Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yon Cassius Has a Lean and Hungry Look ...

Generally, once a week, I take a break from food. Works out to be about thirty-six hours without eating. Nothing spectacular, and I'm not a fanatic about it; I drink a couple-three cups of black coffee in the morning; lots of water during the day; and now and then, I'll even have a glass of wine in the evening. (Often a breath mint, though that is for the benefit of others -- fasting tends to give one bad breath, though not so much in the first day or so.)

Vitamins and minerals, I allow, but nothing with any degree of calories from food.

If my fast day happens to fall on Thanksgiving or when we are going somewhere for dinner, then I skip it until next week. Usually, I try and do it on silat class days, the theory being that lean and mean makes for sharper uptake and movement.

I've been doing this for about twenty-five years, and I feel that there are great benefits.
The scientific evidence is not in on the assorted forms of fasting, but speaking from my small and personal experiences, I feel better. I may not be any healthier, but I also feel healthier.

On the morning after a fast, I have noticed that my sense of smell seems to be much more acute, and that I tend to wake up sooner than usual, and more alertly, too.

Good to know that if I have to go a day or two without eating, I can function pretty well.

For me, it is, more than anything, an exercise in discipline rather than in dieting, but my clothing sizes and weight have held pretty steady for a couple decades and some, so it's likely of some use there.

The only real drawback is in the winter. I feel the cold much more on days when I don't eat. If on Tuesday, talking a walk when it's chilly, if I feel comfortable in shirtsleeves, then on Wednesday, if I fast and if the temperature is the same, I need a jacket, and almost surely, gloves. My hands, having relative poor circulation, cool off in a hurry.

This is to be expected; if there ain't any wood in the stove, you don't get a lot of heat. Your metabolic system tries to tell you, Hey, eat something!

It is interesting, how subjective such things as the cold can be, and it makes you realize that there are people who suffer in the cold or heat and whose thermostats don't match your own.

Food -- or not -- for thought ...


Mark Jones said...

I've been intermittently fasting (intermittently...heh) for a while now, since reading about it on Barnes' blog. I fast M-W-F but eat on the weekends at my wife's request, so if she wants to go out to dinner we don't have to worry about whether I'm eating that day or not.

I've also noticed that I seem more sensitive to cold on fast days too, noticeably more so than I otherwise tend to be. It's not something I ever thought much about before.

Ed said...

Do you find it affects your moods much-good or bad?

Steve Perry said...

Generally, on a short fast -- two days or less -- I don't see much change, mood-wise. I do notice a sensory sharpening -- smell particularly seems to be more accute, and I tend to wake up earlier and more alert the second morning.

If you push a fast longer, you do get some mood shifts, especially when you begin producing ketones as you go into ketoacidosis -- your body starts burning protein for fuel. This can make you feel alert, buoyant, speedy, at first, kind of like a runner's high. Once you get into starvation mode, the mood can shift quickly into depression, irritability, plus a whole host of physical problems.

If you are a diabetic, you don't do fasting.

Healthy people, especially those carrying excess weight, can go for fairly long periods without food, as long as they are adequately hydrated, but it varies greatly. Some people will start feeling dizzy after missing two meals. Others can go two weeks without any big problems.

I did a week once, years ago, just to see if I could.
My sister-in-law, who was determined she was going to lose weight, went two weeks on nothing but spring water. Not a good idea without medical supervision.

Brad said...

Talking to my wife today about the one a day fasting, she says quite a lot of people in India do it. Voluntarily, not just the ones that can't afford to eat everyday. Now she has suggested that we do it, starting off once a week.

I'm pretty sure I can do it, not so sure about her. Maybe she'll surprise me.

Steve Perry said...

Short fasts are not that big a deal, especially if you can still drink water. They tend to be part of a lot of cultures and religious beliefs, and if they were harmful, we'd know about it by now.

I hadn't noticed any large die-offs among Muslims during Ramadan, and they fast dawn-to-dusk every day for a month.

I think that in our three-meals-a-day culture, the psychological sense of deprivation is the biggest obstacle. We are accustomed to eating frequently and regularly, snacking whenever we want, and if you choose to skip a day or two, you have to deal with your hunger, and with the raised eyebrows of those people around you.

It freaks a lot of people out if you do something they don't see a need or use for. Try being a vegetarian in a room full of steak eaters, or even somebody who exercises in a gathering of couch potatoes. I expect you will looked upon askance.

Fasting amongst the eaters gets that, too: Trying to lose weight, eh?

Nope. It's a discipline exercise.

No shit? Why? What's the point?

Somebody offers you a pork chop and you say, "No, thanks, I don't eat pork," they want a reason. If it's because your cholesterol is too high, they're okay with that. If it's because you are Orthodox Jewish, they'll shrug that one off. Neither of those affect them.

If instead you say, "It's a moral thing -- I don't want a pig to die for my sins." then it's a whole other ball game.
You've just called them immoral if they like bacon, whether you said that or not, and oh, that will get some discussion in a lot of places ...

Kai Jones said...

Short fasts are not that big a deal, especially if you can still drink water.

Yeah, the annual Yom Kippur fast kicks my butt: nothing by mouth from one sunset until the next. No water, no food, no nothin'. I rarely make it; usually about 2 pm I give up and have a light snack and lots of water.