So, I don’t know why I didn’t share my experience with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) in real time on my Instagram stories, but I guess I’ll share a little bit of my hesitation before I get into sharing my experience with the plan.
As some of you know, I, like many nutritionists, haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food (hello 5’9’’ 119 pounds). When I was at my worst, I would claim that I had “never followed a diet in my life” and “I ate whatever I wanted.” Well, when you’re obsessively thinking about every single bite you take throughout the day and mentally calculating your caloric intake, you may not be “on” South Beach or Weight Watchers or Atkins, but you’re not living your best life.
I’ll spare you the journey between healing my relationship with food (if you’re curious, you can read about it here), but I was always hesitant with fasting and keto from the start.
My introduction to fasting
I remember about 5 or 6 years ago when my old boss and my nutritionist colleague (we were working in an integrative medicine clinic in an academic medical center) started discussing keto and the evidence for certain cancer populations (brain cancer, at that point). Also, there was emerging evidence about fasting for cancer patients before chemo treatments, and that fasting seemed to be helpful for side effects of chemotherapy. For example, there was less nausea, which I guess makes sense because you don’t have anything in your gut.
Knowing that any kind of diet and restrictive eating could be a trigger for disordered eating for me, I hesitated.
So, although I like to think of myself as an early adopter, based on my personal experience and, knowing the risk of a trigger, I decided to learn more about the fasting mimicking plan. After reading, listening and finally watching a documentary on Amazon Prime called “The Science of Fasting” where they interview Dr. Valter Longo PhD more about FMD, I thought about using it with a few clients. It seemed like it might be a great fit for their needs and their cardiometabolic (cardiovascular + prediabetic/inflammatory-type metabolic pattern) issues. I also had heard from some colleagues that they were having great experiences with the program.
But, before I put a client through the program, I needed to try it myself.
Trying out fasting mimicking
So, the week before Thanksgiving, I decided to do the 5-day “fast.” Of course, it isn’t actually a fast, and that’s why they call it the “fasting mimicking diet.”
You get the reported benefits of fasting, like turning on anti-inflammatory activity in the body, turning on your body’s clean up crew, and anti-aging gene activity, without actually having to fast.
Maybe I was inspired after I started noticing forehead lines that weren’t going away when I unfurrowed my brow or (gasp) my first gray hair. And, OK, I barely wash my face outside of the shower and only recently started using oil at night to prevent wrinkles. So, I’m not gonna pretend like I am excited for this whole aging thing.
Alright, I’ll spare any additional rambling and share how the fasting mimicking diet went for me:
Fasting Mimicking: Days 1-3
The food and drink: It’s prepackaged food, but for prepackaged food, it’s pretty good. For breakfast you always eat a nut/granola-type bar. It’s good (but small). They always give you tea to drink, and I didn’t read the instructions well enough to know whether I was supposed to drink coffee, so… of course I did.
Lunch and dinners are always soups and sometimes olives and/or flax crackers. Then, at the end of a couple days you get some kind of weird chocolate thing with inulin in it, which I called the “fart bar.” The inulin is a “prebiotic” (fiber), which serves, functionally, to keep the digestive tract moving along, but bloated me something fierce.
On days 2-5 they have you start drinking a proprietary electrolyte/glycerol concentrate that’s added to water. I put mine in the bottle they gave me and added the 2 tea bags of hibiscus tea to steep most of the day. I don’t fully understand what’s in the drink, but it was nice to sip on between meals.
Supplements: They give you an omega 3 algae supplement (rather than fish) and some kind of multivitamin that I wouldn’t have designed that way, but it was only for 5 days. They were fine, and I took them no problem.
Energy/hunger: To ruin any anticipation or build up, I honestly felt great, especially days 1-4.
I couldn’t believe how well I transitioned into the “fast” (and maybe it’s because I’d done a short stint of a fast/shortened my eating window earlier this year), but I didn’t have any blood sugar “crashes” or “hangry” moments. However, Rob (my husband) might disagree (read on).
Mindset/food obsession: I was really busy on days 1 and 2. I saw clients all day each day and had some evening activities, so I didn’t have much time to think about it, which helped.
By end of day 2 and into day 3, Rob will tell you that I got more preoccupied with food. I was admiring his bowl of ice cream after dinner and even pining over the more typical meals he was eating.
Oh, one other random thing: I had some really vivid dreams and slept very deeply for the first 3 nights.
Fasting Mimicking: Days 4-5
The food/drink/supplements: Same bars, soup, crackers/olives. Some of these meals are even more sparse (just soup), and I would eat like 1/8 teaspoon at a time to draw out the meal longer than 90 seconds. Again, I really honestly enjoyed the food. Perhaps I was hungry enough?!
Hunger: I was talking and obsessing about food/eating. It was actually extremely interesting as I reflect back because I hadn’t been that obsessed with food since I was deep in my disordered eating. Rob would tell you that I was talking a lot about food and fast a lot of the time.
After day 4 I was ready to quit and had been texting with my friend and colleague Amy about it (she’d done it a few times and had a good experience). I told her, “I think I’m good” and would maybe be finish a day early. She text-yelled at me (coached me) to keep going. She reminded me that the program was designed to mimic fasting and was an evidence-based approach to facilitate autophagy, which is basically the body cleaning up dead cells. So, thanks to Amy, I made it through day 5.
Energy/temperature: The final (5th) day I remember wearing an extra layer of clothes (it’s also been a cold late fall in Kansas City) and took the dog on an abbreviated walk because I was cold and didn’t have the energy to do our typical 3 mile route.
I was hungry.
Day 6 “Refeeding” Day: They tell you to start by drinking liquids (brothy soups, juices, etc.), so I had some apples that I blended in with some water and strained (too lazy to go to the grocery store, ok?!), and that honestly went really well. I tried some sweet potato and venison chili that Rob had made a couple days before for lunch, and had a teeny bit of gurgling in my stomach, which was likely just waking up after the several days. That evening I ate at my parent’s house (the night before Thanksgiving) and had some scallops and steamed broccoli (and maybe a glass of wine – hello right to my head).
This day went extremely smoothly, and I was pleasantly surprised that my body adapted back to food so smoothly. I think one key is taking the morning slowly and not eating any large amounts of foods or anything out of your typical norm of eating.
Thanksgiving: We didn’t have a normal thanksgiving meal on this day, but we did eat well. I felt just fine, and transitioned fully back to eating. As a general rule, I avoid (with my mom, brother and Rob) gluten, so that wasn’t hard because that’s built into our family.
Overall Reflections: To be honest, I would probably do it again. It’s 5 days, it’s laid out for me exactly what I had to eat and offers clear instructions. My only hesitation and caution I would give is to make sure you are mentally/emotionally fit for taking on something like this. It can easily trigger obsessive thoughts about food, disordered eating and could feed into further yo-yo dieting, if that’s something you’ve historically done.
The evidence for fasting is fascinating. I love the idea that it turns on anti-aging genes and allows our body to “clean itself up.” I also love the idea that throughout history, many cultures and religions have fasting built into their lives. Ancient wisdom is fascinating.
So, what else do you want to know? Comment below!