Much of these issues is not only due to the type of foods that tend to be consumed on a calorie restrictive diet, but also how the foods are eaten, and when.
It may come as a surprise that, how and when we eat food or drink is just as important as what we eat.
Consider that the human body is wonderfully designed to withstand and survive a huge variety of dangers and environments. We are the ultimate in adaptive strategists. Our physiology and metabolism is so versatile, that humans are one of the only species to be able to survive and thrive in virtually every environment in the world.
So what is wrong with our current paradigm of dieting to lose weight?
Well, to answer that we've got to first look at the major contributing factors to our over weight population. Only when we truly understand the problem can we undertake to devise an effective solution.
Our population began getting wider through the mid twentieth century. At this time, the majority of the population had left their farms and homesteads in the countryside and were living in suburban or urban environments. However manual labor, technical skills, and hard physical work was still necessary in that time and economy. During this time, food became less whole, ie, it started to resemble the processed foods we have today, although in a much lesser degree. Mothers were still living at home, caring for the home needs and children, and making family meals from scratch.
Then, two things happened at once. Due to several factors involving politics, industry, and agriculture commodity revision, convenience foods became one of the cheapest and most widely available food sources for the average American and, convenience machinery and electronics also became widely available.
The result of these two factors was a rapidly changing American lifestyle. People no longer spend long hours doing manual labor, or cooking for their families. Food that used to be available only during specific periods of the day became accessible at anytime one might wish. As our physical activity level decreased, our accessibility to cheap food, conveniently ready to eat, increased.
Needless to say, the result of these factors on the American public has been a health crisis in the form of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other forms of degenerative disease.
We already talked about why depriving the body of vital nutrients, which often accompany calories in food, is not a good way to lose weight. So, what are the other options in this scenario? Is it possible to actually utilize your body's innate abilities to your advantage? Can you utilize these tools in such a way as to make strides towards your goal, without deprivation? In other words, can you use eating calories as a tool for weightloss?
The answer is, yes. If we take even a cursory glance at our own history, we can see that our parents or perhaps grandparents stayed fit and trim on a full calorie diet. How did they do it?
The answer is planned meals, at scheduled times every day, and no eating or snacking in between. These meals were often necessitated in past times by poverty, need, and economic or ecological restrictions. Eating food prepared from scratch requires planning, timing, and a schedule. There were no snacks in a house where there they were not planned for!
Our forebears found it easy and natural to maintain their ideal weight- and health- through the built-in habits that were necessitated by their lifestyle. In our current world, food is readily available, inexpensive, and requires no planning or effort to obtain. While we might like to think that we as humans have discipline, we are simply victims of the current environment of ease and convenience.
We know from studies that the quickest way to make an animal obese is to make food available at all times and make it easy to access that food.
So, how to we turn this around and use our own metabolism to our advantage? The answer is intermittent fasting. Because our parents and grandparents only ate during the day- usually starting very late in the morning and ending in early evening- we can use this as our guide.
Intermittent fasting generally precludes a period of fasting for sixteen to eighteen hours. So the period in which we are eating is much less- a mere eight to six hours per day. During the time that we are eating, our food consumption is strictly contained within one of three meals.
With sixteen to eighteen hours of fasting per day, the digestive tract has ample time for healing and rest. The practice of resting the digestive system has been shown to have immense health benefits. Intermittent fasting can help to regenerate and preserve the all important digestive organs, and even help them to regenerate themselves from a diseased state. In fact, one study showed a regression of disease in the diabetic pancreas from intermittent fasting!
Daily resting of the digestive tract can also increase the functioning of the immune system. Since over 80% of our immune system is in the gut, and is mediated by the gut, giving our gut a chance to heal and rest can profoundly affect how your immune system functions- both now and in the future.
Those who practice fasting as a lifestyle have a stronger immune system. This can be translated into many different benefits for the practitioner of fasting. It can mean that endemic infections like the flu are more easily fended off, or that they are less affected by allergies. In addition, the long term benefits include less degenerative immune related diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, decreasing cognitive function, etc.
The liver in particular will thank you graciously for your efforts taken to adhere to intermittent fasting. The liver is vital to life, and has a hand in nearly every single metabolic interaction in your body. A constant flow of food and drink through the digestive tract is a constant workload, distraction, and stress-er for the liver. On top of all of its myriad jobs, the liver is largely in charge of energy metabolism. If we eat constantly from the time of waking to the time of going to bed, the liver will be in perpetual glycogen storing mode. In this mode, it is literally impossible for the metabolism to switch to one of glycogen usage, or one of energy expenditure.
Giving your liver the time it needs to take that break and switch to using its glycogen stores allows the body to start burning fat; using up its stored calories.
You may even be pleasantly surprised at how little food is actually highly satisfying, once the liver begins to cycle normally again and allows your hormones to balance, allowing for a happy, healthy eating pattern.