Today I start my 72 hour fast and I'm super excited! I know that may sound weird because most people wouldn't be excited about not eating for three days, but I have done it many times before and every time it is over I feel like my whole body has been renewed. However, anytime I've talked to people about fasting, many are skeptical. Unfortunately, a lot of people have a belief that fasting is unhealthy and associate it with starving themselves which simply is not true. They have been told many myths regarding how a short term or long term fast works which ultimately leads them into a negative mindset about it. As a matter of fact, fasting is extremely healthy, can prove some amazing benefits to the body, and does a great job of clearing many toxins from it. Let me make this clear though from the beginning-fasting is not for everyone, especially those who are diabetic. This should always be discussed with your doctor so you know what is right for you before making any dietary changes. Now, let's clear up some myths about fasting and look at some of the benefits you can receive from doing it.
Our negative thinking towards fasting
It's no surprise especially in the U.S. where basically food is a big part of our culture that people cringe at the thought of not eating for hours let alone days. Think about it. Thanksgiving is America's holiday where we shove our faces until we think we actually may have ripped open our stomachs. Food is apart of celebrating here. Our fast food and dining out has tourists scratching their heads at the amount of food we give for a single sized portion. Our supermarkets are mini malls filled to capacity with colorful processed garbage, but somehow we associate all of that with being lucky to have those options. So then is it a shock that we are constantly told little lies about how we should be eating? We are told things like we should eat up to five times a day and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We are told eating this much is healthy for us, but why is it then that we are heavier and more unhealthy than ever with more people suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions? Why is it when people talk about fasting, it is talked about like it is a really unhealthy thing to do? In fact, fasting is a practice that goes back thousands of years for many reasons including cultural beliefs, religion, and health benefits. Most of us have probably fasted in our lives when going for blood work or prior to some sort of surgery. We tend to look at it as something we have to do and not something we should do.
Before we get into the benefits, let's look at just a fraction of some of the myths
- Don't fast, you'll cause your body to starve and go into starvation mode - Wrong. You do not go into full starvation mode when fasting. Most of us do not even know what real starving feels like. Starving means you have no control over when you're going to put another bite of food into your mouth. You have complete control over the fast. The idea that missing a day or two of eating or even an intermittent fast of only missing a few hours of eating will slow down your metabolism and you'll be thrown into starvation mode is false. Actually even with longer fasts, there are studies showing not only your metabolism, but your adrenaline also increases during a fast. This is why if you have fasted before, you may have noticed some trouble falling asleep. This is different from caloric restriction.
- If I stop the fast, I will gain weight quicker and faster - Here's the thing, your body is a smart, wonderful, and more than capable machine. It looks to only replenish what it needs to. We store glycogen in our livers and muscles which gives our bodies steady energy. When we're done fasting, the body wants to refill its glycogen stores first. Only when our glycogen stores are filled to the max will the body start sending fat cells to be stored.
- You'll become malnourished - This is especially untrue if you are doing a short term (intermittent) fast. You will end up eating within hours or the next day and your body will replenish itself from anything that was lost. If you are planning on doing a long term fast then obviously you want to be safe and always take a supplement to help give your body what it needs during the fast. You can discuss with your doctor what supplements to take that are right for your body and the length of the fast. People often get this confused with the kids on television they see that are malnourished in very poor countries. It's not true, though many giant food corporations would be thrilled if you believed that.
- It's really unhealthy for your body - This one is kind of a head scratcher. Most of us as a society eat extremely unhealthy whether it's because of lack of time or we just simply don't care. We spend not only holidays, but many other days overeating, indulging, and just plain not watching what we put into our bodies. Don't get me wrong, we should eat and celebrate while spending time with ones we care about. However, we should also be thinking about how we could balance out the way we usually eat and the benefits it can provide to us.
- Eating meals and snacking throughout the day is good for you - Our bodies were not meant to be in a constant state of feeding. Think about it. Way back when, we were a society of hunters and gatherers. We had to deal with periods of there being no food and sometimes for long periods of time. In fact, there are studies showing frequent snacking can increase the fat in the liver and contribute to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
What are the health benefits?
A lot of people use a fast especially in today's society to increase weight loss. While that is a perk that comes with fasting, it is definitely not the only reason for doing one. Promoting good blood sugar and insulin resistance is a wonderful gain from fasting. Our body produces insulin as a means of keeping our blood sugars at normal levels after we eat. Studies have shown during a fast that blood sugars are naturally lower and as a result less insulin needs to be supplied to our bodies. Here are some other ways it benefits the body.
- Fasting increases the secretion of human growth hormone which is involved in growth, losing weight, increasing metabolism, and muscle growth.
- Some animal studies have shown that fasting could not only block tumor growth, but can make chemotherapy more effective.
- It helps weight loss by boosting metabolism. Fasting is more beneficial than restricting calories for fat loss while also preserving muscle tissue.
- It may promote heart health by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and improving blood pressure.
These are just a handful of benefits that are linked to fasting. I genuinely encourage all of you to look into the rest and you can decide for yourself if it's right for you. I hope I sparked interest in some of you to research the facts. As stated previously, this is not right for everyone. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet or starting a fast.
Thanks for reading! See you soon!