The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting
© 2016 Jason Fung
The Complete Guide to Fasting introduces readers to fasting as a health practice for weight loss, diabetes reversal, and general health augmentation. I’ve heard of fasting for health before, through the paleo/primal school of nutrition and exercise, but never took it seriously until meeting a few people at my local gym who enthused about intermittent fasting. Jason Fung was one of the authorities they cited, and I was intrigued by the benefits they mentioned. I began experimenting with fasting myself, found it effective, and read this looking for more information.
Fung’s introduction – explaining his background in biochemistry, and his research into the efficacy of various diets — ends with an argument to the reader that hormones, not the simple math of calories and expenditures, are the key to understanding how our bodies use food as fuel or fat. Although this book’s approach implies a radical reduction of calories, fasting works more by minimizing the insulin spikes that make it impossible for the body to tap into its reserves, our fat, for fuel. Although he goes into the science of this, it’s covered in more detail in both his The Obesity Code and Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, so I won’t dwell on it. In addition to reviewing fasting’s role in various wisdom, faith, and medical traditions, Fung also directly addresses misconceptions relating to fasting, like the bogeyman of “starvation mode”. Although the bulk of his argument addresses fasting’s contributions to weight loss and controlling diabetes — the latter of which is driven by insulin resistance, something fasting can radically diminish — Fung also shares research hinting that fasting can reduce our risk of cancer and Alzheimers, by prompting the body to do housecleaning, cleaning up errant cells through autophagy. Fasting doesn’t mean that a practitioner can get away with eating whatever he or she likes during eating periods; Fung advocates the same general kind of diet advocated by the keto/low-carb/Atkins/Weston Price foundation school of thought. Meats and greens, some beans and fruit,, nix the processed stuff. Fung also explores various approaches to fasting; what makes intermittent fasting so appealing to me personally is its flexibility. Many beginners find it easiest to start simply skipping between-meal snacks,, and then later begin dropping a meal or two; others alternate between eating and fasting days. A few even engage in the occasional multi-day fast, though Fung warns readers, especially those with existing medical conditions, to keep in touch with their doctors. There are people who should not fast, including children, teenagers, and nursing or pregnant women.
I found this guide a fairly comprehensive introduction to something which I’ve been exploring myself. The book’s layout incorporates graphic information for lazy reader and nutrition wonks alike. Perhaps the book was optimized to be read sectionally, but I found it very repetitive the further I got into the book, with the same content and phrases being recycled a page or two after they’d initially appeared.
Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes. (Also his Good Calories, Bad Calories; and The Case Against Sugar, but the Fat one was the first I read and the science is consistent throughout all three, so I never reviewed the other two.)