Did you know that our bodies are natural fat-burning machines? It's true. But unfortunately, because of clever marketing and an abundance of "foodlike products" in the grocery store, we've become dependent on sugar and carbohydrates in food to supply us with energy.
Every time we have that midmorning snack, we create a blood sugar spike, which causes the hormone insulin to be released. Excess insulin not only causes us to put on fat; it actually stops us from burning the fat we already have. In the long-term, this has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Eating "little and often" or "grazing" became the social norm based on the myth that it keeps the metabolism firing throughout the day. Unfortunately, we are often encouraged to snack in between meals by companies who create the snacks themselves, many of which are cheap, nutrient-sparse, and highly processed.
Ditch the snacks and turn yourself into a fat-burner.
So instead of snacking throughout the day, try intermittent fasting (IF). This type of eating retrains your body to become fat adapted, which means you burn stored body fat for energy rather than being dependent on sugars from food. This is the fundamental principle behind my 2 Meal Day Intermittent Fasting Plan and why so many people have had success with losing weight, gaining muscle, stabilizing energy levels, and resetting hunger hormones with IF.
How does this work, exactly? Well, digestion takes up a lot of energy and contributes to energy slumps throughout the day. Fasting will help stabilize blood sugar levels and force your body to draw on its own fat reserves for energy rather than being dependent on a constant stream of food. It can take time for your body to get used to this way of eating, and it may be difficult for some of you to make this shift in the body. There is a transition period when your body goes from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, and it can take anywhere from two to seven days.
Why burning fat can give you energy and free you from food.
Once you're burning fat for energy, you will quickly reap the benefits of stable energy levels, feeling real hunger, dropping body fat, and not being a slave to rising and falling blood sugar levels throughout the day. This is empowering because you become completely self-sufficient. Not only will you lose weight, but you will be FULL of energy all day long, no longer reaching for caffeine or nicotine or sugar to get you through the day. Most surprisingly, you will feel less hungry. Fasting teaches you to tune into your body. You will start to understand what "real" hunger feels like, something that occurs every 16 to 24 hours—not every four hours.
Being in a fasted state promotes incredible changes in the body, taking us back to the way human beings ate for thousands of years when food wasn’t constantly available. Since then, we've become dependent on sugar for energy, and that's why the midmorning and afternoon slumps in energy levels have become the social norm despite the fact that they are completely unnatural. In the West, we have this phobia of having an empty stomach, but amazing things happen in the body when the stomach is empty.
How to start fasting for more fat burning.
IF has nothing to do with starvation. It’s about giving your body what it needs when it needs it. All you're doing is simply enjoying two filling meals during the day. By doing this, you can optimize virtually every system in the body. Most importantly, this is not a crash diet but a way of life that can be central to your health and fitness journey. Here's where to start:
1. Choose which meal to skip.
Choose whether you are going to skip breakfast or dinner, and stick to that decision. It’s crucial that your body gets used to one particular eating pattern. Your choice should depend on whatever will be easiest for your lifestyle.
2. Keep a schedule.
Although you’re skipping a meal, you shouldn’t change the time you eat your other two meals in the day. For instance, if you are planning on skipping breakfast but normally eat lunch at 1 p.m. and dinner at 8 p.m., stick to those times.
3. Start by fasting every other day.
To begin with, follow your new fasting plan four days per week; you can have one optional snack in between those two meals. Three days per week you will eat three meals and no snacks. As the month progresses you can build up to fasting every day.
4. Don't cheat!
Consume nothing but water, black tea, or black coffee during your fast. Be strategic with caffeine; hold off on your morning coffee until you really can’t wait anymore, because caffeine can blunt your appetite.
Why fasting can help you get in touch with your body.
By skipping one meal, you're getting a 16-hour fast, but the real focus is on eating when you feel hungry, not because the clock tells you to or because you've counted a certain number of hours since dinner. This slight change of focus makes a MASSIVE difference; fasting becomes a way of life rather than something you do in the short-term to get you to your weight loss goals.
I fast every day because of how it makes me feel: I am full of energy, I never feel hungry, and I stay lean effortlessly. I regularly eat out with friends, and I love food—there are absolutely no feelings of restriction or deprivation, or I simply wouldn’t do it. In order for any lifestyle change to become consistent over time, it needs to be flexible, and this is why IF is so valuable. It teaches you to listen to your body and fit your wellness routine into your life—not the other way around. Some weekends you may have a family breakfast or social event; some mornings you might wake up tired and hungry. This is OK. On those days, you should eat breakfast and not have any feelings of guilt associated with it.
How to make burning fat a way of life.
Five years ago, I would have woken up and eaten breakfast regardless of whether or not I was hungry because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But not anymore! Now that I understand my body and what true hunger really feels like, if I eat a lot of food for dinner (which happens a lot!), I naturally feel less hungry the next morning, and it makes a longer fast easier to accomplish.
Fasting teaches you not to be scared of having an empty stomach, and having an empty stomach promotes some profound positive changes in the body. IF is the "missing link" in our overall health and well-being. There are so many health benefits and very few negatives, plus, you can incorporate any style of eating and apply the principles—whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, etc.
So what are you waiting for? If you're looking to lose weight, have more energy, feel less hungry, or you simply want to optimize your health, IF could make all the difference, and it will give you the tools to understand your body better in the long-term, leading to profound, lasting changes.
And are you ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.