Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 Feb

Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Try Fasting?

choicesLast week, my post on the “Myriad Benefits of Intermittent Fasting” opened up a can of worms. In it I discussed how fasting can have a positive impact on human longevity, blood lipids, diet compliance and neurological health to name just a few of the potential health benefits. Naturally, many readers wondered if they’ve been missing the boat on IFing, and whether they should start skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner ASAP. In fact, who needs food anymore when you have IF! Not so fast.

Fasting can be an effective lifestyle hack, but is it right for everyone?

Not exactly. Not always. In other words, no. Let’s take a closer look.

Intermittent fasting is a tool that can be used – or misused – in the pursuit of health. As Keith Norris might put it, it’s something to add to the quiver. A tool to be drawn upon when the time is right. You know what? Let’s extend this archery metaphor, possibly to the breaking point (a skill I’m well-known for). Let’s go ahead and butcher Keith’s neat and tidy and effective metaphor with a look at a fictional monster-hunting archer with a quiver full of specially designed arrows. This monster-hunting archer, if he’s any good at what he does (and I’m going to assume that he is well-versed in classical monster lore, including weak points and monster food allergies and heavy metal sensitivities), is going to pick and choose which arrows – which tools – to draw from the quiver based on the context of the situation. Now, does this archer reach for any old arrow when faced with, say, a vampire? No, he goes for the wood-tipped garlic-laced arrow. He’s not going to waste the silver-tipped arrow on the common henchman (being a soft metal, it might not even pierce the armor, let alone kill the guy). He’ll save it for the werewolf. The metaphor is probably mangled beyond recognition now, but my point (shakily) stands: IF is a tool to be used in the right context. Zombies, for example, are particularly vulnerable to fasting because their satiety hormones are all out of whack.

So what’s the right context for fasting?

You might say that the perfect context for fasting was our ancestral past. Industrial food didn’t exist so metabolic dysfunction wasn’t an issue; “exercise” was either intense and brief and infrequent, or low level and drawn out; stress was acute, rather than chronic; and eating one or two large meals was the natural result of having to hunt and gather. We can’t return to those times, so we do what we can with what we’ve got today. Avoid industrial foods, exercise like you’re a hunter-gatherer, and limit chronic stress by sleeping, sunning, doing things that make you happy, and avoiding things that crush your soul. If you’re doing all these things and feeling like you need a final push to lean out or jumpstart the weight loss after a plateau or explore the myriad benefits listed last week, you’re probably in the right place to be experimenting with intermittent fasting. So – Primal folks who are losing weight or looking to lose a bit more, and getting the right lifestyle changes enacted (sleep, exercise, sex, leisure, rest, relaxation, mental stimulation) should definitely try fasting. They will likely flourish.

What are the wrong contexts for fasting?

An insufficiently Primal Blueprint-based diet. You have to have all your dietary ducks in a row. I recommend that anyone new to IF that wants to incorporate IF should be fully Primal for at least three weeks before trying it. That means getting rid of all excess sugar, grains, legumes, and vegetable oils, all of which conflict with satiety, metabolic function, and insulin signaling. If you are overweight, carbs should also be reduced. If lean, reducing carbs isn’t quite as important. Either way, you should be proficient in drawing upon fat as an energy source (since that’s what you’ll want to be running on during a fast), and those who are overweight or obese are efficient at storing, but not burning, fat. IF can be a good tool for speeding up the fat loss process, but it’s best used to supplement an already-strong eating plan. Once the food is dialed in, fasting will be immensely more beneficial and far less difficult.

You should also be in a good place – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Take stock of the negative and positive aspects of your life. Do the former weigh more heavily on you than the latter? Intermittent fasting may not be right, then. Get those things handled, or put them in proper perspective, and perhaps it will one day. Remember: IF is a type of stressor, and adding any new stressor (however potentially beneficial) to a heap of existing stressors will likely compound the problem. Are you the glass half-full type, the bright eyed optimist fully appreciative of just how green your own grass is? If so, you may be able to handle another stressor in the form of fasting.

You should have cortisol under control. Fasting boosts cortisol, which is not a problem in healthy folks, but in those with cortisol disregulation (think belly fat, think the skinny fat look, lack of sleep, overtraining, chronic cardio, the incessant need for coffee to keep eyes open, persistent low-grade stress) it can be disastrous. If you know you have a cortisol issue (that is, you’re actually monitoring it clinically) or even if you just suspect you do (maybe you notice the creep of belly fat accumulation, more so than in other areas), fasting may not be right for you. Get the problem handled (get more sleep, stop overtraining, stop following politics) and you’ll probably be able to reap the benefits of IF.

There’s also the grey areas. Let’s explore a few of them.

Should pregnant women fast?

There are a few studies that shed some light on the subject, most of them focused on pregnant women fasting for Ramadan. One study found that in pregnant women fasting during Ramadan, placental growth slowed but grew more efficient; fetal development proceeded as normal, but nutrient reserves were limited and there was less room for error. Assuming fasting mom has steady access to nutrients during the pregnancy, the decreased placental reserves shouldn’t be a problem for fetal development. Another study using healthy pregnant women concluded that fasting during Ramadan had no negative effects on fetal development or maternal health. In another study, LDL/HDL ratio decreased, cortisol increased, and fetal health was unaffected during Ramadan, while another found that fasting had little effect on uterine arterial blood flow (which supplies nutrients to the fetus). All in all, though the studies indicate that fasting doesn’t likely pose any danger to the fetus or to the mother, I lean toward no. I mean, why? I’m sure a fifteen hour fast is safe enough, but I’m just not sure it’s necessary or even beneficial during pregnancy. Just eat when you (and your fetus) are hungry.

Should diabetics fast?

I hesitate to make medical recommendations. In fact, I won’t. But I will point you to an interesting account by a guy who “defeated” type 2 diabetes with intermittent fasting. He didn’t call it that – he called it skipping meals – but it amounted to IF. Lee Shurie began by lowering carbs, exercising, and losing weight, which helped but did not cure him. He noticed that his blood glucose was elevated upon waking so, instead of eating immediately and spiking it further, he waited until it dropped to normal levels before eating. Now, this took a while, sometimes until the early evening, but he found that if he ate only when his blood sugar had normalized, it stayed normal all the time. Shurie was effectively IFing without knowing it, and no longer classifies himself as diabetic. Will the same thing work for every diabetic? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s something to consider. IF does generally improve insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and helps with weight loss – all desirable things for a diabetic – but remember that before he was able to skip meals, Shurie had to reduce carbs and start exercising.

Bottom Line?

Bottom line, there is no concrete, objective law regarding the suitability of intermittent fasting for a particular person.

If you’re truly hungry, eat. Failing to do so will add stress.

If you’re stressed, don’t IF. You don’t need another stressor.

If you’re training six days a week, don’t IF. Unless you’re genetically blessed, you’ll need lots of fuel to prevent overtraining.

If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. If coffee’s enough, skip breakfast.

If life is good, try fasting.

In the end, the prudent path is to simply listen to your body. Don’t let CW grazing propaganda drive you to eat when you aren’t hungry; don’t let the IF dogma make you feel guilty about grabbing a handful of macadamia nuts and jerky in between meals when you are. Try it out, skip a meal, go fourteen hours or so (you already do eight every night) without eating, get a workout in, go for a walk, go about your day and see how you feel. A quick trial is not going to kill you. Remember when Primal eating sounded extreme and even dangerous? When the thought of purposefully consuming animal fat seemed sacrilegious? Exactly.

Are you lightheaded?

Are you weak?

Did your workout suffer?

Then maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you need to fix a few things (Primal eating, sleep, chronic stress) and then try again. In a perfect world, we’d all have untouched, undamaged metabolisms with jobs that we love and plenty of leisure time to spend with friends and family, and intermittent fasting would be the default eating method, but it’s not and we don’t.

How has fasting worked for you? How has it not?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. wow I happened to do a 16 hour IF today.. Felt great and I enjoyed my light lunch. Will be doing a 24 hour one soon. I like the idea of a 2pm to 2pm.

    Lars1000 wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  2. Because I work in the restaurant industry, we keep odd hours already! Its actually humorous to see the staff enjoying dinner at midnight! Therefore, if I get home at 1 or 2 AM, there is NO WAY that I have an interest in food in the morning. My husband will comment on my “noisy” tummy in the morning and tell me to “eat already!” but I know my tumm tumm is just finishing up digesting whatever I consumed the night before.
    I have always enjoyed fasting, and now I just eat when I am hungry. Sometimes I go from dinner (late night) to dinner on off days (normal dinnertime)..I usually have a few days off in a row, and if I want breakfast I enjoy it, although it is usually at “lunchtime”
    I dont get technical about it, in fact I dont even think about it. Why would I want to shove food down the gullet if I wasn’t actually hungry? I have been on this path for awhile I guess, Hubby still eats when its “time”! (He is a 300 lb sugar addict!);)

    juliemama wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  3. And to all the preggo and BFing ladies out there, I was ravenously hungry during pregnancy and nursing..I also gave up dairy while nursing, gastro baby distress..it was an immediate relief for both of us!
    I had not gone Primal or paleo yet, so I am sure my body would have responded differently…I will never know! Ha ha
    I ate when I was hungry,(gained 50lbs, both kids, I am a healthy weight at 5’1″)My Doc was in a panic over my weight gain!I drank lots of fluids and made enough milk to keep the freezer stocked! Lost all the baby weight in 4 months for both kids, but had zero sex drive while nursing (way out of the norm for me!)
    Bottom line..Do what feels right for you! (as long as your thinking isn’t clouded by “should’s and shouldn’ts”)

    juliemama wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  4. I started IF (sort of) when i started eating primal- i would eat twice a day instead of 3 or 4 times- no window i used to jsut mix it up (either breaky and dinner or lunch and dinner ect). I lost 2kg a week and had loads of energy. After 2 weeks I started eating three or four meals a day again (primal) and had a weight loss stall and had less energy. (partly due to the large nut intake).

    Now that im back doing IF (no breakfast usually) My weight loss has started back up and energy levels and feelings of happiness has returned. I’m going to stick with two meals a day for good and i still eat the same amount i did when eating 3-4 times a day.

    For me IF seems to be essential to weight loss, energy and happiness levels. But i dont use it as a tool to eat less- i just eat less often.

    Amelia wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  5. I’ve never been a breakfast person, so I’m relieved to find IF! :) Being overweight, I always thought not eating breakfast contributed to it. Now, it seems that all that grain I was eating was what contributed to it. Since going primal, I’ve lost 8 inches off my body. I eat breakfast when I wake up hungry, when I’m not hungry, I wait til lunch. It’s all good. :)

    Herbwifemama wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  6. I think I’m somewhat of a natural IFer. My life is such that sometimes I just don’t get around to eating until ‘later’. Sometimes much later. My body pretty much handles it without complaint. I find it slight;y harder when I have a plan for IFing rather than it just being something that happens. Maybe just because I am more mentally fixated on food.

    Noctiluca wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  7. Coming from someone who has had an eating disorder..I find that eating primally has helped the most of any treatment.
    Eating fat and protein eases my mind. Carbs are the worst, and if I eat too many of them, that is the most triggering thing.
    Sometimes I will skip breakfast simply because I don’t have time to eat in the AM before work (which is about an 18hr fast), but I will still eat enough at lunch and dinner so that I don’t lose weight (I wouldn’t want to lose any weight anyway) which is easy with enough meat and fat.
    Can honestly say red meat has saved my life.
    On primal I simply don’t want to starve.

    Natalia

    Natalia wrote on February 22nd, 2011
    • Congrats, Natalia (and thanks for sharing).

      Marissa Davidson wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  8. I’ve been “if”ing for about two months. I have been primal about two years (with one relapse during a three-week holiday). Typically, I eat around 1:00 for my first meal (up at 7:30) and eat dinner around 7 (bed at 10:30). Sometimes I will munch on light snacks during the day, but not often. My morning is a coffee with heavy cream. So far, I have more energy and have “converted” more fat to muscle. I’m excited to continue this and find my sweet spot balance between food and energy…

    Marissa Davidson wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  9. I tried (intentional) IFing for the first time last week, inspired by Mark’s blog post. Since then, I’ve done one 24-hour fast and three 16- to 18-hr fasts. I’ve been amazed at how easy it’s been! My hunger has been minimal or nonexistent the whole time. Which makes me wonder… how often had I been eating previously, when I wasn’t hungry?

    Although I’ve been eating mostly primal for a long time, I still have a lot of excess abdominal weight & am prediabetic, and I know that Mark mentions above that that makes me not a good candidate for IFing… but from my experience in the past week, I’ve not been hungry, not had any sort of dizzyness or other indicators of problems, and have had a noticeable increase in energy. (I’ve been a lifelong morning slug — even after 10-12 hours of sleep, I can barely rouse myself in the morning! But while IFing, I can wake early and with lots of energy, for the first time ever…) I also notice how much better food tastes, each time I come off a fast.

    From the first skipped meal, I could feel my midsection shrinking, and I’ve lost a belt notch already. IF is addictive… I find myself having to convince myself to eat now…

    Katelyn wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  10. I have to agree with you Mark. The key to any of this is being in tune with our bodies. Only by truly listening to the messages our incredible bodies are sending us can we really know when to fast and the potential repercussions it may have.

    Logan wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  11. When i was a teenager i never ate breakfast. First meal of the day was lunch. Sometimes had an afternoon snack once home from school, then out to the local park to play (usually basketball) for a couple of hours or so. Home for dinner around six-ish. Never had energy lows during the day, despite being a “growing boy”.
    Only started eating breakfast in my early to mid twenties “because it’s the most important meal of the day”. Load up on those breakfast cereals/toast etc and ended up feeling hungry by 10am?.

    Watched a british tv show last year, where the two people in it spent one week eating the “diets” of the ages (1500′s, 1600′s, 1700′s, 1800′s etc). Only the rich were eating three meals a day. It wasn’t until the late 1800′s where “the poor people” started to eat breakfast as they could now afford it.

    Stuart Atkinson wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  12. It’s interesting to read this article today, given that yesterday after a lengthy discussion with my personal trainer, she advised that I stop my 2 day a week intermittent fasting until I get my low carb eating happening consistently.
    When I first read about IF I thought it would be a sure thing 1kg weightloss per week. It hasn’t been so I’ll go with this advice and get the primal eating under control first.

    Helena wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  13. Thanks for putting this out there, Mark. I have to admit, I was confused about why I should IF when I already feel and look great with a body fat around 8-9%. I do miss a meal occasionally when I don’t feel so hungry, which doesn’t bother me, but missing two meals in a row makes me feel weak and tired, which is no fun :( IFing did help me get under 10% body fat though, which can be a bit difficult without it, so I do think it’s a useful tool for weight loss.

    Jarrett wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  14. Just giving my pic a try :)

    Jarrett

    TokyoJarrett wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  15. Just did a 24hr fast the other day. Did a Mark Ripptoe workout with Olympic lifts and I’ve never felt better. That day was probably the most energy I’ve had in a long time. The only bummer was when I actually ate it made me super tired!?!?!

    Elliott wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  16. Hmmm, no picture….

    TokyoJarrett wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  17. Amen to ‘stop following politics’!

    Jolie wrote on February 22nd, 2011
  18. I remember the first time I tried IF without switching over to a low carb diet.
    I fasted for 20 hours starting from 9:00 P.M. to 5 P.M. the next day and my first meal was one hamburger (Yes, it had a bun). About half an hour later I felt extremely tired and within moments of lying down in my bed, I fell asleep for 2 hours. Anyone had any experiences like that before when fasting and having a meal with a substantial amount of carbs after?

    Gabe wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  19. One of the great benefits of being primal is that it has helped me learn to tune in to the natural rhythms of my body. When i was all carbed up, I thought of food constantly and ate way too much and too often. Now, I find that things that used to send me straight to the pantry keep me from eating. If I’m really stressed out, I don’t want to eat at all (I suppose Grok needed an empty stomach to run from tigers?) Before, I would overeat during times of stress. I also naturally fast now when I’m sick. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like eating, so I don’t. Or I don’t have time to prepare and enjoy a meal. And then there’s the “bad day hunting”. This is amazing to me since I rode the carb coaster for years and was one of those people who would get really cranky when hungry. After three months of primal, I am seeing a natural tendency to IF more. I suggest people not push it but just let it happen. For the newbie, get over the CW nonsense that you have to eat every 2 or 3 hours. Once that mental leap is made, IF will not be far behind.

    Stephanie wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  20. Did my first IF last night, having been Primal for about 7 weeks. Did it accidentally as was feeling a bit nauseous, so just didn’t eat supper.

    Pre-primal I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I hadn’t eaten – I guess my blood sugar would have been all over the place. Plus I would have got really cold and just felt totally deprived.

    Slept wonderfully last night though and no feelings of cold. Noticed that I only got hungry when I remembered I hadn’t eaten – suggesting that perhaps much of my hunger is in my mind! Although I’ve only been Primal for a short while, I’m finding that my hunger seems to be out of habit, boredom or frustration. I’m gaining such a wonderful awareness of what I’m eating and most importantly why.

    The idea that perhaps I now control the food and not the other way around, is quite profound for a female who’s been failing on diets most of her adult life. I’m going to do IF again, but only when it feels right. I’m learning to be nice to my body. And it feels good!

    These comments are so inspiring for a newbie like me, by the way. I’m feeling so supported. Much thanks!

    Debs wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  21. I’m not sure if someone already posted this as I am not able to read the plethera of comments. It should be noted though that IFing does not necessarily decrease your calorie intake. Mark you made a point to say “If you’re training six days a week, don’t IF. Unless you’re genetically blessed, you’ll need lots of fuel to prevent overtraining.” I eat mega-meals post workout to avoid just this thing but still IF consistently.

    When someone begins IF without tracking food intake, then it would be likely the calories would lower dramatically. If you’re paying attention you can stay even with normal, and if you aren’t paying attention it’s easy to even overeat since you could be super hungry and mentally justifying a big feast. Just my 2 cents.

    Jake wrote on February 23rd, 2011
    • Good points all the way around.

      Bobby wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  22. Mark ~ I think this is the best post you’ve done on IF. All good info, especially this part:

    “I recommend that anyone new to IF that wants to incorporate IF should be fully Primal for at least three weeks before trying it. That means getting rid of all excess sugar, grains, legumes, and vegetable oils ….”

    This is key for people new to IF to know. I’m primal all the time, so I can IF whenever I choose to (i.e. I never eat grains, legumes, or vegetable oils). One thing I know for sure is that IF is harder when I’ve been making too many exceptions with sugar, as I do sometimes via espresso and chocolate – the more I have of those things, the hungrier I am and the more I want them, so I’ve learned to keep them to a minimum, because they usually cause more trouble than they’re worth.

    Here’s a great post I found on the myth of discipline. I keep it in mind when I think I want things I know are going to end up hurting me:

    http://bit.ly/fg1Mbb

    Thanks for a great post!

    Susan Alexander

    Susan Alexander wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  23. Mark ~ Another couple of thoughts to add to my last comment:

    1) I’ve found that a great time to IF is during long periods of travel – waiting around for planes/sitting on long flights – I’ve found those are the perfect time to let my body use it’s own fuel. Also, it’s often hard to find good food when traveling, and carrying a lot around with you is no picnic :-) so why not go without?

    2) Getting started with Primal and IF takes an open mind. They’re changes, and people have trouble with change sometimes. I think it boils down to this: In order to make a change, we have to believe we can do the change. It all starts in the mind:

    http://bit.ly/hfZbnV
    http://bit.ly/gQpqW5

    Thanks, Mark.

    Susan

    Susan Alexander wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  24. I was actually afraid to try IF. I guess it was the memory of starving when I was following CW and having to eat every 2-3 hours. I also had hypoglycemia at the time. Dreadful memories. However, after following the PB since July, 2010, I found that I was really not hungry all the time. I was forcing myself to eat all three meals, but was afraid to skip a meal in case I got hungry. (Silly reasoning…It’s amazing how long a habit and old fears can stick!) But, after last week’s post about IFing, I decided to skip breakfast the next day, and I was fine! The “over-stuffed” feeling I was experiencing vanished. I find I can go from dinner to lunch the next day without any real hunger pains. So, for me, IF is a success. But, of course, I listen to my body…eat when hungry, stop when full. (Duh!!! Did I actually need convincing of that? Apparently so…)

    Kim wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  25. The thing for me, aside from only being about 7 weeks into Primal eating, is that I am already dieting (i.e. cutting out 500 to 1000 calories per day on average). Primal has made it much easier to do this, and I have seen results. But when you are always operating on a deficit, it feels that much harder to skip a meal or two.

    The other challenge is work. I work in an office where I need to be sharp all day long. When I start getting hungry I begin getting distracted, to the point where I am afraid I will make mistakes or just be obnoxious to work with.

    It would have to be a weekend day for me.

    Helj wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  26. Great work on the post regarding IF. Every time I do it I usually feel refreshed and energized.

    Does anyone know if there is a certain food that is best after IF? protein? fat?

    Kevin wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  27. OH, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I only delved into fasting a little bit, and it was about 6 months after giving birth. I couldn’t shift the weight. Actually I think I was under a lot of other stress at the time, and it did make me dizzy and weak, but it also did kick-start fat loss. I only tried IF for about 3 weeks though, but it seemed to be just the turning point and when I went back to ‘normal’ primal I kept losing fat.

    So I started writing about fasting, but then it kind of hit me that it probably wasn’t a good idea for everyone … I couldn’t put my finger on why, and you’ve really nailed it! It makes sense intrinsically to focus on the foundations first.

    Thanks Mark!

    Kat Eden wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  28. I’ve been eating strictly primal for about 6 months now. The health benefits became clear quickly but have really taken a leap from the moment i introduced IF. before i was the 6 meals a day kind of guy – and i should note that i have been following this meal plan for 3 years as a way of recovering from an eating disorder. ‘Leaning out by firing up your metabolism’ is used as a therapy for anorectic or bulemic people; In this country that is.
    The 6 meals a day routine controlled my life and i was constantly counting calories and now and then i would loose control and have a (sugar)binge, but overall during these years i’ve developed a certain dicipline that helped me get over that eating disorder. However one might ask himself if eating 6 times a day and freaking out whenever a meal would be skipped isn’t a disorder on its own? Anyway, as i discovered the primal blueprint i have been able to free myself from any regulation and restriction. It felt great that for the first time i could truly take a distance from my former food obsession. No more calory counting, no more cutting out fat, no more eating when not hungry and finally feeling truly hungry again – what a wonderful feeling :) The usual paleo benefits where noticable very quickly: high energy levels, leaning out, feeling great. i concidered myself truly paleo happy. I felt completely freed and found myself on a constant high.
    However 3 months ago i started experimenting with IF (while maintaining a strictly primal diet) I very quickly adapted to a daily 20 h fast and what happened then went beyond my beliefs. My mood switched from happy to euforic, training fasted increased my strenght significantly, all skin problems disappeared ( i have winter eczema since childhood), herpes: gone!, better theeth and mouth health, i haven’t been sick since (and these German wintermonths have been very hard) , i am getting the leanest i have ever been (estimating a bf of 8%) while my muscle mass is growing, i am more focussed, awake, creative and feeling younger than ever. What i find extremely pleasant is the fact that every night i can feast by eating delicious primal foods and by eating BIG without any counting or fear or guilt. I have fully rediscovered the joy of eating and i feel connected to my body again. Primal eating and living + IF (which i actually consider a logic part of primal living) is working miracles for me and – i think – shows a magnificent physiological and psychological potential for a lot of people, especially when recovering from an eating disorder.

    Boris wrote on February 23rd, 2011
    • Congrats Boris! Sounds like you’re doing well and this is inspiring for those suffering with EDs.

      Natalie wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  29. I’ve been fasting once a year, almost every year (except when I was pregnant or early nursing) since I was 12 years old. It’s called Yom Kippur and Jews have been doing it for thousands of years. Ditto for Muslims and Ramadan. An occasional fast won’t kill you, will clear your mind AND make you realize exactly how fixated our culture is on food. Try it!

    Danielle Meitiv wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  30. I love that line about avoiding things that crush your soul. I love that this blog presents incredibly logical and well-researched, relevant information with a dose of just good ol’ life wisdom. And as far as the dumbasses who blab randomly, I can almost hear the testosterone-deprived high pitch there.

    DThalman wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  31. Great, important, follow-up post to the recent one on fasting. IF sure can be used in a harmful, unhealthy way, which is why I almost never recommend it to clients – unless I really know where they’re at emotionally around their health and eating.

    “If you’re stressed, don’t IF.”
    “If life is good, try fasting.”

    Good stuff. Thanks Mark.

    jojo wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  32. Hi Mark -

    I’m glad you posted a follow-up to the original thread. Since finding your site a few months ago, I’ve learned a great deal and your site is one of my go-to places.

    Having said that, I think this follow up post is an example of my general impression of some of your info here. I’m someone who is struggling with obesity and often feel your advice is geared more towards the athelites and persons who are otherwise fit and “healty”. I would love to see more information for those of us who are at the beginning stages — both within a general article as well as articles specific to our group.

    Having said all this, all in all, I’ve learned a great deal and your site continutes to be one of a handful that I read daily.

    Lisa wrote on February 24th, 2011
  33. I enjoy my fasts. I’m slimming down and feeling good even when my 2 meals are really high caloric. I think a culmination of not eating enough the last two days really really made me lethargic to the max. I mean woah. Totally accidental, though, as I was up for almost 36 hours straight and had poor overall nutrition those two days. I bit me in the ass. Hard. I don’t respond well to an extreme lack of calories, at all. Thank God I had eggs, chicken and bacon and lots of veggies on hand. I can deal with small stomach grumblings but this totally wiped me out.
    Keep up the good info!

    SPLCHRIS wrote on February 24th, 2011
  34. Great points about letting yourself be flexible about this. One doesn’t need to take the approach that it’s a “strict diet” or follow lots of rules.

    The more I work with IF, the more I’m finding that being flexible helps me get more from it. I sort of follow my body instead of imposing IF as a discipline. Most of the time on a fasting day I feel good, humming along, feels like my body’s loving it.

    But sometimes it just doesn’t feel right, my body needs to eat and I pay attention to that.

    I also read that some people eat a small primal snack or meal of up to about 500 calories — a few eggs, some salami and nuts. That helps sometimes and doesn’t seem to affect the other benefits of IF.

    Came to my attention a while ago that doing mental/desk work with intensity can also increase cortisol. I find that when I have deadlines or work lots of hours at the computer I need to take it easier on the IF or seems to add stress.

    I’m paying attention to IF and appreciate the posts on this site. It seems to be the only thing so far that’s helped me with (needed) weight loss in midlife.

    elegans wrote on February 25th, 2011
  35. Hi, Mark. Lovely post. Though many people and even some researchers claim that fasting cleanses your system and is good for your health, I don’t recommend it. The reason is that body requires fuel to sustain and shocking the body by denying it the essential nutrients is certainly not desirable.

    Albert wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • Albert, “shocking” the body is not necessarily a bad thing. Intense exercise definitely “shocks” the body by inducing lots of oxidative stress, destroying homeostasis and increasing heart rate to up to 90 percent in some cases. Yet if done right, it has a net beneficial hormetic effect on the body. Another example of a hormetic effect are the fruit and vegetable compounds that actually damage certain tissues but the body mounts an effective response and comes out even healthier and more resistant to stress than it was before. As for the denying nutrients, fasting can increase uptake so that when you DO actually get your next meal, more nutrients can be effectively assimilated.

      Ian wrote on February 27th, 2011
  36. I don’t understand why people get so pinickity about IF’ing. Even in this thread alone, there seems to be some slight hysteria about it. It’s really simple. Eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not. After a while, you will naturally intuit when you want to eat or not. Your level of activity will act as a trigger for this. I just cannot see the point in setting yourself yet another rigid doctrine-i.e- i will fast for 16hrs, then eat all my food in 6hrs!UNLESS this just happens to be a natural occurence and that you feel comfortable with it. Otherwise it’s just another bulls**t restriction a person places on themselves for no reason whatsoever. We are not ‘Grok’, and therefore i see no reason why we should be replicating this system on ourselves when infact this was a ‘system’ forced on ‘Grok’, and most likely added to his stress levels. That said, fasting is beneficial to the body at times, but only when you intuit the need for it, rather than forcing yourself. I feel that we all need to start intuiting more, rather than adhering to strict dogma, for example, food grouping comes to mind. If i want a banana without protein that is what i’ll do. ‘Grok’ would have done the same, as he rarely would have eaten a balanced meal of protein/carb/fat. If there was a thousand calories of fruit there, he’s have eaten it.

    Rocco wrote on February 27th, 2011
  37. I have a very popular book on bodyweight exercising that states flat out that you should not fast because it makes the body think its starving and, as a result, reduces your metabolic rate (which is not something you want to do). I’m not sure one’s body would adjust that quickly if you fasted once a week or every two weeks for 24 hours. It seems that the health benefits of fasting are just too significant to ignore. I think I’ll try a full 24 hours. I think if I had breakfast, it would just make me want to eat more later in the day.

    Vince wrote on March 9th, 2011
  38. Hey I was reading the comments on eating disorders and I’ve been three months clean from bulimia and minor anorexia. In my darkest days, starving was quite the hobby. Sometimes IF brings upon the same feelings however I find it easier to be able to not think about food until night time when I can relax and eat calmly. It is a chance to enjoy my food. I usually eat every 18-22, sometimes 24 hours. I find this easy and accommodating. Just putting my two cents into this blog. Great post Mark!

    belle wrote on April 26th, 2011
  39. Really, really sensible article Mark. Reading some of the comments in the first fasting article felt like being sucked into the twilight zone. Massively appreciate the balanced, well-thought-out and sensible point of view. That’s what’s gonna get Primal/Paleo to the masses IMO.

    Rich wrote on May 31st, 2011
  40. Would a 16 year old male be suitable for IF?

    Half Squat wrote on April 25th, 2012
  41. i’ve been a vegetarian for 8 years and vegan for a year following those. All i got out of it was a weak bodycomposition, a lot of colds, an iron deficit and waisting money on dietary supplements. And all while i – as a child of macrobioticians and biofreaks – i was very carefull to eat ‘healthy and balanced’. What you say just doesn’t make sense.

    Boris wrote on February 24th, 2011
  42. Ah great, Youtube troll has made his way over here. Maybe if Mark takes a dated picture with a newspaper or something that will squelch this diatribe…oh wait, if Mark looks healthy, it MUST be because of HGH, amirtite?

    seriouslyawkward wrote on February 24th, 2011
  43. I spent 4 years in the raw vegan food movement as a teacher, speaker and workshop facilitator. Now I know why so many raw gurus are returning to cooked foods and animal foods (many never stopped). I ate my first guilt free meat about 8 weeks ago and feel so clear mentally and getting strong again. Durianrider – we cannot save the planet by eating vegan, please research what agriculture does to the planet. A good place to start is “The Vegetarian Myth”

    Schall Adams wrote on February 24th, 2011
  44. Even those photos of Mark in his primal blueprint book are what, 4 years old? Unless i am very much mistaken. So that would put him around 55 i believe. I don’t think i have ever seen a 55yr old like that. Looks healthier that durian riders in my opinion, who is in his early 30′s. Not saying he looks as young as that, just that he looks healthier and nourished.

    Rocco wrote on February 27th, 2011

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