Over the past year, I developed a burgeoning interest in how we can achieve the seemingly elusive goal of optimal health. The catalyst that stirred my interest was the discovery of the Buteyko Breathing Normalization method. By studying and diligently applying this method with the assistance of an expert, I successfully eliminated my asthma symptoms completely and improved my overall heath — all without medications.

Optimal health is personal to each and every one of us based on our age, our genetics, and our own personal goals. Unfortunately, many view health in a negative sense — the absence of disease or infirmity. And this is the view of traditional medicine, if your not sick, that must mean you are healthy. But health is so much more when viewed in a positive sense — by living a lifestyle that maximizes our ability to enjoy the quality of our remaining years. Positive health is staying physically and mentally active and vibrant so that we can continue to engage in whatever activities give us joy.

To me, this confirmation that traditional medicine focuses on symptom alleviation through medication instead of dealing with the underlying cause. The latter is far more difficult to do with short doctor appointments. It was so liberating to be in control of my breathing and successfully controlling my asthma symptoms without medication.

This led me on a journey of achieving optimal health. I was more determined than ever to finally lose the last 20 pounds of fat, much of which was surrounding my abdomen. I knew this was necessary to achieve good health. Abdominal fat which is the most dangerous area on the for excess body. fat, and it dramatically increases the risk of many chronic, life-threatening diseases. I somehow ended up on podcasts from various biochemists who were studying how we can achieve optimal health and increase longevity. These scientists had the gift of being able to distill complex biology into fairly simple lay people’s terms. I will link to my favorites at the end of this blog.

One amazing podcaster, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, was interviewing Sachin Panda, PhD, an expert in circadian rhythms. While listening to him, I realized that there was a connection between his research and what Dr. Buteyko was teaching in his Breathing Normalization method. Although they approached health through different lenses, both concluded that we would be far healthier by returning to how people lived prior to industrialization. Way, way back, prior to the marketing of how often we should eat and what we should eat. So much of the (mis)information we are being told is tied into corporate profits and not in our best interests. For example, by eating in a way that’s tied into our natural circadian clock, our body’s functions are optimized to process the foods more efficiently. Studies have shown that just by keeping our eating in a minimum 12-hour window, subjects saw weight loss, even with the same diet.

After quite a bit of research, I adopted this concept of time-restricted feeding, and now eat only within an 8-9 hour window. In other words, every day, I am fasting 15-16 hours. I’ve learned that fasting gives your body time to rest and repair.  Here is an excellent article for more details on his research.  And the claims were real: I lost more than 10 pounds with this one minor change. I didn’t think I was a night eater, but I cut off everything but water after 5:30pm. No late night nibbling on nuts. No decaf with almond milk and maple syrup. And no chocolate treats. All those little things add up. It did not take long for my body to adapt. I can now easily go 16 hours, from about 5:30 pm to about 9:30 am for breakfast- note: break (the) fast.

Having success with this, I was anxious to try out longer fasting after listening to and researching the work of Valter Longo, PhD. Over the last 25 years he’s been researching longevity, looking for improved “healthspan” versus lifespan. After all, who wants those last 10 years if you are not healthy? Dr. Longo developed a 5-day fasting mimicking diet, which allows minimal calories but offers the same health benefits of water fasting while eliminating potential risks. His company, Prolon, put together 5 days of “meals” with the exact calories and nutrients to ensure the best results with minimal discomfort. His research has shown that 5-day fasts provide incredible short- and long-term health benefits such as weight loss and specifically a reduction in abdominal fat as well as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol while promoting autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles. It is recommended to do one five-day fast a month for three months. I just finished my first one. I took my abdominal waist circumference and body composition before and after the first and blood tests before all three and I will repeat after the third one in order to see my personal results. I will report them in a subsequent blog. My initial reaction was extremely positive. I lost several pounds and experienced the high energy on the 5th day that I had heard about. I also realized how much less I really need to eat which has carried over after the fast.

We were also told erroneously that cutting calories as a long-term way to lose weight was optimal and it ends up that’s not the case. Dr. Jason Fung explains really well why this is so in this video. In search of another method for losing weight, he again went back again to our evolution and history and found we are built for feast or famine. The body does a lot of repair during famine, and the reality is you have more energy, so you can go out hunting for food. If we wasted away during fasting, the human race would be gone!

It’s definitely worthwhile exploring fasting by researching the science and trying it out yourself. Seeing how you feel might surprise you.