I was recently contacted by my friend Ali who wanted to share her recent success with fasting. In the past we had shared our personal struggles with food and nutrition. So when she experienced a positive impact, naturally she wanted to share. I try to be open and consider anything new without jumping to conclusions. Being a nurse though, my concern turned to long term health effects of depriving oneself of food. My friend was just finishing 105 hour fast in which she felt somehow freed of cravings. She planned a “re-feeding” meal with the intent to go directly back into a fasting phase. I was fascinated by her feeling of freedom and lack of hunger and how she felt more in control of her food choices. My friends experience made me ponder something I had never seriously considered. What does the science say about depriving my body of food?
Struggling With My Convictions
For the past five years I have struggled with my food convictions. It is one thing to understand highly processed foods and refined sugars are not good food choices and another to practice limiting them. In the past I have been free of processed foods and over indulgence with sugar. Despite knowing the health benefits, increased energy and self esteem, a stack of French toast will win out over a veggie omelet most of the time. it is clear that carbs and sugar loaded food choices are putting weight on my body, yet I still choose to eat it. When someone knowingly ingests poison knowing the serious implications of that choice down the road, that insanity can only be labeled one thing. Addiction!
I had never considered fasting seriously with regard to my health and nutrition, so when Ali introduced the topic I had something new to consider. In the hospital setting patients are often kept NPO otherwise known as “nothing by mouth” for several days so that physicians are not limited by which tests or procedures they can order. To manage this fasting period we simply give them intravenous (IV) fluids containing sodium chloride (NaCl) or potassium chloride (KCl). My friend was adding small amounts of these to her drinking water virtually doing the same thing. If a person who is seriously sick in the hospital can fast for several days, it was reasonable to me that a healthy person could fast for several days without harming their health as well.
My mind next turned to the various religious practices and bible passages that speak of prayer and fasting. Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Muslim, Hindu, Islam and more include fasting as a part of their worship. Many religious medical personnel participate in Ramadan and other fasting periods. Perhaps there is more to fasting than just sacrifice and worship.
I felt intrigued and challenged. Could fasting be a way to regain control over ones poor eating habits? Would I have enough self discipline to abstain from eating for even one day? I challenged myself with a three day fast, in which I would do more research as I fasted. My hope was to rid my body of sugar and carb cravings. I would take this three days, absent of food to create an eating plan based on my food convictions and contemplate how to mindfully fuel my body after breaking my fast.
My 3 Day Fast
I learned that there is much scientific evidence in animals and some research on humans showing a wide variety of health benefits for practicing fasting routinely. The benefits go far beyond metabolic fat burning. Intermittent fasting (IF) has been shown to positively affect many vital organs and reduce chronic disease by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Remaining in a ketogenic state also assists with brain function and reduces seizures in epileptic patients. Other neurological benefits include reducing risk of Alzheimers. IF has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL) in females after just one month. IF can assist with controlling insulin and glucose levels. Anyone with type 2 diabetes would want to speak with their physician before fasting. Fasting is not for everyone, children and pregnant persons should not fast, and those with severe diseases would want to consult with a physician before attempting a fast.
Freed Once More
I am now 66 hours into my 72 hour fast, and like my friend Ali, I feel freed from the over obsessing and compulsive eating behaviors. Incredible. I am now planning how I want to break my fast. It is important for me that breaking my fast aligns with family eating, so, I will stretch my fast for nearly 20 additional hours. I do not feel overly hungry, weak or tired.
Research has convinced me to make fasting a part of my nutritional diet routine. This experience has helped me to feel self-disciplined and in more control of my body. Fasting appears to have hit the reset button in my brain with regard to feeding my body. I feel free of extreme hunger urges and carb/sugar cravings. To anyone struggling with poor food choices and habits, I highly recommend personal research to see if fasting may be a good reset for you as well. Below I will include a couple links to TED TALKS on YOU TUBE I found helpful. To Your Health!!