Why the heck would someone who loves food as much as I do stop eating for almost a week? The answer has to be a really good one because I have done it twice and I’m “fixing” to do it again.
The answer(s) to that question came from a lot of reading/listening and studying I have done. Three researchers I will point you to are Dominic D’Agostino, Peter Atilla and Valter Longo. These are all serious researchers not lightweight dilettantes like me. You can go to the actual medical literature as I have. As an intro, I have placed links below to podcasts and YouTube videos as a more accessible form of study.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick Is the person who interviews Valter Longo. She is maybe my favorite geek on earth. I watch every video she produces, I read every blog she writes and I listen to every podcast she produces and every interview she gives.
If you study all of the resources above, you might find reasons to fast that are different from mine. Here are mine:
- I like losing 12 pounds in 5 days. I regain 4 pounds when I start eating again but the other eight stay off if I eat and exercise normally. I do not, however, remain on my normal eating and exercise program. We just vacationed for 21 days during which we had access to food we cannot get in Alabama. In Nova Scotia, we had Lobster Rolls for breakfast and a Lobster dinner that night. We had craft-brewed beer, great croissants, fabulous bread, banquets with family and friends. We ate and drank everything and put on a few pounds that will come off with the next fast.
- I like knowing that eating is optional. Not eating is like a super-power. If you spend your whole life thinking about the next meal, it is liberating to think that there does not need to be a meal today. I can see how some people can end up with a severe eating disorder when they feel this power so be careful. Observing the world of food without eating is an incredible mindfulness exercise also.
- I like the long list of health benefits from improved lipids, improved insulin sensitivity, new stem cells, clean up of senescent cells and the boost of growth hormone that occurs when you start eating again. The fat loss combined with the GH boost changes body composition in the right direction. There is even reason to believe that fasting delays or prevents age-related mental decline and cancer.
There is no free non-lunch however. Fasting may be risky for some people. Find a doctor who will help you to decide if fasting is for you. Fasting causes you to burn your own fat for fuel. In essence, you will be going on the highest fat diet ever invented. Human fat is the place we store all sorts of nasty things like heavy metals so you may get sick from consuming your own fat. I routinely eat a low carb diet so I shift easily into the “butter burner” mode. Others struggle the first two to three days making the shift. I am mildly uncomfortable just the first day.
Not eating is a pain in the neck for other people. When I am not eating I cannot cook for others. The act of cooking with all of the sights and smells makes me hungry. I can sit with others while they eat. You might not be able to comfortably do that.
Food is a major source of entertainment for me. Everything from menu planning to shopping and cooking is fun for me not to mention eating wonderful food. As the fast goes on, I miss the whole process a lot.
I call my fasts “water fasts” but I do consume other things. In the morning I have coffee with heavy cream. The heavy cream is pure fat so I do not interfere with the butter burner mode my body is in and it is a treat that I look forward to each day. I also drink flavored seltzer form La Croix. I allow myself one diet coke a day and I drink tea occasionally. I also have slipped in a cup of bone broth on occasion.
I use two supplements that I would not attempt the fast without. The first is KetoCaNa. I have one scoop in a large glass of water in the morning and a second in the afternoon. This boosts my ketones immediately which kills my appetite and keeps my energy level high. The second is an electrolyte replacement drink I make using the juice of one lime, 24 ounces of water and a quarter teaspoon of Morton’s lite salt. I have two of these a day also. I also drink plenty of water in addition to everything above. You will be flushing out a lot of toxins so pushing the water is key.
Dierdre asked if fasting kills metabolism. The answer is no if limited in duration. What does kill metabolism is calorie restriction long-term. Think about this from the perspective of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. If food is cut off suddenly it means you need more energy immediately to go on a successful hunt or to relocate to a place with food to gather. 12 pounds is equal to 42,000 calories or 8,400 calories a day for five days. Or take the net eight pounds lost. That still works out to 5,600 calories a day. Those burn rates are in lumberjack territory. My normal metabolism is in the 3,000 calorie range.
If water alone is too much to ask, you might want to try Dr. Valter Longo’s fast mimicking diet (FMD). It is about 600 calories per day so at least you get something to eat and drink. He claims to produce all of the same health benefits without going to near zero calories.