Fasting, but not really?

There is a bunch of research out there about the benefits of fasting. Juice fast. Water fast. Intermittent fasting. What is a person to do?


Fasts are really hard. Like, really hard. Unless you have resolve of steel and just don't like food at all, a fast is a true sacrifice and hardship.


Could there be a new way? The researchers out of University of Southern California and a company called Prolon have developed a 5 days Fasting Mimicking Plan which is designed to provide targeted calories and supplements so you get the benefit of fasting without the pain and hunger of fasting. This type of fast done intermittently has been linked to all kids of health benefits. I will talk about these benefits in a later post. Stay tuned!


This all seems great, but I really wanted to try it myself before recommending it to my patients.


First, the package arrived and it was beautiful. The instructions were easy to follow, and all of my food was arranged by day. My big complaint is the plastic water bottle. Plastic? Really? With the cost of this plan, at least offer a glass bottle or none at all. Again, another topic for another day. Free health tip: don't use the plastic bottle!


Keep in mind that I eat an overall healthy diet-no dairy, very limited gluten, heavily plant based. If your diet is heavy with gluten, dairy, sugar, or pre-packaged foods you might want to lay off of these things for a week (at least) before jumping into this plan. If you don't lighten up before starting, it could be rough for you. I should also disclose that this plan allows for 1 cup of black coffee in the morning. However, I really love coffee and still had my 2 cups with a splash of soy in the morning. I did switch from pure maple syrup sweetener to monk fruit to avoid the sugar.


Day 1: I started the day with a nut bar which was small but filling. The pack comes with DHA supplements and another proprietary blend. It looks like a multi-vitamin with a boost of greens. I felt a little hungry but not too bad. I am not a huge breakfast eater, so a small breakfast is fine for me. By lunch I was hungry. Lunch was a packet of dehydrated soup and almond herb crackers. These were super yummy. I added more water to the soup so it would be a bit more filling. They tasted good. It also came with a pack of olives which were so good. Olives for the afternoon snack as well. By dinner, I was really hungry and the soup also tasted good. The best part was a little chocolate crunchy square that really topped it off. I drank herbal tea all day which helped with hydration and hunger. They offer small packets of tea, but I prefer my own. I am picky about tea. Overall, a good day!


Day 2: Pretty much the same as day one. My energy was good and I started feeling a bit less hungry. I went for a long walk and had good energy for the walk. The pack comes with a special drink that you are encouraged to sip on through the day on days 2-5 of the fast. In looking at the ingredients, I suspect it has a filling effect but I am not sure. I added a tea bag for a cold brew which helped the flavor for sure. Hibiscus was the magic tea today.


Day 3: This hardest day by far. No snacks. Picture sad face here. No crunchy chocolaty thing after dinner. Another sad face. I went to bed feeling really hungry. I was so hungry, I jumped into my personal stash of Kalamata olives and ate 3. It helped a lot and was totally worth it. I figured if olives were allowed on other days, it was probably fine.


Days 4 and 5: By this point I was really tired of the dehydrated soup (think MREs but with fewer calories). They tasted good to start, but really started to lose their appeal by day 4. However, the bars and snacks continued to taste really good. Side note: if you are used to really sugary snacks, these may not taste great to you. I had great energy on days 4 and 5. I worked all day and still had energy in the evening. Normally I am wiped by about 6:00 pm. I also slept less on day 5 but still felt great. This can happen during a fast, so I am not worried.


Summary: My goal was to reset both physically and emotionally before Christmas and after Thanksgiving. I feel this was accomplished. I lost 6 pounds which was nice but not the overarching goal. This is not a good plan for anyone with a history of eating disorders of any kind, but can be great for those who overall have a healthy relationship with food and just want to reset. I didn't love all of the flavors of the packets, but the plan offers different choices. I will likely try it again with new flavors.


The best part of a fast is that it gets your brain away from cravings and any subtle food obsessions (for me, it may or may not be Chipotle and sushi). I feel stronger in my resolve to proceed with healthy choices with less temptation. If you are interested in giving it a try and need a structured plan with food provided, this may be a great choice. Reach out and we can talk!