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Fasting for Dieting Right or Wrong (I say its right)


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What happens when you fast? I decided to write this post because I had become irritated about a few things I have heard form individuals or read about fasting recently. Specifically fasting for dieting. I believe there are also good reasons for religious fasting but I won’t go into those in this article.

So what happens? First you body begins to burn glycogen and some muscle. It runs out of glycogen (which had been created from carbs and starches). It then stops burning muscle and begins to burn fats. It ramps up production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which saves the muscle from being burned for a period of time. Eventually if you starve long enough(30 days or more and when fat reserves have been depleted) all tissues can become food. The body converts proteins to energy and your muscles will completely consume away. But I don’t believe this will happen until all fat is gone first.

There was a man in England who fasted for 352 days, he dropped from 470lbs to 180lbs in that time. He drank water, took vitamins and some minerals such as potassium and sodium as directed by physicians.  He wend back to eating, lived on and never regained the weight.

You will hear it said that fasting for weight loss is stupid because you will simply regain the weight. You will hear its because you tend to overeat after a fast and because in short fast much of the weight loss is water. You will even see write ups that talk as if you loose water and lots of muscle and won’t mention any fat loss at all. You will hear about how brutal a fast is and how hellish it is. (weak talk) There is much biased talk against the fast in my opinion.

I have not done a lot of fasting but hear me out on this. I have fasted for one day periods a dozen times maybe . For 2 days periods less but sometimes. And twice for 3 days in my life and counting. I hope to do a 5 day fast some day. Or maybe even 7 days. Survivorman Les Stroud sometimes goes 7 days without food on his shows.  I’d like to see if the hunger pains (and so far I haven’t seen much in the way of actual PAIN), do go away. So far my stomach doesn’t actually hurt but just nags at me. I feel a definite hollow feeling but no pain to speak of. Sometimes it growls a bit. Nothing really bad at all though.

Eating is definitely a pleasure. If you doubt then try fasting. Telling yourself “no” the first time or two to food while fasting will be a challenge indeed. Your mind will scream at you for food. It will constantly remind you almost to the point that you can’t concentrate on other things. Its almost like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum. That is the first few times you fast. I broke a fast once or twice the first few times. I actually thought to myself  “this is stupid”. If you do it enough you see that it is not however.

The mind is a funny thing. It learns after repeatedly being told no to accept no. The more times you repeat this fasting and  the more times your mind has to endure this the less it reminds you during fast that you are not eating and should eat. It finally gives up. And finally I think its on your side. If you see some food or smell some food 30 hours in to a 48 hour fast and you being to think about it your mind will remind you “no no you are fasting”  And then you put your mind on something else and the thought goes away. Maybe this is called conditioning? Training?

So don’t feed me that bull that fasting is a terrible torturous experience that won’t help you loose weight because you will gorge yourself afterwards. I have one word for you (that person) “wuss”. The answer to this is simple. Don’t gorge yourself after a fast. As a matter of fact try low carbs the day before and day after the fast. I suggest taking prescription meds and multivitamins during the fast. Consult your physician however just to clear up any safety considerations before fasting if you have never done it before. I don’t think personally that I’d bother my physician before each and every fast.

I think you may find that its easier to pass up a lot of food items that you never could before after you have practiced fasting. Meaning a little hunger won’t throw you into a feeding frenzy. Also as in most things the taste of things are enhanced after a period of abstinence from food. Things that are more healthy actually taste far better.  Bread without butter taste wonderful. Salad veggies without dressing taste awesome. Triskets without cheese taste great! And less filling. Be prepared to eat these lower carb feast after a fast and even before the fast.

Finally its not the fast that causes you to loose weight and fat but the reduced energy intake. Or actually the reduced average energy intake. You can reduce your energy intake without fasting and loose the same weight. This is why many do not recommend fasting for loosing weight. I somewhat see their point except to say that there is no harm in adding fasting to the diet. I think for the conditioning of the mind it can be very helpful. If you have experienced the worst mental stresses from not eating that you can experience then you won’t eat a whole super large bag of potato chips just because you are little hungry. You will have more sense than that. You will also see where the pleasure in eating is at vs eating for health and energy.

If you ever did have a survival situation at hand then going a few days without eating won’t scare you. Or facing going a few days without food won’t scare you. Having fasted might cause you to have empathy for others that are not as lucky as you are to live in the land of milk and honey where we all have access to many times the energy our bodies actually need.

Take a look at our culture and the meals that are offered to us in restaurants. They don’t offer us reduced price meals if we cut out high starch items such as potatoes. If you don’t want the combo with the potatoes fine but you pay more for the meat. You want a large drink, then fine but you must have a larger order of potatoes to go with it. And your conscience won’t let that food go to waste. Especially when it taste so good.  It should taste great, we are wired so that the energy taste best. I swear sometimes that I am addicted to carbs and starch. McDonald’s gripes me more than anyone that they don’t have something healthier to offer in place of their great french fries that has made them so famous. I have got them to substitute apple slices from a kids meal but its not in their system to do it.

A funny thing is that if you have not already developed diabetes then fasting can help in preventing it. But if you have it fasting might hurt. I need to do more research on how fasting affects people with diabetes. Fasting also helps to prevent heart disease.

My diet? Low car, low starch and low fat with occasional fasting. Find some added way to burn some calories and you can’t loose. Nothing but weight that is.

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Larry Gray’s common sense guide to dieting and nutrition.


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Larry Gray’s simple common sense guide to dieting and nutrition.

First, we are all on a diet. Maybe planned, maybe not planned. Warning! But first I must say that If you are on a planned diet that you must be under the care of a qualified physician. Disclaimer! I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or a dietitian, I’m just a guy with observations and opinions. Continue to read at your on risk as I give you my 2 cents worth of ideas in this book.

1.     Minimize intake of carbohydrates, starches and fats (combined form calories).

2.     Maximize to 100% of Daily Required Values of Protein, Minerals, Vitamins, Fiber.

3.     Get Exercise first from Work, 2nd from Play such as sports, especially outdoor sports, 3rd from a Gymnasium or fitness center.

4.     Fast occasionally, not as much for dieting as for discipline. Experience hunger pains. Use other forms of food self denial. Save some $$.

The Bad Stuff.

Here is how it goes. Starches (which are called complex sugars) become (simple) sugars (after being broken down by enzymes) and (simple)sugars become stored fat. Carbohydrates which are sugars become stored fat. Fat becomes stored fat. Get the picture?  Potatoes, Candy bars and Bacon turn into stored fat. Rice, pastas and breads, sugar waters such as Cokes and other sodas, sweet tea and sweetened coffee, vegetable oils or butter are stored as fats. I suppose since our body does store this energy in reserve, a minimal amount of fat is healthy and normal. But since the body is so good a storing this energy in mass quantities we probably need to avoid the foods it uses to produce this stored energy. Oh on a side note, alcohol can be stored as fat also. I’m not simply talking about alcoholic beverages which have carbs in them either. Alcoholic beverages with 0 carbs still have calories because of the alcohol alone which can be stored as fat. Most diets are some combination of limiting one or more of these 3 energy sources.  Oh and calories reflect the combination of these 3 energy sources in a food item.  Most adults need around 2000 calories a day, but this varies from person to person with age and activity. Most nutritional labels give you information about fats, carbs and calories. Starches are reflected in calories on nutrition labels. However,  our body burns energy directly from fats and carbs but not starches. Starches are converted to carbs and then burned. Or starches are converted to stored fat after being converted to carbs first. For diabetics at least carbs from fruits (fructose) are better than processed sugars.  The math is simple however, you have a given amount of energy burned for the amount of energy needed for the daily activities. Any energy taken in above this amount needed is surplus. If you burn more energy than was taken in it is a deficit.  If you have a deficit then the needed energy is taken from the body itself, first from fats, probably second from muscle and probably third from organs. This is so that we don’t actually die after going 3 days without food as we would going three days without water. We can last up to 30 days or more without food.  Saying it another way, we have an average daily energy need or demand and an average daily energy intake.  If the average intake is less than the average need, then we burn fat. If the average intake is greater than the average need then we gain fat and weight. If its the same then we remain the same weight.  In attempting to avoid these high energy foods we would most likely get enough of the rest of what our body requires, the good stuff.

The Good Stuff

Vitamins, can get this from supplements of course. However it has been suggested that you should try to get vitamins and minerals from foods because there may be vitamins or minerals that have yet not been discovered. Fiber can be taken as a supplement but from what I have seen its not cheap. Fiber usually comes from salad type veggies or cooked veggies. Beans are high in fiber and protein yet have carbs as well. Protein is easy to  get from foods. Green veggies and green leafy plants have protein.  Legumes which are beans have protein. Nuts have protein. Grains and breads have some proteins. Meats and Dairy products have protein. The average adult needs around 50 grams of protein per day. Research to see exactly what your needs might be. If you go over your maximum proteins, toxins may build in the body. So be under the care of a physician if you plan to go over 100% DVA. There was a liquid protein diet in the 1980’s that killed a few  women who were drinking nothing but liquid protein for their only food source. Rice and beans together form a complete protein which is equivalent to what you would get from meats. Of the animal proteins, white meats such as fish and foul are considered healthier than red meats such as pork and beef.  Lastly read the nutrition labels on everything you buy from the grocery store.

Work and play

All of us work at something. Some things that we do increase our heart rate and stress our breathing and circulatory system. This is called cardiovascular exercise. You usually check your heart rate by counting beats per minute to see how well you have stressed your system. 60 BPM is resting, 120 BPM is high stressed. Other work is fairly light and very repetitive and actually can tear down muscle. This builds endurance. Its also called muscle toning.

And lastly fewer repetitions of heavier loads and demands builds muscle.  All depending on what your goals are you may prefer tone to muscle mass.  Either way, all these activities burn up energy. If we are reducing the bad stuff and at the same time increasing the exercising then we burn fat reserves even faster.  Most jobs burn some fat via work of some sort. Some jobs more than others. I am somewhat adverse to exercising just for the sake of exercising. I like to get my exercise on a job or via hobbies or work around the house and homestead. But I’d say we all need some supplemental exercise via exercise routines. A good start is the military pushups, situps and running or bicycle riding and swimming.  Beyond that weight training. Lastly the Gym with its machines. But I much prefer to get my exercise via hobbies and sports. Especially outdoor sports such as hunting, fishing, rock climbing, caving, hiking, running, walking, bike riding, swimming, canoeing. When you get exercise in these ways the time just seems to fly by. But also on the homestead there is much work that can also be enjoyable, such as gardening, lawn care, animal husbandry, landscaping, cutting wood, splitting wood. The lesson is that if you want to eat everything you see and stay fit, you must pay for it in work.

Fasting

Fasting means eating literally nothing. The only thing you should intake is water and any medications needed. This flushes out the system. It also causes you to have hunger pains. We can all endure hunger pain. I suppose you have heard that fish do not have hunger pain or fullness and will eat until they pop. Yes they will, just overfeed some tropical fish sometime in your aquarium and watch.  But the point is they can’t rely on their bodies alone to tell them or not tell them what is proper when it comes to eating, and neither can we. We must take the hunger pains as a suggestion only.  Just like endurance for muscular pain in exercise you can teach yourself endurance for hunger pain. Just make up your mind occasionally that you are going to save some $$ and not eat for a period of time.  Once you make up your mind to set aside a period of time, force yourself to be committed to it.  I like to use ¼ day periods of time. Such as noon to midnight or midnight to midnight or day and a half or whatever.  I have fasted 3 days before. Try increasing the time the next time you fast.  Aside from complete fasting you might also try doing without all foods except say peanut butter for a period of time. Might only use 0 carb drinks while fasting. This is not fasting but it is self denial. It saves money as well. You would also note how good nutritionally healthy foods taste after fasting. Such as corn without butter and salad veggies without dressing.  Cake without icing. Triskets without cheese. Cereal without frosting.  Also eating makes a person lazy and tired sometimes.  So doing without can give you a needed boost for work which will in turn burn more calories. Don’t overdo it though. Our bodies do need the energy for work. However if you have fat reserves, your body will get its required energy from there first if it has no other source.

One more note. When fasting completely a person not only looses fat but also a percentage of muscle. Might want to increase protein the day before and after a fast to help make up for the loss of muscle a bit. This is also why fasting for dieting is not recommended by nutritionist. I would suggest some days where you nearly fast yet try to get near 100% of your protein. A couple of chicken breast, baked fish, canned tuna will do the trick. Some of the protein bars I’ve seen have way too much caramel in them. Protein bars are a good option as well though.

Fasting is a good spiritual exercise for those who are religious. I say more in the religion  section.

About fat Cells.

One last note about Fat.  This is my hypothesis from all I have read and heard. I have not scientifically backed this idea up. I think that when we first begin burning up fat reserves it simply means the fat cells are being emptied. Like a balloon being deflated. The cells do not go away for some period of time, but remain wanting to be refilled. As a matter of fact the body may signal the brain to refill the depleted fat reserves as if it were very very important. This is why some people go on a diet and loose the fat then drop the diet and gain it right back fairly quickly. I think the only way to get rid of the fat cells is liposuction or long term weight loss with no regain. I think its possible that after a long period of time without refilling a cell that it goes away. We do know and it is true that if you don’t use a muscle for a long period of time it goes away. This is called atrophy.  But like I say, I don’t have any proof that fat cells go away.

About women and food and fat.

One note also about women and fat.  In nature when female animals get stressed they actually produce hormones which cause them to desperately seek high energy food. This is a survival thing. Female animals under stress will crave the fattiest portions of the kill. I wonder if this has carried over to human females in the modern world where you no longer are running for your life in a wilderness when under stress. So women really need to watch out for stress related eating.  Also I have also recently heard of a diet plan under a physicians care where a woman is given some of the same hormones which they have during pregnancy. This triggers the body to feed a baby that isn’t there to feed. It thereby depletes the fat reserves attempting to feed this non existent baby. This works to quickly reduce fat reserves but unless there is a lifestyle change the fat may come back.  Its the same for all other forms of obesity treatments such as liposuction or removing stomach or stomach stapling. Also you have been told that when pregnant that you are eating for 2? Hold on there! Its really only 1.1!

For Men

And for men, uh grow a pair and endure some hunger pains in fasting. Survivor man Les Stroud went 7 days with no food on some of his shows. He said a body can only go 7 days without eating so many times in a year and it begins to take its toll on you.  So 7 days might be a extreme case. However,  No pain no gain!

Religion and obesity.

As I stated above in the section on fasting that religions teach to fast. Probably because its a great way to teach endurance for pain. Some religions also teach to stay away from some of the fattier foods such as pork. I love pork but if you do eat pork, its best to avoid the pork fat, unless of course you need the energy in your work routine. From the Christian perspective, God seems to favor and reward those who can and will fast. Its because of the training of the spirit. Saying no to hunger is very similar in saying no to many other suggestions our bodies have for us in many areas of our lives. So its a good learning metaphor or analogy and exercise.  The same God that created pleasure also created pain and suffering. It is written, “He who can suffer in the body is through with sin.”. Also, “Should we expect to experience pleasure and yet no suffering?” Also, “ Man shall work by the sweat of his brow all the days of his life.” Also, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Also there are a few scriptures that speak negatively about this thing called Gluttony and Gluttons. Gluttony is a deadly sin under the catholic tradition. And in fact it literally can be, in the form of Heart disease, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Stroke.  Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is within us.” Its a kingdom of self-control.  I think the key is in never giving up by always trying. We simply must try. And this is what diatitions are calling “life style changes”. We must always try.

Mmmmm.. Bean Sprouts, so tasty.
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