ONE day, a certain man decided he was tired of being depressed and anxious all the time so he would just starve himself until he exited the land of the living. He locked himself in his room and vowed to stay in his bed until his ancestors came to escort him to the other side. Day one, he woke up and he was not dead. Day two, he woke up, still not dead. Day three, he woke up and he was feeling good! He was feeling like he was no longer depressed and this puzzled him. So, he unlocked his door and got to googling, trying to understand where his desire to kick it went. He then stumbled upon fasting and what happens when you don’t eat. He stumbled on Dr Eric Berg’s website and started intermittent fasting, lost a lot of weight and he now lives his life as a much happier, no longer suicidal human. Intriguing, right? Let’s talk about the benefits of intermittent fasting.

I’ve noticed that this a very misunderstood concept, and to be quite honest, even I wasn’t so keen on trying it at first. I couldn’t fathom intentionally skipping some meals so I shoved the idea so far back in my mind, it was almost as though I was unaware it existed. It was only until I was 113kgs, hypertensive, breastfeeding and unwilling to give up eating nshima that I decided to give intermittent fasting a try. I didn’t do anything outrageous in the beginning, I downloaded an intermittent fasting App called Zero and started with the shortest available fast on the plan, 13 hours. This meant I could push my breakfast a little further into the morning; rather than eat around 7AM, I would eat around 10AM. Within a week, I settled into the 16:8 pattern which means that I would fast for 16 hours and then eat within an eight-hour window. At this point, I had completely done away with the traditional “breakfast” meal. My first meal of the day became lunch at 12:00 hours and then I would have another meal before 20:00 hours. The first few days were hard, saying it was blissful would be a bowl of beans. I would wake up wanting to make myself some toast, eggs and hot chocolate but I would drink some water instead and keep it moving. Eventually, however, I began to wake up thinking about anything else but food and it was truly freeing. By the end of the first month, I had lost 3kgs without modifying my diet. I would still eat nshima, rice, cake, whatever I wanted really, but within a specific eating window. My blood pressure readings also significantly improved without taking any medication!

After noticing that my weight loss has stalled, I decided to pair intermittent fasting with a ketogenic diet and I kid you not when I say I lost 10 freaking kilos in just a single month, without any exercise! At this point, my blood pressure readings were optimal and I have maintained this for the last six months! I went on to lose another 6kgs before falling into temptation and reverting to a carb heavy diet for a while. But guess what? During my ‘cheating’ spree, I didn’t gain much weight because I stuck to intermittent fasting, fascinating! In the past, I have gained back double the weight after quitting a keto diet because I’d fall back into the old ways of eating anything I want at whatever time I please. If I crave some Ferrero Rocher at 22:00 hours, I’ll have a whole box! If I get home late from work, I’ll have some nshima with beef stew and visashi at 21:00 hours, because, I would think to myself, ‘I NEED to eat’. Well, over the past few months, through research and practice, I have learnt that we rarely NEED to eat. With the standard Zambian diet and eating habits, in my opinion, we literally eat and drink our way to some chronic conditions by failing to give our bodies a rest. I for one was getting depressed because my body was looking and feeling sluggish. I was losing the zeal and drive to get out of bed and do what I love, hell, I was even beginning to forget about the things I love. Intermittent fasting and keto fixed all that for me and also got rid of my brain fog. But anyway, enough back story, let’s into some benefits of intermittent fasting as explained by an actual medical expert, Dr Berg on his website and his YouTube channel.

Firstly, realise that fasting is not starving. Starving is when your body starts to eat up your muscle protein and different organs and you pretty much have run out of fat. You see, the fat on your body is there to help you survive when you are not eating. That means that most of us are walking around with enough ‘food’ embedded in our bodies to last us several weeks even if we don’t ingest anything. An average person has roughly over 800,000 calories of stored energy in their fat cells, and for an average person that is not overweight, they have about 100,000 calories of stored energy. So, relax, you definitely WON’T starve if you skip some meals.

Below are some benefits of intermittent fasting:

1. You will be happier – there’s something about freeing yourself from constantly thinking about food which gives you a sense of peace.

2. Your immune system will be better – with prolonged fasting you can even rebuild your entire immune system!

3. You get rid of inflammation – so many conditions like heart disease, autoimmune diseases, gout, arthritis, name it, are all as a result of inflammation.

4. You will save money on your grocery bills because you’ll simply be eating less. When you do intermittent fasting, your need for food gets less and your body becomes more efficient. Your nutrient requirements are less because your body has adapted and when you do eat, you gravitate towards some nutriently dense real food.

5. You will lose weight – fasting can help you correct your metabolism and get you losing weight again, even if you had hit a plateau. Behind slow metabolism is insulin resistance, insulin is the key factor that determines whether you are going to burn fat or not. With intermittent fasting, you can lower your overall insulin levels and allow your body to burn some of the stored fat for fuel, especially when you pair it with a low carb or ketogenic diet.

6. You will have extra time for other things because you are not constantly eating or preparing meals.

7. It gives your digestive system a chance to reset – it is not having to work 24/7 because you keep chewing every other hour. So, you will have less bloating and less inflammation in the gut.

If you want to give intermittent fasting a try and you are currently on three meals a day plus snacks, step one is to eliminate snacks, especially night time snacks. If you just did that, you would improve the body. Step two, skip your breakfast and to make this even easier, you would have to go on a low carb diet. It is not a necessity but it will help because when you lower your carbohydrates, it allows you to tap into more fat because you lower your insulin. Frequent eating and carbs increase your insulin so if you lower your carbs, it will be easier to skip breakfast in the morning because when you sleep, you are fasting all night long and when you wake up, are you really hungry? Probably not, we just eat out of tradition. We’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but that’s just some bullsh…oh, sorry, I meant it is a stupid idea which is sold by companies which manufacture breakfast foods.

Once you cut out breakfast, you’re now comfortably eating only two meals a day within a six or an eight-hour window. If you want to lose weight faster, shorten those two meals to a four-hour eating window, that gives you 20 hours of fasting and you will get more benefits such as increased weight loss, less belly fat. Eventually, you can do OMAD (one meal a day), that gives you 23 hours of fasting and an hour eating window. Dr Berg believes that anyone above 50 should be doing this because when someone gets older, they don’t need that much food because they’re not as active. There are some people who are able to fast for 36 hours, which means they eat one day and they fast on the next day; alternate day fasting.

What can give you even more benefits? Periodic prolonged fasting where you go without food for two days to a week or even longer. This would give you a chance to stimulate your stem cells for immune rebuilding, auto repair of your brain or to handle health problems like arthritis and cancer. Dr Berg argues that prolonged fasting is hands down the most powerful thing you can do to fight cancer. He narrates that there’s a gentleman, Guy Tenenbaum, that had stage four cancer and he was under palliative care. So, he did some research and tried so many things but something which made a difference was prolonged fasting. He was able to get rid of stage four cancer and he is still alive today, sharing his story in order to help others realise the power of fasting. Prolonged fasting can kill cancer because when you fast, your genes start aligning with survival techniques.

“When you mimic a little bit of starvation, all sorts of survival things kick in and all sorts of diseases go into remission. You upgrade certain genes to overcome all sorts of issues,” says Dr Berg.

So, what are you waiting for? Try intermittent fasting today and see how you will feel after a month. Commit to at least a two-week period to fast perfectly and then make an assessment of how you feel. If you eventually pair it with exercise and a ketogenic diet, you get increased benefits because all those things complement each other; they lower insulin, increase the growth hormone and enhance health in the body. After all the benefits I have seen in my own life, you will never catch me eating three meals and several snacks in one day ever again!

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