Why do good things always get ruined?
Fasting is booming. Google Trends indicates that interest in fasting has increased by over 400% since 2004. Both medical experts and self-proclaimed health gurus have jumped on the bandwagon and pretty much all of them praise the benefits of fasting.
The benefits of fasting are many fold, if you fast regularly, your insulin response will dramatically improve, your skin and hair will become stronger, you will leverage the power of a metabolic process called autophagy, and, above all, you will lose weight. Autophagy is a natural process that occurs as you observe a water fast, that usually kickstarts if fast for longer than 36 hours. As you fast your body clears out and replaces damaged cell parts with new ones. It has been linked to a long list of potential health benefits. For example, some research suggests that it could limit the development of conditions like cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease (Source: PMC National library of medicine). Although autophagy occurs constantly within your body, there are several ways to speed the process. These include fasting, exercising, or restricting your calorie intake (3Trusted Source).
Fasting in itself is not new. Most notably, fasting has played an important role in many religions for millennia. Following the Hindu religion, I regularly fasted, twice a month, limiting my intake of food, or following a water only fast for 24 hours. But the acceptance of fasting as a mainstream health hack is a relatively new development.
This, in itself, is a good thing. Obesity plagues much of the western world as we are literally eating ourselves to death. Fasting helps to prevent this. In fact, there are no real health concerns with thoughtful fasting that I know of — apart from the obvious, and that is – taking it too far!.
The real problem with fasting is in fact cultural.
More, more, more
Much of the western world, the one plagued by obesity, revolves around the concept of more. More equals better. More money is better, more work is better, more cars are better and more Belgian chocolates are better. In other words we’ve created a world in which food is so abundant
This drive to always want more plays a key role in the current explosion of cardiovascular disease, cancers and other diet-related deaths. More chocolate equals more fat and carbs, equals overweight. More availability equals around the clock eating, equals, again, overweight and obesity. Add to that bigger portions, all you can eat restaurants, discounts, and BOGOF offers and… you create a recipe for disaster.
But fasting does not address the underlying cause of our obesity problem: the never-ending yearning for more. And that’s why, from the corners of the internet, you can possibly see a new epidemic arising: the epidemic of obsessive fasting.
A thirty-day water fast is very extreme. Yet, if you go online, you will find plenty of people doing 3,5,10, 20 and 30-day water fasts, if not longer. What is most surprising is that, hardly any of these people are obese. In fact, some would not even be considered overweight and there are no real reasons why such people should fasting at all unless their goal is the regeneration of cells and a detox in the purest senses.
In general, prolonged water fasts are a last resort for morbidly obese people. Healthy people should only engage in fasts longer than 36 hours if they wish to fully leverage additional powers of fasting such as autophagy and T-cell production. Apart from that, it should be done under medical supervision, and the individual should be very aware of what they are doing, and why.
It is likely that many of these healthy people fasting for days on end have aimed their more-arrows at just another target. They’re not fully aware of the metabolic reasoning behind the longer fasts. Instead, their logic is: “If a 24 hour fast is good for you, a 48 hour fast must be better.” Take that a few steps further, and suddenly you have healthy people water fasting for weeks on end with the only goal being to go longer.
This is a problem because sooner or later there will be cases where prolonged fasts go wrong. Someone will get malnourished or run into other health problems. We only need one case to go badly. And when that happens, every form of fasting will be vilified.
Suddenly, you will have to defend why you follow an intermittent fasting schedule of 16:8 hours, which is perfectly fine in pretty much any case.
Streaks & Records
Another factor contributing to this problem is the rise of fasting apps: smartphone applications designed to help you fast. The apps can be really sophisticated and does far more than you actually need. Many app incorporate some forms of gamification. You can now go on a streak if you fast for multiple days in a row, and your fasting history shows an “all-time record”. These are subtle but very powerful and often harmful motivators to push people to go further. It challenges you to outdo yourself — fast more this month than last, push a little harder. With running, or lifting weights, that’s great. With fasting, to go further is not necessarily better. At some point, it is quite the opposite. That is why we need experts in this field to address these issues, and we need the makers of applications and tools to be really careful about the messages they send.
Fasting is a fantastic tool for becoming a better, healthier version of yourself. But, just like eating more protein does not endlessly improve how quickly you build muscle, fasting more and longer does not endlessly improve your health.
At some point, more is simply pointless, apart from breaking your own record or adding yet another checkmark to your streak.
If you would like to know more about the safe methods of fasting contact Kumud Gandhi – email@example.com
Written by Kumud Gandhi -Food Scientist, writter and broadcaster, Founder of The Cooking Academy
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Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.