I was recently at a family gathering where lunch was a catered buffet of lasagna, caesar salad, and garlic bread. Since I don’t eat gluten or eggs without paying for it later, I skipped the food and got a glass of soda water instead. When someone noticed I wasn’t eating, I assured them I was fine and I’d take it as an opportunity to fast for a while. She smiled politely, but her eyes told a different story, something along the lines of “Are you certifiably insane?”
It wasn’t the time or place to get into it, so I just walked away, sipping my drink. But that look stuck in my head for a while. Intermittent fasting is so trendy right now that I didn’t realize some people still find the idea crazy, if not downright dangerous.
First, I would never promote fasting for someone who’s underweight, suffers from an eating disorder, or who needs the extra nourishment. I sincerely hope you don’t fall into any of those categories. And if you don’t, let’s move along with this concept and parse it out.
Fasting simply means going without food for a certain period of time.
Most of us do this naturally for about eight hours every day–it’s called bedtime. If you think that’s fine because you don’t need energy to just lie there, then you don’t understand how metabolically active your body is while you sleep. It may not be running a marathon, but don’t think it’s not working.
Fasting is natural under other circumstances, too–or at least it is to creatures who still live aligned with their actual bodies’ needs.
When your cat is feeling under the weather, she won’t eat. If you’re under extreme stress, such as danger or grief, you’ll lose your appetite, too (which doesn’t mean that you won’t eat, however). Most religions have some form of fasting regularly through the year. And the seasons used to enforce fasting simply based on lack of food (usually in winter).
So it’s not dangerous to fast for short periods. In fact, we know our bodies can go without food for much longer. Gandhi famously fasted for three weeks during one of his hunger strikes. And let’s face it–he didn’t start with a lot of fat reserves to draw on.
But I’m not talking about anything that extreme, anyway. This is what I wonder about:
How did we become so removed from the natural rhythms and cycles of nature, which we are a part of, that the idea of going without food for a day is scary?
I blame it on the current health advice that repeats incessantly our need to eat every three to four hours for optimum energy. It makes no sense. Was there ever a time in history when that was even possible until now?
What eating so often actually does is to keep insulin circulating near constantly in our bodies. That state eventually leads to insulin resistance and diabetes. And we feel hungry that often because we’re consuming junk food devoid of nutrition so our bodies crave more and more. Another thing to consider: Eating that often takes money out of your wallet and puts it into the pockets of industrial food giants and agribusiness.
Benefits of fasting
Improves insulin sensitivity (which is what you want!)
Promotes weight loss
Aids in detoxification
Gives the digestive system a rest
May increase longevity
Try it out! Even just extending your breaks between meals helps. While your body is becoming adapted to burning fat more than sugar, you might go through some hunger pangs. These shouldn’t be bad and they’ll pass quickly. A good tip is to keep a list of things you can do to take your mind off of them (take a walk, call a friend, read an article, etc.). If, however, you’re showing signs of low blood sugar, such as feeling shaky, sweaty, or lightheaded, heed them. Eat a small handful of nuts or the equivalent and relax. This isn’t about torture, remember.
2 super simple ways to practice intermittent fasting
No snacking between meals (at least 4 hours)
No eating from the end of dinner until breakfast (at least 12 hours)
While you are made to do this, it might still send up some red flags for you. As I wrote above, intermittent fasting shouldn't be torture--it can definitely feel like freedom when you practice it in a way that makes sense for your body and life. Check out my Services page for more information about how I can help.
Wishing you wonderfulness!