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Fasting! How to lose weight, boost your brain, heal your body and live longer!

Life in the Fast Lane!


Intermittent fasting has become very popular recently, and for good reason. Unlike a fad diet that may help you lose weight temporarily and is hard to sustain, fasting has an incredible range of long-term health benefits. Along with aiding weight loss, boosting metabolism and brain function, blood sugar control, reducing inflammation and neurodegenerative disorders it can also lead to better heart health, blood pressure and cholesterol. It may even help in the fight against cancer, increase the success of treatments and delay ageing. You can understand why a tidal wave of science-backed research is being studied to support and prove these claims.


With all the confusing and sometimes conflicting information out there, it can be confusing to know where to start. Is fasting right for you? If so, what type of fasting should you try, and for how long? Before you embark on any fasting journey, it’s important to understand what happens to your body when you fast and what kind of fast might be best for you and your body.


Intermittent Fasting Empty Plate Setting Clock

What is Fasting?

Fasting is simply not eating for a certain period and consuming zero calories. Various ancient cultures and religions have practised fasting in various forms for centuries, and its purposes can range from spiritual and religious observations to health-related goals.


Our bodies were designed for periods of fasting to perform essential maintenance and healing, but the way we eat today is very different from that of our ancestors. Hunter-gatherers would go for long periods without food but still needed fuel to stay alert and active to hunt or gather food. So, during the periods without food, the body would burn stored fat for energy. This evolutionary process is written in our DNA, enabling our bodies to switch between feasting and fasting whilst still providing us with energy. This is called metabolic switching and is what happens when you fast. If your body runs out of glucose for fuel, it switches to stored fat for energy and then back to glucose as soon as it receives it.


With today’s food availability, our bodies mostly digest food from the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed. For various historical reasons over the centuries, we've become conditioned to eating three meals daily. However, we now live more sedentary lifestyles and do less manual labour than we did in the 19th Century. Therefore, we generally need fewer calories than we did back then.


As it turns out, the slogan ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ was nothing more than a marketing slogan coined in the 19th century by James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented breakfast cereal. Research and history show us that skipping breakfast is not harmful to your health at all. The word breakfast means to ‘break your fast’ and does not refer to a time of day but to the first meal you eat after you’ve fasted while sleeping overnight.


Being able to eat when we want to, regardless of how hungry we might feel, has been more detrimental than helpful to our health. We eat for many reasons, and not always because we are hungry or our bodies need energy. Many of us now eat when we’re tired, bored, stressed, sad, lonely, to celebrate, or simply because of the time of day. Our bodies were not designed to eat for comfort or pleasure which can result in illness and excess weight. Combined with the poor nutritional profile of our over cultivated soil and processed foods, it is a major contributor to the global health crisis of chronic disease and obesity.


Fasting for Health and Healing

Fasting has been used therapeutically since at least the 5th century BC when Greek physician Hippocrates recommended abstinence from food or drink for patients who exhibited certain symptoms of illness. Animals instinctively know that fasting accelerates healing when they are sick and often don’t eat, just drinking water to stay hydrated, allowing their bodies to divert all their energy to healing.


Fasting creates an optimal environment for the body's healing processes, allowing the body to heal itself. Optimal health is the body's natural state, and chronic diseases often result from lifestyle stressors. Fasting provides respite from these stressors, enabling the body to repair and heal.


What Does Fasting Do To Your Body?

When deprived of food and calories, the body looks for other ways to generate energy and uses its glucose stores, called glycogen. When the glycogen has been depleted, the body’s metabolism changes and switches to using fatty acids from stored fat. When your body has switched from burning glycogen to burning fat, it begins producing ketones, also referred to as your body is in ketosis. Once your body is in ketosis, the benefits of fasting begin. The benefits vary depending on how you are fasting and for how many hours.


Different Types of Fasting

Although there are many different ways to fast, the three main types are intermittent, juice, and water fasting. All provide various benefits depending on the length of time you’re fasting. A pre-fast and post-fast diet is important to allow your body to adjust gradually and prevent issues or side effects on either side of a fast. It also helps accelerate and retain the health benefits.


  1. Intermittent Fasting

The easiest and most popular type of fasting involves choosing an eating window over a 24-hour period. A popular one to start with is 16/8. 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour eating window, for example, eating dinner at 7.30, finishing at 8 pm, then eating again the next day at 12 pm. You can adjust the times to suit your lifestyle with the same eating window. You can increase your fasting window gradually over time and also choose to fast as part of your everyday lifestyle or just certain days of the week. It doesn’t have to be every day. This is very popular as it’s easy to sustain and can be adjusted to fit around your schedule.


  1. Juice Fasting

Juice fasting is more of a cleanse than a fast, as you will consume calories and won’t get the benefits of a zero-calorie fast. However, you will give your body a much-appreciated flush of nutrients and give your digestive system a rest. It is more beneficial to stick to green vegetable juices, as the sugar in fruit will spike your glucose levels. Juice fasting can also fit around your lifestyle and can be done for just one day or continue for consecutive days. It can be hard when you’re surrounded by food, smells, habits and everyday eating triggers, but the results are worth it. Juice fasting retreats are a great way to lose weight and kick start or sustain your health journey. It’s easier away from temptation, and most retreats offer support and other holistic therapies like yoga and meditation to complement your juice fast and reset your body and mind.


3.  Water Fasting

Water fasting is extended fasting periods with zero calories and only drinking water often used for weight loss, longevity and various health conditions.


An incredible health benefit of water fasting is called autophagy which comes from Greek words meaning ‘self eating’. This is an evolutionary self-preservation process where the body removes damaged or dysfunctional cell parts and recycles other parts for cellular repair. It is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells to regenerate new healthy cells. Most research suggests it can take around 24-48 hrs and can help with various conditions, including metabolic and neurodegenerative conditions, cancers and infectious diseases.


Autophagy triggers stem cell-based regeneration. MIT research shows that intestinal stem cells begin to repair within 24 hours. In a study published by the University of California, it was shown that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage, like the effects of chemotherapy but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.


It’s important to prepare mentally and physically for a water fast. Meditation, yoga, journaling, reading positive and healthy books, listening to calming music and walks in nature can all help to support your fast. You should not attempt any strenuous activities or exercise or begin a fast when you’re unwell or very tired.


Water fasting for longer than 24 hrs should not be undertaken without the guidance, supervision and support of a professional retreat, healthcare professional or an experienced Health Coach.


Conclusion

Fasting is a powerful tool with deep roots in human history and has many proven healing and health benefits. Research and studies are continually being done to explore the many ways that fasting can help us live healthier, longer lives.

With knowledge, support, guidance and a healthy understanding of your body and health, fasting can be a great addition to your lifestyle and improve your health.


Fasting is not suitable if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under the age of 18, over 75, have an eating disorder, are underweight or have type 1 diabetes. If you’re taking medication for blood pressure or heart disease, you should first get advice from your doctor.


To read an in-depth beginner's guide to fasting by best-selling author and health expert Dr Mindy Peltz, click here.


Fasting isn’t one size fits all, and you’re more likely to succeed with guidance, advice and support to reap the long-term health benefits. If you’d like to discuss beginning a fast or incorporating intermittent fasting into your life, please contact KPH Coaching.


Health and Mindset Coaching can help you make lifestyle and habit changes that unlock your health, wealth and happiness potential. Using personalised strategies and scientifically proven tools to improve your health, focus, productivity, resilience, stress management and life balance.


Article - Fasting! How to lose weight, boost your brain, heal your body and live longer!

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