Whenever I discuss my weight loss approach with interested folks, there is that dreadful moment that comes after we go over sugar/starch replacements and fermented foods. These two topics are usually received with curiosity and enthusiasm. Then we touch on the topic of intermittent fasting, and almost invariably doubt and anxiety appear. “Fasting? Isn’t it too radical? Can I fast?”
Well, about half of Earth population does, across all continents and nations. Fasting, in various forms, is a part of most customs, traditions, and religions, throughout the history and in modern times. Our pattern of eating three times a day with a few snacks in-between is a relatively recent development (I am tempted to add “and look where it got us,” but this is probably just a part of the problem with our today’s way of eating). Also, under the program described in The Time Machine Diet, you don’t spend any single day without food. This way, it’s a casual modification to the way you eat rather than a major undertaking requiring huge intestinal fortitude. On top of that, it’s incredibly flexible; you can adjust it to match your lifestyle and circumstances, instead of attempting to squeeze your life into a rigid schedule of another fad diet.
As I was gathering links and references to send as a follow-up to this kind of discussions, I saved some quotes from a few articles by Dr. Jason Fung. So, here are a few quotes from those articles that summarize the topic perfectly:
Fasting is one of the most ancient and widespread healing traditions in the world. Hippocrates of Cos (c 460 – c370 BC) is widely considered the father of modern medicine. Among the treatments that he prescribed and championed was the practice of fasting, and the consumption of apple cider vinegar. Hippocrates wrote, “To eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness”. The ancient Greek writer and historian Plutarch (cAD46 – c AD 120) also echoed these sentiments. He wrote, “Instead of using medicine, better fast today”. Ancient Greek thinkers Plato and his student Aristotle were also staunch supporters of fasting…
Other intellectual giants were also great proponents of fasting. Philip Paracelsus, the founder of toxicology and one of three fathers of modern Western medicine (along with Hippocrates and Galen) wrote, “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within”. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), one of America’s founding fathers and renowned for wide knowledge in many areas once wrote of fasting “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting”.
Fasting for spiritual purposes is widely practiced, and remains part of virtually every major religion in the world… In Buddhism, food is often consumed only in the morning, and followers fast from noon until the next morning daily. In addition to this, there may be various water-only fasts for days or weeks on end. Greek Orthodox Christians may follow various fasts over 180-200 days of the year. Dr. Ancel Keys often considered Crete the poster child of the healthy Mediterranean diet. However, there was a critically important factor that he completely dismissed. Most of the population of Crete followed the Greek Orthodox tradition of fasting.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. The prophet Muhammad also encouraged fasting on Mondays and Thursdays of every week…
So fasting is truly an idea that has withstood the test of time.
We believe that we cannot fast by ourselves, without help. That we are too weak-willed. That it is too hard. That we will all likely fail without help. What is disturbing is that this assessment is made before anybody has even tried to fast.
Fasting? Are you crazy?
People say this to me all the time. “I can’t fast for 1 day”. So I ask them, “How do you know? Have you tried it?” To which they answer, “No, I just know that I can’t”. WTF?? How do you know that you cannot fast if you have never tried it. In fact, it is clear that almost everybody can fast. There are literally millions of people around the world who fast for religious purposes on a regular basis. It is part of virtually every major religion in the world. Like anything else, doing it more often makes it easier. But to simply give up without even trying? That’s just wrong.
Here is the biggest advantage of all. Fasting can be added to any diet. That is because fasting is not something you do, but something you do not do. It is subtraction rather than addition.
You don’t eat meat? You can still fast.
You don’t eat wheat? You can still fast.
You have a nut allergy? You can still fast.
You don’t have time? You can still fast.
You don’t have money? You can still fast.
You are travelling all the time? You can still fast.
You don’t cook? You can still fast.
You are 80 years old? You can still fast.
You have problems with chewing or swallowing? You can still fast.
What could possibly be simpler?
I picked bits and pieces pertinent to the topic of this post. All these articles have more great content in them, so give them a read when preparing for your fast.
With all the “you can fast” items listed above, let’s add a warning about when you shouldn’t, at least not without your doc’s permission and supervision: Type 1 Diabetes, insulin-dependent, serious medical condition, eating disorder, being underweight, pregnancy, breastfeeding. Let common sense prevail.