A few years ago I started investigating the ‘caloric restriction’ movement. This started due to some research that came out effectively proving the effects of the digestive process on aging. The followers of this movement proposed that reducing the number of calories consumed, would in turn reduce all of the things that caused the body to age. Kidney and Liver function for example, would last much longer by simply just reducing the amount of food they had to process. There was probably some truth to this. It seems most diets out there that are successful, work because they simply reduce the amount of calories consumed.
I did not become a follower, mainly because the people that I noted that were part of this movement were all rail thin and looked like death on legs. However, I did take one really valuable concept out of the research. The concept was to look at calories consumed as a weekly thing, not a daily thing. This gives credence to the idea that if we fast for one meal a week, you are effectively reducing your weekly calorie total by ~500 calories per week, or 26,000 calories per year. That would be 7 pounds worth of calories lost in a year, simply by just skipping one meal a week. Of course, this would only work if you ate normally the rest of the meals that week.
This leads me to the fact that fasting is an extremely powerful tool in our arsenal for seeking a healthier lifestyle. Intermittent fasting has become all the rage these days, for precisely this reason. When you fast, you alter your metabolism, break the cycle of food consumption, and many other benefits. I never did get into intermittent fasting, the concept of skipping meals on a regular basis, over a set period of time. However, I have always gained value from fasting in general. There are many reasons why.
The first reason is mental clarity. Fasting brings a mental acuteness that just cannot be rivaled by any other means. Something about going without food for a period of time, really causes your brain to focus in on the core essentials. Mental acuity is something that we all need from time to time and a great shortcut to get there is via fasting.
The second is kicking depression out of your life. Some people suffer depression for very real reasons, other people like me, suffer from seasonal or periodic depression that is really not explainable. It comes and goes, probably due to changes in climate, or food choices, or a variety of other reasons. A few days moping around and I will be back at it, but sometimes when depression sets in and I need to get rid of it fast – I will use fasting to get past it quick.
The third is spiritual confirmation. When I am working through something, perhaps a major commitment I am considering or a decision that I need to make, I will use fasting to help me. Fasting is one of the best ways to put a small sacrifice out there, that helps you focus on the issues surrounding your decision. Fasting helps you really focus on the essential ingredients, and brings clarity to the decision making process in your life.
The fourth is all about health. Fasting just plain and simple cleans your system out and helps you get a bit of a reboot. BTW, I have done a tone of research on this. You get benefit from skipping at least 2 meals. Significant health benefits come with a water only fast for a full 24 hour period. Technically, it takes 72 hours for the human body to deplete all glycogen stores, for the liver to completely flush and for you to eliminate all the toxins from your body. Fasting should always be done carefully and with a doctor reviewed health plan but it is definitely something humans were meant to do. We can survive quite a long time without food. It seems that the human body was designed to be deprived of food on occasion. Fasting helps me break addiction, get sugar consumption under control and to start eating healthier. After fasting, a piece of broccoli tastes awesome!
Fasting is an amazing tool. It has been used in societies as long as there has been recorded writings and probably longer. Every major religion has the act of fasting as part of their pantheon. Famous leaders have used fasting to prove their point, to draw attention to themselves and fight for important causes. Fasting has signified the beginning and the end of quests and journeys in many a tale.
On a personal level, I incorporate fasting at least once a month on some level. My goal is to use a fast to remind me of important things, commitments that I have made and decisions that I want to make. It helps me to reset myself, to start over again if you will. I have tried long and short fasts, but I have settled in a routine that seems to work for me. I post this blog, not to brag or anything. Honestly, fasting is and should be a very personal endeavor. I post this because I have learned how incredibly powerful it can be in your life, and I highly recommend considering it in any pursuit of spiritual, physical, or mental health improvement.