Zero: Better than Nothing

As I have described in several previous posts in this series, intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, is a key to sustainable weight loss.

As I wrote earlier, Dr. Jason Fung has been an important advocate, as he has helped thousands of patients reverse Type 2 diabetes and overcome obesity through fasting.

His simple message: insulin is the hormone that regulates fat storage, and to lose weight and keep it off you need to have prolonged periods with low insulin levels.

That enables your body to switch from fat storage to fat burning. Otherwise you’re always just adding fat.

About a year ago, my daughter Rachel introduced me to a fasting app she had been using, called Zero. As it turns out, the chief medical officer for Zero is Peter Attia, M.D., who is among my most trusted online thought leaders on health and longevity issues. I’ll be talking about him a lot in future posts.

So I started using Zero, and it’s essence is really simple: when you’re done eating for the day, you pick a fasting goal and start the countdown timer.

When you reach your goal, instead of counting down the timer flips to counting up, telling you how long your fast has gone.

The next time you eat, you stop the timer, which records the length of your fast. Then the timer starts again, only now it’s tracking the time since your last fast. (If you forget to stop or start the timer, you can go back and edit your start or end times.)

Here’s how it looks when you’re counting down before reaching your goal, counting up after you’ve passed it, and then tracking how long it’s been since your last fast.

I found the free version of Zero really helpful, so I decided to spring for the premium offering, Zero Plus. It includes lots of video tips as well as well as data about my fasts, like how much time I’m in the various fasting zones, including:

  • Anabolic: the first 0-4 hours after a meal
  • Catabolic: 4-16 hours
  • Fat Burning: 16-24 hours
  • Ketosis: 24-72 hours
  • Deep Ketosis: 72 hours+

My history tab tells me I have logged 293 fasts, including a streak of 202 straight days of fasting at least 13 hours, although most days I go for at least a 16-18 hour fast with an eating window of 6-8 hours or less.

I would encourage you to give Zero a try. I was fasting before I got the app, but using it gave me a little extra nudge to keep that fasting streak going, and taught me a lot about my metabolism. Data can sync with Apple Health or Google Fit, too.

See the whole series about my health journey, and follow along on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

4 thoughts on “Zero: Better than Nothing”

  1. Hmmmm.

    I’ve used this approach without app successfully, then, being human, stopped, and my weight went up. Five pounds.:).

    What do you make of all the people and papers that say fasting doesn’t work? I have my own opinion but before I spout, I wonder about you.

    1. My wife and I are living proof that fasting works! It isn’t like caloric restriction, which does tend to reduce your baseline metabolism. With fasting (or time-restriced feeding) you maintain (and perhaps even increase) metabolism, and you get into fat-burning mode because you have periods of low insulin level.

      1. You didn’t really answer my question 🙂 except that I guess you implied “They’re wrong” without saying it. 🙂

        What I wish researcher & scientists would realize is that PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT, especially in their metabolism, especially now that we know the importance of the microbiome. I think you can’t credibly / scientifically study the subject without identifying that for each subject, same as if you ignored age, gender, etc etc.

        Increasingly when I encounter a scientific dispute about whether something works, I ask myself, “If I lived 300 miles from the nearest doctor, offline, would my current situation make me travel and/or get online to figure out what’s happening?” If I have something that works for me, it’d be nuts to do so. Even if the experts say I don’t know what I’m doing … my FAVORITE thing to hear from experts. 🙂

        The very first “patient advocate” I ever met was one of those old-fashioned “disease advocates” who turned out to be covertly funded. A very nice person, but totally in the camp of the funders who convinced her how wonderful she was. First she told me that ADD is the same thing as dyslexia. (I’m not kidding.) Then as she ran down her list of symptoms etc, eventually she gave up and said (I’m not kidding): “You probably have something wrong with you and you don’t even know it.”

        Anyway, to the point: if something works dependably for me, I don’t need an explanation.

        1. Thanks for your thoughts, Dave. Sorry I hadn’t seen your reply again. I’m getting back into the swing of comment moderation. 😉

          I’m a big believer in the importance and power of the gut microbiome, and certainly individuals will have varying responses to a given intervention. And if you have a system that’s working for you, by all means stick with it.

          I’m mainly writing for those who are NOT happy with their current weight and health, and don’t know what to do about it. I’ve been blessed to encounter some folks I call my Health Sherpas who have conducted or evaluated research, either as physicians and scientists or as investigative reporters, and I have gained (or rather lost) greatly from their insights, which generally contradict conventional “wisdom.”

          My shorter answer to “all the people and papers that say fasting doesn’t work” is they are wrong. I won’t just imply it. I’ll say it straight out.

          Fasting doesn’t “work” if you stop doing it. If you randomize people to two arms of a study, with one group assigned to intermittent fasting and the other not, you may or may not see a long-term difference between the groups. But for those who are motivated to make a lifestyle change, fasting is beneficial.

          It’s also a lot easier to maintain when combined with a low-carb diet. But as you say, people differ in their insulin sensitivity and metabolism.

          The Zero app, along with weighing daily, have helped me keep fasting top-of-mind. When I had regained some weight two years ago, it was because I had lost track of daily weighing and wasn’t paying attention. That’s the “being human” thing you mentioned.

          Tools like this are merely supports to help me remember to do what I’ve decided I want to do.

          No covert funding. No financial interests at all. Just sharing resources that have made a difference for us.

          For what it’s worth, and your mileage may vary.

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