Having dabbled with fasting to relieve my autoimmune symptoms and had some success, I was eager to read this book ever since I first heard about it on a podcast. In the sea of diet books out there on the online stores and on book shelves, this one stands out from the rest because it’s kinda like a diet but it’s telling you not to eat! It’s touting all the health benefits of food elimination. Mind you I said elimination, not just restriction of certain macronutrients or food groups or calorie percentages. What’s so special about fasting that makes people want to forgo their most consistent, regular and unfluctuating habit of eating 3 meals a day?
In this society where we are so abundantly blessed with affordable, convenient and tasty food everywhere, starvation is no longer a health problem. Instead, we are plagued with an epidemic of obesity and its associated consequences from metabolic syndrome to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. Other diseases not necessarily linked to obesity are also on the rise and now more common than ever in human history such as cancer, autoimmune and degenerative diseases. Could our over-consumption and indulgence of food, specifically calorically dense but nutritionally poor processed foods, be the cause of all these? If so, then logically thinking, to reverse this trend we would simply have to stop consuming these foods right? Aka fast?
About the Author(s)
The main author, Dr. Jason Fung, is a medical doctor trained in Toronto and specializes in nephrology, the study and treatment of kidneys. A major cause of kidney failure is type 2 diabetes which is endemic amongst the obese and in our society today – more than 1 in 4 seniors might be living with diabetes, diagnosed and undiagnosed. However, if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor would tell you that it’s a progressive disease and put you on medications. As if there is no cure or hope of reversing the disease. These meds would just get stronger and increase in dosages until eventually the body doesn’t respond to them anymore. Then it’s a slow and painful decline to death from all the secondary complications like heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputations. Dr. Fung hated the idea of not being able to help his patients and clearly recognized that the medications treating the symptoms weren’t helping treat the root problem – which he figured was insulin resistance as he explains in his previous book, The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss.
It just so happens that most of his patients are obese and their symptoms improve when they lose some weight because insulin sensitivity also improves. Thus, he set up a clinic and a program called the Intensive Dietary Management (IDM) program to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity through managing his patient’s diets.
At first, he started with a low-carb, moderate protein and high fats approach (ketogenic diet) which has been established to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce weight. However, most of his patients found this diet too complicated and hard to stick to, especially since carbohydrates have become so prevalent in our society and they come in so many forms. Thus, he decided to try time restricted eating like various intermittent fasting protocols and, with those success, eventually moved on to alternate day and extended fasting. This proved to be a more successful and simpler approach and has benefitted and treated hundreds of his patients. Most have even reversed their type 2 diabetes completely!
The second author, Jimmy Moore wrote an introductory chapter about his own fasting story. How he started experimenting with 1 day, intermittent fasting, 1 week, 3 and eventually 4 weeks without food. It is interesting to look at this results, particularly his blood work pre- and post-fast which showed tremendous healthy reductions in biomarkers, especially cholesterol which dropped by 100 points in less than 3 weeks of fasting without needing any cholesterol-lowering medications like statins. Also worth mentioning was how his fasting blood glucose levels plummet to the 60-70s range and his ketone levels soared as high as 4.0+ millimolars (something I have not been able to measure yet because I lack the equipment). Jimmy is the internationally bestselling author of Cholesterol Clarity, Keto Clarity, The ketogenic Cookbook. He is also the author of the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog and host of the longest running and top-ranked iTunes health podcast, The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show and has 2 new podcasts, Keto Talk and Fasting Talk.
Part I: What is fasting and why is it good for you?
- What is fasting and what isn’t
- A brief history of fasting
- Busting some myths on fasting
- Advantages of fasting
- Fasting for weight loss
- Fasting for type 2 diabetes
- Fasting for a younger, smarter you
- Fasting for heart health
- What you need to know about Hunger
- Who should not fast
Part II: How to fast
- Kinds of fast and best practices
- Intermittent fasting
- Longer periods of fasting
- Extended Fasting
- Fasting tips and FAQs
Part III: Resources
- Fasting fluids
- 24-hour fasting protocol
- 36-hour fasting protocol
- 42-hour fasting protocol
- 7- to 14- day fasting protocol
The remaining portion of the book is dedicated to recipes (yes, you heard that right!) even though this is a book about fasting. These are generally healthy recipes which comply with what Dr. Fung repeatedly stresses in this book whenever he talks about diet:
“On eating days, we recommend you follow a diet that is low in refined carbohydrates and high in natural fats. Strive to eat only whole, unprocessed foods and avoid processed and prepared foods as much as possible.”
These recipes range from Essential Bone Broth and Bulletproof Coffee to Grain-Free Pancakes, Steak Fajitas, Simple Homemade Bacon (cured yourself! No nitrates or preservatives), various Salads, Avocado Fries and more! Of course all these recipes are meant for the reader to follow on non-fasting days and only the broth, tea and coffees are allowed on fasting days. These recipes are meant to accompany the various fasting protocols above and help the reader/patient eat healthier on non-fasting days.
Lastly, distributed throughout the book are success stories (some truly eye-opening and life changing!) of patients who have gone through Dr. Fung’s Intensive Dietary Management program. Many have reversed their diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and have managed to sustain their weight loss. Unlike most diets these days which only work on the short term and dieters regain their weight loss in a couple of years. Also intersperesed throughout the book are some short commentary by various ‘Fasting All-Stars’. Mostly doctors and public figures who have much experience with fasting, be it on themselves or of treating others.
My Review of the Book
✓ This was a relatively quick read and I felt that Dr. Fung did an amazing job explaining in layman terms the nitty gritty science behind weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, the development of type 2 diabetes, the physiology of fasting and so much more. I think anyone without any science background would be able to comprehend the messages promoted by this book.
✓ I especially liked how he clearly dispels all myths associated with fasting such as going into ‘starvation mode’, ‘burning muscle’ when you fast, fasting causing low blood sugar and even causing compensatory overeating when you break the fast.
✓ I found the fasting protocols in the Resource section very straightforward, practical and simple for anyone deciding to give fasting a try – almost akin to guiding the reader “by the hand”. It starts with the simplest intermittent fasting protocols of eating one meal a day (24-hour fast) and progressively works up to 36, 42 and extended fasting of >3 days. The instructions are clear on when to stop eating and when to break the fast and I find the healthy recipes that accompany the protocols (like weekly meal plans) a great start to educating the reader about simple, tasty yet healthy homecooked meals.
✓ The chapter on fasting tips and FAQs will be really helpful for priming the reader on what to expect when fasting, such as hunger waves, and practical tips to help the reader through the fast. It is very comprehensive and even includes what to look out for in order to fast safely – this includes warnings for people on medication like diabetics and what blood markers to look out for to prevent fasting related complications.
✓ Lastly, the numerous fasting success stories in the book are great evidence and encouragement for the readers who might be thinking twice.
✗ I bought this book to gain a better understanding of fasting and how it could help with my autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, there was not much information about inflammation, detoxification or how fasting can help recalibrate the immune system. The book mainly focuses on how fasting can help with weight loss and type 2 diabetes.
Presently, this is my number 1 book recommendation for anyone thinking of starting a therapeutic fast for whatever reason. Dr. Fung and his team have really made fasting sound so simple and easy to implement into daily life. Reading this book will also clear up all potential doubts you may have about fasting. Additionally, the numerous FAQs and tips will help the reader and first time “faster” set realistic expectations and set him up for success. From the history of fasting to busting myths, to fasting health benefits, to easy to implement fasting protocols and healthy recipes, this book truly is a complete guide to fasting.
- Book: The Complete Guide To Fasting by Jason Fung, MD with Jimmy Moore
- Dr. Fung’s blog: Intensive Dietary Managment
- Jimmy Moore’s blog: Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog
“The ancient Greeks believed that medical treatments could be observed from nature, and since humans, like most animals, naturally avoid eating when they become sick, they believed fasting to be a natural remedy for illness. In fact, fasting can be considered an instinct, since all animals – dogs, cats, cattle ,sheep and also humans – avoid food when sick.”
“Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.” – Paracelsus (1493-1541)
“The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” – Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
“A little starvation can really do more for the average sick man than can the best medicines and the best doctors.” – Mark Twain (1835-1910)
“Fasting is not so much a treatment for illness but a treatment for wellness.”
“Fit fasting into your life … Do not change your life to fit your fasting schedule – change your fasting schedule to fit your life.”
“The very act of eating is a celebration of life, and when we celebrate important events, we do so with a feast.”
“A constant calorie-reduced diet does not match the cycle of feast and fast and is thus doomed to failure.”
“There are times that you should eat a lot. There are other times that you should be eating almost nothing. That is the natural cycle of life. Most major religions acknowledge this by prescribing feasting at certain times – Christmas, for instance – and fasting at others – such as lent. The ancient civilizations also knew this simple rhythm of life. When the harvest came in, they feasted. But they often fasted in the winter.”
“If you feast, you must fast. That’s really all there is to it”
“Life is full of ups and downs, and we need to celebrate the ups because the downs are right around the corner. But we must balance the periods of eating a lot with periods of eating very little. It’s all a matter of balance.”
This post contains affiliate links.