Doing the Fasting Mimicking Diet in the Quest for Optimal Health
I have decided to do the fasting mimicking diet once a month for at least a year in order to achieve optimal health. Now, I am far from optimal health, which breaks my heart, as health is my greatest passion. It is not because of a lack of trying. I have been trying for fifteen years to lose about 6kg of fat, which should not be too hard.
To give you some more background information on why it feels like I am so far from optimal health, and why I chose to do the Fasting Mimicking Diet:
I was born six weeks too early, was quite under-developed, and could not digest my food for the first few weeks.
For the first few years of my life, I spent about half my time in the hospital, as I had a lot of infections and fell ill quite often. I had a lot of problems with breathing.
Doctors told my parents I would not be able to walk properly because of my developmental issues, and yet, I have been walking normally for most of my life. I had to get a lot of therapy.
I was in a car accident when I was four years old, which caused damage to my right leg, and I had to get multiple surgeries to correct it throughout my life.
My appetite has been out of control for my entire life. I think not being able to digest my food after being born put my body in a state of panic and it has been desperately trying to get me to not starve since then. I have always had a little extra fat, and was teased for my weight as a kid. My reason for wanting to lose the excess weight, at this point, is just to prove to myself that I can.
I get sick quite easily, and have digestive problems. I suspect irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which means I have a lot of hormonal issues, I have acne, get my period in excess (even up to a year and a half continuously), and may struggle to become pregnant one day and struggle with miscarriages.
We have arthritis in my family, and it is quite bad. My knees have started aching recently, and I am only 25 now.
As you can see, my health has been quite frustrating (and far from optimal) and there are a few things I would like to address. I have been intrigued by the idea of fasting for longer periods of time in order to reset my body in a way and to reset my immune system. I am not even sure if that is 100% possible, but just in case, I decided to do the Fasting Mimicking Diet, which was created by Valter Longo, PhD. (I didn’t follow his programme, Prolon, where they supply you with soups, bars, and powders to consume, but worked my diet out according to the recommended macronutrient ratios).
The reason why I have never really committed to fasting for more than sixteen hours (my average is fourteen hours) is because I just love food too much. In fact, I am addicted. When I heard about the Fasting Mimicking Diet for optimal health, I immediately paid attention. Is there a way of mimicking the benefits of fasting without having to give up food entirely?
The truth is, yes, and Valter Longo has found it. With the Fasting Mimicking Diet, you limit your calories to around 800 calories a day, and you eat a low amount of protein for five days. You can choose to do it once a year, three times a year, or if you are overweight, once a month. I choose once a month, and for a variety of reasons. Some of the benefits that I am after with the Fasting Mimicking Diet are:
Fat Loss: I am starting with this one, because it is my biggest motivator. After fifteen years of trying to lose my stomach fat, I am ready to make that a reality. By restricting your calorie intake on the Fasting Mimicking Diet to 800 calories, you are putting yourself into a calorie deficit, which will lead to fat burning. The benefit of only doing it for five days a month, you can give yourself a break the other 25 or 26 days. I still plan on eating healthily, but I will not have to worry as much about how much.
Autophagy and Apoptosis: Calorie restriction triggers autophagy, a cell-recycling process where your body clears out damaged or dead cells. It also triggers apoptosis, which is voluntary cell death. This allows new and healthy cells that function optimally to start to form. As I have a strong desire to reset my cells and my body, I am trying to find ways to stimulate autophagy. Protein restriction also triggers autophagy, which is required on the Fasting Mimicking Diet. Being in a state of autophagy also promotes longevity.
Forced Discomfort: Doing the Fasting Mimicking Diet forces you to face your struggles with food, and I have a lot of them. Training myself to become more comfortable with eating less food without losing my mind should help me in developing a more optimal relationship with food. Fasting and this type of diet help your body to adapt to stress more easily. If you are going to achieve optimal health, becoming comfortable with discomfort is critical.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet promises to help with a lot of my problems interfering with optimal health, which is why I decided to give it a try. I see it as a therapeutic diet that will help me find food freedom, reset my system, finally lose the stubborn fat and become lean, become more resilient to stress, achieve optimal health, and even be more creative with my diet.
I do not plan on going hungry though. You can bulk up your meals with vegetables and liquid by having bone broth and water-based soups with vegetables, making big salads with fibre-rich veggies and fat from avocado, seeds, or even extra virgin olive oil. Almond milk is also low in calories, so I can make some hot cacao or decaf coffee.
I will leave you with my latest obsession, which is a low-calorie chocolate treat that allows me to have dessert even while doing the Fasting Mimicking Diet. All you do is:
Mix four heaped teaspoons of cacao powder with two teaspoons of xylitol or a bit of stevia, add just enough water or milk to make a paste, and put it in the fridge to cool if you want a chocolate spread you can eat by the spoonful or in the freezer if you want to have a hard chocolate later.