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The Diet Conundrum

When should we eat? sounds like a rather silly question right. When should we eat and how often should we eat, seems like a foregone conclusion. We don’t ignore the question of frequency anywhere else. Falling from a 1000 foot building probably will kills us. But how about falling (well if you can call that falling but lets run with it) from a 1-foot wall a thousand times? Not even a chance although the distance covered is the same.

With lifestyle diseases wreaking havoc on the healthcare system and metabolic disorders rising exponentially, its no surprise why so many different diets keep cropping up. From Atkins to Modern Atkins Diet, Ketogenic to Low Carb High Fat, Paleo to Zone Diet, time restricted eating to fasting mimicking diets, 16:8 to OMAD. There are a host of diet options which keep coming and going. What all of these diets have in common is they all try to mimic fasting without really having to do fasting and to some extent trick the body into thinking its fasting on some level (glucose/glycogen depletion) when in reality it isn’t (switching fuel from glucose to ketones).

All of these diets have some benefits and maybe even successful to some extent, depending on what your end goal is. So be it weight loss, obesity, longevity, better health-span, address some underlying medical condition, insulin control; all of these diets work to varying degrees.

The problem however is the compliance of these diets. No one seems to be sticking to them in the long run. Asking people to completely overhaul their eating habits or cut down an entire macro molecule is quite a challenge. We might dive into these diets because it’s the latest fad and its exploding all over the social media and everyone’s talking about it, your favourite celebrity is endorsing it (Sirt Diet anyone?), so its rather tempting and easy to get into these diets but eventually the novelty of it all wears off and the reality kicks in. So how do we address this problem?

The answer to this vexing problem lies not in the latest and greatest diet trend, but in the tried and tested. Instead of searching for some exotic, never-before-tried diet miracle, we should focus on something that stood the test of time. Fasting is one of the most ancient healing traditions in human history.

This solution has been practiced by virtually every culture and religion on earth. Christians fast during the lent season, Muslims during the period of Ramadhan, Hindus and Buddhists follow strict fasting regiments. Most religions seem to advice, to practice fasting on some level. Hippocrates and a lot of ancient physicians supposedly were using therapeutic fasting to address various medical conditions. Fasting is one of the key therapeutic modalities in Ayurveda. Charaka supposedly advocated fasting in diseases of milder intensity. Fasting also is integral to panchakarma treatments.

If we were to go even farther back, way way back. Our prehistoric ancestors would probably go days without food. They spent most of their life cycling between fasting and feeding. There was no breakfast upon waking, or leftovers from dinner. They ate opportunistically, consuming whatever, whenever they could get their hands on. Regardless of what various segments claim about the dietary habits of these hunter-gatherers, their diets largely depended on location, season, and opportunity.

Based on all of these practices, it is safe to assume, fasting has been promoted and practiced from antiquity across the world in some shape or form.

"There is nothing new, except what has been forgotten" – Marie Antoinette

For the majority of human history, people ate one or two meals per day. The current time-restricted eating patterns like the 16:8 or one meal a day diet (OMAD) etc mimic this ancient phenomenon. During periods without food, the body evolved to tap into fat stores for energy (which is the premise behind keto diets). There is growing research, which shows this capability makes us metabolically and nutritionally flexible and help us to maintain this kind of a sporadic diet.

Regardless of what diet our ancestors followed or how often they ate, one thing for sure is they weren’t consuming tons of trans fat, sugar and processed foods, which are so pervasive in modern day nor were they leading a sedentary lifestyle.

So going back to frequency, how and when did the 3 meals a day routine start? You can find that in this blog.

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