Fasting and longevity part 1.
A health and nutrition post.
My LCHF/Keto discussion group is here : https://www.facebook.com/groups/524455598277075
Blog time : it’s January 2021 and as you read this it is highly likely that iv’e just finished my first extended fast : something that i was talking about and planning back in December last year. If it worked out that way and i did indeed do a longer fast than iv’e done before (around 64 hours) then i’ll most likely have talked about the experience in my small Keto diet group : ‘Totally Open Minded Keto’.
This time last year i was just beginning to experiment with nutritional ketosis having first done some simple exclusion of certain food types from my diet…..in fact i pretty much stopped eating my standard diet and went full retard car crash keto. At first i had very little idea about what to eat so for the first few weeks i seemed to be living on bacon, eggs and chicken and a bit of butter and cheese when i had the eggs and bacon as omelette. A few weeks into on and off dietary ketosis and i discovered that my new natural eating pattern was to have an early coffee but to not then have a breakfast meal until about 10 in the morning, maybe have some kind of snack, usually a piece of chicken, a few hours later and then have a main meal around 6 in the evening. Without consciously doing so i had dropped into the dietary habit of intermittent fasting (IF) and found it a useful daily routine.
Later last year, having discovered that i can easily cope with longer periods without eating i began to experiment with longer fasts and by the end of the year had a regular routine of starting the week with a 36 to 40+ hour fast…..i must say though that it took me a few months of that to stop making some basic errors : in my case having too much milk or cream in my regular coffee consumption. I decided in December , after having done a lot more study into longer term fasts, to try a longer one myself as it seems that the first couple of days are said to be the hardest anyway.
Fasting, my experience.
I find it strange that many people i know find the idea of fasting almost intolerably extreme and in conversation use the term ‘starving‘ instead of fasting and that does seem to be a common view : that someone who is fasting is starving themselves and suddenly we are into the realm of self destructive behaviours like anorexia or forced starvation as in appalling historical events like the holodomor. *
The opposite side is that fasting has a long religious/spiritual, cultural and medical application and that i for one find fasting a lot less unpleasant than for example ‘eating less’…..by which i mean reducing calories : when i do that as a dietary strategy i usually experience hunger and food cravings while in a fast i don’t experience those negative effects.
Today, as i write, i’m about 42 hours into a moderate term fast , i have been out for a couple of hours walk up hill and down dale, done some press-ups and a few hours work in the garden. I feel fine and i’m only just starting to think about food because i plan to eat my break-fast meal in a few hours time. Mostly during a fast i would describe my internal state as being : cool empty clear lucid calm and focused, i seem to think more clearly, have better concentration for longer periods, i am less likely to idly surf the internet rather than actually research something and my writing/blogging is better (at least by my own standards). On the slight downside i can feel a bit cold , especially peripherally and i note that my dream state can be a bit odd : anything from highly detailed and weird to extremely funny and entertaining.
My practical technique in case you are wondering, is to have a normal meal at 6pm on day 0 (usually Sunday) and then stop eating, then what i do now is to mainly have just black coffee, water and more recently i have a teaspoon of Bovril made up as a hot drink in the evening. My goal is to have 2 food-less nights and most of 2 days food less as well. Usually now i tend to break my fast at around 46 hours….evening mealtime on day 2, or go a third night and have a break-fast meal on the morning of day 3.
Fasting…..the cultural experience.
With this post i want to introduce another new aspect into my posts and that being an almost real-time talk about the subject that i’m trying to deal with, here goes :
My daily routine is : wake up, have an early coffee in bed, then do my morning admin (check Emails , social media posts that i’m following) and then often quickly start or add to, posts that i’m working on : i most often wake up with some new ideas about my current or future posts. Then, i usually leave the house for a couple of hours solid walking and that’s the crucial time when i think about and do most of the mental work that goes towards producing content. Once i’m home again that’s when i have my break-fast and after that i set-to with the day’s writing work….this week for example my schedule/plan is to write and edit 4 new blog posts : that’s 2 weeks of output. The important point is that i seem to naturally set myself a topic or two to think about while i’m walking and usually come home with either material ready to go or lines of enquiry to follow up on : the thinking time can be quite odd in that it seems to need my maximum scope of creativity and open-mindedness….i often need to go off on strange tangents for example.
This morning for example i was thinking about fasting first and particularly it’s religious and cultural aspects , and what i started out with was the sheer happenstance that i grew up in one kind of community with almost zero religious practices other than attending chapel and yet another boy of the same age but in a different place and time would maybe come from the same long-background traditions and yet have totally different expected practices. In my case i seem to have grown up in a mainly post christian tradition that had no specific dietary requirements or observances, i don’t , by the way, include any of the cultural dietary practices like the Christmas turkey which to be blunt has f**k- all to do with not only Christmas but neither does it have anything to do with a local pre-christian practice either.
It wasn’t until i started my nursing training that i regularly mixed with a group of my fellow students who were practicing Roman Catholics and found that these rather nice girls had some very strange rules about what they could eat or not and when they couldn’t eat….or not. Later on and having become a devout atheist (briefly) i might have joked that i celebrate the feast of the flying spaghetti monster a la Dawkins except that i now take ancient practices, belief’s and observances because they might just be based on some long time of acquired knowledge…..that fasting might for example have been a very good dietary practice early on in the human exposure to agriculture and thus high carbohydrate foods : check out those fat and toothless early Egyptians if you have time !.
So, in today’s real-time thinking about a subject that i conclude that nearly of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, many of the Orthodox and eastern religions too (except Sikhism) all have some form of dietary observances such as fasts, longer or shorter and/or some kind of food restriction or abstention at various times and usually for religious reasons : it’s harder for example to find a ‘reason to act thus’ in those traditions (it’s just the rules) , except in the case of Buddhism when there are clear references to practices such as Vinaya in which the Buddha says that these things are ‘good’ for our health and certainly an aid towards clarity and lucid thinking.
Like i say, i can only posit a conjecture that maybe some dietary observances are practices that go back so far that they might have had a basis in some knowledge about health and disease although it has to be said that most of the customary ones relate to directly religious beliefs…..time to leave that one alone for today methinks.
Medical and physiological aspects of dieting.
Putting all of the above aside for now lets dive into the hard science of what happens during fasting and why various forms of fasting might be better or worse in real terms for our health…..this will have to be in a follow up post because this one went way over what i had planned.
Until next time.
*The Holodomor , literally to ‘kill by starvation’…. in case you haven’t come across it before……the enforced starvation/genocide of some 3 to 7.5 million (estimated) Ukrainians by the Soviet authorities between 1932 and 1933.