Longo’s Longevity Protocol — The Fasting Mimicking Diet

I was very impressed with Valter Longo’s book The Longevity Diet and have implemented most of his recommendations on diet, exercise and fasting in my own life. For my own reference, I’m documenting those recommendations here. This is the barebones of the recommendations with my own comments, but without the extensive evidence Longo provides in the book.

You really should buy the book.

As should be obvious, do not take medical advice from some random guy on the internet. I am not a doctor, nor a dietitian, nor even particularly smart. Consult a doctor before doing anything stupid, which includes radically changing your diet or going on fasts.

I’m breaking this down into three pages, diet, exercise, and fasting. Here’s the actual fasting mimicking diet (FMD).

Day 1. Consume 1,100 calories

  • 500 calories from complex carbs (vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mushrooms, etc.).
  • 500 calories from healthy fats (nuts, olive oil)
  • 1 multivitamin and mineral supplement
  • 1 omega-3/omega-6 supplement
  • Sugarless tea (up to 3-4 cups per day)
  • 25 grams of plant-based protein (ideally from nuts)
  • Unlimited water

Days 2-5 consume 800 calories

  • 400 calories from complex carbs (vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mushrooms, etc.).
  • 400 calories from healthy fats (nuts, olive oil)
  • 1 multivitamin and mineral supplement
  • 1 omega-3/omega-6 supplement
  • Sugarless tea (up to 3-4 cups per day)
  • Unlimited water

Day 6 Transition Diet

For 24 hours following the end of the five-day FMD eat a diet based on complex carbs (veggies, cereals, pasta, rice, bread, fruit, etc.) and minimize fish, meat, saturated fats, pastries, cheese, milk, etc.)

It’s worth noting that there are some standard side effects of the FMD, these include:

  • Feeling weak during parts of the fast
  • Light or average intensity headaches
  • Slight back ache

OBVIOUSLY, STOP AND SEE A GODDAMN DOCTOR IF THINGS ARE NOT GOING WELL

Most people feel hungry during the first few days of the FMD, but the effect is usually greatly reduced by day 4 or 5.

 

Longo’s Longevity Protocol — The Exercise

I was very impressed with Valter Longo’s book The Longevity Diet and have implemented most of his recommendations on diet, exercise and fasting in my own life. For my own reference, I’m documenting those recommendations here. This is the barebones of the recommendations with my own comments, but without the extensive evidence Longo provides in the book.

You really should buy the book.

As should be obvious, do not take medical advice from some random guy on the internet. I am not a doctor, nor a dietitian, nor even particularly smart. Consult a doctor before doing anything stupid, which includes radically changing your diet or going on fasts.

I’m breaking this down into three pages, diet, exercise, and fasting. Here’s exercise.

  1. Walk fast for an hour everyday. I’m lucky to live in New York City and have begun walking to and from subway stops a bit further from my office and taking at least half an hour out of most days to get outside during the work day. I realize this might be harder in other environments. If you have any tips, leave ‘em in the comments.
  1. Ride, Run or swim thirty to forty minutes every other day plus two hours on the weekend. Longo recommends cycling, which I do, but those who follow this site know running is my passion. I often do significantly more running and cycling than this, which Longo might look askance at. But hey, ya gotta live (and BQ).
  1. Use your muscles. I’ve got a heavy ball in my office with which I do various exercises throughout the day. I also make a habit of pushups and pull ups at least three times a week. When I can, I try to get to the gym in the basement and just fool around. You should do these things too.

Longo’s Longevity Protocol — The Diet

I was very impressed with Valter Longo’s book The Longevity Diet and have implemented most of his recommendations on diet, exercise and fasting in my own life. For my own reference, I’m documenting those recommendations here. This is the barebones of the recommendations with my own comments, but without the extensive evidence Longo provides in the book.

You really should buy the book.

 

As should be obvious, do not take medical advice from some random guy on the internet. I am not a doctor, nor a dietitian, nor even particularly smart. Consult a doctor before doing anything stupid, which includes radically changing your diet or going on fasts.

I’m breaking this down into three pages, diet, exercise, and fasting. Here’s diet.

  1. Eat a plant based diet, plus some fish. Keep fish consumption to no more than two or three times per week. Choose fish, crustaceans, and mollusks with high Omega-3, Omega-6 and vitamin b-12 content such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, cod, sea bream, trout, clams, and shrimp. Minimize eating other animals, such as beef, chicken and pork and other animal products such as milk and cheese. (Note that this says minimize. I will on occasion indulge in meat or cheese if it would be rude to do otherwise, or if my wife insists on the duck ragu dish at the local Italian spot.)

 

  1. If you’re under 65, like me, keep your protein intake low. (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). Most of us aren’t going to do these protein calculations on a regular basis, but it’s worth doing once or twice to get a sense. Consume beans and other legumes as main source of protein. Those beyond age 65 should increase protein intake and consider re-introducing some animal protein.

 

  1. Endeavor to get most of your vitamins and minerals from food, but buffer with a multivitamin every 3 days.

 

  1. Based on your weight, age, and abdominal circumference, decide whether to have two or three meals per day. I tend to gain weight very easily so I am eating two meals a day plus two low sugar snacks of less than 100 calories. Longo recommends eating breakfast and either lunch or dinner. That doesn’t work for me, so I’m eating a breakfast snack and then lunch and dinner.

 

  1. Confine all eating to within a twelve-hour window. Don’t eat anything within three or four hours of bedtime. (I do this, mostly, but make exceptions for family events that fall outside the window.)

 

  1. Until age 65-70 depending on weight and frailty, undergo five days of fasting mimicking diet every one to six months, based on your goals and, if possible, medical advice.

NB:

Longo also recommends eating as your ancestors did, which, while it makes sense evolutionarily, (and is nice for Longo himself since he’s Italian) my ancestors lived on a rocky island in the North Atlantic and ate basically potatoes and blood sausage, so nope. Not gonna do that.

Reset: diet

Here is what my blood tests, DNA tests, and time on the toilet all tell me:

  • If not entirely allergic to, I am at least highly sensitive to dairy and gluten
  • I gain weight easily, especially when eating a diet high in saturated fats.
  • I need significantly more fiber than i get on the diet I have become used to.

With all this in mind, I will very likely do well on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, with some meat and fish, and little to no gluten or dairy.

In theory, these guidelines are easy to follow and not particularly restrictive. But in practice, I have found modifying my diet to be an enormous challenge. Like many, I eat not only for survival, but socially, and (dare I say it?) for comfort. Coming to the point where I eat the salad at the dinner party, but skip the cured meats, or turn to a cup of tea (and not a bag of chips) to calm me after a stressful day is, and probably always will be, hard. That isn’t an excuse to not try to be more present in my food making decisions. There’s no need to be doctrinaire (and in fact, doctrinate may be unhelpful) but it is important to be thoughtful, avoiding the bad and favoring the good.

Attention to my diet is likely to be the health struggle of my life. Given the time, I’d work out all day. Exercise has always been a joy to me. But food, food is something else, something harder,

 

Implementing Lessons from the Blue Zones, Inconveniencing Myself, and Other Things I’m Focusing On In 2017

So-called “Blue Zones” are areas of the world in which people have significantly longer, healthier lives than the world-wide average. Blue Zones have been researched and written about pretty extensively and in a popular book about them, Dan Buettner extrapolated these basic themes:

  • Moderate, regular physical activity.
  • Life purpose.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Moderate calories intake.
  • Plant-based diet.
  • Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
  • Engagement in spirituality or religion.
  • Engagement in family life.
  • Engagement in social life.

vendiagram

Since I read Blue Zones, I’ve been obsessed with implementing these ideas in my life. Here’s some things this urban, desk bound, lawyer is doing this year to be healthier:

More plants. I’ve recommitted to the vegan till six thing, though more as a guideline than a rule. I’m already seeing results in my waist line. I was, for many years, a vegan/vegetarian, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that restrictive a diet. But study after study says, more plants is better. Meat once or twice a week is where we’re at right now and where I’d like to stay.

Take the stairs, carry the kids, wash the dishes. Constantly, we are presented with the choice between the easy and the hard road. In a world of physical convenience, it’s often best to take the hard road. One thing blue zone communities have in common is regular, low level exercise. Another thing most have in common is they’re semi-rural. Brooklyn is not semi rural. I do not chop wood. I do not garden. But my home and office have stairs. My kids can be carried instead of put in the stroller. I can do the dishes by hand.

I try to ask myself  if there’s a way to inconvenience a task without drastically increasing its time.  If I can make it just a bit harder, without sacrificing too much expediency, I’ll do it. It helps.

 

Meditate. When E and A were in the hospital, I meditated everyday. It helped. Since then, I’ve fallen off, but am eager to get after it. Meditation, per se, isn’t one of the factors that Buettner calls out, but a regular spiritual practice is. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but when I am engaging in a regular meditation practice, I see benefits throughout my life. In my focus, in my mood, and in my sleep. Ten minutes a day isn’t too much to give to being quiet.

Unplug, hang out. I, like many, spent too much of 2016 refreshing twitter. I’m trying to do less of that this year. So far, it’s been harder than I thought. Getting into bed and checking my phone one last time is so ingrained in me, it’s muscle memory. It’ll take time, and probably some more hard and fast rules, to break the habit.

But I want to focus less on what the orange monster is saying and more on casual time with the family and friends. The other night, for instance, I was casually invited to a neighbor’s house to play a board game. I was hesitant to go at first, my uptight Yankee coming through. But I went, and it was fun.  More of that, 2017.

In fact, more of all of this.

More time invested in our synagogue, more time doing art projects with our kids, more time exploring the park, more time drinking wine with friends.

Less of that other shit. 

Less time on swiping at the goddamn phone. Less time in pointless meetings, less time fretting over the things I cannot control. More time working on the things I can.

*The concept of “Blue Zones” has been ceaselessly merchandised with books, websites and more. For people like me, that level of commodification can seem distasteful. Ok, fine. But that doesn’t mean the research isn’t valid and compelling.

964 Must Read Words On My Incredibly Fascinating Diet

Bad News.

Three months ago I went to the doctor for the first time in years. I got some bad, but not surprising, news. I had high cholesterol.* I wasn’t surprised. High cholesterol runs in my family and I have, for years, let the fact that I’m a pretty active person cover up for the fact that I am also a pretty bad eater. Running as much as I do means you can have chips and Italian hero for lunch and not really gain weight. And I did that, many, many times. For years.

Now those bad eating decisions have coming home to roost. My numbers weren’t high enough for my doctor to panic, but she did suggest I make some lifestyle changes. Meaning, eat a bit healthier. Swap out buttered toast for a whole grain cereal. Give up the chips for lunch. Try to eat more veggies and less dairy. Nothing crazy, just common sense changes. I did these things, but it didn’t feel like enough, nor structured enough for my personality. So, about six weeks ago, I started following the “Vegan Before Six” eating guidelines developed by Mark Bittman.

Vegan Before Six doesn’t get the kind of attention other diets like paleo or vegan largely, I think, because it is so sensible, it isn’t even really a diet. The guidelines couldn’t be easier. Indeed, the rules are right there in the name – eat healthy vegan foods** before six pm, then eat a reasonable dinner that may or may contain non-vegan ingredients. There’s a book (of course) and it contains some additional guidelines, but really its so simple you can just start doing it.

I did. And this week I went back to the doctor for a lipid scan. My ldl went down ten points in three months while my hdl stayed relatively high***. The doctor was happy with the progress, and so was I. The diet seemed to be working.

Long time readers of this blog know I’ve dabbled in various diets over the years, none of which have stuck. That’s why I didn’t write about this VB6 thing when I started. It seemed to me that no one would be interested This time, I’m not thinking of it as a diet. Rather, I’m simply changing the way I make food choices. So far, it seems to be working. Its (relatively) easy, I feel better, and the test results are positive. I’m going to stick with it. If the test results plateau, perhaps I’ll reexamine.

So What Exactly Are You Eating?

Ideally, mostly this.

Sometimes this.

OK, here’s the deal. Six days a week, I eat a vegan diet until 6 pm (really its till whenever E and I actually sit down to eat dinner, which can be 8:30 or later). Often, this means homemade cereal for breakfast, a salad or vegan sandwich for lunch, and apples and nuts for snacks. Then, we eat a sensible dinner. Usually meat with veggies and whole grains, but not always. Last night we ate Xi’an Famous and it was delicious.

I take Saturday’s off from the diet because, well, I like challah french toast with the little dude.

I think a key to this is not to try to make up for lost meat and dairy at dinner. It will do no good if you eat a salad for lunch and then have nachos for dinner every night. I also think its important to not be too rigid with the rules. If we’re going to someone’s house for brunch on a Sunday, I’m not going to demand vegan fare, but I will attempt to be reasonable with what I eat for dinner that evening.

As a side note, I’m finding that my taste buds are changing somewhat. I’m craving more fresh fruits and veggies, even at night, and am somewhat less interested in meat. I think there’s some science behind this, which I might explore in another blog post.

Why Didn’t You Just Go Vegan?

Because I’m not that guy anymore. I spent six years of my life as a vegan (plus another four as a vegetarian) and I’m still sad about the delicious meals I missed during those years. I doubt I’ll ever follow such a strict diet again.

What I like about the VB6 guide to eating is that it allows me to make meaningful changes to my diet without forcing me to give up the delicious, joyous, meat and dairy filled meals I enjoy with my friends and family.

For me, for now, this isn’t about an ethical decisions regarding animal rights (though the more I think and read, the more concerned I am with the environmental concerns of mass meat consumption). Rather, it is about being healthier in a way that I find sustainable. And to be sustainable for me, it needs to involve the occasional steak dinner with friends.

I’m seven hundred words into this and I don’t know why you wrote it.

Here’s why I wrote it – I am more and more convinced that the key to health isn’t exercise, its diet. I’ve exercised regularly for years and my cholesterol numbers are still unacceptably high. Why is that? Because I haven’t been paying attention to what I eat. Now that I’m paying attention to it, I’m seeing results. And those results make me want to learn, and do, more. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it takes to eat healthy, I know I have them, and I plan to write about them here.

I hope you’ll follow along.

* Nerds will ask so the numbers were total cholesterol: 248, LDL: 150 HDL: 80, triglycerides: 92

**e. g. salads, fruits and veggies, true whole grains, not french fries.

*** Again, for the nerds, total cholesterol: 222, LDL: 149, HDL: 64, triglycerides: 88