If you struggle with weight-loss and you've tried, without success to break through that tough, mysterious weight-loss plateau you've come up against, it's time to adopt and benefit from the power of fasting.
The discipline of fasting is nothing new. It has been around for thousands of years and honoured in many religions and traditions as a major contributing factor to overall health.
Sadly, due to many modern misconceptions about this ancient practice/discipline such as: "fasting slows the metabolism", "it makes you gain fat" and even extremes that say "it would put your life in danger," many are not yet aware of the power it wields in our eternal quest for personal and permanent. weight loss.
Although fasting is a critical player when it comes to achieving and sustaining weight-loss, it is important to understand that it is not now, nor has it ever been on the same level as dietary starvation.
Dietary starvation is an act of deprivation – when we actively deprive our bodies of major nutrients believing it the quickest route to weight-loss. This only weakens us physically and mentally and causes anaemia of the blood and lack of concentration, along with lethargy and fatigue.
Fasting, on the other hand, isn't about not eating, as starvation diets would suggest, but about eating the right foods at the right time. This ancient, primal discipline has morphed into more modern interpretation as "intermittent fasting" – a current popular trend adopted by health and weight-conscious people.
It is a whole different approach that produces radically different results than starvation diets.
Here's a few major reasons to consider intermittent fasting as a major contributing partner to breaking through weight loss resistance plateaus and as a major benefit to overall health and well-being:
First benefit – weight loss
All those who struggle with their weight can benefit greatly from the discipline of fasting. It is, without doubt, one of the most powerful and effective tools for reversing insulin resistance and its resultant stubborn weight loss.
The reality is, the body burns one of two fuel sources for energy: sugars or fats but cannot burn both fuels simultaneously. It's an either/or situation and the body always chooses the path of least resistance. Since sugars burn easier than fat, it is the fuel of choice when readily available.
Armed with this knowledge, it is obvious that if our goal is to burn fat, we need to eliminate burning sugar.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our next meal (that converts to sugar) comes around before our bodies have had a chance to burn up the current sugar supplies.
This imbalance messes with the hormones, causes water retention, leads to weight gain and leaves the body stuck in sugar burning mode.
Second benefit – increased insulin sensitivity
Type 2 diabetes is a worldwide issue that is the result of the body adapting to too much sugar consumption.
Insulin is the hormone used to transport sugar from the blood to the cells. When we consume too many foods that convert to sugar easily, the body must increase insulin levels to deal with this excess sugar.
This affects the pancreas making it pump out greater and greater amounts of insulin in order to have the same health effect. Over time, this causes the cells to eventually become resistant to insulin.
On the flip side, fasting allows the body to use up all the stores of sugar (glycogen) in the body. Therefore, when we're not actively eating, insulin levels slowly drop.
This reduction of insulin gives the cells a much-needed break and improves resistance. Done consistently overtime, this dramatically improves cellular sensitivity.
Third benefit – prevention
Fasting is a preventive tool that helps to clean house, and in this case, the house we're talking about is our cells.
Cancer is a mutation of genes and although we are not yet sure of the definitive effects that fasting has on this dreaded disease, we do know that clean cells are healthy cells and fasting produces clean cells.
Just as old clothes clog our closets of precious space, old damaged and mutated cells do the same in our body and open the door for disease. Left unchecked, mutated cells can turn into dreaded, cancer cells.
If that's not enough to get your attention, many medical professionals also propose that in the early stages, cancer cells thrive on and feed off sugar.
Fasting stimulates our repair genes to go to work filtering through and separating out the bad cells from the good ones. It is the preventive tool that gives our body a much-needed break from damaging insulin spikes and excess sugar in the bloodstream.
Without a constant food source, a growing cancer cell cannot thrive.
Fasting is also a major contributor in the war against heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are strong predictors of heart disease and you guessed it – fasting improves both.
Fasting makes us brainier by increasing BDNF – Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, an aide to cognitive related issues. BDNF signals the development, growth and maturity of new neurons while protecting those that already exist. It rids the brain of damaged cells.
Fasting forces our body to tap into fat stores for energy. It breaks down fat into ketone bodies as a fuel source. The brain requires fat to function and ketone is our brain's preferred source of energy.
When in a fasted state, the body doesn't have recently consumed food to use as energy and turns to the fat stored in the body to burn as its energy/fuel source. The result is weight-loss.
Fasting is a tried and true, readily and equally available solution for most health issues, weight resistance being just one of them. Eliminating sugar highs and lows and tapping into fat as a more sustainable fuel allows us to be more productive for longer stretches of time.
According to the famous Sufi poet Rumi: "Fasting is the first principle of medicine."
Through mental meditation we cleanse and clear our minds, through dietary fasting, we cleanse and clear our bodies.
Although there is no exact formula for fasting, intermittent fasting can be done a few different ways with success. Some people experience success with 20-24-hour fasts while others prefer shorter four, six, or eight-hour eating windows.
Fasting is personal. Getting acquainted with and knowing our body is the key to understanding how long we can each personally tolerate hunger and experience the benefits from a fast.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.