The Fast and the Gluttonous

I watched an excellent Horizon documentary on the BBC last night: Eat, Fast and Live Longer.

The program tried to discover how eating habits might affect the ageing process, documenting a 101 year-old marathon runner (who has only ever eaten kiddie-size portions); the CRONie approach (calorie restriction on optimal nutrition); three-day fasting, and – more interestingly – alternate day fasting.

Early research shows there are benefits to alternate day fasting. In trials it has been shown to decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, factors that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and age-related disease. Okay, that’s it for the science bit!

Anyway, I decided to give it a go… starting today! The idea is that you have one meal on your fast day, around lunchtime. And that’s it! On your off day, you can eat what you like. It’s that simple.

Now, I don’t consider myself to be overweight. Yeah, I’ve got some love handles, but who doesn’t?

Clearly not this guy!

Just for the record, this is not me!

It’s easy to mock and poke fun at the west’s growing obesity epidemic, but it’s fast becoming a problem that extends beyond that of the individual. After all, the more we eat, the more resources are required to satiate our growing gluttony.

With global population levels predicted to hit 9 billion by 2042, pressures on land will undoubtedly increase, especially if we are becoming fatter.

Which is kind of where the tie-in to my blog comes in.

I like the idea of keeping our wilderness areas intact and maybe one day restoring them, yet tracks of the Amazon forest are being ripped and cleared to allow for – amongst other things – cattle grazing. And while I may despair at the statistics and images of deforestation – sitting comfortably in my ivory tower – it occurred to me that I might actually be adding fuel to the fire every time I tuck into a fast-food burger or a restaurant steak – and I haven’t even gotten started with overfishing.

That’s why I’m going to give alternate fasting a go, and try and have a few more meat free days along the way. I’ll try and keep you updated… that’s if I manage to keep from gnawing my own arms off between now and my next meal!

For a more rapid weight loss solution, watch this video over on Lisa’s blog every time the hunger pangs start.

Oh, one last thought for all the bloggers and writers out there: if you’re struggling with writers block don’t reach for the comfort food – you should be fasting instead. Research has shown that sporadic bouts of hunger triggers the growth of new neurons, some vestigial response leftover from our hunter-gatherer days.

Don’t believe me? Watch the program and see for yourself.

10 thoughts on “The Fast and the Gluttonous

  1. Everyone’s body is different…what works for some doesn’t work for others. That marathon runner has multiple things going for him: he’s a runner, he eats a healthy diet or has optimal nutrition, he forgoes eating at times (hard for runner’s to do this). I’m a runner. I’m on a modified paleo diet. The wrong kind of carbs make me feel hung over all the time so I avoid bread, pasta and most wheat based grains and try to avoid sugar (gotta have my wine tho). Stick to lean meats, LOTS of veggies and fruit, nuts and seeds. I love dairy, especially fat free greek yogurt. Good luck with your fasting experiment ;o)

    • Hi Sahbina
      Thanks for sharing your own tips.
      Astoundingly, he only began running in his 80’s, which gives hope to all of us! I think you’re right, it’s about finding what works best for your own body. And sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Definitely won’t be sacrificing my wine either… that would be just too much 🙂

  2. Cool article. I definitely find that I have more energy when I eat less (and less frequently), which makes sense if you think how much energy your body expends when digesting. Not sure if I could follow this exact diet as I get a bit light-headed if I go without food for too long, but I do try to stick to smaller portions. Being vegetarian also helps me to have a lighter ecological footprint 🙂 Anyhoo – keep us updated!

  3. Hi Natalie,

    Thanks for your comment!

    I think you’re on to something with regard to digestion and energy expenditure. I also have to say that I felt a bit light-headed at work this morning (today is a fast day) until I had some lunch. I may have to tweak things a bit to get the right balance and eat more smaller portions as opposed to one meal. Still, I’m gonna stick with the programme for now and see how it goes.

    Will keep you posted 🙂

  4. Really interesting sounding program – I’ll have to have a poke around my local library and see if I can find it there (happily, they are generally very happy to oblige their patrons and order in anything they don’t have already ;P) Always happy to give a watch to something that comes with great testimonial! I think as I’ve gotten older, my own eating habits have become a little less stellar than in days of old! (But I do like to think my taste in wine has improved, considerably!)
    Lovely read!

  5. Hi Anne,
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
    It’s depressing to think that in my teen years and early twenties I could eat relentlessly and remain stick thin. Still, there are some things that can’t be sacrificed, even if they are high up on the calorie count (yes wine, I’m talking about you)!

    p.s. Have you tried clicking on the link at the top of the post for BBC iplayer to watch the program?

  6. I’m always intrigued by the science when I read articles about the benefits of fasting/calorie restriction, but at the same time, adopting such tactics would be cruelty to people around me. Not only do I get faint when I am late for a meal, I get irrational & very cranky. Even if I lived longer, I’m not sure the quality-of-life trade-off would be worth it.

  7. Hi Alisa,
    You have a point… at least with this method you’d only be cranky every other day! And it makes sense to weigh up the trade-off that any new diet/health regime has on your quality-of-life. There’s no point doing any of these things if they make you miserable!

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