Why I Said “No” To Food For 24 Hours
Of all the fitness “trends” this is the one I never thought I’d do.
Willingly choosing not to eat for an extended period of time.
I remember hearing about intermittent fasting about a year ago and I let it go in my mind. I’d never do it. Mostly, because I didn’t trust myself to do it. Anyone who knows me knows I have a tendency to graze and snack. I used to eat about eight times a day. I’ve reduced that now to 3-5, but that’s still plenty.
Also, it sounded unhealthy! Won’t my metabolism slow down? Is this just a fast track to disordered eating patterns? If calories in/calories out is really the only way to gauge if you’re losing or gaining weight, why does it matter what window of time you’re eating?
Well, after researching for over a year, the jury was still out for me. There’s a lot out there in the health sphere on whether or not it’s good for you. Especially for women. But it lingered in the back of my mind. I was curious about what would it do for me. Could I even resist food for 24 hours at all?
I decided the only way I would know for sure was to do it for myself.
So about a week ago, I bit the bullet. Well to be more literal: I didn’t bite anything. For about 24 hours.
I already mentioned it was a self-experiment to see, number one, if if I could do it, and number two, what it would do to my body. But there are plenty of studies that show the health benefits. First and foremost, it’s actually good for gut health. Not eating might be a stress on your body at first, but it does give your gut a break on digestion. Inflammation is shown to be reduced, which is a sign of healthy systems in the body.
Also, although I feared it would harm my relationship with food, I was curious to see if it might actually improve it. I’m one to eat simply because I want the food, not necessarily because I’m hungry. I wanted to learn how to appreciate meal times and not just eat at noon every day out of habit (regardless of my hunger levels). I wanted to feel real hunger signals to know the difference between snacking out of boredom, and snacking out of hunger. This led to a huge practice in mindfulness. If I wasn’t eating at all, I couldn’t possibly mindlessly eat. I had to be fully mindful and aware of what I was doing to my body for 24 hours, to ensure I wasn’t over-exerting myself and to feel how my body was reacting to the fast.
Fasting is also shown to improve overall health. This includes immune system health, longevity, and your hormone balance. Fasting is both cultural and ancestral. Other cultures do it all the time. You may have family who lives in different countries, or practice different religions, that practice fasting. It is normal and cultural. Also, our ancestors (think Paleo, ancestral health) did it because they had to, when they didn’t have readily accessible food.
In general, Americans today over-consume calories greatly. It might be good for us every once in a while to see how our bodies react to low-to-no calories for a little while. Our bodies are meant to go through periods of stress and adaptation – that is how we grow.
As far as hormones go, this is meant to give some of your systems a break while others take over. Insulin gets reset and HGH production increases. Your body goes from using glucose (sugar) to burn for fuel to your own fat stores. Your body starts to produce ketones for energy instead of relying on sugar.
This is hard for a lot of people because of the standard American diet – most people have trained their bodies to only run on sugar. They never let their fat stores activate when they’re in need of energy. This is why you might feel light headed if you don’t eat for a while – it’s not normal, or a good sign of a healthy hormonal balance for that to happen to you. Again, while this is an initial stress on your body, our bodies know what to do and how to handle it. We are meant to go into this fat-burning mode when needed.
NOT Reasons Why:
Weight loss, calorie restriction, or pure torture. I was not looking for any of these things when I chose to do this. That’s all there is to it.
What I Learned
So, What Now?
I waited a few weeks to write this to see how it would affect me or make me feel, mentally and physically.
Now, I realize that one fast won’t do much physically. The most fat loss you can really have within 24 hours is about a half a pound, so my body didn’t change drastically. My inflammation was lower for a while, but the second I put sugar back in my diet, that reverted back to normal. Who knows how one fast affected my immunity or longevity – not that much I imagine. It’s meant to be practiced regularly to achieve benefits.
I’ve practiced a few 12-hour fasts since then, but those aren’t too difficult or make as large of changes for me. Soon, I’ll probably attempt an 18 hour fasting protocol (with an 8 hour feeding window) multiple times within a week to see how that goes. I might try that with bulletproof coffee to experiment with how it affects me. Or, I’ll try another 24 hour long fast again. We’ll see.
But the most important thing I have moving forward post-fast is the mental affects it had. I know now more than ever that this is my body and my choices are my own. I am empowered to do what’s right for me at all times. Only I can stand in my own way. And I refuse to let myself do that anymore.