These 7 Common Myths Will Change The Way You Think About Fasting
From the notion that fasting is a new trend, to the idea that fasting is the same as starvation, the facts about fasting tend to get lost among its many myths. So how do we decide what’s real and what’s bunk?
Here at fasting.com, we’ve taken into account the scientific, historic, and pragmatic views on fasting to assemble a list of fasting myths that you can reflect on and say,
“Oh…I guess that was rubbish after all.”
The fact is that fasting has been around since the dawn of humanity: no amount of disinformation can keep it from being one of the most widely used interventions for health and wellbeing. But these myths can prevent you (or one of your loved ones) from trying something that could take your quality of life to the next level. So let’s do some myth-busting, shall we?
On to the first myth!
Myth #1 – Fasting is not starving
Starvation is the deterioration of health when the body uses normal tissue (such as organs and muscle) to sustain life. Fasting is the restoration of health when the body consumes diseased and damaged cells to promote longevity. Both occur in the absence of food. But fasting is a planned health intervention; starvation isn’t.
This myth is perpetuated by the use of ‘starvation’ in scientific journals when the word ‘fasting’ is actually needed. ‘Starving’ comes from the Old English word steorfan, which means “to die,” and also from the Proto-Germanic word sterbanan, which meant “be stiff” – as in, be dead. None of these roots are associated with ‘fasting’ – which is the recovery of your health!
You can break your fast at will if you start feeling bad. But you can’t ‘un-starve’ yourself.
Myth #2 – Fasting is an eating disorder
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia come at the expense of a person’s health and mental wellbeing, and they stem from the belief that food is generally a bad thing. Fasting, though it does involve periods of going without food, is undertaken for improved health and spirituality. (It does not promote disordered eating.)
A core idea of fasting is that food is a very good thing – just not all the time! And what could be more polar opposite of an eating disorder than learning to appreciate ample quantities of food (feasting) without any calorie counting or guilt?
Myth #3 – Fasting is a health fad
By definition, health fads are ephemeral: they come and they go, having no scientific evidence to back them up. Fasting, on the other hand, has been practiced since the beginning of time – our ancestors were intermittent and periodic fasters, – it’s a common behavior in all animals, and it has 70 years of scientific research to support it.
Compared to the thousands of years that fasting has been widely used, the 6-meal-a-day diet (which has only existed for the last 50 years) is a brand-new trend!
Myth #4 – Fasting works the same as calorie restriction: Calories in, calories out (CICO)
The same people who claim that fasting is a health fad also say that fasting only works because it’s another form of calorie restriction. While it’s true that fasting often coincides with calorie restriction (it’s kinda hard to have excess calories when you’re not eating for 24 hours or more at a time), fasting enhances the metabolism. Calorie restriction is proven to reduce daily energy expenditure.
This is because CICO diets are based on long-term deprivation.
Your body doesn’t know that the fridge is only 10 feet away; it only knows that you’re not getting ample amounts of food for long periods of time. Since your body wants to keep you alive, it intervenes by gradually reducing your metabolism so that you can survive in scarcity. – Smart, right?
Fasting, on the other hand, does not involve long periods of scarcity.
For one, your body is feasting on ample supplies of fat while you fast. (The average person can fast safely for 40-60 days!) Second, fasting doesn’t involve prolonged food deprivation. You fast for a day, then you eat completely normal or even more the next day. This cycle of fasting and feasting tells your body that you’re not in prolonged scarcity. Your metabolism stays high, then, so that you can have tons of energy to get your next proverbial kill! Again, the body is smart!
Myth #5 – Fasting is so simple (don’t eat..) that you don’t really have to prepare for it
The concept of fasting is simple. But so is driving: push the peddle and go, right? Except you’d never drive without first learning all about it, and then practicing in small increments till you’re ready to fly solo.
The same idea applies to fasting.
Even though your body is designed to fast for long periods of time comfortably, most people live in such a way that their ‘fasting muscles’ (metabolism, fat-burning abilities) are extremely atrophied. Sedentary lifestyles, dependence on carbs, eating 20 times a day…that’s where most people are at.
Then when they try to jump into 24 hours of eating nothing, their blood sugar levels plummet, their adrenaline and cortisol skyrocket in order to help with emergency fat burning, and they quit because they feel so horrible.
The concept of fasting is much simpler than the application.
That’s why we recommend preparing for 24+ hour fasts with shorter intermittent fasts of 12-16 hours in the weeks before. This trains your fasting muscles to help you thrive in the absence of food. We also recommend learning about the fasting method that will work best for you, and preparing for fasts with strategic food selections, schedule adjustments, and a plan to break the fast without harming your body.
Fasting is simple. But it’s not so simple, ya dig?
Myth #6 – You have to feel deprived during a fast
Many people never commit to the fasting lifestyle (even though they know it’s what they need!) because they can’t cozy up to the idea of deprivation. Fasting must be pure misery, they think.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Fasting is commonly reported to be the most joyful and energized part of a person’s week! This is because we’re never truly deprived in a fast. For one, our bodies have plenty of fat to keep us functional and healthy for upwards of thirty days and more. Second is that, while you may lack food, you have an abundance of time and focus for accomplishing tasks and making progress. (This is one reason that entrepreneurs and business executives adopt a fasting lifestyle.)
When you’re busy improving yourself and being productive, you’re not focusing on what you lack, but on the incredible life you have!
Lastly, many fasts allow for coffee, tea, sparkling water, and other creature comforts that can make fasting less austere. And several fasting methods actually call for some amount of daily food consumption. These include
Bottom line: there’s absolutely no reason to feel deprived in a fast. If you focus on filling your time productively – and if you choose the right fast – you’ll enjoy fasting as much or more than normal life.
Myth #7 – The only reason to fast is for weight loss
This one is completely bogus!
Weight loss is just one of many, many reasons to fast – though fasting is extremely effective for this purpose. People even say that it’s dangerous to fast if you don’t have weight to lose, which is wrong.com: the average person loses only 2-3% of their body weight during a prolonged fast.
Do you have inflammation? That’s a reason to fast. Are you aging? There’s another reason. What about diabetes or metabolic syndrome? Bam: yet two more reasons to fast. (There are hundreds of reasons, bee-tee-dubs.)
The fact is that our ancestors fasted regularly for many millennia longer than we’ve been eating three square meals a day. So fasting is in our genetic programming. And if you want to live your healthiest and best life, you’ll benefit by adopting some form of intermittent or periodic fasting today – no matter what weight you are!