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Fasting For The Spirit, Soul And Body
By Jade Ellis
A little history of fasting…
Fasting is well known to be a part of many religions and also as gesture of political protest. Judaism has several annual fast days including Yom Kippur, the day of Atonements. In Islam, Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Roman Catholics and Eastern orthodoxy observe a 40 day fast during Lent, the period where Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert. The classic example of a political protest being The Suffragettes, and also Ghandi who fasted many times during the struggle of Indian Independence, his longest fast lasting up to 21 days. Sometimes food was just not available to eat. Foraging for food use to be a large part of our hunter-gatherer ancestors; food was not always readily available for humans like it is today. There have been many different methods of ‘fasting’ over the years.
Recently fasting has become popular regarding its health benefits and propensity for weight loss. ‘Intermittent Fasting’ is becoming known for its potential to lose weight in a healthy way. This was of fasting is not about starving yourself as the word may suggest, but simply changing your eating patterns.
How does Intermittent fasting work?
Intermittent fasting allows the body to simply burn off excess body fat.
Fat is merely body energy that has been stored away. The key hormone involved in the storage of food for energy is Insulin. When we eat, our insulin levels rise and stores excess energy in two separate ways. Sugars can be linked into long chains called glycogen. This is then stored in the liver. The liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. It is quite a simple idea, that when our glucose levels fall, our bodies have to pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy.
The ‘fed’ and ‘fasted’ state!
Our bodies exist in two states, the fed (insulin) state and the fasted (insulin low) state. We are either storing food energy, or burning it. It is believed that if we start eating the minute we wake up, and do not stop until we go to sleep, that we will gain weight over time as we are spending all of our time in a ‘fed state.’
Types of fasting?
There are different ways of the patterns you can eat in when trying this out. A popular one is the 5:2 which means only fasting 2 days a week, and cutting calories to 25% on those 2 days. Most people break these two days up in the week, for example a Monday and a Thursday, to avoid tiredness. Another is not eating breakfast and having your first meal in the afternoon. This means (depending on when you had dinner) your body would have been in a fasted state for 14-18 hours. You have an 8-hour window to eat in the day. Although before you break your fast, you can have black tea, black coffee, water, which all have very low to non-existent calories. This will keep your body in a fasted state. This method is seen as slightly easier for people as you are asleep for a massive portion of that time period. People who don’t eat breakfast may see this as normal, and they may intermittent fast without even realising.
- The health benefits of fasting include improved brain function, improved immune system, can help clear acne, increased energy, lowered blood cholesterol, lowered blood insulin and sugar levels, improving hunger, promote longevity, improve insulin sensitivity and contribute to self-enlightenment.
- The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels have been seen to skyrocket. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
- Fasting can be beneficial for insulin sensitivity. When your body consumes too much sugar and carbs, it can actually become insulin resistant. This could lead to chronic diseases. Fasting is a good way to keep your body sensitive to insulin, and can prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart complications.
- Fasting can also benefit your levels of cholesterol by lowering triglyceride levels. It has been known to decrease the formation of bad cholesterol in the body. When you consume too much cholesterol, your triglyceride levels shoot up and make you more prone to heart disease. Fasting has also been known to have a positive influence on the body mass of professional athletes, as the method sheds excess fat and optimizes muscle growth.
- Some people who see the benefits of fasting, enjoy the non-planning aspect, not having to make or plan breakfast, also saving time and money. For this method of eating, it is a good idea to try and rewire your though process. You can think of fasting as just taking a break from eating, or just changing your eating patterns.
Important things to remember when ‘breaking the fast!’
There are definitely some aspects to take into consideration when starting this eating pattern!
It is important to eat nutrient dense foods to boost your calories and sugar levels, such as dates, bananas and nuts. When fasting it is extremely important to stay hydrated as people who fast commonly experience dehydration. This is largely because your body is not getting any fluid from food.
If your body is used to having breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between, fasting periods can be a big challenge. If you are not used to this way of eating, it is possible that fasting could increase stress levels and disturb your sleep. Dehydration, hunger and lack of sleep during fasting can also lead to headaches. It is important to keep track of these factors and make sure you are fasting in the healthiest way possible.
This diet may not be a good idea for pregnant women, or breastfeeding mothers. There has also been a study that details that intermittent fasting produces better results for men than women. It is also important to remember this way of patterned eating is not for everyone, and although one person may feel it fits with their lifestyle, it may not agree with somebody else in the same way. Only each of us know what is best for our own bodies. What may work for somebody else, may not necessarily be the right way for you. Intermittent fasting is not in any way, a diet or about restriction, it is simply a change in your eating pattern!