Intermittent fasting: I am in the 16:8 camp. Which camp are you in?
These days, I can’t open a health magazine or any other Complete Idiot’s Guide that vows eternal longevity without being bombarded with the two same words that I could swear, have started to radiate a mystical aura…Intermittent Fasting! Can you see the blue halo circling the letters? Nor can I, I was just testing if I have secured your undivided attention!
Before I dim the lights and allow your eyes...or in this case your body to pre-adjust to hunger pains and even possibly hellish withdrawal and detox symptoms that will unavoidably initially come with adopting intermittent fasting as your new lifestyle, I’d like to fast-forward your journey down the rabbit hole for you to see if the promised fountain of youth and a ratio of glial cells (think of it as a smarter brain ‘glue’) to neurons that Einstein would rival, really is luring at you on the other side!
But first thing first, let me clarify what is intermittent fasting? It is a term coined by the research world that refers to an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. The variations include fasting all day, every other day, every third day, twice per week, once per week, or once every other week. However, in our world of 24h convenience stores, fast food, on-demand delivery, ready-made foods, opting to fast can seem a little eccentric (to put it mildly). We live in a culture of abundance, where most of us are used to fully stocked shelves in over sized supermarkets. As a result, we have become gluttons and our motto is ‘eat, eat and eat more’!
However, if you go back to our ancestors, few generations back (we are only talking 2.6 million years ago in case you are wondering…so given that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, this is just yesterday!), they performed extended fasts whenever food was unavailable, and feasted only when they could procure enough food to eat. So believe it or not, from an evolutionary point of view, gorging on artery clogging foods 3 times a day (and all day long for many!) is actually ‘abnormal’.
Before I carry on, let me make a confession… I have secretly followed this diet on and off for years but have committed the ultimate sin of never discussing it with my clients…here you go I said it! And to my absolute delight, the sky has not fallen and the mountains have not crumble! Now, before you start-pointing fingers let me explain…until recently, there were hardly any evidence to support the health benefits of intermittent fasting (unless you are a rodent, that is…) and telling people to merrily skip breakfast and lunch, (don’t look so surprised…this is what happens when you fast for 16hours!) was like committing dietary heresy. The approach was deemed as extreme and dangerous by all the wellness gurus and was consequently thrown in one corner by the back door to the scullery and laid on the floor next to the welly boots until now!
However, beliefs have changed and intermittent fasting is now fast moving into fad territory. And as with any fad diets come the false promises of unrealistic weight loss results, reversing the ageing process, growing older with the mental accuracy of Johann Goethe and basically becoming bionic! So you are probably all wondering (and quite right to…) what is the truth about this new diet trend? Is there legitimate science to back it up? I have to admit, at first sight, the all ‘hooha’ has got a nice ‘media-finds-a-loophole’ feel to it. But before you all draw conclusions, let me give you the low down by starting with the good news…”yes”, there is evidence to support the health benefits of fasting.
Ensue the not so good news…most of the research has been conducted on animals not humans! With all that said, technically we are animals (We are so let’s get over ourselves here!) and even though we may appear different, at a physiological and anatomical level we are remarkably similar. Now is the time to take a deep breath in and remind ourselves that we really do happen to be smarter and that there is an irrefutable reason for it, which has been identified by some clever scientists. If you take the example of the chimps, whom by the way are practically our second cousins (we share 98% of our DNA so surely that must count for something!), they seem to be at a slight disadvantage in terms of brain development.
Unlike them, us humans have the amazing ability to experience a fast establishment of connectivity between brain cells in the first two years of life, which would explain our ‘superior’ intelligence. Unfortunately for some, we are not all provided with intellectual giftedness though! Donald Trump, the older style-savvy Kardashian sister or Francois Hollande for those of you who are bored enough to follow French politics are few of the ones that have been sorely left out! So if we are so remarkably similar to Ceasar (think planet of the apes!) and Remy (we all remember the super cute rat chef in the movie Ratatouille! We share 99% of our DNA with those lovely critters, making them our first cousins in the genealogy tree!), the results are well worth paying attention to. There is indeed a large body of research (some conducted on humans) that suggests fasting can have health benefits: it helps to normalise blood glucose, it is a great stimulus to human growth hormone secretion (this in turn stimulates fat burning and muscle gain), it induces various cellular repair processes such as removing waste products from cells, it reduces oxidative stress, one of the major causes of disease and aging, it preserves learning and memory functioning etc.
My take on all of this? In E. B. White’s famous novel Charlotte’s Web, a wise old sheep advises the gluttonous rat Templeton that he would live longer if he ate less. Well, it turns out that that the advice might hold water! If we look at ourselves for a second, most of us should admit to having a little bit of the big barn rat in us. Think about it…many of us eat to the point that our bellies are too large, we pile on the pounds, end up using ‘fat talk’ to seek reassurance from friends and we sadly end up inflicting chronic illness on ourselves brought on by poor diet and exercise habits.
Ahhhh if only we could claim the benefits of intermittent fasting without being hungry all the time! No such luck! So now it is only a question of will power and acting!
Interested to make the jump and start exploring this new way of living? You can order the Wellness Fingerprint guide to intermittent fasting and/or book a one on one consultation. Together we will agree on your health goals and work on a realistic programme for you to follow.