all night trying to process the meal you just ate and process the food energy that you consumed.  Ideally, you’d like to have about a seven-hour window between the time you ate your last meal to the time you go to bed.  I know not everyone lives in an ideal world and can do that.  I have found that a three to four-hour window works very well with the patients I work with, and it always helps keep their morning blood sugars down.

Consuming refined carbs and starches to comfort and celebrate

What did I do when I had a bad day?  I used it as an excuse to comfort myself with a pizza.  What did I do when I had a good day?  I used it as an excuse to celebrate with duck fat French fries (very specific).

Our lives are chaotic and bombarded with both good and bad stress daily.  Very rarely do we just have normal days anymore.  We have been taught and encouraged to cave into our body’s stress response, which triggers our hunger, and treat any given extreme emotional state with food.

What is worse is that we often pick the more refined and starchy carbs to reward ourselves with.  This is particularly unhealthy if we’re comforting ourselves with carbs when our cortisol, our primary stress hormone, is elevated.  Cortisol is a fat trapping hormone just like insulin.  What makes cortisol even worse is that it causes the insulin our bodies produce to not be very effective, which only makes the body produce even more of it.

This means you have a whole lot of fat trapping hormones circulating throughout your body when you’re stressed.  What do we do?  We eat pizza, pasta, French fries, donuts, cake, etc.  All foods high in carbs that are only going to make our bodies produce more insulin too.  It’s just a mess!

I don’t encourage patients, especially those who are already struggling with elevated insulin levels, to fast through periods of good or bad stress.  I just encourage you to eat foods won’t raise your insulin levels and will be very difficult for the cortisol and insulin produced by your stress to store.

What to eat when you’re stressed or celebrating?  Eat bacon.  Go out for a nice fatty steak and cover it with herb and garlic butter.  Have some scrambled eggs.  You may even want to fat fast during periods of extreme stress.

– Megan Ramos, IDM Program Director and Mentor

By The Fasting Method

For many health reasons, losing weight is important. It can improve your blood sugars, blood pressure and metabolic health, lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. But it’s not easy. That’s where we can help.

Jason Fung, MD

By Jason Fung, MD

Jason Fung, M.D., is a Toronto-based nephrologist (kidney specialist) and a world leading expert in intermittent fasting and low-carb diets.

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