The media is suddenly obsessed with fasting. On one hand, this is a good thing. The right kind of fasting can be a tremendously powerful tool for rejuvenation, weightloss, restoring insulin sensitivity, promoting human growth hormone—the anti-aging hormone—and lots of other things. Fasting can clear your mind and body of what is preventing you from living your life on top form. What worries me is the way so many wild fasting practices have turned up recently. One day it’s a cure-all for everybody. The next it leads people to binge on junk foods. So what is all the buzz about?
Fasting is a powerful tool. But it needs to be taken seriously, fully understood and carefully followed. In recent months I have had a number of people join our Cura Romana Journey or Inner Circle Gold on line programs who were in trouble after their metabolism became all screwed up by their having tried to follow one of the current fast-yourself-slim diets. This is a sad state of affairs. More unbiased information about fasting, its blessings and its drawbacks needs to be forthcoming.
MY LIFE IN FASTING
When it comes to fasting of all kinds I’d wager there are few who have researched and experimented with it as long as I have. I was introduced to the ancient tradition of fasting in my mid-twenties when I had been unwell for many years, and it changed my life. I first wrote about intermittent fasting more than thirty years ago in The Joy of Beauty. I’ve continued to research and write about it in many other books since. I became fascinated by the profound healing of body, mind and spirit that takes place when people fast wisely. I have done so many kinds of fasts—juice fasts, water fasts, fasts using nothing but free-form amino acids, and intermittent fasts. I’ve just about tried them all. I even did a 40 day fast on water then spent the last five days of it skiing at St Moritz.
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS
I remember well the healing physical effects of carrying out my very first fast. My head became clearer and clearer. After the first few days my vision was so sharpened it was as if I were looking at the world through a crystal glass. It’s impossible to describe the changes that took place in my thinking and my emotions during the fast.
I can only say that the world looked different. I realized that there was so much beauty around me which I had continued to miss. Fasting made me stop and think, stop and feel. I found delight in the simplest of things—just sitting under a tree, washing vegetables, or combing my hair. Everything seemed important. I found I wanted to do everything with real awareness. I also gained a sense of distance from my own problems, enabling me to make the decisions facing me calmly and quietly. As a result, since then, whenever I feel myself hung-up over something or whenever I sense I’m not seeing things clearly, I will quietly fast—often just for a day or two until I feel clear again. To some people this may seem an eccentricity, but not, I believe, to anyone who has actually tried fasting.
DAYS ON DAYS OFF
The buzz now, however, is intermittent fasting. This form of fasting has many faces. Some are better than others. The most lauded at the moment is where you spend two or more days a week drinking water while during the rest of the week you eat “normally” either with or without a very low calorie diet for the purpose of losing weight.
The right kind of fast, while eating the right kind of foods, is indeed capable of facilitating weight loss provided you are capable of following it religiously for several weeks, while your body shifts from a glucose-based metabolism to a fat-based metabolism. But, even with the best will in the world, very few people can carry out this exacting procedure for long enough to allow this important metabolic transformation to take place. The second problem with days-on-days-off fasting is that it tends to precipitate binge eating during eating days. Few people understand that if you want to benefit from the experience you must rigorously fast when you are meant to be fasting and avoid binge eating on the days when you do eat. It’s essential, too, that you alter the kind of foods you eat if you want good results both in terms of weight loss and enhanced health for the future.
MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE
The other way to practice intermittent fasting works much better. It is a lot easier to carry out and protects your body from unnecessary strain. Here’s how it works: Instead of the day-on-day-off practice, commit yourself to eating only during a specific window of time—say 8 hours— each and every day. This is convenient and do-able for almost anybody, and it protects you from bingeing. You do all your eating between, say, 11am and 7pm and have no food or drinks except clean water and herb teas in between. For example, you skip breakfast and make lunch your first meal of the day, and you don’t eat anything after 7pm that evening.
How does it all work? It takes from six to eight hours for your body to burn stored glycogen in your tissues after eating carbohydrate foods. Once this happens, your system starts to turn towards fat as its primary fuel. After a few weeks of this time-restricted fasting, food cravings that may have dogged you for eons are likely to have disappeared. (And you can take organic coconut oil which is rich in short-chain fatty acids which are quickly broken down to deal with any food cravings.) But you absolutely must be choosy about the foods you eat during the hours that you are eating. Download my little book Healthy and Lean For Life to learn more about what kind of foods protect from weight gain, foster natural weight loss and create powerful protection from degenerative diseases. It is free on the home page of www.curaromana.com in the lower right-hand corner.
SPONTANEOUS INTERMITTENT FASTING
So natural a procedure is fasting that in some cases it can happen spontaneously. By the time most Cura Romana participants have completed 24 days on the Essential Spray+Food Plan part of their program, and are ready to move into Consolidation, they are already fasting intermittently. At this point in their program the body has been taken through a process of deep cleansing. Food cravings have long since disappeared. Control centers for appetite, emotions, and hormones are functioning well so their food preferences are now excellent. Quite spontaneously most participants choose to skip breakfast. They say they love the vital, empty feel this brings them. They don’t need to be taught how to do intermittent fasting, they just do it. What has happened to them is that their bodies have already become adapted to burning fat instead of glucose for energy. Unnatural hunger is gone and sugar addictions no longer exist.
The benefits of this kind of intermittent fasting are many. The procedure of incorporating this practice into your life becomes easy and natural. It is the start of a new way of living and eating that helps protect us from degenerative conditions long into the future. Here are just a few of the benefits it brings:
- Insulin sensitivity increases. So does the efficiency of mitochondrial energy, helping to slow aging and disease.
- Stress resistance improves dramatically.
- Oxidative stress diminishes since the body’s proteins, nucleic acids and lipids are protected from much free radical damage.
Next week we can delve further into fasting—intermittent and otherwise. We’ll look in greater depths at the powerful therapeutic potentials it can have for weight loss, metabolic improvements, even as an effective treatment for mental and emotional disorders. We’ll examine its spiritual dimensions as well as its advantages and disadvantages. Then we’ll clarify who should and who should not fast. See you then.