One of the most inane critiques of fasting is that you will be constantly hangry, emotionally groggy, and withdraw from all social activity as you sit isolated in your corner munching on your rice cakes while longing for food like Oliver Twist. For example, in an article called, “How Intermittent Fasting Can Impact Your Mind,” the article quotes a registered dietician Yasi Ansari, “If you’re unable to eat during certain time periods, this may affect social situations with friends and family that involve food,” says Ansari. The article then continues that “missing out on friend time can lead to feelings of loneliness and social isolation, which can snowball into feelings of depression, according to the American Psychological Association.” The article also talks about binging, gorging, and possible eating disorders.
These seem like some really smart and credentialed people. Read it in full. Take of all of their concerns seriously. Ms. Ansari seems awesome too, a super smart and healthy person. Here’s her website.
Here’s what I am interested in.
Have any of them actually tried fasting?
The article does not mention whether Ansari or any of the other experts had ever actually tried any variety of fasting, but from my own experience, none of what I have experienced has remotely comported with the concerns outlined in the article. They appear and I say appear to have never tried fasting themselves.
Will fasting lead to social Isolation and depression?
I am going to address the social isolation claim that fasters are somehow dogmatic about adhering at all costs. My only dogma about fasting is that I am not dogmatic about it. Most learned sources aren’t either.
I will respond with three sources: me, Dr. Fung’s book The Complete Guide to Fasting, and the daily recommendations of my app, the Fastic app. People, I am not writing for peer reviewed journal. This is obviously limited in terms. I get that. I also continue you all to look and review all of the critiques of fasting. Science requires robust challenges. I am not providing any answers on these blogs, I only want you to start asking questions about what it is right for you.
First, let’s start with the Fastic App. The app encourages cheating on fasting! Yep, it contains little helpful reminders that constantly remind you that it is ok to take days off. In fact, it builds cheating into its whole method. It talks about using a “frosty” if you decide not to fast on a certain days. So, yes, it nudges you to do fasting, but it is not dogmatic about it. It also talks about totally enjoying weddings, dinners, special occasions, nights out with friends. Nothing about the app suggests rigid adherence.
Secondly, Dr. Fung’s fasting guidebook, also totally recommends taking days off for “feasts, weddings, celebrations, birthdays” because these are part of the natural cycles of life. It refers to events like Mardi Gras, an obviously celebratory event to be followed by fasting for Lent. My previous post discusses why I trust Dr. Fung.
(I’ll do a separate post on whether I am relying too much on Fung as a source. I have thought about that and have a reply).
And me! Yep me. A source of 1? Yep 1. As a statistical sample, this is obviously woefully deficient, but we’re not doing peer reviewed science here. But for me, I am the most important sample, 100% of 1. You are 100% of you. You are the most important sample size. That’s why you should start your own journey by talking with your doctor, reading pros and cons of fasting, and decide whether you want to do it. If not, that is ok, especially if you are already healthy and at a good body weight. There multiple ways to get healthy. And if you have different approach, that is good as long as you get there. Deng Xiaoping famously said “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”
That’s the issue for we members of the public.
Knowing that there are multiple paths to getting healthy, which one shall we take? Which medical expert should we trust to guide us?
My starting point was the app and I have followed that up with reading the book, Obesity Code and The Fasting Guide. So far the key predictions of the book, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, reversing type 2 diabetes, feeling better and getting stronger have come true. While obviously not dispositive (as a lawyer, I am completely aware of confirmation bias in decision making), these confirmations have given me a significant amount of confidence in the benefits of fasting.
And I now have two holidays under my belt: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and am writing this on New Years Eve. Because of COVID, I have done no major holidays, but also did some family events last summer.
Was I sitting in the corner sulking, longing for food?
Nope. Not at all. They were all just like previous holidays with two key differences. This is the first year that I did not eat multiple portions. I just had one full plate of food. Secondly, I did not have sugary drenched suites, except for a little dark chocolate. My alcohol consumption still exists, but now down to about once a week. Going to have some gin and tonics tonight!
So I didn’t gorge (I am going to do a separate post on gorging, a very serious issue with a variety of causes. If you have an history of eating disorders, and have solved it, don’t fast before talking with you doc!!). The holiday was just as awesome as always, and perhaps, even better because I didn’t have that sick feeling of eating too much and being drowsy. The only difference so far has been positive.
People. Fasting is not a religion. It just means that you restore balance when you eat. That’s it. It’s all about the balance baby!
Modern world says wake up, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, then sleep.
Fasting just says eat, eat, eat is not natural or consistent with 2 million years of evolving for food scarcity.
Instead, fasting just believes we need to restore balance to when we eat.
Eat… not eat…. Then eat… Then not eat…. It just resting from eating, placing our bodies back into the natural cycles for which we were designed. Somehow the critics have fasting seem to imply that we want you to do it all of the time. That’s like saying that people saying sleep is good for you are saying you should sleep all of the time.
In fairness to critics, they may be reading other sources. So far, I am aware of no leading fasting experts that encourage you to skip eating with family on holidays or not eat during special occasions. It is just a red herring argument. In fact, most experts seem to encourage taking a break from fasting to ensure that the metabolism doesn’t go down to too much.
Fasting has two million years of evolution, thousands of years of tradition, and modern science to back it up. And me, being n of 1, have experienced its wonders first hand.
You know fasting’s biggest challenge? The word “fasting.” People hear that word and all sorts of things pop up in their mind. It’s kind of like when people hear “socialism.”
It just makes people freak the hell out, which I think is kind of amusing since no one freaks out when people are drinking down sugar diabeta sodas, eating processed salt drench potato chips, mowing down processed food obesity burgers and fries.
Tomorrow’s post will be on one word “fasting” and the metaphysical linguistic challenges of using this word. We are going to take a small detour and discuss the work of the great philosopher Jurgen Habermas and his concept of commutative rationalism as it relates to discussing the benefits of “fasting.” Have fun tonight!!