Why I Don’t Do Caloric Restriction – And Can Enjoy a 5 Course Meal Without Guilt!
Many articles are written extolling the health benefits of caloric restriction – less cancer, dementia, longer lives… at least in certain animals. It sounds absolutely amazing – so why don’t I promote it to my patients, or implement it myself, as the ticket to health and longevity?
Actually, there are multiple reasons. Foremost is the fact that few, myself included, would be willing to eat 25-30% fewer calories than their bodies “need,” for the duration of their lives. That’s a tough one to ask of anyone. Essentially, it’s a lifetime of being hungry.
Additionally, it’s challenging to eat too few calories yet get all the nutrients and nourishment your body needs! Few people doing caloric restriction can manage that feat – so most end up malnourished. Being malnourished is not the ticket to wellness, vitality, and happiness!
But here is the biggest reason I wish to avoid caloric restriction for myself and my patients – there is, quite simply, NO RE-FEEDING PERIOD! This is, I believe, a key part of health – balancing the food restriction with food repletion! All things in life should be balanced, for optimal wellness. Let’s enunciate a few: exercise/rest; awake/asleep; eating/fasting! Yes, there should be a time of restricted food intake – and a time of food replenishment. That is what the Chinese grasped so many thousands of years ago – a balance of yin and yang!
To think it’s okay to live a lifetime with caloric deprivation is to miss the essential need for the body to rejuvenate and rebuild tissues, like bone and muscle. In a state of caloric deficiency, one’s cells stay in a state of autophagy – cellular recycling of its organelles (its internal components). This keeps cells constantly renewing themselves and eliminating the diseased and irrevocably damaged cells, and this is mostly a good thing. But under such circumstances, the body stays in a survival mode and not a growth or proliferative mode.
The thing is, we need to build and proliferate sometimes. This matters for health! Without growth and proliferation, we cannot grow new bone, skin, muscle, and other tissues – we simply keep rejuvenating and recycling what we have.
One of the worst things of aging is the development of frailty. A frail person has a higher mortality rate than does a person with high blood pressure! Surely we don’t want to live in a perpetual state of recycling – we must build as well! Without the rebuilding times, we will surely risk serious frailty.
My strong belief is the need for balance between the bodily processes of “burn” and “grow.” We can’t just stay “burning!” The way to keep the correct balance is with periodic fasting, or the fasting mimicking diet, to balance the periods of growth of cells and tissues… and of the recycling of the organelles within cells (the amazing process of autophagy).
This is how humans do best by taking the optimal approach to a good mood, good health, and a long healthspan! Live with balance in all you do – eat, grow tissues, and enjoy – and also sometimes fast and rejuvenate. A life of balance yields great rewards!