The diet industry is presently scrambling to find ways to make money off intermittent fasting. I’d offer some links as examples, but I’d rather not give them the attention. Now that this approach to optimal health and weight loss is gaining popularity and doesn’t require their special foods, their gimmicks, their magic supplements, or their special meal plans, how can they continue raking in our money?
Here are seven big reasons why the Diet Industrial Complex wants you to believe you’ll never succeed at intermittent fasting without them, and why they’re wrong.
1. Intermittent Fasting is Free
There is no proprietary information and no membership fee. There are no expensive shakes or meal plans or frozen dinners to buy. There are no magical breakthrough supplements to stock up on. There is no need for a meal plan dictating exactly what you’re allowed to eat each day. There is no special exercise or food-prep equipment to invest in.
You might buy a book on the subject, but you can just as easily borrow one from the library or read about it for free on the Internet. There is no cost involved in intermittent fasting, very little to no money to be made, not much there to monetize. Diet marketers would rather you skip it altogether and become a member of Weight Minders or Smoothy-ology or whatever it is they’re selling this week.
Every time you fail to stick with one of their approaches to diet, weight loss or health, they are right there to sell you another plan, membership, motivational program, supplement, meal-replacement shake, frozen dinner, or packaged food with this or that nutrient replaced with the superfood-darling-of-the-week.
If you’re tired of all that, if you’d like a solution that works and will save you time, money, and aggravation, please read on.
2. It’s Very Effective
It’s simple: Intermittent fasting allows your insulin to come down. Low insulin levels let your body tap into stored fat. Burning stored fat provides high energy, mental clarity, protects and boosts metabolism, and results in fat loss while protecting muscle and bone. Feeling great becomes its own motivation.
Weight loss with IF is typically slow and steady. Your body isn’t fighting you to get back to its set weight. By not stimulating your appetite with unsatisfying meals and snacks throughout the day, intermittent fasting reduces your ghrelin (the “hunger hormone” that makes your stomach rumble) levels. After a few days or a couple of weeks, you begin to experience hunger less intensely and less often.
When you’re only eating for a short period each day, it’s easier to make good food choices simply because there are fewer choices to make. With IF, you eat one or two meals instead of three to six meals and snacks. Junk foods begin to lose their appeal. Over time, appetite gets naturally corrected for both quantity and content.
I’ve detailed my own health success with this lifestyle at the end of this post. It goes far beyond mere weight loss. As Gin Stephens often says in her Intermittent Fasting podcast, “I came for the weight loss and stayed for the health benefits.”
3. Intermittent Fasting is Simple
You may need a little guidance starting out, but there are no complexities to IF. You won’t need to know about micros and macros or keep a mental list of the things you aren’t allowed to eat anymore. You won’t need tables to help you calculate the calories or the grams of fat or fiber or proteins or carbs in the foods you eat. You won’t need a food scale or measuring app or reference manual. You won’t need to relearn how to cook or bake in order to eliminate any nutrients or substances like fat or gluten or sugar.
With IF, there is nothing to keep track of, no special diet things to buy. You don’t have to avoid any foods or force yourself to choke down “healthy” foods you can’t stand or don’t really enjoy. Simply eat your reasonably nutritious (you’re an adult and you know what that is) food for the day, stop when you’re satisfied, and start a new fast that you’ll break tomorrow. All you really need is a clock and a little willingness.
4. It’s a Lifestyle
There is no wagon, only a clock. You eating nothing and drink only plain black coffee, plain black tea, plain flat water, or plain sparkling water for a number of hours each day. Then you eat whatever you want for a few (or several, depending on your approach) hours each day. When you’re done eating, you start a new fast.
There are some different patterns to choose from and nearly every blog post or fasting article reiterates them. If you don’t know them, just do a web search of 16:8, 18:6, 2MAD, OMAD, and ADF for details. Experiment until you find the approach that feels best to you.
The reason it’s a lifestyle and not just another diet is that it’s so sustainable. It’s a friendly and flexible approach to eating that takes denial, guilt, shame, and self-recriminations out of the picture while encouraging you to eat the foods you love until fully sated. There is little temptation to quit when you feel great every day and can eat all the foods you love.
While doing your research, don’t get distracted by so-called intermittent fasting meal plans. More on those below.
5. Intermittent Fasting Means Your Food, Your Way
You don’t need to follow a “meal plan” with Intermittent Fasting. Repeat after me: You do not need a meal plan. You do not need a meal plan. You do not need a meal plan.
Currently, the Diet Industrial Complex is in a tizzy gearing up to find some way, any way at all, to monetize intermittent fasting. But they can’t do this without pretending they have some proprietary information and that you won’t succeed unless you buy it from them or visit their advertising-encrusted website.
Basically, they’re just going to tell you to avoid sugars and refined carbs. It’s absolutely true that a lot of people find that reducing or eliminating added sugars and refined carbs in their eating window, especially when they’re new to intermittent fasting, makes hunger more manageable in subsequent fasts. Assuming you know which foods have added sugars and refined carbs, you can easily make this adjustment. There is no need to download a shopping list from some TV diet guru who never heard of intermittent fasting until it started cutting into his sales of “magic” diet supplements.
I avoided sweets and baked goods early on and it really did make fasting easier. Now that I’m an experience faster and at my goal weight, I don’t need to be so careful, but it was a huge help starting out. It didn’t call for a meal plan, though, just common sense.
The idea that we can’t be successful without following a prescribed meal plan from a diet marketer comes straight out of the diet mindset.
6. It Ditches the Diet Mindset
This notion about special meal plans and TV-health-guru-approved shopping lists comes from what Gin Stephens calls a diet mindset. A diet mindset says you can’t be trusted to choose what or how to eat. A diet mindset says you need someone else to step in and make these decisions for you. A diet mindset says there are “good” foods and “naughty” foods and you should pay someone to tell you which are which. Unfortunately, that information conveniently changes every time the Diet Industrial Complex wants more of your money. It’s the diet mindset that keeps them rolling in cash.
Food and “health” marketers thrive on confusing us. Look at the 180-degree shift in what they’ve recommended over the years regarding fats, carbs, grains, diary, nuts, eggs, avocados, bacon, coffee, wine, and artificial sweeteners, just to name a few. The diet industry has touted each of these foods as both the new magic bullet for health and weight loss, and as the devil itself. It’s not that they can’t make up their minds, it’s that they know they make more money every time they come up with a “new” diet darling and we all rush to buy it from them because, frankly, the last diet darling they sold us only worked temporarily — if at all.
The diet mindset is what keeps the Diet Industrial Complex making money. No wonder they don’t want you to try intermittent fasting without their “help.” No wonder they want you to think you can’t succeed without buying another “meal plan” from them to pile on top of all the other stuff you bought from them that only worked temporarily or not at all.
The Joy of Non-Scale Victories
Intermittent fasting (IF) and the resulting autophagy have made enormous improvements in my health, and isn’t better…
7. Intermittent Fasting Asks the Right Questions
What should I eat? is the wrong question. How much/how many calories should I eat? is also the wrong question. So is What foods are “healthy” and which foods are “bad”?
The right questions are When should I eat? and How often should I eat? and How many hours of fasting will feel great for me? And I’ve wasted how much money, time, energy and emotion on the Diet Industrial Complex?
The answers are as individual as you are. What works for you, your energy levels, your routine, and meals with your loved ones? Do you really have to eat every time someone else is eating, or would you be OK with sipping black coffee while your spouse enjoys a bowl of oatmeal? Do you really need a handful of those stale barbequed potato chips lying around the office? Are you actually hungry for that popcorn while watching Hulu at 9:00 PM, or would a tall glass of sparkling water suffice?
When it’s time to break your fast, eat as much as you want of whatever you want. Eat until sated. Then stop. Listen to your body. Enjoy your food, and don’t confuse enjoyment with getting overfull. Don’t conflate foods you enjoy with pure crap all the time. C’mon. You already know what adequate nutrition looks like. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what that is for you.
Diet marketers have been answering the wrong questions for us all along with their 99-Calorie Snackity Pax and Nootra-Smoovies and Scrawny-Cattle Frozen Desserts and Dairy-Free Processed Cheez Curdles and Fat-Free- Reduced-Sugar-Sticky Sweet Yogurts and Keto-Friendly Bacon Wrapped Bacon Bombs (hmm, that sounds kind of good, actually) and Wheat-Free, Chem-flavored Blueberry Bagels and seaweed-based fat-free cream cheese.
You can skip the diet aisles when you’re on IF. Oh, does the Diet Industrial Complex ever hate that!
If you love diet foods, they can absolutely be a part of your food intake on intermittent fasting. Nobody is saying you can’t or shouldn’t have them. You just don’t have to if you don’t want to. You don’t have to spend extra on them. You don’t have to eat them in place of something you’d love a whole lot more.
My Intermittent Fasting Success Story
Before starting IF, I was almost 55 years old, about 35 pounds overweight, working a sedentary job, hypothyroid, menopausal, depressed, suffering from insomnia, and recovering from surgery from a massive lumbar nerve root trauma. I also had the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. I felt like crap. My spinal issues, particularly, had aged me ten years in about six months. I have advanced facet joint disease and carrying excess weight is the worst thing for my spine health.
Although I wasn’t suicidal, honestly, the idea of living for another twenty years didn’t appeal to me. It seemed like an awful lot of work, and I was so damned tired.
I had been earnestly attempting some other approaches to improve my health, including daily exercise and a low-carb diet. But my excess weight and menopause belly wouldn’t budge with all the other things slowing me down. Then I gave Intermittent Fasting a try.
I lost 36 pounds in six months, and 8 inches off my waistline. I’ve kept that weight off easily. I adore every morsel of food I eat and never eat any morsels I don’t think I’ll truly enjoy. I generally fast 18–24 hours per day, adjusting my eating schedule to suit my lifestyle and social plans. Now that I’m at my goal weight of 120 pounds and am in weight maintenance mode, I have a little longer eating window on weekends and enjoy lunch once or twice a week. At 5'5" with a small frame, I don’t feel the need to weigh any less than this.
There is a reason Gin Stephens refers to IF as “The health plan with the side effect of weight loss.” In the months since I started, I have been able to get off the pain medications for my crushed nerve root as well as my prescription addressing depression and insomnia. I’ve alleviated much of the stress on my spine. My thyroid medication has been cut in half. I sleep great using only Headspace sleepcasts. My RA symptoms are gone. I have greater mental clarity. I’m much more energetic. I feel fantastic.
I’d be happy to live for several more decades, should I be so lucky. But if I’m not, I’m really in a place where I can take pleasure in the time I have left.
I’m sharing this information because I want you to enjoy every moment you have left, too.