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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Eat, Fast & Live Longer


 Men do so love a linguistic distinction. Heaven forfend my husband should go on a diet like the rest of us scale quakers. No, he refuses to admit he's on anything as mundane and instead insists he is 'fasting' with its higher connotations of horse hair shirts and spiritual enlightenment.  Whatever, so long as it shifts the fleshy  goitre under his chin.

In his defence he has indeed been fasting for the last five months, the Christmas goitre is merely the after effects of spirited seasonal feasting. 

Intermittent fasting has been sweeping the nation since early autumn, when the BBC's Horizon screened a fascinating documentary presented  by Dr Michael Mosley in which he explored the health benefits that new scientific research has revealed about restricing one's daily calorie intake.
The 5:2 diet as it has become known is a bit of a misnomer, it's goal is better health and longevity and not just looking good on the beach. It takes its name from the protocol of fasting for two days a week and eating normally for the remaining five. In this instance fasting for men comes in at 600 calories per day and  500 for women. My husband has embarked on this because of health problems which exist in his family history, and as he figures, he has nothing to lose (except a few meals) and everything to gain.

 In America, during the Great Depression, when food was scarce the overall longevity did not drop as might have been expected but actually rose by six years. Why? The key appears to be in the reduction of a growth hormone called IGF-1 which we require when we are growing, however high levels as we become older lead to biological ageing, cancers and diabetes. Reducing your IGF-1 switches on DNA repair genes and reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. 
Fasting, according to scientists, is also exceptionally good for the brain,  with some arguing that it is the equivalent of a gym workout for the body. Calorie restriction may delay mental deterioration connected with ageing by stimulating the growth of new brain cells. This is believed to be a throwback to ancient man as when hungry he had to use all of his mental resources to figure out a way to source or trap food in order to survive.

If you'd like to learn more about it I recommend picking up a copy of The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer but there are already numerous other books on the subject of  the 5:2 diet on Amazon.

Just remember  this is  a lifestyle choice, not a short term 'diet' fix.

89 comments:

  1. I watched that Horizon programme! The impact on his blood work was very impressive even after a couple of days. I just don't know if I'd have the strength to do it. Hopefully, I can I get the same great results on the liquid fruit diet - also known as The Sulky Cocktail Diet available on Amazon just as soon as my Lazy Paws type it up.

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    1. Sulky : I know, I'm glad that I come from an excellent gene pool and have no need to do it, I'm amazed at hub's determination and focus. Can I come to the Sulky Cocktail Diet book signing?

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    2. Of course! Mel Gibson says he'll be our Bartender and Lindsay Lohan is offering to be our hostess! I think Charlie Sheen will be doing the catering.

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    3. Oh Sulky, that is going to be the best book launch ever, I can't wait!

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    4. Can't wait to get my paws on a copy.
      Of course there may be some 'therapeutic vomiting' post launch, especially with that lot on the bar. Charlie will have everyone marching to the buffet.

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  2. Goodness, this sounds so easy. And, if it's good for us we should at least try it out for a few weeks. I've struggled with my weight all my life, though I've never actually been "fat." But, now I am fat and need something to give me a boost of confidence, also I need to fit into the clothes I already own !!

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    1. Splenderosa _ I have no idea what it does for weightloss per se, it's more about Alzheimer's etc but google away, there are many doing it for other reasons.

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  3. Count me in on The Sulky Cocktail Diet!
    This is interesting and I've not read about it. So the two fasting days still involve some calorie consumption, and the idea is the benefits of cell production etc are still there, that's fascinating to think we could "re-set" ourselves in that way.

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    1. It's gotten really big here, every third person seems to be doing it, oh trust me that 600 calories (for men)looks meagre over three meals, I could only do it if there were health issues in my family history.

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    2. FAST FORWARD Doing the Google. Do seem to be lots of books on the January "reform" displays that highlight fasting. I only remember doing it for Lent and feeling grouchy and lightheaded. Could do it if I lived alone, but DH would make cheese toast right after I had consumed my 200 cal. meal. Noy deliberately, but would still kill.

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    3. Some save it up for a 600 calorie dinner, I think you can break it up any way you want. I know hubs has done it for 5 months with me chomping into proper meals but he is resolute.
      I think the other main book on the subject is The 5:2 Diet on Amazon.

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  4. But Tabitha, I read recently that the restricted calorie - highly restricted at least - approach had been proven NOT to work? As I remember, scientists who'd been living like starved mice were very sad about the new results?

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    1. Was it intermittent fasting for health?

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    2. Oh and I had better stress that I'm not doing this! Best to read the book, all the studies are linked and the results on blood work etc.

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  5. Well I am not aware of this. I did read the petite diet last year that basically told me that I should be living on 1200 calories for the reast of my life! Well, that didn't work, but perhaps I am in better mindset this year?

    You would have to go light on the exercise on the 600 calorie day I would think - when I was not consuming enough calories this summer I would sometimes feel light-headed, as per GF above.

    This is why I love January! All organization and dieting! Dear God! I am trying to remember the happy days of December and July! Let me know how it works all!

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    1. WMM: I worked on my calories according to my BMR and it came up just under 1200 calories - no wonder I gain so easily. Hubs workouts every morning with me, he feels fine on it, he's not doing it to lose weight of course but for other reasons.

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  6. It sounds interesting. My aunt who was svelte and chic fasted one day a week all her married life and died at the age of 88.
    Mother never went in for this kind of thing but I think it has merit.

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    1. Hostess, my mum has been on a diet all her life, only last week she was going on about her January diet - I almost thwacked her!

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  7. Sounds like an interesting idea. I've not heard of it before. I'll check it out and put hubs on it...if he survives, I may give it a whirl. Can't stop laughing at that Pet site you sent me to. Hilarious!! I think laughter helps lower health problems too.

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    1. Isn't it? It certainly lifted my spirits.

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  8. Mormons fast once a month. Not for health reasons, but to give the money they would have used to the poor. BUTreading this just makes it so much more awesome. And bearable.

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    1. DB: that's a wonderful thing to do

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  9. For years, I "fasted" on Mondays and Tuesdays. 2-3 protein shakes a day. At that time, it was an easy weight control thing, as whatever harm I had done on the weekends, was undone by Wednesday morning. I still do it now, but not in as disciplined a way, more haphazard. I'm in the process of something similar to that right now and feeling great. Gained some weight in 2012, and want it off and fast. Can't bear to lose just 1/2-1lb per week. I like immediate gratification.

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    1. I used to go out with: "the most gorgeous man in the world" women accosted him at every opportunity, he fasted every Friday.

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    2. You need to start writing your memoirs.

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    3. Third......I would buy it in a heartbeat!

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    4. I would LOVE to read the memoir! But I would hate to go out with Mr. Gorgeous, I would always feel insecure and worry about other women pursuing him. My hubs is nice looking but not gorgeous, which is fine with me.

      ---Jill Ann

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    5. Was this the same man that gave you the 2 carat tiffany diamond in the Russian Tea Rooms? I think I want your history. You're very glam Tabitha!

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    6. No a quite impoverished man, aside from one I only ever dated men without proper jobs!

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  10. If I were to try something -anything - like this, Himself would immediately get hungry, fill up the fridge with goodies and walk around munching to "hold" him until dinnertime. Not maliciously, he just can't stand the thought of anyone going hungry. If he worked as a delivery man for UNICEF he would stave off illegally armed warlords with one hand and pass out sandwiches and bevvies with the other, taking a large bite every so often. I diet best when he's out of town.

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    1. Fred: that's how I feel about the hubs when he's doing it, I put flavoured dinners under his nose but he is so so steadfast on this but then his mother is only in her 60's and she was just diagnosed with dementia and he is already 'losing' her, it is in his family so he will try whatever he can to stave it off.

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    2. Oh, that's very sad, she's so young. No wonder he's so determined.

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    3. That is awful, Tabs. I can see why he's so committed to doing something. His mother has been very unlucky to be stricken with this awful condition.

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    4. I know my mum is almost 30 years older and as sharp as tack. I can't imagine what it must be like to see someone fading away from you yet to still be present.

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    5. I've been talking to MrBP about this today after doing some additional reading, he is anxious to try it as a permanent lifestyle change, his Mum has Alzheimer's and it's devastating. I'm not sure I can do it (though with the cancer, heart disease and dementia in my family it would probably be a good idea).
      I only have one glass of white wine but I have one every evening, I'd have a hard time giving that up on my fast days. Wine=calories sadly.

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    6. This seems worth investigating. My husband's mother is also in her 60s and was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer's also.. Very sad. Not sure if there was any food connection.

      Thanks for sharing.

      xo

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  11. Darn, I tried to read that as 'Eat fast and live longer'- i'm such a terrible gobbler...

    This is interesting- I can totally get behind the notion that this restraint could help rewire and refresh the brain somehow. All those long-lived monks must have learned something!

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  12. This is fascinating, but I don't have the will power to fast, even if I am allowed a whopping 500 calories! I'll check out the book, though, my husband likes to make sweeping changes when he diets.

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  13. I have done cleanses in the past, which was the same, really. It was unbelievable how fast one can lose weight. And once I got past the caffeine withdrawals on the 2nd and 3rd day, it was easy to do.

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  14. This is all very intresting. I too don't know I have the will power to fast. But luckily at my age, we'll leave it at the mid thirties, I still have a very high metabolism, so I can intake alot yet. Plus I get lots of exercise.

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  15. One of my friends man is doing this too - for both vanity and all the purported benefits and i have to say i can so see how your man would do it in view of his mum - how very sad - my grandmother went into a mental home aged 60 and never left - died at 84 - alzheimers - we went to SA and nobody every went - what a horrible end. Chills the blood. On a lighter note - somewhat not literally - i have finally got to a point in my life were i am soooo tired of the constant calorie watching - put on a couple of pounds at xmas and was chatted up royally on NYE and you know what even i could see i looked the best i have in years - i do not want to be the cliche chelsea xray 40 plus - so although i am not about to do a nigella i am going to try and break the habit of my recent lifetime and for once try and embrace the face rather than the butt!! plus imagine the food xxx

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    1. Claire, that is so so sad about your grandmother.
      Oh and I am with you, I was just saying that the other day - I see so many skinny "well maintained" older women but they look so brittle, I think it's really unattractive and ageing, I am going to put on a stone by the time I'm 60. I will be very Nigella as she has my body type!

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    2. i think i am rather jealous - i would so loove to be nigella - i think i will be more ann widecombe - no butt and all belly!! xxx

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  16. I only heard about the fasting diet yesterday - it must have just arrived in Australia! Don't think I could do it, I get light-headed and irritable if not fed regular, small doses of food throughout the day! Although I can understand the benefits, there must be other likely dangers with this approach, diabetes for example? So sad about your husband's Mum, it is bad enough when the parents are in their 80s or 90s, but just awful for someone in the 60s. Bless hubs for giving this a go! xx

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  17. How fascinating! I like the cut of its jib, I might have to look into it. I have been cursed with a Nigella-esque ability to devour entire bread loaves in one sitting but without the sex-ay Nigella figure and come hither expressions. It is the hardest thing in the world for me to control my eating. Gah.

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  18. Another watcher of the Horizon programme..I admire your HB's control,so sad about his mother so young.

    I have never dieted seem to have come from a family of 'string beans,but a nasty tyre tried to appear....tell the truth gel it did appear! So cut out sugar,and NEVER eat after 6pm ( that was the worst part) but enjoy the empty feeling now.....actually felt sick and bloated over Christmas when I ate some chocolate late at night....put on 2lbs but have lost it now back to 'normal'eating my way. Ida

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    1. Ida - you picked the right parents.

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  19. I'm very impressed with your husband's willpower. If I go below 800 calories a day, I am useless at work and a menace to other people on the road. Weight Watchers is much more my speed.

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    1. MW: I don't even think I could cut back to 800, I'd be obsessing about food all day.

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  21. Tabitha, you make such a great point. I have been playing around with fasting for the past decade, however can only do one day at a time every so often (the only fast I am doing at present is a news fast - no news websites or newspapers for one week - I am allowing Hello magazine though). When I am unwell, I also try to ease up on eating, just to help the body along. I purchased Jeremy Safron's Fasting Handbook a few years ago but find fasting regularly quite challenging. I find it fascinating that a lot of the practices, which claim to have health benefits, are those that have been at the core of tribal rituals or religious practices for hundreds, if not, thousands of years; fasting being one of them.

    My mum developed early onset dementia too. It started in her 50's but became considerably worse in the past year or two and is the most heartbreaking thing. It has motivated me to do daily yoga, meditation, prayer, release past painful emotions with EFT and eat healthy organic food. I don't know if this is right for anyone else, but it feels right for me so far. This could explain why I am obsessed with anything to do with health x

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    1. I miss you and am going to schedule a catch up!

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  22. Hi Tabitha,

    Like Lisa mentioned in her post, for humans the correlation between restricted diets and longevity is still unproven although I can't imagine that the modern diet, full of high fructose corn syrup and growth hormone laden meats and dairy, can be anything but harmful in the long run.
    I wish you husband luck with his fasting. He's already one step ahead in health since he doesn't drink. I admire his discipline.

    Wishing you and your husband a very happy and healthy New Year.

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    1. Yes but this is really about lowering blood pressure, and the focus is IGF- 1, also too much protein in the western diet - I've skimmed it for brevity , apologies.

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  23. Based on this evidence, Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice is going to live to be 300 years old!

    I liked Dr Michael Mosleys doco "The Truth about Exercise" in which he found that we only need to exercise intensely for 2 minutes a week.

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    1. Love your way of thinking Cybill!!

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  24. am not designed to fast!

    Apparently thin people live longer...

    But I reckon it's all genetic anyway! xxx

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  25. Fascinating! At first, wondered about the credibility of Dr Mosely, but see he is a credible source.
    Mr BP has a strong motivator to give it a go, early on-set dementia is just heart-breaking.
    So, is Mr BP feeling better for it, or just virtuous?

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  26. Amazing how Uncle Davey was right. Frivolous Nancy Mitford is not.

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  27. Amazing how Uncle Davey was right. Frivolous Nancy Mitford is not.

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  28. When I was a grad student, I remember reading one study about how scientists studied the longevity of groups of monkeys, where the control group was fed a regular diet with a fixed caloric intake taken as 100% of the monkey's average daily caloric intake, one group was fed a high fat/sugar/protein diet, and another group was fed about 80% of the calories of the regular diet. Of course, the monkeys on the reduced caloric intake diet lived longest, but the scientists also noted that these monkeys were noticeably grumpy and miserable most of the time.

    I don't think I have the will power to fast but I have been on a mission to cut down on red meat and reduce dependence on junk food and processed foods, while incorporating more vegetables, whole grains and fish. It's not easy to always prepare healthy meals, especially when one is tired and pressed for time. Props to your husband for taking on this challenge!

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    1. Good for you, Louise, I think that's the right approach to focus on healthier foods as opposed to calories.

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    2. Louise - I read that one too, that's what I'm like on a diet! I try to watch my weight all the time because I hate dieting, it's hard though because my entire family are natural porkers.

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  29. I'm about to launch myself on a diet for health reasons (recommended by health/ doctor people, not wholly voluntary on my part). I'm not allowed to eat: Alcohol, Sugar, Grains of any kind, Dairy, and a list of certain fruits and vegetables. Oh, and cut back on red meat to once a week. And eat lots of things like sauerkraut and broths. Yum. Basically, I'm about to become the most boring and irritating guest at any dinner party, nursing my glass of water and asking what's in whatever I'm about to eat. I didn't attempt to start it pre Christmas as it was all too hard.

    I had seen the studies about fasting, and I think anyone with family suffering dementia would think it's a good thing to try. Thankfully (relatively speaking) when my mother was ill with cancer in her brain, the dementia was relatively short (and she was always very cheerful, whereas so many become quite nasty and unbearable). Our nightmare at the time was the thought that she could stagger on for a period of 5 years completely gaga. It's just a horrible situation for anyone to be in. xx

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    1. Heidi - good luck with your new lifestyle, hopefully with health as the impetus you should find it a little bit easier to stick with.

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  30. Don't hate me but I never count calories. As you might remember, I love butter and heavy cream but I also love vegetables.

    I think the idea of a fast is to give your body a chance to clean up some. But if not done correctly, fasting can be really uncomfortable or even dangerous. Depending on where you are with your health, fasting could be eliminating junk food or caffein, sugar and alcohol. Or, it could be going vegan for the fast.

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    1. Butter and cream are my favourites too, I will never ever give them up, well I suppose I will if my health falters as I age but until then...

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  31. Can we really escape our genetic predispositions?

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    1. C i think so to some extent, that's what epigenetics is all about, genes can be switched on or off according to lifestyle.

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    2. Incredible subject!
      Thanks Tabs. Will be reading lots about epigenetics. Any recommendations for books about it, other than the fasting diet based ones?

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    3. Curator - it's a subject that I'm really interested in, I've gleaned my knowledge ( slight that is and my brain isn't quite big enough to grasp it fully) from a geneticist in Edinburgh who mapped my genome. Hmm will have a think about books and get back to you.

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    4. C: I don't think any of the fasting diets really cover it, though the underlying premise is there.

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    5. It's such a fascinating subject. I'm also interested in genetic memory, ie. children of Holocaust survivors who seem to carry "memory" of the horrors in their genes, as even those who were not raised by their parents who survived, have the same problems that the other children of survivors do. So, it's not just environmental.

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    6. Kathy, I've just found an interesting documentary from the BBC on youtube about just such an inherited genetic memory...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvDgcdxPA2U

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  32. Yes, You're right...eat less and live happier & longer...this motto is in the Mediterranean Culture History, Of course guess You know all about theMediterranean Diet/Cuisine... "Nihil sub Sole Novum!" dopotutto non c'è Niente di nuovo sotto il Sole!
    Happy day, Felicità

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  33. Interesting...I read something like this the other day, was quit intrigued!! I think it's good to cleanse the body and start again in a away. Especially when I like my sweets or other fatty foods ;) x

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  34. Anecdotal research on my part, but I have noticed a definite correlation between people who change things up in their lives, with staying younger, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I think it's good to shake things up and not let your brain or body get too used to any routine. That includes food, exercise, even small things like changes inside your home, like rearranging the accessories on a table. I think it helps keep your holistic self alert, but again, this is only from my own experience, and observations of others.

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    1. Kathy, that's so true and you are so right about small changes within the home too.

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  35. Occasional fasting seems like a pretty benign health practice. I don't think that it really helps all that much, but it also probably doesn't hurt if it makes you personally feel more clear and focused.

    My boyfriend is a Family Medicine doctor, and when I asked him about why we get alzheimers, he said, "That's just what happens as our bodies age. 90% of people will get some degree of dementia over the course of their lives, but we've only recently been living long enough to discover that it's a problem." One thing that I've heard him say about alzheimers prevention is that it's important to always try to learn something new all the time. Apparently, forcing your brain to think in new and different ways causes new neural pathways to form, and this helps to slow the amount of brain activity that is lost (I'm sure there are lots of scientific errors in that last sentence, but that's how I understood it in layman's terms). Word games, puzzles, learning a new musical instrument or life skill, those are all good things to do as we get older to keep our minds sharp.

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  36. Your husband is correct to adopt a stoics approach. Dieting is whining while fasting is heroic. Cruel to call a wattle or dewlap a goiter. The protein "diet" works well. I lost one stone by eating wheels of cheese, bacon by the pound and whole sides of beef and totally eschewing carbs and green things. Gained it back immediately and it was splendid in both directions.

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  37. I like to have some coffee, chocolate, wine, and all variety of foods everyday. Also I like to have breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. Luckily, I don't like the feeling of being stuffed. Lately I've been wondering if walking one mile a day is as good as walking 3 1/2 miles twice a week. Who knows, it might be better.

    A relative of mine had a friend in England who thought nothing of walking 6 miles if she wanted to be there. It was 1939 and there was not much gas to spare. Reading about the food rations then makes me appreciate everything so much.

    Sheree

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  38. .....and speaking of weight -- We really are lighter than we think!
    http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health-fitness/tipping-the-scales-youre-lighter-than-you-think/story-fneuzle5-1226548806029

    Cheers.

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  39. My father often recalled the days when meat was a luxury that one ate during special occasions. I doubt people suffered from obesity a generation or two (perhaps more) ago. I find shifting the bulge gets harder and harder each year. What I need to do is to stop the midnight snacking - such a challenge for me!

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  40. this is interesting tabitha. whenever i'm trying to cutback calories or doing a juice fast, i always think about the people who had to survive w/o food or with v little food. we read a lot of true life adventures gone wrong with hikers in particular and how they survive is just amazing. it's like the body springs into action and gets them through things that seem impossible to do - all on next to no food. anyway how does your husband feel while fasting?

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  41. I can't stop thinking about this, Tabitha. Especially as my maternal Grandmother also had dementia starting at a young age. Thank you...don't know if I will do it but am going to Google it...

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  42. I'm counting on my massive coffee consumption to ward off dementia. ;-p

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