Fasting seems so hard
For many, the thought of no food simply seems too hard. Unless you are from a land far, far away (or culturally removed from Westernized societies), when it comes to fasting you probably believe it is next to impossible. You wonder how you will survive if you do not eat every four hours. You figure you will be so miserable that you will be unable to focus on anything else. And you might possibly get so hangry that a family member might get buried in the backyard. How can that be supportive of any health goals?!
Believe it or not, these are not crazy thoughts. I can guarantee that many of you have missed a meal and felt famished. You. Begin to search in panic for the fastest relief available, sometimes that may even be in the form of Doritos, M&Ms or a Cinnabon. Could you imagine how bad it would be if you ended up missing two or (heaven forfend) three meals in a row! First-degree murder starts to seem possible.
What you may not realize is that this is not normal. At least it is far from normal for humans historically. If you happen to be like most people these days, what and how you eat is without historical precedent. The current way of eating creates a near-constant need for food, preferably carbohydrate and sugar-rich and nutrient poor. Rather than moving from a fasted to a fed state and then back to a fasted state, you stay in the fed state for the majority of your waking hours. This is not how your body was designed to function optimally. In fact, if humans had evolved in this way, the entire race would have gone extinct long before this present age of food abundance was reached.
A Sacrifice, Not Torture
Fasting is not meant to be a sacrifice. It is not meant to be agony. Do you have to resist temptation every day? Welcome to the human race. Do you get distracted when trying to focus on an important task? Keep trying.
If healthy habits and behaviours were to give you migraines and nausea, that would not be a sign that you should try harder. It would be a sign that you might be doing things a little wrong.
The same principles apply for fasting.
We are victims of abundance. Few of us have truly experienced the pangs of true hunger. What you feel when lunch time rolls around is mostly due to habit. You have been conditioned as if you were Pavlov’s dog who salivated when he heard the bell that he had learned to associate that food. Does this mean modern farming and technology is bad and there should be a speedy return to caves or a medieval village and starve yourself during the long winter? No. It just means that this present abundance has costs that require mitigation.
Of course, there is much to be grateful for in the fact that few in developed countries starve or die from food-borne disease. And it is not a crime that fat far less time and money are spent to get food than was exerted by your ancestors.
Sadly, there is a flip side. Some of the concern is due to abundance but some is due to bad information.
Abundance Plus Bad Information: A recipe for disaster
Here is a short summary of my thoughts regarding this problem:
Authorities have stressed that dietary fat is bad, and animal fat is even worse.
When government went on its anti-fat campaign in the 1970’s, food companies responded with a myriad of convenient, low fat options. To cover the tasteless cardboard that resulted, lots of sugar was added.
This resulted in the current situation of getting the majority of calories from carbohydrates.
As a society, we consume a huge and unprecedented amount of highly processed and refined carbohydrates. That includes stuff you might think is good for you. Your body turns this into sugar (glucose).
Man has spent thousands of years selectively breeding fruits and starches to make them sweeter and easier to eat and digest. The fruits and vegetables of historical generations look nothing like the ones consumed today. (But note that most of this happened long before the modern obesity and Type II diabetes epidemic.)
Sugar is processed and extracted from its natural matrix. It is consumed by drinking it, crystalizing it, and adding it to most of what is eaten. Sugar in some form is an ingredient in 74% of the packaged food in the supermarket. Most people are sugar addicts, or at least sugar dependant. And your body reacts like an addict when we go too long without it.
Currently, average daily sugar consumption sits at about 22 teaspoons per person. This amounts to a hundred pounds a year! That’s fifty times more than the average in 1700, ten times more than in 1800, and twice what it was in 1900. Just since 1977, when the government launched its crusade against food fat, North Americans have swelled their intake of sugar by 30%. This has converted into swelling in the ankles and in the bellies. For comparison, you can only keep about 1 teaspoon of sugar in your blood stream. At levels any higher it can be toxic. When blood sugar rises, the pancreas releases insulin, your hormonal gatekeeper that sends signals to parts of your body, such as your liver and muscles, to store this sugar and get it out of the blood. But your muscles and liver can hold only so much. When they’re full, the liver starts converting and storing the sugars as fat.
Finally, you eat too often, rather than switching between feeding and fasting states.
Together, these ingredients make real fasting far too painful for most people to endure.
Fasting By Choice Rather Than Necessity
If you want to make fasting part of your lifestyle, these facts are like dyspeptic fat trolls guarding the entrance to the pretty garden. In earlier centuries, people fasted in part because they had to. They did not have access to Froot Loops every minute of every day. Nor did they need constant infusions of sugar like many do now.
This means you have to go out of your way to cultivate a fasting lifestyle.
The Good News
Yes, despite all of this there is some good news. It really is not that hard to take out the trolls and slip past them.
Once you understand the myths and false scientific claims the path is a little easier.
Natural dietary fat, including animal fat, is your friend. It is time to reject the shift to low fat and high sugar foods.
Once you adjust to this, it takes just minor and forethought to overcome sugar dependence, constant hunger using fats, rather than glucose as your primary food source. This is how you begin to implement a fasting (and a little feasting) protocol a permanent part of your lifestyle.