The Sustainability of Fasting

By L.E. Brolly

In an era where there is a concern over food production with a burgeoning global population and a paradoxical health crisis of obesity, imagine encouraging fasting for future sustainability of both. A calculated fast, in simplest terms, provides a method for reducing consumption overall for both an individual and society as a whole. Reducing or maintaining an individual’s ideal weight which will keep an individual healthy will minimize the burden on already overwhelmed medical establishments. Who doesn’t want to think about all of these things particularly as the New Year rolls over into 2017?

Fasting can be managed by any number of methods ranging from hourly windows to multiple days. Consider a day in which a person, Alex has 12 tasks to complete and very little time to think let alone eat and a spare tire that, by fasting definitions, is ripe for the picking, for energy, that is.

Alex hits the ground running at 6AM. With an ½ hour to get out the door, maybe they only have time to flip the switch on their coffee maker, take a quick shower, and get away with their travel mug. Alex now knows that they will make their 7:30 meeting after the train commute because they did not have to stop for breakfast along the way and have an additional saving of cash with enough time to spare for quick meeting prep.

Demystifying fasting is no easy task particularly when the desire is to, in the same breath, promote it as a sustainable, healthy practice that benefits not only the individual but also society as a whole. Firstly, fasting must be defined by what it is not. Fasting is not starvation. Fasting is strategic and planned. The body responds very differently when there is no food or only specific types of food like broth or bouillon than when it is presented with repeated low calorie options and days on end which is when the body starts thinking it is starving. Pairing fasting with normal eating is the key to its success.

In the previous scenario, Alex skipped breakfast. Consider the resources spared: cash, food stuffs, energy for cooking, transport of raw and finished materials, packaging manufacturing, and more. If Alex had only partially consumed the food, there would have been waste. If Alex had ingested the full thing, it might have been the start of excess of calories for the day. This is a positive deficit.

Moving throughout the day, there are deadlines looming with only time to have tea or a quick cup of soup. Alex will make the deadline because now they have a spare hour to work on the task at hand. Tomorrow is another day and re-scheduling a lunch meeting is often an easy task. But what about having enough energy to think? The body has this capacity to turn stored body fat and consumed fat into ketone bodies (not to be confused with ketoacidosis suffered by diabetics) that can be readily used by the brain instead of glucose. This is a bonus. Skip the candy bar and the processed ready meal which takes time and energy to produce and heat up. Bring on the bouillon soup or bone broth made with hot water to replenish electrolytes.

Moving through the day, there are many fewer tasks at hand and the one key item that often gets skipped is exercise. Powered by ketones and replenished by electrolytes, there is now time for Alex to take a 30 minute jog, weight lifting session, swim, or exercise class. A body powered by fat and trained to do so can get through hours of endurance training. After all, how did the cavemen get through?

Alex has now dodged one day of getting closer to obesity or taken a step in the right direction away from it. Obesity has spawned a global health crisis whose cure is now being touted as fasting and the elimination of sugar. If instead of promoting agriculture that is concerned with a wheat, corn, and sugar base which is increasingly obesogenic and narrowly focused, society could move to an agriculture that promotes caloric density of animal products combined with wholesome, organic, diverse vegetables simply by reallocating resources creating sustainability. There is nothing extra to produce and nothing to buy to combat obesity and essentially a conservation of food resources with fasting. Practiced in an intermittent fashion, fasting is safe and easy and sustainable.

 

n.b. – Fasting while healthful, is not indicated for individuals who have struggled with eating disorders, are pregnant or breastfeeding, are under 18, or have a BMI under 20.

 

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