In Part 1, I shared some of my mostly unsuccessful weight loss history. In this post I will tell you how I tweaked my eating pattern to optimize fat loss.
It’s all about Insulin.
The key to allowing the body to access its fat stores is to keep insulin levels low.
Below is my simple explanation. For more detail, please peruse Dr. Fung’s blog here. Check out his weight loss series.
Unless you have Type 1 diabetes, every time you eat, your body will produce insulin which essentially tells your body to use your food as fuel and stop burning body fat. (Most folk with Type 2 Diabetes still produce insulin, but their insulin receptors have been overloaded and they need additional insulin or a reduction of carbs to keep their blood sugar in a safe range.)
Many people eat 3-6 meals a day, from morning until night. For some, this means 16 hours or more of the day when their body fat stores are inaccessible. If you keep your insulin levels up by constantly eating, you will not be able to easily lose weight.
A very small amount of insulin is sufficient to prevent lipolysis (burning of body fat.) Any ingestion of food in excess of about 100 calories will trigger insulin release. So eating small meals many times a day is not the best way to lose weight.
Adrenaline will allow lipolysis, even with higher insulin, (hence caffeine pills for weight loss) but then we run the risk of adrenal fatigue if we have too much adrenaline. However a little bit of adrenaline via morning cortisol can be helpful.
Skipping breakfast is a great way to get the fat-burning boost of morning cortisol and extend the number of hours your body will rely on body fat for fuel. Skipping or postponing lunch will extend the time your body will rely on body fat for fuel. Feasting on a late lunch or early dinner will keep your body metabolism high and give you enough time to digest your meal before bed.
My intention with my short fasts was to give my body a reboot and to help me to shift to eating one meal a day. Eating one meal a day allows me to reduce my daily insulin level while being able to nourish myself optimally. As a woman in early menopause, with a small frame, I don’t need much food to thrive and have good energy, as long as I focus on nutrient dense foods.
Result: I have a flat belly for the first time in years and am starting to see muscle definition in my arms again!
How can we optimize insulin levels to allow fat loss and stay healthy?
The keys for me:
(with a small enough eating window)
First of all, we need to optimize our nutrition so that the body has the nutrient stores it needs to function optimally. I discuss optimal Menopause nutrition here. Depending on your diet and digestive health, it can take 4-6 months or more to get nutrient replete, so patience is essential. Fasting when your body is malnourished, after years of caloric restriction, isn’t healthy or effective long-term. (For the record, I ate a low carb, high fat diet for 5 years before I fine-tuned my intermittent fasting.)
Easing into a ketogenic diet will help you drop your insulin levels and make ketones available to your brain. In addition to aiding fat loss, a ketogenic diet will often eliminate hot flashes and brain fog, since the brain is not relying solely on glucose to function well. For some women, this is all that is needed to achieve their ideal body composition. It can take 4-6 weeks to keto-adapt. You can read how to keto-adapt here.
Intermittent fasting just means that you extend your fasting period a bit, but eat at least once a day. Begin by eating your first meal of the day one hour later than usual. You may drink water, tea or coffee (with a dash of heavy cream), but no other caloric food or drinks. No artificial sweeteners, either. You may eat as much as you want of your ketogenic foods during the next 8 hours. Then stop eating and start your fast.
Do this for a week, or until you feel ready to reduce your eating window. Start eating an hour later, so that your eating window is only 7 hours. Continue this pattern until your eating window is only 5 hours or less. It’s fine to adjust when your eating window starts to fit your schedule. To optimize cortisol (adrenaline), it’s best to not eat until late morning, but make this work for you.
A five hour eating window may be sufficient to drop your insulin enough to allow for the fat loss you are wanting. If not, try reducing your eating window gradually, so you are eating no more than one meal a day. Make sure that you eat until you are full and that you are eating a nutrient-dense, ketogenic diet.
If you are still not losing any body fat at all after a few weeks, you may need a longer fast to reset your set point.
Dr. Jason Fung has a brilliant blog that explains the science behind fasting and I highly recommend you read his Fasting Series before embarking on a longer fast than 36-40 hours. Fasts of 10 days or longer are best done under the care of a physician.
Have you tried fasting or eating one meal a day?
How is it working for you?
Please share your experiences in the comments!