*Disclaimer: Please note that I am NOT a doctor so anything written in this blog is purely opinion only and should not be taken as recommendation for anyone. If at any time, you wish to investigate any of these topics in greater detail, you should speak with your doctor.*
I receive this question quite often. "What is your opinion on fasting?" I find that in our society today, almost everyone is looking for the 'quick fix'. Maybe you have a big date coming up, or a Wedding to go to and you want to look your best. Maybe your lifestyle is not what you want it to be like and you have been doing some heavy drinking every weekend and are looking to 'cleanse' your body. When it comes down to it though, why are you so concerned with trying to 'fix' week's, month's, or even year's worth of poor lifestyle choices with a quick fast?
First, we must define what exactly a 'fast' is.
What is Fasting?
From Wikipedia: Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day (24 hours), or several days. Juice fasting involves abstaining from food while deriving nutritional intake through freshly-juiced vegetables and fruits such that the body may detoxify. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive, limiting particular foods or substance. The fast may also be intermittent in nature. Fasting practices may preclude sexual intercourse and other activities as well as food.
Humans have been fasting for thousands of years for a number of reasons including personal beliefs, religious beliefs, and even prior to surgical procedures. Many health reasons to fast include 'resetting' the body to aid in removing toxins from the system.
Do I Fast?
Of course I do! In a general sense of the term, we all fast. We fast every night when we go to sleep, as our bodies are not ingesting any calories. That is where we get the phrase "breakfast".
In other cases, I will go periods of time (days, weeks or months) where I remove something from my diet. I do this to not only gauge how I feel, but also because I am generally removing something from my diet that I feel I could take a break from (i.e. alcohol).
There are studies that have shown that animals that live on a caloric restriction, as well as practice in intermittent fasting (fasting every other day for example) have decreased illness and chance of death.
My Overall Opinion of Fasting
As a kid growing up, my family was always on the go. Because of this, the only time we occasionally sat down for a 'family meal' was for dinner. I was set on a schedule - because of school - where I would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner through the week, but on weekends, I basically followed the "eat when I was hungry" plan.
Even to this day, I am pretty regimented about my meals through the week. I will fully admit, however, that I struggle to sit down and have solid meals on weekends. Saturdays are thrown off especially, as I generally don't eat until at least lunchtime. Now in all of the health and diet articles you read from various sources, one of the general rules that they almost always preach is how everyone should be eating every few hours to maintain a steady metabolism and weight.
This would be a great plan to follow if everyone was built the same and had the same activity levels, but it just isn't the case. On weekends, I may snack before bed on a Friday (gasp! snacking before bed?) but then I won't eat again until lunch or later on Saturday. That may be 12 hours or more where my body has 'fasted'. This has been the case for me for years and I don't see myself breaking this mold any time soon. I personally feel that for my own personal needs, it reminds my body that food is not always needed, or necessary to keep my energy levels up. It keeps my body guessing and also teaches it proper fat mobilization.
Having said all of that, I am not an advocate for long periods of fasting, especially at the expense of your health. Your body requires certain micro and macronutrients to survive. By eliminating everything from your diet but water, fruit, or lemon juice for an extended period of time can be dangerous. If you are to change your diet, make progressive changes that will have a sustainable, lasting effect rather than going for the 'quick fix'!
Photo - http://survivaltek.com/?m=201003