5 effective tips to reprogram your body’s weight & health

We have been trained by dietitians and media to think that we have to eat three squares a day or we shall rot, wilt or not achieve health. So three times a day we eat. Often hungry or not. Or have we just trained our appetites?  We eat at restaurants, often too much, shovel in food, and have instructed ourselves to think that this is what living in a human body suit means: we must eat 3 meals a day.

But this may not be so.

And this may be keeping us fat.

Based on how mankind has evolved, three meals a day doesn’t seem to be the way man and woman kind ate for thousands of years: rather we had times of food and times with no food. Daily and monthly. When with the wagon train or crossing the desert we couldn’t always stop for brunch or tacos. When a hunt was successful we gorged and when it wasn’t we went without, often for long periods.

Our body’s genetic material remembers this. We don’t.

Here is a study that holds effective answers for some of us with extra fat. Or just wanting to stay healthier. The quest to loose fat is not merely a vanity deal. Research has clearly shown that as your gut visceral fat grows larger, your brain volume shrinks smaller. So keeping your waistline more Scarlett O’Hara-like (okay not that thin but it sounded good) is good for your looks, plus your brain, as well as keeping inflammation and nasty diseases away from your doorstep.

A research group at the University of Southern California ran a study on three life levels: yeast, mice and humans. They were testing reduction of caloric intake within short cycles, while eating in a typical manner the rest of the time. During the calorie restriction periods, the researchers developed and used a drink that contained all nutrients needed to sustain life, and I am sure they are going to want to patent and sell this medical food.

Mice were put through cycles of 4-days twice a month of this scientist designed low calorie diet. These brainiacs call this mimicking “fasting.” During this fasting phase, caloric intake was slashed about a half of normal. This translates into calories equal to 1.5 meals a day versus 3 per day.

Mid-life mice on the fasting mimicking diet rapidly lost belly fat.  But they gained other bennies, too. This fasting period boosted healthy stem cells, especially in the brain, improving neural regeneration, learning and memory. Remember, the waistline and brain are intimately linked! The mice also had decreased incidence of cancer, inflammatory diseases and slowed bone loss, compared to typically aging, non-fasting rodents.

A human pilot study was run on 19 participants, in which food was reduced by almost 50% for 5 days a month, for 3 months straight. This 5-day food reduction, or fasting, decreased bio-markers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, without any adverse effects. And the participants lost gut girth fast.

Yogis have been fasting periodically for centuries. Fasting or detoxes or cycles of “cleanses” have been used by nutritionists (not dietitians) to be helpful for patients, for many years. I recall recommending these types of “less food is better for short stints” only to have the patient’s docs diss the idea as dangerous. The down on what you are not up on kind of common thing we all bump into.

Well, once again, the science is catching up with the functional medicine community. Less is more. Sometimes.

I shall translate this into 5 steps to a thinner waistline:

  1. Figure out an intermittent fasting plan that works for you, such as once a week, several days a month, or skipping dinner several nights a week. I have one patient that has been overweight for years with a nasty HA1C of 6 and all he did was stop eating at 4 daily and he lost 20 pounds and normalized his blood sugar within 3 months.
  2. Skip meals here and there. Meaning – don’t eat when not hungry and we do not need 3 meals every single day.
  3. Eat less at each meal. Size matters.
  4. Start to get comfy with feeling “emptier” rather than buying into the American idea promoted by corporations that profit by your overeating, that “full” is a goal as well as the good way to feel.
  5. One day a week, have fresh low sugar veggie drinks for breakfast and lunch and break the “fast” with a very light snack instead of a huge dinner. I was dear friends with the Nearings (the original back to the land gurus) and each Sunday they fasted on veggie juice and broke it at dinner with their one bowl of popcorn a week. Scott lived to be a healthy 100 year old that died by consciously fasting himself to the next phase, not by disease.
  6. If going without food makes you feel worse, just cut back less, but do cut back. But work with a professional.

PPS. Fasting on water only must be done under medical supervision.

Ahead of publishing: Cell Metabolism, June 18, 2015. University of Southern California. “Diet that mimics fasting appears to slow aging: Benefits demonstrated in mice and yeast; piloted in humans.”


You ding your brain by gulping too much sugar

Most of us will now live to be close to 100 years old. But will our brains keep up? Care taking our brain should be a goal. And, our brains are what we eat.

A new study out of Oregon State University (the amazing city where I did my original functional medicine training) shows that both a high fat and a high-sugar diet, compared to a “normal” diet, cause gut bacteria alterations that promote significant loss of “cognitive flexibility.” This is the power to adapt and adjust to changing situations.

This is the ability to not get over whelmed in our 24/7 stressful typical daily society.

The cognitive dinging was most serious on the high-sugar diet, which also revealed an impairment of early learning for both long and short-term memory.

This applies mainly to refined sugar, but you can overdo fruit, too. The reason you like it so much is that it, too, is “sugary.”

“It’s increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the human brain,” said Kathy Magnusson, a professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute (the original Linus Pauling Institute was around the corner of my first-multi disciplinary clinic and we would hang there sometimes at lunch.)

* A big point to grasp is that it didn’t take long for the sugar to do its dastardly ding-brain deed.

In this young mice research, on young mice brains that should have been pretty high functioning, after just 4 weeks on a high fat or a high-sugar diet, their mental abilities went way down.

One of the most pronounced changes was in what researchers call cognitive flexibility or adaptability: how you face a new challenge in life or come up with a new set of actions for an old problem. In other words, how well your brain “serves you.”

“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong,” Magnusson said.

* What to do? Your brain reflects your food choices.

When you fork in food, remember that, if you still have a brain.

Eat less processed foods, much less sugar, sensible amounts of fruit, lots of plant food, healthy fats, and exercise as if your life depended on it. That’s all. 

And there you have it.