Right now, the 5-2 and similar intermittent fasting diets are popular. On the 5-2 diet you semi-fast two days out of the week by limiting calories to 500-600 per day. You eat “normally” the other five days. I’ve been asked if intermittent fasting can be combined with the TQI Diet in a healthy way. I think it can.
Most cultures and religions favor occasional fasts because they offer a temporary reprieve from overindulgence for both the body and the mind. Unfortunately (at least in some respects), we live in a very different world than our ancestors did. Humans today are walking containers of many toxins (DDT, DDE, PCBs, PBDEs, and dioxins, to name a few) that interfere with optimal health. Many are found in our blood because we pick up new ones as fast (or faster) than we get rid of old ones. Most toxins, however, are tucked away in our fats cells because we cannot excrete them efficiently. These stored toxins are periodically released, recirculate, and then are put back in a fat cell. Whether we are slender or fat, we all have toxins both in our fat and blood cells.
When we go on a complete fast, a stringent detox regimen, or severely cut calories for a while, we burn fat for energy. In the process, we momentarily add to our circulating levels of toxins, increasing our exposure to chemicals that disrupt health. These toxins do much of their damage by generating free radicals.
On a complete fast, you increase circulating toxins but do not have the antioxidants needed to prevent free radical damage because you are not eating food. As well, if you cut calories for longer than 24 hours, you start to use muscle tissue as fuel. Simply put: A complete fast in today’s world burdens rather than aids the body. The fast does not increase your ability to excrete toxins, you simply increase their ability to do damage.
Most detox and cleanse products on the market are equally problematic. None of us (whether fish, grizzly bear, cow, or human) can quickly detoxify many of these chemicals. Once in your body, their excretion will not be sped up no matter how much fiber you ingest or how many laxatives you take. Instead, the laxatives disrupt your intestinal flora, inflaming your body and adding to the stress of a calorie-cutting regimen that seldom includes adequate amounts of real, antioxidant-rich whole foods.
In today’s world, we need to take into account the heavy body burden toxins create. Our toxin levels are high and will continue to increase as new chemicals are brought to market. Rather than fasting and cleansing, we need to eat to help our bodies cope. We do this by eliminating sugars, chemicals, alcohol, poor quality animal products, and food triggers to the greatest extent possible. Instead we want to load up on antioxidants by eating dark leafy greens, colorful vegetables, and other plant foods. As well, we avoid prolonged reductions in calories below what our body burns. And more than anything, we need to quit thinking that we can eat poorly from time-to-time because we can “fix” any damage done with a ritualistic fast or cleanse. A colonic and a juice fast are not going to eliminate toxins nor will they necessarily mend a damaged cell. There are no quick fixes.
Intermittent partial fasts can have a different effect if combined with a TQI approach. As long as you get your 500 calories from vegetables (raw, steamed, or roasted) and begin your day with a little plant protein, such as a miso soup with a little tofu or beans, you will be eating proportionately and will do fine. These foods will provide your body with the antioxidants it needs to help deal with increased levels of circulating toxins. And, given that you are only cutting calories for at most a 24-hour period, you will not be depleting your muscle tissue to keep you going.
To be healthy, your fast days should not include fruits, juices, sugars, fats, oils, animal products, alcohol, protein powders, and/or chemicals. To get the antioxidants your body needs – and to maintain your intestinal flora – your limited calories should come strictly from vegetables with a little plant protein for breakfast. As well, your “normal” days need to continue to be filled with healthy foods eaten the TQI way. Do not use your fast days as an excuse to eat the “wrong” foods the rest of the week.
I suspect that few are going to want to do intermittent fasting for long, but done properly, a little intermittent vegetable-only fasting may well jump start your metabolism while keeping keep your flora happy. It also might just reset your taste preferences so that healthy food on “normal” days tastes both richer and more satisfying. As a result this approach, used periodically, might be quite interesting.
Photograph: Vegetable Side by ulterior epicure
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