More advice today on why and how to not eat, just a few more things I needed to tell you following on from my intro to fasting last week.
I know some of you have trialled some fasting over the past few weeks. Hopefully you’ve had success with that, and felt some benefits. Last time we learnt a little bit about how to restrict your eating into a window – say within 8 hours – during your day. Today I’d like to expand on the how’s up to 24 hours, and also explain more about intermittent fasting and about fasting mimicking diets.
For those of you ready to push the boat out with not eating in order to gain some health benefits – a 24 hour fast is the place to start. Most find that if you eat your “last meal” at dinner you can go to bed feeling satisfied, and then wake up in the morning not feeling starving. On that note – none of us (reading this blog) will be starving. It’s a state of mind that we all may have felt from time to time when particularly hungry, but that curiously disappears again, usually within minutes, of that hunger-pain feeling. Truly starving takes days to weeks. So, during the morning of a 24 hour fast, you should drink water, or water with a squeeze of lemon juice, black tea, or black coffee. There is some argument for coffee with cream or coconut oil or butter, but if you want to maximise your fasting benefit it’s probably best to avoid. From there you need to push through the day, drinking lots of water as you go, to hit your 24 hour goal.
It’s important to keep really hydrated during a fast and this is also the best way to trick your tummy into feeling somewhat full. It’s also best to do it on a day you are relatively busy, so that time passes quickly and you don’t find yourself staring at the fridge at home or work. Caryn Zinn from AUT and author of “What The Fast” recommends a Monday-Tuesday 24 hour fast regime; so that your last meal is on a Sunday night – then you eat a nutritious meal again Monday night and Tuesday night with no eating in those two 24 hour periods. She suggests this so that some of the pain of fasting is out of the way early in the week when you are at your most high energy levels and so that if you over-ate or had a bit much of a good time during the weekend you are making up for that by fasting your way through the beginning of the week.
This Monday-Tueday fast is actually a form of Intermittent Fasting (popularised by Dr Michael Mosley’s book The Fast Diet, and Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code) – where you cycle your intake of calories throughout the week – with normal calorie days and low calorie days. Even by talking about calories I feel like I’m back in the 80s or 90s – but this is a simple way of explaining ‘normal amounts of food days’ and ‘less food than usual days’. For lots of people trying to lose weight or decrease their “metabolic markers” – intermittent fasting works really well. The fact that most of the time you just eat your usual food, but for a couple of days a week you restrict your intake – seems to be easier and less stressful than constant restriction. Many worry that they are just eating the same amount in a shorter period of time – but we have to remember that it’s the not eating/fasting periods that appear to be where the important work is done to improve health.
Another type of fasting that’s becoming more popular is referred to as “fasting mimicking”. It’s where you eat a smaller amount of food than usual over a period of 3-5 days and it has the same benefits as a no food fast (research seems conclusive). It’s a fairly specific diet though, and to make sticking to this easier you can order in your food from companies that provide this service. I’d be a massive fan of this if what arrived were plants and some high quality fat/protein – but it’s a bit of a processed alternative. It does provide the necessary electrolytes though so if you think you couldn’t emulate this on your own with real food, it is helpful, and it does work from an effectiveness point of view. Check out Prolon, and Prof Valta Longo, for more information.
Interesting trivia for you: The longest recorded fast was by a Scotsman by the name of Angus Barbieri – at 27 years of age he abstained from food for around a year (382 days to be precise). He was 207kg at the beginning, and to quote Wikipedia “consumed only vitamins, electrolytes, and zero-calorie beverages such as tea, coffee, and sparkling water, although he occasionally consumed small amounts of milk and/or sugar with the beverages, especially during the final weeks of the fast.” By the end, he weighed in at 82kg. His fast was overseen by his local hospital and reportedly he never really felt very hungry after about the first week.
I am NOT suggesting that for you. But you have to agree, it’s very interesting that we’ve got societal pressure around the constant consumption of food (and reverse societal pressure around being in great shape). Our ancestors had alot less food available to them and I just wonder if our food intake has a bit to do with how much availability we have now – there is a constant supply of food everywhere, in so many shapes and forms. I believe if we just stuck to eating real food – unprocessed and potentially able to be grown or raised in our own backyards, the worlds state of health would be close to perfect. However that’s not where we are. Now we have to find hacks to get around this oversupply problem. That’s where fasting helps.