Just say the word “fasting” to most people and you’ll conjure up one of two immediate thoughts–a Christian would think about sacrificing food for a period of time in an effort to devote time in intercessory prayer to God over a matter of serious concern for your family or a friend; a health enthusiast might ponder fasting as a means for bringing about improvements in a specific disease or ailment. Of course, there is a third reaction that I think the vast majority of us would think about upon hearing the word “fasting”: torturous STARVATION that is the last thing you’d ever want to do! Can I get a witness? Wherever you fall along this spectrum of responses to the concept of fasting, there’s no denying that there are a whole lot of people who believe strongly in the power it possesses in the life of the person who decides to do it for whatever their reasons.
Although I am a committed believer in Jesus Christ and have been exposed to this concept of fasting for most of my life, I’ve never personally understood how someone could do it. Growing up I could hardly go three hours without putting something in my mouth–something I now know was intricately tied to my severe addiction to sugar and other culprit carbohydrates that kept me constantly hungry and craving more carbs! But when I attempted intermittent fasting in 2006, it merely ended in miserable futility. Anytime someone brought up the “fasting” word again, all I could think about was the pain and anguish I felt doing that intermittent fasting nearly five years ago.
But in 2011, I decided after prodding from people like Robb Wolf and other intermittent fasting advocates that I’d give it another go. Allowing myself upwards of 18-20 hours between meals has been the way I’ve tried to eat most of the time this year which has been working MUCH better for me this time around than before. In reality, it’s been quite easy eating a meal in the morning around 9:00am and then another around 2:00pm as the totality of my food intake for the day. I’ve even sometimes mixed it up and pushed my first meal to around 12:00pm and then the second meal at 5:30pm. It’s all still intermittent fasting that has helped me shed close to 30 pounds in the first couple of months of doing this. I couldn’t be more pleased! But what about this idea of an extended period of fasting in an effort to boost my health?
When I interviewed Dr. Thomas Seyfried on my podcast in November 2009, he suggested people who want to prevent cancer should eat a calorie-restricted low-carb diet and considering doing at least one week-long fast annually. Of course, most people couldn’t (or more likely WOULDN’T!) do something like this for all the reasons I’ve already stated. But what would it be like to try it? Now that intermittent fasting seems to come more naturally to me probably because of the blood sugar control my current routine is providing me, perhaps I could give a total fasting from food for one week a try for myself to see how my body would respond. One of my readers recently did not just one, not just two, but THREE one-week fasts over the past year on the suggestion of his doctor regarding some prostate issues he was dealing with. He had strict guidelines to follow during the fast and noted that “after the first 72 hours it really is not that bad at all. You don’t really feel weak or anything like that.”
He told me he wanted to share “something profound” that he learned about himself through this fasting experience.
The way you experience yourself physically when you are fasting is practically identical to the way you experience yourself physically when you are eating. There is not much difference. The reason this is so important is that when you think you experience hunger while eating normally, that same experience of hunger is present when you are fasting.
I believe this is why people have so much trouble losing weight.
In other words the hunger sensations in fasting are the same as while eating normally. You then ask yourself how you can be hungry when you have eaten 3 hours ago when it is the same hunger sensations when you have not eaten in a week? Calling them hunger sensations is also not really the right word. They are more empty stomach sensations.
So, what we think is hunger is not really hunger when you eat normally and the impulse to eat no matter how much it makes you think you want to eat cannot be taken seriously.
WOW! Now that’s quite a lesson my reader learned from his fasting experience. If we can learn to view hunger in the right way, then we can be more resistant to the temptations that tend to inevitably befall so many of us who struggle with our weight. As my reader so succinctly put it, “fasting allows you to reclaim your hunger for what it is and it no longer dictates what you put in your mouth.” Now that’s a message I think we can all learn something from. Oh, and by the way, the series of one-week fasts was “tremendously successful” in treating those prostate issues he had, too. WOO HOO!
I don’t know when I’m going to try to go an entire week without any food at all, but I definitely want to give it a go. Of course, if I do that then I don’t think I’ll be doing my normal exercise that week. And I want to make sure I won’t need to record any podcasts or other activities where I’ll need to keep my mind and body fueled. So it looks like it might be in April or May before that happens. Anybody else willing to try their own one-week fast for the sake of your health? Lemme know if you do and what it was like for you.