FASTED: Why does fasting make sense?

If you’ve ever gone on a diet – and I have! – you’ll know that the minute you stop the diet, the weight comes back.

I think I can say I tried everything in diets. I’ve done Weight Watchers (twice!), Jenny Craig (expensive!), Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live (very expensive!) and dozens more. I lost weight on all of them, to varying extents, only to regain the weight the moment I stopped. They were all paths to failure.

Continuous calorie restriction, which is what all diets are based on, slows your metabolism right down. I’m probably not telling you anything new here. That’s why diets don’t work.

We all knew what would happen to the contestants on The Biggest Loser. We all know why there are no reunion shows five years on!

FASTING IS DIFFERENT

Fasting is different. Because it is on again, off again, your metabolism doesn’t slow down significantly. So the weight stays off.

Your body never “thinks” it is starving and never slows down your metabolism to compensate, because just when it starts to “think” that – hey presto! – you stop fasting. Only to start again a few days later.

In this way, you keep your metabolism on its toes the whole time, never knowing what to expect, and never slowing down.

HOW LONG SHOULD I FAST?

You can fast as much or as little as you like. It’s really common for people to fast 16/8. This means they’re fasting for 16 hours of every 24 hour period, with an 8 hour eating “window” every day.

This seems to be the most common and convenient way for people to fast, and you can do this if you like.

16/8 it is a great way to start, when training yourself for longer fasts which are more useful and effective. But longer fasts are definitely a better way to go.

You see, evidence seems to suggest that ideal fasting length is at least 48 hours (two days), and possibly longer.

This is because it takes at least 12 hours for a lot of people to fully enter ketosis, the point at which they have switched over to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar.

It takes about 18 hours for autophagy to kick in, and 24 hours for inflammation to drop and for cardiac and brain function to improve.

Furthermore, it is at about 48 hours into a fast that stem cell stimulation really kicks in, and your body undergoes all the healing and repair it needs in a huge way.

Watch this video by Dr Berg for more information on fasting.

FIT, FED AND FASTED

Fit, Fed and Fasted teaches you how to work up from fasting just a couple of hours a day through to managing regular longer fasts, unlocking all the benefits they have to offer.

IS FASTING DIFFICULT?

Yes, in the same way that riding a bike is difficult if you’ve never done it before.

That’s why you learn, a step at a time. Learning step by step makes fasting accessible for just about everyone.

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Is being hungry really all that awful?

I haven’t eaten in four days. It’s Thursday afternoon now. My last meal was Monday night.

I’m hungry. Right now, a great steak would sliiiiide down real well. Maybe with some chips, or some stir fried veggies – I love my greens! Some chocolate afterwards, sitting on the sofa, watching TV? Hell yes.

Instead, I’ll have nothing tonight. Not until tomorrow evening, when I break my fast.

I decided to do a four-day fast for a whole range of reasons, but one of the main reasons that I keep coming back to was I wanted to know: Is being hungry really all that awful?

Now I know the answer.

It’s one of those questions you never can know the answer to, not unless you try a longer fast yourself. Like riding a bike, you have to get on and do it.

I can’t remember what I had for dinner on Monday night, the last time I ate. You’d think I would be able to, but I can’t. I have the vague suspicion it was lamb roast, but don’t count on it. It might have been chicken.

Whatever it was, I know it filled me up, because I didn’t start to feel hungry until about midday Tuesday.

When, for the first time, I decided not to eat.

That decision was really interesting. I stopped at that point, thought about my hunger for a bit – the point at which I would normally had gone to the kitchen to fix myself some eggs, or some noodles, or maybe a sandwich – and decided not to eat.

I realised, with a shock, that I wasn’t ready to eat because I was actually truly hungry. I was ready to eat because my habits told me to eat.

My hands – not my stomach – needed something to do. My hands needed to put food in my mouth, even if my body didn’t need the food there.

Half an hour later, I wasn’t thinking about food any more. I carried on with my work. The day went on.

STARTING TO FEEL HUNGRY

Not surprisingly, I started to feel hungry again around dinnertime. My partner and I went for a drive to give the car a run, and within a few minutes again, distracted, I wasn’t hungry any more.

I was beginning to learn that my brain seemed to get much hungrier than my stomach!

We got home again, and I sat on the sofa and played a game on my phone while the family ate.

That night – Tuesday night – I slept better than I have in months.

A SECOND DAY OF FASTING

Wednesday morning, and I felt good. I was well rested, and not hungry at all. I’d expected to wake up ravenous, but that did not happen.

It’s true what they say about hunger coming in waves. It’s also true what they say about hunger passing after a while. And it’s true that being distracted helps a lot with hunger.

Wednesday wasn’t too bad at all. There were points when I was hungry, but not really any more hungry than I’ve experienced before in my lifetime. It’s not like it gets worse as you go on.

There are points in between the hunger waves – most of the time, in fact – when you just feel like you usually would. You don’t need to eat, and you don’t feel like you need to eat. You’re just getting on with your day, doing whatever you do (in my case, working from home), and everything is like ordinary.

DAY 3

So here I am on day 3. I know the answer about hunger. Hunger is really not that awful. It’s just another sensation that we in the well-fed West are not used to.

However, I’m in a luxurious position in time and space to be able to say that. While hunger isn’t a bad thing here and now, I have a choice in the matter. I know there is food in the house in plenty.

Any time I choose I can end my fast, go into the kitchen, and get something to eat. There is so much food available to me that I could stuff myself senseless. My hunger is a choice. Others through history have not had that choice. I’m fortunate to be able to choose to fast.

I know I will complete my fast. My first meal will be Friday evening as planned. I’ve learned a lot – about myself, my body, my mind, my habits. All of this would make a fast worthwhile, even without the physical benefits that fasting brings.

I am glad I’ve chosen to fast. I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to try it and is healthy. This is an experience that has been valuable to me, and that I paid nothing for.

I think it is making me a better person. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow through this.

23 April: Day 3

It’s Day 3 of my four day fast.

I’m doing alright, but I’ve actually felt quite hungry today. I woke up this morning, and had a little bit of the shakes when I was first up, but they cleared and I was back to normal within a few minutes. I don’t know what that meant – it didn’t happen right away, it was a few minutes after I got up. Who knows?

It could just be that I was cold, but I figured I’d report them anyway.

Apart from that, my weight is down again. I’ve lost just over 4 kgs (8.8 pounds) so far on this fast, which is incredible. I never thought it was possible to drop so much weight in a week! Of course, a lot of that is water weight, and it’ll come back on, but I think a bit of it will stay off. Certainly it’s enough to make me think that fasting might be a seriously powerful tool for weight loss.

I’m managing to deal with being around food quite well. One thing I didn’t think about before starting on this path was how my children would react to seeing me not eating. My daughter (age 13) in particular is a bit worried about me, and I haven’t really explained what I am doing with her. I think I need to. I just said “I don’t want to eat right now” and haven’t explained it further. I’ll have to do that.

Part of me wants to go longer with this fast now than my intended plan of finishing up tomorrow evening, but I will stick with the plan, and have dinner tomorrow night. Then I will eat normally for at least two days. Then I’ll figure out what I intend to do next.

TWO DAY ALTERNATE FASTING – OR ONE, OR FOUR?

I haven’t really decided whether to go with two days on and off, or one day on and off (traditional alternate day fasting), or four days on and off at a time.

I’m actually thinking I’ll do two days at a time, mainly because it will make food preparation and management easier. By doing two days at a time, I can take advantage of buying multi-packs of meat, larger portions of vegetables and so on, and know that nothing will get wasted. I can also prepare a few meals at a time, and not have to worry so much about freezing food, which I would have to do with the more traditional day on, day off approach.

Apart from that, evidence seems to suggest that with a two day rotation, I’ll get deeper into ketosis, which I have had difficulty getting into in the past. I don’t think I’m insulin resistant – yet – but I certainly have had more problems getting into ketosis than my partner has.

I might see how I go with two days on and off, and see if that works for me. If I find that too difficult, then I’ll switch down to regular alternate day fasting.

PHOTO: Taken at our local park.

I’m thinking that four days at a time won’t work for me on a regular basis. Today (Day 3) I have noticed I’m not as mentally alert as I should be, and I did get the shakes a bit, which might not be a good thing. I want to challenge my body, but not too much.

Why start fasting with a four day fast?

Most people fast just to lose weight, but I’m fasting for other reasons as well, and a longer fast as a starting point is a good way to begin.

A longer fast is kind of like diving in at the deep end – and I’ve always been a diving in at the deep end kind of person! A longer fast will give me stronger results and get things kick started a whole lot better than just fasting for a few hours.

I mean, how hard can it be to go without food for four days?

I guess I want to find out!

I figured I’d start with the goal of four days. If I really couldn’t do it, then I’d stop. But I think I can probably do it. At the moment, halfway through, I feel like I can do it.

WHY FAST AT ALL?

ALLERGIES: Fasting is reputed to really help with skin and allergic disorders, which I’ve dealt with for a lot of my life. My skin is allergic to pretty much everything, and I get hayfever and other allergies as well. I figure a break without eating can’t hurt me too badly. It might even help.

TYPE 2 DIABETES: Fasting is supposed to prevent and even cure Type 2 diabetes. I don’t have diabetes – yet – but I know I am a sitting duck for it, as a close relative has the disease and was diagnosed with it at roughly my age. I don’t want to go down that path.

IMMUNE ISSUES: Fasting is also meant to help with immune issues, and with the coronavirus (wuhan virus / covid 19) going around at the moment, I want to make sure my immune system is as healthy as possible. We’re currently in lockdown here in New Zealand, but we’ll shortly be ending that, and I do not want to fall sick with the virus if I can help it. Fasting should help me improve my immune system and strengthen up against any nasties coming my way.

LOSE WEIGHT: Of course, I also want to lose a bit of weight. It would be really great to get back down to the weight I was when I was a bit younger. Fasting enables people to lose weight without slowing their metabolism. I’ve done the yoyo dieting thing, and found out just how fast my metabolism can slow! I don’t want to lose weight, only to regain it, which has been my experience up until now.

22 April: Still Day 2 of my first fast

They say time goes slow when you’re fasting.

It’s true.

It’s the middle of the afternoon. While I’m not exactly hungry. food is there at the back of my mind. I know I’m going to complete this four day fast that I’ve set myself, mainly because I don’t like to fail. But that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy.

Right now, if I could eat, I would. I’m not going to, but I would. Ironically, something that helped me when I was going through another phase like this (when I was finding things difficult) was thinking about What Exactly I would Eat Right Now If I Could Eat Anything In The World.

The answer made me realise I wasn’t actually hungry. Because there were a lot of things I would like to eat, but nothing I was absolutely desperate to eat. I figure if I’m not absolutely desperate to eat anything, then I’m managing okay and not starving. Yet.

HUNGER COMES IN WAVES

Hunger definitely comes in waves, and for me the worst waves seem to hit mid-afternoon (i.e. NOW) and evening time when my family are eating and I am not.

The good thing about hunger waves is, you know they will pass. The bad thing is you start to learn when the next one is likely to start, and they’re not exactly a welcome thing.

I’m new to fasting, and I have been told that the hunger does subside over time, and fasting does get easier. I’m hoping that’s true for me. I think it will be.

22 April: My first fast – Day 2

Here I am, enjoying my first fast, day 2.

Day 1 was not too bad in the end. I wasn’t as hungry as I expected to be, and when I was I was able to manage it.

The times I was hungry coincided with lunch (particularly just before lunch), mid afternoon, and just around dinner time. I also felt like snacking when I was sitting in front of the TV in the evening and, of course, I couldn’t snack!

I think a lot of the hunger I felt was habitual, rather than actual hunger. I was hungry because I expected to be hungry, and hungry because I expected food at those particular times. I also felt hungry because my hands had nothing to do. That sounds stupid, but it’s the best I can think of right now.

Rapid weight loss

I’ve lost 3 kgs (6.6 pounds) since I started, which is unbelievable. I know it’s mostly water weight, but I like to think of it as my body clearing all the debris out.

If that wasn’t enough to inspire me, I don’t know what would be!

Excellent sleep – with dreams

And here’s a random thing I didn’t expect – I slept incredibly well last night, better than I have in ages. I went to bed early, and zonked out pretty much right away. I dreamed a lot too – just weird stuff – but I can’t remember dreaming for a long time. This all might be random stuff, but I’m noting it down anyway.

A bit aching across the shoulders

I woke up this morning and felt a bit aching across my shoulders, which is something I don’t normally have, plus a bit of a headache. So I took an electrolyte sachet in some water, just in case I’m low on salts with everything going on.

21 April: My first fast

I’m currently doing my first fast.

My goal is to fast from today (Tuesday) through until Friday if at all possible, but if I can’t, I”ll just fast as long as I can.

When I finish the fast, whenever that is, I’ll have a least a whole day off, with normal eating, then do another fast a few days later. How long later depends on how long I manage this fast for.

So, for example, if I manage to fast this time around for four days (my goal), I’ll have a four day break of normal high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate eating, then try to do another fast of the same length.

And so on.

If I only manage a day, I’ll just have one day of normal high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate eating again, before embarking on another fast. And I’ll try for another four days.

This is the plan at the moment. As I think things through, and get more experience, I’ll work things out a bit better.

21 April: What am I tracking?

Weight, waist, mood, skin, eyes, blood sugar

I’ll be tracking my weight (and hopefully weight loss) and my waist measurement.

I’ll also be taking notes on my mood, any side effects I notice, and my skin and eyes, as I’m quite an allergic person and have had terrible problems with both.

I’m also about to order a sugar monitor which attaches to my upper arm, so I can track my blood sugar. I have not been diagnosed with diabetes, but my blood sugar was rising last time I went to the doctor for a check up, and I think I’m likely to develop diabetes if I don’t get a handle on my weight and wellbeing now.