Friday, January 18, 2008

The First Fast

So today is my first attempt at the 24-hour fast. I'm nervous, excited, and yes...hungry. It really is putting some perspective on things. I have had a couple of moments while focusing on work where my mind has wandered and I've thought: "Hmmmm, I'm hungry. I'll go eat something." It's a bit of shock to realize I "can't". Then of course, as I mentioned before, I think of how many people are far hungrier than I am, without a choice. Even looking out the window and watching the birds, seeing the rabbit tracks around the feeder, I think of how grateful they are for an easy meal. Life is good for me. Still, I can't eat for 24 hours, and I'm hoping it's for a good reason. So I decided to spend some time looking for more articles about the benefits of partial fasting. The original NPR article that got me thinking about this cites Dr. Mark Mattson. Searching for information about his studies brought me mostly to articles from every source about his studies in 2003 that focused on fasting in mice. Here's the most comprehensive one:
NIA/NIMH: Fasting Forestalls Huntington's Disease in Mice. Finding more information from the other researcher cited by NPR was more difficult. She focuses mainly on pediatric diets, and discourages "fast" food. The articles I did find about her work with the American College of Endocrinology on fasting was so technical that I had trouble discerning exactly what the results of the studies were. This quote from the NPR article seems to sum it up for the lay person though: "You re-tune the body, suppress insulin secretion, reduce the taste for sugar, so sugar becomes something you're less fond of taking".

It's frustrating that there doesn't seem to be a good resource out there for the everyday person who wants to do a 24 hour fast for health. There are a lot of individual organizations that have different recommendations, but they all have their own take on why their fasting, and how it should be done. Can you drink coffee and tea? Do you really only fast for 24 hours, or do they mean 36--no meals waking to sleeping plus an entire night? How do I prepare myself for a fast? How do I break my fast? I've tried to put it all together and have come to a few conclusions, to be taken with a big grain of I'm-not-an-expert salt.

1. 24 hours is a sufficient period of time to allow for cleansing and stress the cells to a point that gives them a "work out". Dr. Mattson recommends simply skipping meals as one method of benefiting from calorie reduction. Any longer than 24 hours and you can start to have issues with muscle break down, etc. I am doing mine from 7PM-7PM.

2. Coffee? Tea? I don't know. Definitely not anything sweetened, including juice. Your pancreas is getting a break here and any sugars you consume have to be processed. I chose to have a cup of black tea this morning so as not to add a wicked caffeine headache to my hunger, but I will forgo anything but water for the rest of the period.

3. Fasting isn't about weight loss. There are lots of studies out there that show that fasting doesn't help weight loss, and can even screw things up. However--and this entirely my speculation--it seems to me that it can help if you are following a program where you are already regulating your food intake. That means that you won't binge when you break your fast, and you are going to go back to a healthy method of eating--possibly with your taste for sugar reduced, which can be very beneficial. I know one of my biggest challenges in losing weight is that craving for sweets.

4. Break your fast sensibly. Different methods call for different ways of resuming eating. My own common sense tells me that eating a full meal after depriving my body of food for 24 hours could throw a wrench in the system. I plan to start with a small amount of fresh fruit, then vegetables, and possibly wait until tomorrow morning to eat a normal meal.

So those are my thoughts for now. I will check back in to share more about my experiences once I complete the full 24 hours. Bright Blessings!

6 comments:

Karen said...

I am joining you on this journey today. So glad to be reading your blog again.

Malva said...

I read that article on NPR with a lot of interest and fasting for 24 hours is definitely something I’d like to get into the habit of doing. But then I thought that if any toxins are released, they’ll probably go out with my breast milk and I’m still occasionally nursing my toddler. I’m not sure I’d want to expose him to that. I can’t find any literature on the issue. Any thoughts?

Mia said...

Thanks so much, Karen.

Mia said...

Malva, I do not have any articles or resources to point you to. I do know that everything I've read about breastmilk holding toxins is that we naturally concentrate toxins in our breastmilk. So--just my opinion--I would assume that a fast would reduce the overall amount of toxins in the body, and thus the breastmilk. Specifically drinking plenty of water seems that it would help that. I would also think that a fast would reduce your overall milk level, but with a toddler that may not be as much of a concern. That's just my logic talking, I hope it makes sense!

UmBeijo said...

how do I subscribe to your blog? It's great to get a glimpse of another's life and passions...

Mia said...

To subscribe to my blog, you can scroll down to the link at the very bottom of the first page, of simply bookmark the main site. Thanks for your interest!