Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique | Cynthia Thurlow | TEDxGreenville


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman What if I told you that breakfast
being the most important meal of the day was wrong? (Laughter) What if I told you it is more important
when you eat than what you eat? Perhaps much of the nutritional dogma
that we’ve been raised with is now outdated, like snacking all day long
and eating many meals. Over the next few minutes,
I plan to discuss with you what I believe to be the most profoundly
transformational concept and strategy as it pertains to health and aging. Over the last 20 years, as a nurse practitioner
and a functional nutritionist, I’ve seen tremendous shifts, tremendous shifts in health and wellness: escalating rates of obesity, diabetes
and cardiovascular disease – many of which are preventable. The choices we make in terms of nutrition
are profoundly impactful on our health, more than most of us realize. During my training as a nurse practitioner many years ago, the dominant nutritional paradigm
was exercise more, eat less. I’ve found this
to be profoundly ineffective for most, if not all,
of my female patients. The concept of “calories-in,
calories-out” alone is just not effective. Many of the things that I work with,
with my female patients really focus on the connection
between our lifestyle choices and how that impacts healthy aging and weight gain. I do not believe, nor do I support,
the limiting belief that women have to accept weight gain
as a normal function of aging. The National Health
and Nutrition Exam Survey, which looks at data
with regard to children and adults in terms of their nutrition
and escalating obesity rates, compares what went on in the 1970s, where most Americans
consumed three meals a day and no snacks; fast forward to today, most of what we are doing as Americans
is eating three meals a day and snacking all day long. Really. And so one of the things
that starts to happen when healthcare providers
are telling our patients that we need to eat all day long – it’s wrong. Eating all day long overtaxes
our pancreas and our digestive system. It overtaxes it so much
that it cannot work properly. And if it cannot work properly,
we cannot absorb our food or the nutrients in that food. Another really important distinction
when it comes to meal frequency, or how frequently we’re eating, is the debate over sugar burners
versus fat burners. And when we’re talking about that, a sugar burner is someone
that consumes lots of carbohydrates and taps into glucose
as their primary fuel source, which is incredibly inefficient. If you recognize these individuals: They are frequently hungry. They often get hangry. They have – yes – significant dips
in their energy level. They struggle more with fat loss,
and they struggle more with their weight because insulin levels are high. Insulin is that fat-storing hormone. So if levels remain high,
we have more oxidative stress; we have more inflammation; and we struggle more with weight gain. In sharp contrast to this are fat burners. They tap into fat stores for energy; they have sustained energy; they are much more clear cognitively; they don’t get hangry; it’s easier for them to lose weight because they tap into those fat stores; they sleep better;
and they age more slowly. So meal timing and how frequently
we are eating – it’s absolutely crucial. Absolutely crucial. Let’s talk about some statistics
as they pertain to women and healthy aging. So we know two-thirds of women
40-50 years of age are overweight, and more than half are obese. How do we proactively
address this statistic without quick fixes? It makes me want to cry when my female patients
would prefer I write them a prescription than work on changing their diet, more exercise, other lifestyle changes. Women in their 50s and 60s
gain an average of 1.5 pounds per year. Per year. That’s average. And some of this is attributable
to things like hormonal fluctuations, women having less lean muscle mass
than their male counterparts, sleep disturbances and mood disorders. However, there are strategies
we can use to help offset this. So folks, I want you to save your money on potions and powders and supplements
that are not long-term solutions. I’ve got a better idea. And I’m going to tell you about it. I’ve got a better idea. There are lots of strategies
that I use with my female patients, but none more powerful
than intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting
can help fuel fat loss as well as many other benefits
that I’ll talk more about in a second. But it also can improve
interpersonal relationships and self-esteem. And for many women, this permits them – it’s the magic bullet that allows them
to gain back their former selves. Really powerful. And the really cool thing
about intermittent fasting is it’s free, it’s flexible and it’s simple. You take nothing else away. Free. Flexible. Simple. So let’s talk about intermittent fasting. It is the absence of food
during a prescribed time period. You exist either in a fed
or a fasted state. I’m sure for many of you,
you had breakfast this morning. So when you eat, insulin
is secreted by the pancreas to move sugar into the cells. We store the bulk of our sugar
in our liver and our skeletal muscle. But when we exceed those storage sites, we store it as fat. When we’re fasted, insulin levels are low and we can tap into fat stores for energy. Free. Flexible. Simple. And so, when we’re talking about
intermittent fasting, it’s fairly simple. If you skip breakfast – If you skip breakfast in the morning, you can reduce your caloric intake
by 20 to 40 percent. And the typical time frame
that I recommend to my female patients is a 16:8. Sixteen hours a day fasted
with an eight-hour feeding window. I know that seems
a little overwhelming at first, but I’ll give you some strategies
for how you go about doing that. So, the 20-40 percent
reduction in calories means that you can fuel fat loss. So what are some of the benefits
other than fat loss – fat loss and especially visceral fat
around our abdomens, around our major organs? We know that it improves mental clarity
because insulin levels are low. We know that it spikes
human growth hormone, which helps us with lean muscle mass. We know that it induces
something called autophagy – I will speak more about this in a second. But this is spring cleaning for the cells. It is only evoked when we are fasted. Autophagy. We know that it lowers insulin levels, blood pressure, improves our cholesterol profile. And we know that it can reduce your risk
for developing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease,
which I like to call type 3 diabetes. If, for no other reason,
we want to protect our brains. As wonderful a strategy as this is,
it is not for everyone. I’m going to talk briefly about the individuals
that want to avoid this strategy. First and foremost,
if you are a brittle diabetic, or you have difficult-to-control diabetes; if you are a child, an adolescent
or age greater than 70 – might not be the best strategy; if you are pregnant; if you have chronic heart issues,
kidney or renal issues – not the best strategy. If you have a history
of a disordered relationship with food, whether it is anorexia,
bulimia or binge eating – might not be the best strategy
because it can invoke those tendencies. And last but not least,
if you have a low body mass index, you’re frail or you’ve recently been in the hospital
like I was for 13 days. I’m not currently intermittent fasting. Now, everyone always asks, Well, when you’re fasting,
we know we’re not eating food, but you can absolutely consume things
like filtered water, plain coffee or tea. They will not break your fast. But when you’re ready to eat,
what do you eat? Now, I would be remiss
if I did not mention that there are foods that are going to be more
advantageous for you to consume when you’re ready to break your fast. So I want you to focus
on real whole foods. That’s what your body needs,
wants and deserves. So I want you to purchase the best quality
protein that your budget permits. Ideally, organic or pastured meat,
wild-caught fish. Healthy fats – so crucial – helpful for building healthy hormones and also really important for satiety –
making sure our taste buds light up, make us happy. I’m not part of the anti-fat brigade. Really, really important. Twenty years ago, I might
have told you not to eat fat, but now we know better. So I want you to focus
on things like avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and nuts –
really great, healthy fats. Unprocessed carbohydrates. Ladies, absolutely crucial, if you’re in perimenopause,
the five to seven years before menopause, or you’re in menopause, quality and quantity are crucial. So I want you to consume things
like low-glycemic berries, green leafy vegetables, squash,
quinoa, sweet potatoes as opposed to bread and pasta. Cautionary tale: I want you
to limit sugar and alcohol. By that I mean, I want you
to not consume those things because they can offset
all the good that you’re doing. And lastly, keep yourself well hydrated. Now, I want to make sure that I briefly touch on
some of the practical implications for how you would go about
starting intermittent fasting. Generally, I have my ladies
start with 12-13 hours of fasted period. And they can slowly increase
by an hour or so every day until they’ve reached that 16 hour mark. Again, you want to keep yourself
really well hydrated. You can also have plain coffee or tea. In addition to that, you want to ensure
that you give it a solid 30 days before you determine
if it’s the right strategy for you. And if you have chronic health conditions, I want to make sure you discuss it
with your healthcare provider. Really important. And recognize it may take
six to eight weeks to really see the full benefits
of what you’re doing. The biggest pain point
for my female patients is weight gain. I have a fantastic strategy
to help with this, but I don’t want you to buy into
the next $50 container of protein powder or the hottest weight loss
supplement that’s out there. I want you to think about the fact
this is a simple, flexible and free option that you can try at home, discuss with your healthcare
provider if necessary. I really feel so passionately about this because it’s something that all of us
should be discussing with our patients. Thank you. (Applause)

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