Increased insulin sensitivity. Faster healing. Cellular rejuvenation. Decreased blood pressure. Reduction in oxidative damage. Less type 2 diabetes. Less cancer. Less cardiovascular disease. Protection against heart disease. Decreased fat mass.
Now hold up, there! All I read was scientificmumbojumbo blah blah blah decreased fat mass.
That’s right. What if I told you that you could get all those amazing benefits I just listed (plus, yes, fat loss) for free? No pills. No gimmicks. No scary celebrity endorsements that we don’t really believe deep down but really want to believe so we override that little place in our guts that says “Who would really want to be Anna Nicole Smith or Carmen Electra anyhow??” I mean, one’s dead with a fridge full of drugs and slim-fast and the other one married Dennis Rodman. Always listen to your gut. But I digress.
What is this miracle thing? It’s fasting, my friends. Periodically abstaining from food and sometimes drink for a specific amount of time (generally 24 hours or longer).
Hippies, Health Nuts and… Mormons?
Long considered the purview of the incense-and-nutritional-yeast crowd or filed under The Weird Things Hollywood Types Do, fasting isn’t generally on most people’s radar. But recent research shows that this primitive survival technique may actually have some impressive health benefits.
New research from the American Heart Association found that people who fasted were 39% less likely to have coronary artery disease. This study looked at a sample of 4500 men & women, 90% of whom were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons. Previously researchers had thought that the Mormons’ lower risk of heart disease was due to their religious prohibition against smoking but researchers were surprised to find it most correlated to the monthly 24-hour fasts that adherents practice.
I have been fasting for religious purposes almost as long as I can remember. The first Sunday of every month I abstain from all food and drink (yep, even water!) and then donate the money that I would have spent on food to the poor. While very difficult for me (I love to eat!), I’ve always felt good about the spiritual reasons behind my fast as well as helping out the needy in my neighborhood. So it’s nice to read that something I already do has added health benefits!
Another benefit of fasting, according to Dr. Judith Beck, author of the popular Beck Diet Solution is that it helps you to see that “hunger is not an emergency.” So many dieters derail from their carefully planned meals when the hunger pains strike because they think they are starving. They think that if they don’t eat immediately then they will be overwhelmed by their hunger when the truth is that hunger waxes and wanes and you will not die if you don’t eat for a few hours. Dr. Beck points out that once her patients see for themselves that they can survive and thrive despite hunger that their cravings have less power over them and it becomes easier to stick with that diet.
Many people, especially hard-core fitness types (ahem, my name is Charlotte and I’m an addict…), fear if they don’t get some nutrition every 3-5 hours then they will lose muscle and kill their metabolisms. Actually the opposite is true, according to triathlete Mark Sisson. “It all makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because our predecessors almost certainly went through regular cycles where food was either abundant or very scarce. The body may have established protective mechanisms to adapt to these conditions by sensitizing insulin receptors when it was critical that every bit of food be efficiently used or stored (as in famine), or by desensitizing them when there was a surplus, so the body wouldn’t be overly-burdened by grossly excessive calorie intake.”
There are certain people, however, who shouldn’t attempt fasting. If you have an eating disorder, diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), then this isn’t for you. Personally, I never fast while pregnant or nursing. And, of course, small children shouldn’t fast. Be smart, people.
Remember – I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or even a personal trainer. So use this information as just that: information. Don’t do anything against the advice of your doctor.
It’s worth a try! That is an impressive list of benefits and all for the price of a little will power. Besides, doesn’t the part of you that likes a challenge wonder could I really do that? If I can, you can!
Plus, you know, decreased fat mass.
If any of you try this, make sure and report back to me!