The Greatest Health Tool You’re Not Using

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It’s 2017.  We now know that approximately 95% of all disease-related causes of death in the United States are a direct result of one’s diet and lifestyle (not one’s genetics or family history!).  We now know that we can literally turn on and off cancer, we can reverse heart disease, we can cure autoimmune diseases, and completely eliminate “normal” issues like allergies and high blood pressure simply by changing what we choose to shove down our pie holes.  Despite what most of us have been told all our lives, the secret sauce to preventing and reversing disease does not point to high amounts of protein, or restricting carbohydrates, or eating what we think cavemen ate.  Instead, it points in one very clear direction:  a whole plant diet.

If this is news to you, I highly suggest you go back and read some of my previous posts or spend your afternoon watching videos on nutritionfacts.org.  Assuming you’re not living under a rock and are already eating a whole plant diet or are on your journey toward it, I want to share with you an additional lifestyle change that has taken my health and life even farther:  fasting. 

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

“Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day to keep your metabolism going.”

“Eat a good breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism.”

“Aren’t you going to eat something?”

"What's for dinner?"

“You look tired, you should eat something.”

We have been conditioned since the day we were born that we should eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and even add some snacks in between.  We literally eat ALL day.  When we skip meals or choose not to eat, others think there’s something wrong with us.  Most people would deem the choice to not eat or eat less throughout the day as “unhealthy” or even “dangerous."  From the moment we wake to the moment we sleep, we’re constantly making our bodies work to digest food.  Most of us have never stepped back and asked ourselves,

“Do I need to eat 3+ times a day?  Who decided that was optimal for human health?”

I have recently put this question to the test in my own life and what I have found is quite amazing.  For 3 weeks, I decided to fast from the time I woke up until 4PM.  I also ran, walked, biked, or lifted weights around noon each day.  It was an absolute game changer.  Just the simple act of eliminating the thought of food throughout the day freed up so much time.  My energy and mental clarity skyrocketed, my runs got faster and my strength and control over my body during workouts immensely improved.  Furthermore, my cardiovascular endurance and breathing increased and I could push myself much harder and farther. 

As with any change, the first few days were difficult, but once I was in a rhythm it became very easy.  I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t become malnourished, I didn’t get weak… instead, I felt better than I ever have.  From an athletic standpoint, this blew my mind.  Being an ex-athlete, I was always told to make sure I was “fueled” for optimal performance.  From pasta dinners and buffet breakfasts before competition to power bars and PB&J’s at halftime.  Less food meant poor performance.  On the general health front, I was always told to eat throughout the day to keep the metabolism going and keep “burning fat.”  Both of which, along with the whole eating a bunch of meat and “protein,” I now know to be wrong.

So, let’s put all the crap we’re told aside.  Let’s just think of the body as 1 whole functioning system with some finite amount of energy.  If digestion is one of the primary functions the body expends energy on, which it is (it’s been estimated that anywhere between 20-80% of one’s daily energy is spent on digestion, with harder to digest foods like animal products and processed foods falling on the higher end of that spectrum), then doesn’t it make sense that your body’s overall energy would increase if you gave your body less to digest or even simply ate easier to digest foods (like whole plant foods)?  That is certainly what I’ve found. 

The less energy your body has to spend on digestion, the more energy it has for everything else, from healing, to thinking, to fighting disease, to physically performing, and countless other functions.  If we want our body to perform at a high level or if we're tired or don't feel well, we shouldn’t eat more… we should eat less.  The more we’re able to get out of our body’s way and allow it to “do its thing,” the healthier we’ll become.  The human body is an amazing healing machine that wants to function at its highest level, but we are constantly getting in the way.  We relentlessly assign it work via food consumption and, as a result, our overall health is compromised.

Fasting has been used for centuries as a healing mechanism, a means to finding clarity, a way to connect spiritually to a higher being, and as an overall cleansing of the mind and body.  It’s unfortunate that fasting has taken a back seat to modern medicine and dietary norms.  Instead of using tools like fasting and natural remedies, today when we’re sick we throw drugs at it.  The drugs are often affective at treating the symptoms of our problems, but they do not solve or heal the underlying cause of our problem- what we’re eating.  Thus, the problem persists and most people live in a constant state of disease management with no chance of ever healing.

Waiting to eat until the afternoon is now my norm.  Just as adopting a whole plant diet increased my energy, improved my mental and physical performance, and healed so many of my personal health issues, fasting has helped me do so even more effectively.         

Not eating for half a day or a full day is not “dangerous.”  In fact, in may just be the greatest health tool we have available.