I was blessed with a speedy metabolism and ability to eat large quantities of just about anything with no consequences; or so I thought. I assumed that because I didn’t gain weight it didn’t matter what or how much I ate. As I’ve learned more about nutrition and implemented healthy eating plans, I have been able to change the way I feel and perform. When I look back on my childhood and most of my adult life, I can recount underlying issues that were definitely related to the foods that I ate. I suffered from ADD and had an incredibly difficult time focusing (I made horrible grades). There were also digestive issues I thought I had to live with and a poor functioning immune system. I now know that avoiding refined foods and overfeeding = I feel better, think better, have more energy and an overall stronger/healthier body.
When centenarians (people who live to and over 100) are asked what their secret is, diet is almost always mentioned. A major factor seems to be that they don’t overeat. Interestingly, the new current trend is fasting. Intermittent fasting (fasting for 2 consecutive days/week) and time restricted feeding (fasting for a certain amount of time everyday). This new philosophy is deeply rooted in science as well. That is hard to believe since we’ve all been told throughout our lives that we need to eat 3 squares/day. It’s also counter intuitive, I mean, shouldn’t the body do better with a constant source of fuel?
According to the National Institute of Health, fasting improves biomarkers of disease, reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, and preserves learning and memory functioning. It’s also been shown to prolong survival in experiments with animal models. They say that short periods of fasting create a small stress response within the body similar to exercise. Exercising causes muscles to tear and break down. With rest, they grow back stronger. Think of fasting in a similar way. However, it is very important to note that there are no benefits if on the non-fast days people over eat or eat refined foods. The best diet consists of vegetables/fruits, healthy proteins and fats. See my post; What the hell can I eat?
Similarly, research at Johns Hopkins found that restricting calories wards off neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) while also improving memory and mood. They state that intermittent fasting (greatly reducing calories 2x/week) improves and protects nerves and neural connections. They too mention that a small stress response somehow helps the brain cope with disease.
In his book ‘Wired to Eat’, Rob Wolff explains the overfed state and the fasting state. In the overfed state, more calories than necessary to survive are taken in. This fills up the liver and muscles with glycogen and creates excess fat cells. This in turn creates inflammation and toxicity to the brain, kidneys and damage to the mitochondria of cells. In the fasting state, he says that the liver and fat cells finally get rid of waste. Your body then starts breaking down the excess, while cells and tissues are recycled in the process. This stress is good as it helps to get rid of sick cells and regenerate healthy cells.
Having established the major health benefits of avoiding the overfed state, let’s discuss what most of us eat too much of: refined foods. Refined foods are foods that have had the fibers and nutrients taken out. This has been done to make foods last longer (increase shelf life) and includes most boxed foods, canned foods, bagged foods and fast foods. Just think about the majority of food ordered in restaurants and at parties. Processing also involves adding in sugars and salts which make foods taste really damn great but only further reinforces their addictive effects.
Many of us have eaten these foods for so long that we don’t even realize we are addicted. These modified and refined foods are unnatural and create explosions of dopamine in the brain similar to a drug. The more these foods are eaten, the more time for conditioning and habituating to occur. For many people who eat refined foods regularly, there is a major stress response with even the thought of not having them anymore.
Aside from taste and addictive qualities, our lifestyle may also be a contributing factor to overeating. Consider that most social gatherings consist of indulging in food and drinks, not to mention the convenience of per-packaged meals. Additionally, having stress, low energy and feeling tired makes us crave refined foods and the over consumption of them.
If you’re interested in dieting or fasting, there are a lot of great resources available. This post is not intended to give advice on how to diet, but only to give information as to why. A proper diet requires an individualized approach and possibly monitoring. Also, there is a big psychological aspect requiring a great deal of support for some people. Again, for some people food is an addiction and should be treated as such. If you have any questions or want more information you can contact us at the number or site on the contact page of this website.