Resetting the Clock Versus Beating the Clock

Few of us actually sit down to proper meals anymore, and it could be harming us more than we realize.

Baranq/ Shutterstock
Baranq/ Shutterstock

The average American eats all day long. Unlike the common perception that we sit down to three square meals a day with maybe a couple of snacks in between, few of us actually sit down to proper meals anymore. Research shows that most people eat for sixteen hours a day. We’re busy, on the move, grabbing a quick bite here and there, any time of day or night. We’ve become a land of munchers, grazers, and mini-meal eaters.

So if you can narrow your eating window to just twelve hours as a starting off point, and then slowly compress that window down to six to eight hours a day, you can reach an eating window you can live with, literally and figuratively. Now remember, you are going to get there gradually. This is the same approach I use (to great success) in my practice, and so many of my patients are just like you. In fact, the vast majority of people I initially see in my clinics are insulin resistant and metabolically inflexible. It’s an important point to understand that if you have an elevated insulin level, it is very difficult to jump right into time­-restricted eating, because it’s impossible for the body to mobilize free fatty acids from fat stores when it’s been running on sugar for so long. Why fight biology? When you are metabolically inflexible you simply can’t get into ketosis, much less use free fatty acids as a fuel source. That’s right, you can’t. All of the willpower in the world will not get your body to make ketones. On top of that, if you try to bite the bullet and force your body into ketosis, you will feel terrible: low energy, grouchy, “hangry.” You will suffer the “keto flu” or “Atkins blues.” Most of my new patients have never had their fasting insulin level measured before walking into my clinics, and have stories of failed attempts at intermittent fasting, a keto diet, or just cutting calories drastically. They blame themselves, but the reality is they never had a chance of success — they didn’t have the mitochondrial flexibility to use free fatty acids as a fuel or the ability to liberate free fatty acids from their fat cells that they could then make into ke­ tones in their liver. They were stuck on a dead­-end street of using sugar for poor energy production. Thus, when you start removing all the sugars, starches, and junk from your diet, you actually go through sugar withdrawal because your mitochondria can’t use fat for fuel. But, with my staggered plan, you will taper off sugar slowly so it’s not a sudden plunge — I’ll walk you down the mountain, rather than throw you off a cliff.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Listen, I’m not one of your usual patients, Dr. G. I eat healthy, organic food. But I’m still exhausted. What about me?” A few things:, most of you “healthy eaters” are consuming a smorgasbord of lectin­-rich foods that are destroying your gut wall, producing inflammation. Out they go on this program. Finally, remember those mice who ate healthy rat chow but were the all­ day munchers? They had no metabolic flexibility compared to the mice with compressed eating windows. If you’re eating healthily, but constantly, you’re still setting yourself up for an energy drain. Last, some of my self-­described “healthiest eaters” are also fruit­aholics, and have absolutely overwhelmed their livers and mitochondria with energy­-robbing fructose.

Now here’s the great news: Even after your first baby steps on the program you will start to notice a real difference in your energy levels and overall well­being, because both microbiome and mitochondrial changes occur quickly when you make dietary changes. And feeling better will help you stay motivated to keep going. Re­member, you don’t have to be perfect. The most important thing is to “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, wherever you are.”

Excerpted from The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone, March 16, 2021. Harper Wave.
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