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INTERMITTENT FASTING

posted in: Resiliency, Retirement | 3

Today is Tuesday. It is 6:15 AM. I will exercise for thirty minutes and clean up, go to work. At noon I will meditate for 20 minutes, using my preferred method, Autogenic Training.(You can download the script at http://enjoylifebook.com/free-downloads.) I will work all afternoon. The one thing I don’t do on Tuesdays is eat. It is a Fast Day.

For the past two months I have been fasting Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. My routine is to skip breakfast and lunch, and have a typical dinner. I started this discipline because I want to lower my fasting blood sugar. While it is in the normal range, it is high-normal, around 100, and I want it to be around 80. I want the benefits of calorie restriction without the agony.

(Interestingly, my blood sugar stays the same throughout the day, around 100, when I eat a Mediterranean-type of diet.)

Calorie restriction? What is that? One way to improve the health of animals is to feed them less food. It has to be highly nutritious, but lower in calories by about a third to half. These animals who experience calorie restriction live much longer, don’t get arthritis, don’t get cancers and other diseases of aging. They retain a youthful appearance. It works with test animals. It might work with humans but it is unpleasant and you can’t keep humans in cages. Well, the ones who are in cages, we have no interest in prolonging their lives. Anyway, prisoners have access to law libraries, and love to sue.

A few humans have tried calorie restriction and it seems to work. Roy Walford famously tried it, but he died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at 79. We don’t know how long he might have lived if he’d kept starving himself. Individuals have lived longer by calorie restriction, but it is an individual here and there and we aren’t controlling for genetics.

Eating less, by about a third, for the rest of your life. Sounds brutal. It gives longer life, but low energy, which seems to invalidate the reason you’d do it. After all, living a live of torpor isn’t really the point is it? The Wikipedia article on Calorie Restriction suggests intermittent fasting as an alternative. Short fasts do not rob energy. Some report more energy, since when we are hungry we are wired to hunt down some food.

Being a fairly open minded person, I decided I would experiment. Today I will report.

I have lost some weight. Before my wife and I went to Italy last September, I was in good physical condition, riding bikes every day, and lost some weight, from 185 down to 175. But even though we rode our bikes 30 – 50 miles a day in Italy, I gained weight again and was about 182 at the end. I have been hovering around 183-185 since then.

Now I am around 176, so weight does come off. Intermittent fasting is supposed to lower my risk of heart attacks and strokes, but that was risk low anyway, since I have always had low cholesterol. Lowering fasting glucose is also supposed to lower the risk of some sugar-sensitive cancers. Some cancers have insulin receptors on their surface, and when the blood sugar is low, that reduces the incidence of those cancers. They are starved and easily disposed of by the immune system.

The main point was to lower my fasting glucose. People following calorie restriction have very low fasting glucose levels, and I want the benefits without the constant hunger. I have a meter and test strips, so I track fasting glucose, giving myself a finger stick in the morning before I eat. The regimen is a total failure, at least so far. My blood sugar still hovers around 95 – 103. It has been very stubborn. But I think I will stay with fasting.

It makes me feel free. If I couldn’t eat for a day or even a week, I would not be upset. My body adapts to not eating anything, and I feel more calm and unruffled. Some people freak out if they don’t have food every four hours. I live an untrammeled life!

I find I do not feel a loss of energy. In fact, on the days I fast, I now have just as much energy as on the days I eat. At first I did not have much energy, but my body adapted. That only took about two weeks to get used to fasting, and my energy level did come up with continuing the fasting. Second, I find it seems to have reduced my appetite on the days I do eat. That was a surprise. I have found myself experiencing some subtle but noticeable spiritual experiences. I didn’t expect that. If I want to increase my spiritual experiences (sensing what is going to happen in the next day or two) then I should donate money to the poor, according to Isaiah 58. Especially read versus 3 – 8. So I did that yesterday, donating to the poor. We will see.

If you want to try it, check with your doctor. Most doctors don’t know much about life extension and optimum health. They are trained to fix problems. My physician thinks my fasting glucose levels are in the normal range and don’t need to be changed. What a disappointment! I want these numbers at the bottom of the normal range, not at the top! So I give my doctor a low grade. You should check with your doctor anyway. Your results may vary.

How to test your doctor: Ask him or her what has been shown to lengthen total lifespan of test animals. The answer is calorie restriction. It the doctor doesn’t know that, he or she hasn’t been studying health enhancement. Intermittent fasting might extend life. It is a calorie restriction mimetic and works in animals. I am a kind of animal, so I suppose it would work with me.

Some people have complained of hypoglycemia symptoms from fasting. When they don’t eat they get weak and shaky. One neighbor got migraine headaches if he tried to fast. I noticed some of that for the first two weeks, then it went away. When I have been fasting and working out my blood sugar does get down to the low 70s (bottom of the normal range for my tester is 80), but I have absolutely no symptoms. I still feel just fine. If you aren’t tracking your blood sugar, and think you have hypoglycemia, you don’t know what you are talking about and need to measure. Measurement eliminates argument. Check with your doctor.

Suppose you wanted to reduce your risk of heart attack and certain cancers? Try fasting a single meal, breakfast, two or three times a week. (I can find no evidence that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, by the way.) If you can tolerate that, you might extend it to two meals a day, every second or third day. Drink plenty of water or calorie-free teas. Religious fasts generally avoid water as well as food, but I didn’t do this for religious reasons, so I drink water. If you can keep up a high level of energy when fasting, then perhaps you’ll want to follow this practice too. Make your own decisions about this.

I have no interest in retirement. I like my work. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy consulting. I have learned a lot through the years, and sharing is the highest and best use of my time. I want to raise my energy, I want to prolong my excellent health. I have a lot I should be doing.

So do you. You have contributed to the joy and growth of many people. You add value. Shouldn’t you maintain the best health you can? Don’t you have more to do? Can’t you continue to contribute to the lives of those around you? Then you should take good care of your body, since it is hard to contribute if your body stops working. I guess they could plant you in the garden to serve as fertilizer.

Let’s all try to get in shape and eat wisely and live to 120.

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3 Responses

  1. Jane
    | Reply

    You give me inspiration. I am 66 and not in the greatest health. I am wondering whether working will help my health.

    • Dr.J
      |

      Jane, don’t know you, but generally I think continuing to work has been wonderful for me! I feel much better and more alive since I decided to skip retirement and keep working. So at the least, I’d say try it and see. What does your MD say?

  2. Robert Bodholdt, Ph.D.
    | Reply

    I like it, although prefer fasting the other direction: Schedule a wonderful breakfast, then go light toward night.

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