A brief look through my 5 days in a zero-calorie fasted state, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Firstly, let me start with why I thought this would be a good idea, I know most people I meet have not, do not regularly refrain from eating anything…it doesn’t seem normal. Unfortunately, mainly for my suffering wife, the further I fall down the rabbit hole of health, wellness and human development the more I find myself moving away from ALL the common paradigms and commons thinking on who we “should” do things and what the “norm” should be. The more thought I put into the medical models, healthy thinking and the more digging I do, the more I want to not do what everyone else is doing, not because it is “cool” to be different and an outlier, but, because the more I realise that the common model it completely broken.
Why FAST (The Good)?
There is an ever-going field of scientist from all areas coming together on a common interest of longevity and focusing on increase what has been coined our “Healthspan”, that is to say the years that we live a healthy and full life. Now, as you would imagine, these great minds do not really agree on much but, there is one area that seems to have all these great minds (1) moving in the same direction is restricting calories and in some cases restricting proteins which is being seen as a way to allow the body to heal.
Of all the health claims made the three that I believe have the potential to heal us the most are;
1. Restoring Gut Health
Simply put this allows a complete reset and reboot of the gut wall, asking it to do only reparation work and not loading it with nutrients and toxins to filter. (ref). Why is gut health important, that’s the biggest question out there – have a look at this article to start you journey down that rabbit hole – It is the key to your health, period.
Ow, a big sexy science word, it means that an organelle (lysosome) in the cell membrane activates to break down damaged (including pathogenic) cell and remove the garbage, pushing out all the bad stuff and also produce amino acids to fuel you, in fact the process start to help you produce energy in the form of amino acids the clean up is effectively a very handy secondary process, win, win! This has a 4 fold benefit, Neuroprotective, Cardio-protective, Immune boosting and Anti-aging. This autophagy can also break down unused fat and unwanted cells into amino acids, including tumours.
3. Restoring Insulin sensitivity
With the very scary numbers of diabetes in the western world insulin resistance is a massive problem. The fast protocol allows a complete reset of your sensitivity to pretty much most foods including sugar. Now, I do not have a problem with my insulin levels or my sugar intake. That said, Christmas did see my sugar intake spike up a few times and the more breaks we can have from sugar, and all carbs and proteins, the better. I am aiming for an amazing level of insulin sensitivity and a very robust ability to break down carbs for fuel, I like them they are yummy and I want the energy they can give me to feel amazing all day! you heard it, I am not scared of the C word! ;o)
The hard part, actually doing it (The Bad)
All that sounds great, but it is actually hard to just say no. I live, as I am sure you do, in an urban environment and I have a multitude of places I actually like to go and eat at. Socially food is very important to our culture and rebuking the normal way gets a lot of strange looks and comments. Luckily, I work form home half the time and the other part of my working week I am out in the community but working independently most of the time. Which mean I do not have someone starting over at my desk at lunch asking me why I am not eating.
The roller coaster
Emotionally it is a roller coaster ride for the 5 days, starting with mild physiological hunger, the programming of 3 meals a day and lots of food to serve as a crutch kicking in early on. This was replaced on day 2 with a real mental fog and low mood. Day 2 was the hardest, as I knew it would be, if day 1 is faux hunger, day 2 is the real animal brain shouting get me some food, NOW!
The middle (meh!)
Day 3 and 4 are where things settle down a bit and the brain starts to fire less hunger/angry signal. This is also the time when pure fat bringing (ketosis) is going which not only cleans your system but also gives you a whole new energy system to work on. A welcome feeling of lean belly, zero water retention and energy from a seemingly untapped resource.
The final hurdle
The 4th night going into the final strait was not fun as sleep is not very forthcoming. I love feeling energised all day but come 10.30 I want to hit the pillow and sleep! This just did not happen on day 4. Adrenaline and cortisol are firing pretty hard which means you are in a constant state of alertness but also tired, not a fun zone to be in. I, un-scientifically, akin this to my primal-self, being on the savannah and understanding that I need to get out and hunt or the pack will die. Unrested and heading into the final day started off feeling OK, like I said when you are in a true fasted state alertness, focus and energy are all firing well.
And, then it happens, you hit the final hurdle. A combination of chronic anticipation with a fatigue beyond compare is a toxic cocktail, luckily, I work alone, and no-one incurred a very disturbed and hungry NOQ. 4 hours to go and the urge to quit early is real but a few sips of cold water and an over-priced cup of green tea had me back on track to a sure victory, 120 hours wit zero calories complete!
What’s the point?
Phsyco-social aspects of the 5 day food fast…
That brings me onto the actual hard part which I did not really think about and that is that when you walk down pretty much any road or turn on the TV we are assaulted by food promotion and this is where the discipline has to kick in and you have to look inward and create some resilience. This is about choosing the right path, suffering in the moment and not to listen to that voice, one we all have, that tries to distract us and give us the instant gratification that instantly becomes hollow and pyrrhic.
This was an interesting part of the experiment because I did not contemplate the social connection with food and eating. The process of abstaining gave me a chance to step back and observe this relationship we have with food and food brands from a distance. It has made me deeply contemplate this relationship. I think we are so accustomed to seeing and receiving the information that it has become subliminal which is very scary when you think about it, these brands have engineered their marketing around the most primitive urges and behaviours. It honestly tool me buy surprise and required me to completely disengage, by fasting, to actual appreciate the stage we are at.
OK, What is the REAL Point?
So, I started this quest not simply because I am a health coach and want to prove my worth by subjecting myself to crazy protocols but to self-experiment and feel amazing. I also liked the idea of imposing a challenge on myself that I have not tried before
5 day fast and the benefits or the real WHY I should say is not really the health benefits which I love but the psychological aspects, that’s to say,
I feel like I lack focus, commitment and sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud (guess we all feel like that sometimes). I wanted to show myself that I had the discipline and commitment to go through with it and us it as a spring board into 2019. I needed a stake in the ground to say FU to the little whiney voice that stops me from perusing my dreams and holds me back from all my scary goals. 5 days fasting in zero food and three swims in an 8 ° sea has built up confidence by keeping my promises to myself, that is how confidence is built, keeping small promises to yourself.
“A man that cannot master himself cannot master anything, disciple equals freedom.”
The true outcome is that, with some real inner work, I can actually listen to my body and understand what is truly hunger and the body vs the mind and external or emotional inputs telling me to, eat.
Absolutely, like most things in life it is the intangible that actually holds the meaning and the purpose. This is no different, I embraced discomfort in the now to create a meaningful outcome and along the way, learnt a lot about myself. I am always telling my clients, “I have found that most men live in quiet desperation and suffering. We think that adding layers of comfort will add to our lives, but the opposite is true. Choosing daily discomfort and discipline is truly the path to a Stronger, Healthier, Happy Life.”
VLOG Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alDuVZNXeNE
Autophagy Explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10jNZleNH9w
Ketosis Explained: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/ketosis
Gut Health Explained: https://medium.com/lifeomic/why-your-gut-microbes-love-intermittent-fasting-5716948281a3
Insulin Sensitivity: https://blog.bulletproof.com/insulin-resistance/
More…actual science: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156