08 April 2013
FASTING FOR HEALTH
When I was in my early 30s, I realized that I was overweight by about 10 lb. Of the two usual components of weight loss and overall health ~ diet and exercise ~ I focused on my diet. Specifically, I decided to try fasting. I would intake nothing but water and fruit juices, with the intent of cleansing the accumulated toxins from my body, and allowing my metabolism to burn off excess body fat.
It wasn't the most informed approach in the world, but it worked. I lost 30 lb. during several weeks of fasting. Predictably, when I went off the fast, I regained the weight over several months, because I went straight back to my former unhealthy eating habits, and did not incorporate a balanced exercise regimen into my days.
Over the years I've tried fasting more moderately, for 2-3 days at a time, and I always feel refreshed and cleansed afterward. It's not as difficult as you might think. After the first day or two, one ceases to obsess about hunger pangs, compensating with water and the reminder that the effort is worth it. And it is.
Last week on PBS I chanced to see the first of a three-part series narrated by Dr. Michael Mosley, a popular author and TV personality in the UK. This episode was called Eat, Fast and Live. In it, Dr. Mosley volunteered to be a human guinea pig as he explored the health benefits and side effects of several variations on fasting, ranging from the rigorous to the indulgent. Along the way he explained precisely what is going on in the body ~ how one's hormones, digestion, brain function, and predisposition to ailments like diabetes and high cholesterol are affected by fasting.
It was an eye-opening experience. At my current 5'9" and 140 lb., I do not need to lose weight to remain in my ideal weight and height range. But the notion of enhancing my overall health and prolonging my life through periodic moderate fasting is very appealing.
I'm looking forward to this week's episode, The Truth About Exercise. I've been an athlete for most of my adult life ~ kayaking, bicycling, karate, weight training, and home workouts ~ all of which have become harder to maintain with age and injuries. I want to learn more about the promise of new research which offers the benefits of the traditional two and a half hours (minimum) workout per week, but requiring far less time.