Nothing to eat? That might not be such a bad thing.
You’re in a rush. There’s no time to find something healthy to shove down your throat, so you order a dodgy takeaway to fill the tank. Better than running on empty, right? You’re probably wrong. Unless you’re pregnant, diabetic or have an eating disorder, going hungry was probably a much better option. Here’s why:
People have practiced fasting for hundreds of years for various reasons including spiritual and religious practice, and like the leather bomber jacket, it just keeps coming back. This is because many people believe that there are amazing health benefits to fasting, and now science is beginning to back them up.
Dr. Valter Longo from the University of Southern California conducted a series of fasting experiments involving humans, rats and other organisms like yeast and worms, and his findings were fascinating. When the subjects were placed on water only diets for a few days, he documented an improvement in metabolism, cognitive function and a decrease in visceral fat and instances of cancer over time.
His findings demonstrated that the subjects began to undergo a process of “neurogenesis”, creating brand new neural cells that improved their memory and cognitive abilities. Could it be that those that went hungry (for a short while), got smarter! The fasted mice in his study also lived on average three months longer than the mice that had not skipped a meal, which is quite a lengthy period in the lifespan of a mouse!
Nobody is suggesting adopting a starvation diet if you want to apply to mensa and live to 100, but studies suggest that the occasional fast could potentially help you avoid diabetes and perhaps even Alzheimer’s. Other benefits may include bigger muscles and a flatter stomach because blood insulin drops, which facilitates weight-loss, and the body can produce up to 200% more human growth hormone (HGH) in the fasted state, helping you form bigger biceps if you work out.
Fasting is one of the oldest methods of self-medication known to man because it gives the body an opportunity to clear everything out and start again. It’s similar to rebooting your computer when you have too many programs and apps running simultaneously. I suppose that the logic is: If the sausage machine in the sausage factory is faulty, you don’t try to fix it while it’s still running, you shut it down first. When you stop eating and just drink pure water, it allows the body to induce cellular repair processes and focus on sorting itself out instead of the usual slog of digesting and processing food. You need to drink water every day, but you can live without food for 40 days quite manageably if you are in good health.
If (like me) you have a sadistic nature, there’re some people on YouTube, who have documented their extensive water fasts to ogle at in morbid fascination. One woman shares her experience of running a church, raising a family and fasting for 120 days, with just two weeks of eating interspersed. That’s like eating nothing for four months! Whether these extreme fasting practices are beneficial or harmful is debatable, but it does illustrate that we are not as dependent on food as we would like to believe.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the latest craze in the ‘muscle-mary’ community (also known as the Warrior diet). It requires fasting for 18 – 20 hours and then eating all your meals during a 4 – 6-hour window period. Devotees believe that practicing IF increases testosterone, as well as human growth hormone and that it helps them burn fat while building muscle. I wonder how this trend will begin to infiltrate my fellow ‘banting’ queens?
You may not be fastidious enough to experiment with IF; but you now do have a perfectly good reason to deny yourself the slutty availability of pizza or a burger, when nothing else seems available, because, let’s face it: you don’t have to have something to eat that very minute. However, if you tend to suffer from “hanger”, anger due to hunger, then that may be another story altogether.