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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]

‘I came out of McDonald’s the other day with two Quarter Pounders, a Big Mac, a chicken burger and three large portions of chips (or fries, if you will). A homeless guy sitting on the street mumbled to me, “Please sir, I haven’t eaten in three days.” My reply: “I admire your willpower.”‘

Some of you may have heard that one or a version of it before.

The benefits of intermittent fasting

Eating foods as close to their natural state as possible can work wonders for our health.

Fast life
It’s a sign of the times that such a “joke” would be deemed offensive now, on all sides. That is, people would take umbrage at mocking a starving individual while there would also be outrage at making light of somebody who overeats. It’s an addition after all, not a lifestyle choice. Poor victims.

Remember the not-too-distant past when we didn’t focus on the potential offensive elements of every utterance? They are fading fast from memory.

In any case, there is plenty to suggest that humanity would be in a healthier state if we matched more so the homeless man on the forced fast (for starters, check out Dr Pradip Jamnadas at https://youtu.be/Yg6UhhV_K1s).

OK, when it comes to dieting and one’s overall health and well-being, what’s hot and what’s not seem to be constantly changing. One week a study suggests a particular food works wonders, the next week we’re told the opposite. It can get a bit confusing.

Nonetheless, I do place trust in robust, stress-tested science (not the just-get-jabbed-and-wear-a-facemask’ #Science™. On top of that, the medical experts who extol the virtues of fasting aren’t trying to sell a product or asking us to invest our hard-earned money in some new device or way of life.

It’s the opposite, actually. By incorporating regular fasting into our lives we’d eat less and potentially save money.

I’m not going to go into all the apparent beneficial biological processes at play when one fasts, Dr Pradip Jamnadas’ video referenced above does that in detail.

What I will say is that the approach endorsed by Dr Jamnadas and many others is something that I’d naturally been drifting towards — and feeling better for it. It’s just more reassuring to hear respected doctors and scientists not only talk up its virtues but also explain the science behind it. I’m usually wary of those who instantly opt for the pharmaceutical “solution” for all ailments.

‘What helps me to focus on eating less but eating well when I do is the idea that I’m not succumbing to the marketing of addictive products.’

While some people in high-income nations may be experiencing a cost-of-living crisis — it’s all relative — almost always there’s a fast feast available. And this is normally one of poor nutritional quality i.e. highly processed and starchy-carbohydrate heavy.

Alongside that, many are still stuck in the three-meals-a-day mindset. Even if these meals were of optimum nutritional value, they most likely equate to excessive consumption for the majority.

What should be kept in mind is that the most important meal of the day is the next one you eat. So what that consists of is key (this video by Dr Sten Ekberg is one useful guide https://youtu.be/F7gDIshc-S0).

Do note, there is evidence to suggest that eating first thing in the morning is not best practice. In layman’s terms, allowing your body an hour or two — or more — to “warm up” before consuming a meal is more beneficial. It’s also not usually a good idea to eat just before sleeping.

Food junkies
Now, I must admit that when I listen to these experts who endorse regular fasting, I do wonder if an extremely active person can get the same benefits — cell regeneration and suchlike — more quickly. My thinking is that such types burn off what they consume at a quicker rate than somebody with a more sedentary lifestyle. Thus, fasting bonuses might kick in earlier. Dr Jamnadas, let us know your thoughts!

Whatever the case, I have been doing my best to reduce my eating window. I try to regularly have a 14- to 18-hour gap between ingesting food. And as mentioned earlier, I feel better for it, whether that’s a placebo effect more than anything else.

I am not, though, obsessive about dietary matters. I also have weak points, which I’ve documented before. Although, my “BBC” addiction is nothing like that hedonistic period in 2020 when I was eating up to six mogolla chicharronas per day. Goodness! I was turning into the bread with pork fat I was scoffing.

What helps me to focus on eating less but eating well when I do is the idea that I’m not succumbing to the marketing of addictive products. And this drug pushing doesn’t just come from food and beverage companies. Even governments, naively well-meaning perhaps, often endorse nonsensical nutritional advice (have you had your five-a-day yet?).

Financially difficult times and perpetual poverty spots notwithstanding, we are in an age of abundance: an abundance of relatively cheap food available at the touch of a button but also an abundance of knowledge as to what a lot of this “convenience” food does to our bodies.

Unfortunately, coupled with this age of abundance is a society well versed in its rights but very often lacking when it comes to accepting its responsibilities. Behave recklessly, fail to take care of yourself, then expect society to come up with the solutions, at a cost to us all.

The result is greater government control. A caring nanny state is just a perceived apocalyptic threat away from a wicked witch state. We’ve had plenty of evidence of this lately.

Thankfully, though, we still — for the most part — have control over what we put into our bodies. The eat-well-but-less-often approach may help us to keep this control for a little longer, on both the individual and societal levels.

Think fast, folks!
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.

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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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