The Role of Intermittent Fasting in Ketosis – Part 4

Some roadblocks people encounter when attempting to follow a ketogenic diet include peer pressure to eat “normally” when they are with family and friends. But that is why I am so passionate about re-creating these favorite foods, such as protein noodle lasagna and healthy, sugar-free, extremely low-carb desserts—so clients don’t feel the need to cheat.

– Maria Emmerich

Emotional eating is extremely common because carbohydrate-containing foods or beverages temporarily make us feel good. The good news is that bacon can become a comfort food just like macaroni and cheese, without the unintended consequences of weight gain and other health effects—but there is no question that most Americans have been raised to consider sweets and starches to be comfort foods. Fortunately, that changes over time when you embrace a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle.

Many people feel the urge to eat or hear their stomachs gurgling or growling at certain times of the day and assume that these feelings mean they’re hungry. These feelings are not hunger; the brain simply draws that conclusion because we have eaten at that time of day for so long. It’s a Pavlovian response:

just like Pavlov’s dogs, who learned to associate the sound of a bell with feeding time and began salivating anytime they heard a bell, we also unconsciously become accustomed to eating at certain times, and our bodies generate stomach movements and secretions in response—but that’s not true hunger. After you become keto-adapted, stomach noises and urges to eat that are associated with a certain time of day quickly fade away.

DOCTOR’S NOTE FROM DR. ERIC WESTMAN: I grew up celebrating holidays with the typical mountains of sweets: candy bars at Halloween, candy hearts on Valentine’s Day, cookies at Christmas, and so on. The last sweet to go for me was jelly beans at Easter—it took me ten years to finally give them up!

It’s worth noting that some members of the online health community have questioned whether women should engage in intermittent fasting, citing concerns about hormonal dysregulation. But as long as fasting occurs in response to the natural satiating effects that come from being in a state of ketosis, there’s no reason to avoid it.

That said, it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor if you have any specific concerns about this. And of course, pay attention to how you feel while fasting and make any needed adjustments. If you’re hungry, that’s your cue to eat!

With my affinity for doing tests on myself during my yearlong n=1 nutritional ketosis experiment, I was curious to see what would happen if I attempted a one-week fast, eating nothing and drinking only water. I had engaged in a one-week fast with water, diet soda, and chicken bouillon cubes in 2011, putting the words of cancer researcher Dr. Thomas Seyfried to the ultimate test.

In my podcast interview with him on The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore in November 2009, Dr. Seyfried noted that fasting for one week each year may be a great cancer prevention measure. The theory is that we can kill cancer cells by not feeding them sugar and carbs, and that the high amount of ketones generated during a weeklong fast may act as a protective measure against cancer.

It took me a while to work up the gumption, but I tried it for the first time in April 2011. Dr. Seyfried even honored my willingness to give it a go in his 2012 book, Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.

Once my body had been running efficiently on ketone bodies (beta-hydroxybutyrate) for ten months in a row, I wanted to see if I could replicate that same one-week fast but with water only, forgoing the diet soda and boullion cubes I consumed last time as well as exercise and all my usual supplements.

My goal was to make it for an entire week. With nutritional ketosis, regular eighteen- to twenty-four-hour fasts were already very natural and easy for me, but what would happen once I got beyond this time period? Of course, our hunter-gatherer ancestors went through regular, extended periods of deprivation when food was not readily available, but what would this feel like in the modern world? I wanted to find out for myself.

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