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Why Fasting Works


Popularly known as IF or intermittent fasting and OMAD or one meal a day eating, fasting is the willing abstinence from eating and/or drinking. It does not necessarily or always mean starvation, hunger, or lowering the calories eaten in a day or week. There are various and many types of fasting methods.

A Self-Healing Response

Interest in fasting as a weight-loss tool has steadily been growing since 2013 based on Google search statistics. In 2016, professor Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology for his research on autophagy, a self-healing response of most organisms to starvation or stress. The same year Dr. Jason Fung published his book The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, a book promoting fasting and how it can be used to control our own insulin and growth hormones to lose weight. These two events, in my opinion, are the crucial factors that pushed its popularity.

My personal interest in weight loss and fitness began some 30 years ago as a brand new medical doctor because of my own weight problems.  I was intent on learning and trying out all methods that could scientifically work to lose weight and be more fit. I tried various forms of exercise and sports, tried frequent but small feeding, food restrictions, calorie counting, and fluid loading. You name it, I probably tried it and failed just like the classic yoyo.

The 382-Day Challenge


Fast forward to October of 2018 I was 53 years old, at my heaviest at 250 pounds, feeling uglier, had a fatty liver, had hypertension, and already a pre-diabetic. As an orthopedic surgeon and joint specialist, it was ironic too that I was feeling and showing increasing knee and shoulder pains making it difficult to even exercise and do long surgeries.

My doctor friends and colleagues simply advised me to lose weight and exercise more. I was initially very happy with the low carbohydrates/no sugar/less rice diet. It was unsustainable, however, even with cheat days because it made me feel hungrier and I thought more often about food because I realized we could be addicted to carbs/sugars, by which we are constantly and increasingly surrounded.

So one day while browsing on YouTube on diets for diabetics I came across the topic of fasting. These were the facts I learned that day. The longest recorded fasting period under medical supervision is 382 days by a Scottsman named Angus Barbieri, who lost 276 pounds. Most of the major religions like Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddism all advocate regular fasting as a means to meditate, achieve enlightenment and cleanse the soul. It is worth mentioning that Zoroastrianism may be the only exception.

There are thousands of cases in which obesity and diabetes have been successfully cured through fasting under the supervision of Dr. Jason Fung, who has gained worldwide recognition as a result.

These facts alone made me try fasting immediately for 48 hours straight but allowing myself to drink black coffee and water in the process. Half expectedly, it caused me some painful early morning calf cramps and left me feeling very weak near the end of it. What really surprised me was the energy and mental sharpness that followed in the next few days. In those two days, I read constantly on fasting to keep me motivated and for the next six months, I was reading on the topic almost daily.

My colleagues, patients, friends, and family began to notice. I lost 20 pounds in just two months. That period of constant research also led me to other trustworthy scientists and doctors who had rediscovered the benefits of diet modification as a means not just for weight loss but also for a cure. My blood pressure became normal, so did my blood sugar. There was no more fatty liver and there were no more joint pains. I was feeling great and energetic.

The biggest surprise to me was the mental sharpness I would get during surgery even though I was in the fasted state. I recorded my fastest knee reconstruction surgery time even without trying. This was the period when I also made a major turnaround in the way I would treat and manage my patients. I now offer dietary modification in more than half of all my patients, from diabetics to those with chronic or recurring joint or tendon pain.

Today, a handful of Filipino doctors I know have made the leap and have done extensive and critical minded research into fasting. Only recently are the mainstream scientific and medical journals publishing their “accumulating evidence” of how fasting helps us humans (not just rats) lose weight, prevent diabetes and heart disease, fight cancer, and perhaps regenerate our immune system and even our brain function.

Fasting is not a fad. It is a great tool for our health and for curing some diseases. Any danger caused by fasting can be prevented by gradually getting into it and seeking medical advice from doctors who have experience and knowledge of fasting and know the details of your health.


Source: Manila Bulletin

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