We don’t, you know.
Let’s set the arbitrary standard for natural: to eat, breathe, sleep and move in the ways our ancestors of hunter-gatherers did in 10,000 BC (which is not that many generations ago.)
There were not a lot of fatties in those days, don’t you imagine. Meals came sporadically, people moved as their food did. Diets were all local and fresh–if possible; rancid and rotten and eaten anyway if not. A missed meal–maybe even a day or a few days without eating– was the usual.
And our bodies adapted to that pattern over the millenia, crafting the hormones and nerve transmitters and hence, our ideas and habits and gut-reflexes related to food so that we would at least survive in the lean times when leftovers were eaten by the toothy carnivores.
Today, for most of us–even in burgeoning cities of the globese developing countries–there is often no shortage of highly caloric foods at hand. Food has become a varitable toxin as obesity becomes the new normal.
And this thought got me thinking: is there anything to the notion that fasting serves to “detox” our bodies of excesses or unnecessary or poisonous food-related sludge our modern bodies take in, residues that our standard, “natural” inherited metabolism we can’t effectively deal with?
We are certainly not designed by our species past to eat three heaping meals a day, plus pre-desert snacks and sugar-water drinks as we barely move our ample bodies in space.
We have a famine metabolism in a time of incredible excess of food. We are programmed to gain and not to lose because “naturally” we did without more often than we had enough. How the world has changed while our metabolism stays the same.
I’m genetically thin. But a couple of years ago, my belt shrunk. I am too cheap to buy new pants, so I set out to lose back those excess pounds.
I cut some elements of my “usual” breakfast (no more toast after cereal) and in so doing last year lost 5 pounds. dropping back to my target 175, which for my height is good. But now, I’m gaining some of that back.
But then, I’m not so interested in lunch as I once was. Can I do a “partial fast” several days a week and intentionally skip lunch altogether? And might there be benefits beyond weight loss to fasting, as so many of our sages have advised over the ages?
Consider these thoughts from a recent NPR spot on the topic:
In fasting “you re-tune the body, suppress insulin secretion, reduce the taste for sugar, so sugar becomes something you’re less fond of taking,” Neufeld says.
Mark Mattson, a scientist with the National Institute on Aging, says that when we convert food into energy, our bodies create a lot of byproducts we could do without, including free radicals.
“These free radicals will attack proteins, DNA, the nucleus of cells, the membranes of cells,” Mattson says. “They can damage all those different molecules in cells.”
Mattson thinks partial fasting has numerous benefits, from improving glucose regulation, which can protect against diabetes, to also lowering blood pressure. Some animal studies have also shown that partial fasting has very beneficial effects on the brain, protecting against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.
Partial fasting may even extend lifespan because eating less sends a message to the cells of the body that they should conserve and use energy more efficiently.
Anybody have any experience with fasting beyond the calorie-reduction kind? Might this simple measure, done wisely and in addition to getting more physical activity, help us return to a better balance between diet and weight, to live more naturally?
“Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” Egyptian pyramid inscription, 3800 B.C.