So what is the one thing that gives the most bang for your buck when it comes to looking and feeling great? The one thing that also powerfully prevents disease and improves the quality of life? For my money, it is intermittent fasting if I have to pick just one. The only thing that would overrule this is quality sleep if that is not a priority for you. Yeah, sleep first and fasting second.
Sometime during the 80s, we started to shift from eating 3 meals a day to putting food in our mouths all the time. I remember in the ’90s being told it was good for our blood sugar to eat something every 2 hours or so to help keep it steady. Wow. For the majority that has been proven to be not only wrong but not very good for us either. Your body desperately needs regular breaks from eating.
Digestion is an incredibly demanding bodily process that requires lots and lots of energy. When the body never gets a break from food, it never gets to rest and focus on other things, especially when it comes to clean-up duties. Ever heard the term autophagy? In a nutshell, it’s when our cells “consume” the malfunctioning and/or old parts of themselves that are not working anymore.
If you really want to get into it check out the PubMed research article here. A subpar autophagy process is linked to almost every single degenerative disease you can think of including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. That’s right, constantly having something in our stomachs can promote disease processes by inhibiting autophagy. We are just not built to eat all the time.
I remember when I was a little boy in the ’70s. We, like everyone else, typically ate 3 meals a day with little to no snacking. This created a natural 12-14 hour window where no food was being consumed. I distinctly remember the type of hunger I would have as Mom called us in to eat for dinner. It was a good, hearty, natural hunger that was not just eating to eat.
I was truly refueling as I hadn’t eaten since noon and it was now 6 and somehow I had survived! Today many people can’t go more than 2 hours without wanting to rip someone's head off. This is because of “what” they are eating in general. When you eat the foods your body is designed for, not all the processed and refined pretend foods, it’s easy to go 4-5 hours without even thinking about eating.
Traditionally humans lived in a very different food environment, one that has programmed us to go without from time to time. Ancient fossil records show powerful bones, healthy teeth, and little nutritional deficits while living a feasting, fasting, and movement-oriented lifestyle. There was no Walmart or 7-11 around every corner providing loads of empty, disease-promoting calories.
I shoot for a 16-hour window but am happy to get 14 or even 12, as long as it’s consistent. I also do a 24-hour fast once or twice a month and am planning on trying longer fasts on rare occasions. Dr. Jason Fung’s YouTube channel has lots of great info on intermittent fasting as he is a recognized expert on the subject. Remember, for autophagy to work right you have to take a break.
Other than stacking the cards big time in your favor when it comes to disease prevention, there are other immediate benefits of fasting. Focus and clarity are noticeably enhanced which feels incredible. Ironically, energy levels improve as well. Yes, energy levels! Fasting also tends to promote weight loss, reduces inflammation, and honestly is one of the first things I talk about with my clients.
In the Blue Zones where populations frequently live healthy and disease-free lives to 100 and beyond, calorie restriction is the norm. These folks rarely overeat and it is considered to be one of the biggest reasons for their good health. The 80 percent rule is simply part of their culture. I know from personal experience that when I eat like this I feel much lighter, happier, and just ready to roll (instead of wanting a nap, LOL).
“Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2500-year-old Confucian mantra said before meals remind them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat anymore for the rest of the day.
For thousands of years, cultures around the world have intuitively fasted for religious reasons or out of necessity. Now we have the science to prove why it is so critical if we want to experience optimal health. My sister, who does not have a thyroid, has found fasting to be the most powerful (and only) thing to clear up her skin and greatly improve her energy levels after years of suffering from this. Amazing.
Need some help getting started? Interested in learning more? Ready to finally commit to owning your health for good? Give me a shout and we will schedule your free consult today!
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Bart Thurman, FDN-P, INHC Functional Health Coaching Cafe of Life Chiropractic 1325 Dry Creek Drive #307 Longmont, CO 80503 Office: 720-849-0124 Web: www.breakfreewellness.net IG: @bart_breakfreewellness