On Fasting

I remember reading a bullet point in a Free Press feature where someone pointed out that many animals go on average of about one day a week without food. It may not have been true (I doubt that animals have any sort of knowledge of a 7-day week), there was the definite impression in my mind that the occasional day without food wasn’t outside the realm of experience.

Forty-five years (or so) later, circumstances and a dissatisfaction with my weight led me to try the idea of the occasional fast starting in November. And while I can’t say I’ve done a full fast (outside of the day I did a juice/broth fast and clense before a colonoscopy) I’ve found it to be quite a bit easier than I would have thought, with some intriguing outcomes to boot:

  • The appetite adjusts. You don’t follow a fast day by gorging on sugars, bad carbs and cheap meats unless you intentionally do so, so going the day without eating (or eating a reduced amount of food, which most people suggesting fasting actually mean) actually translates to a drop in calories. Over time, it leads to:
  • You can lose weight. While one day a week of fasting (reduced eating or eating nothing) doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to lose weight, two days a week can be enough to start burning fats – especially if you exercise on the other days (Exercise doesn’t burn off calories so much as it forces the body to shift how the weight is held. Muscle, however, burns energy more efficiently than fats, so there is a long-term effect.).
  • You gain a mastery over food. While one can take this too far (as is true with everything, I must add), there is something to being able to go without constantly thinking about, looking for or eating food that is as freeing as being able to go without drinking alcohol, sex, porn, or buying the newest music/movie/game.
  • There may be other benefits, health and otherwise. While one may believe that fasting was invented after a couple of bad harvests and has had a bunch of justifications tacked on it, there have also been reported benefits to blood pressure, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and even the rebuilding of white blood cells. I’ve also heard from many with religious and spiritual tendencies that fasting has spiritual benefits.

Now granted, I must say that if you CAN’T fast, don’t. Between Diabetes and people having had problems with starving themselves, there are plenty of people who just shouldn’t fast. And it’s a good idea to limit the fasting itself –

I’m a believer in the 2-5 diet (two days fast, five days normal eating); that way every fast day is surrounded by food days. There are other diets that suggest more days for fasting, but I wouldn’t suggest anything more than twice a week. Even one day a week (Friday is a good a day as any) is a good practice, as regularity is a good help.


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