People are constantly trying new “diets”, or thinking about trying. New, because there are very few dieting amateurs - most people are more like semi-pro diet hoppers. So why? Because they aren’t satisfied, something is lacking. So either we have an unattainable picture of health, we aren’t willing to do what it takes, or the methods being used are inadequate. Although a portion could be contributed to the second, my years of questioning and studying people in our weight loss clinic have stirred in me the belief that it is the latter. But before we get to that, let’s have a look at the elements of exceptional health.
The Elements of Exceptional Health
This is a step beyond weight-loss toward the fantasy of fat loss plus muscle preservation. Undeniably the #1 reason people diet. Standing opposite our vain motivations, though, is our society’s unhealthy obsession with food - one that has actually lead to food addiction (yes, food addiction is real). I mean one sonic blast commercial and I’m falling out my car door reaching for that glowing red button, so who am I to judge. But the fact remains that food is ever present, will power is lacking, most people are overweight, and not many people know what to do about it.
There are many factors to quality of life - being healthy is definitely a significant one. Being healthy results in taking fewer medications, visiting the doctor less, having more energy, being thinner, brighter, more confident, and happier. You have more time and are more physically and mentally capable of doing things you enjoy.
We work hard and try ridiculous things to avoid contracting one of the many chronic illness plaguing our society such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Health is slave to time, consequently an essential part of being healthy is the ability to stay that way. The hard truth is that true prevention requires consistency, which is rare. Most people are constantly yoyo-ing between whole foods diets and krispy kreme raids. So either we pick something and stick to it forever (not likely), or we find a tool to fortify our body against the delicious suffering we choose to inflict on it. Again, the problem is obvious but the solution is not. Stick with me.
Ability to Heal, Cleanse & Treat Physical Ailments
Prevention is great, but sometimes that ship sails leaving you standing in the harbor with a break up letter from your health saying it is never coming back. One miraculous function of the body is its ability to heal itself. Healing requires energy and energy is obtained through food; so it follows logically that with a little knowledge and appropriate dietary changes we can tap into our energy systems to trigger repair functions. The limits of our body’s ability to heal itself have yet to be discovered. Here are a few things we do know we can influence:
- Digestive function, skin complexion, organ toxicity, energy levels, sleep patterns, allergies, cognitive (brain) function, creativity, hormone balance, emotional stability, inflammation, blood sugar, blood cell count and circulation, insulin production and sensitivity - I could go on. You can either affect these things naturally and biologically, or you can buy a squatty potty (actually I recommend both, but you get my point).
We want to prevent illness or disease because they make life miserable, but also because we want to live longer. The ultimate goal is to not die, which means extending lifespan and youthspan. Because living longer is great, but not if you are just an animated corpse in those bonus years - zombies are real people. Exceptional health then is not only living longer, but also living younger.
I already mentioned high expectations, so to top off our health sundae we demand the above elements and that acquiring them be easy - to be healthy without working for it - to be skinny and eat cake for breakfast. This is why drugs are so appealing, live however you want but still be “healthy”. But pharmaceuticals only mask problems, they don’t solve them. Not to get off on a tangent - the point I am trying to make is that people are still looking for an easy way to make true health improvements.
Knowing the elements of exceptional health doesn’t change the fact that you feel like you are trying to catch the wind in a jar. I’m here to tell you that it’s not the wind’s fault, your jar is called dieting and it’s broken - it will never be able to deliver the true, comprehensive health that you seek. That can only be done by tapping into your body’s preservation mode.
Unlock Exceptional Health with Your Body’s Preservation Mode
Preservation mode is a physiological state in which your body undergoes cellular regeneration and immune system reset. For those of us that slept through 8 a.m. Biology, a cell is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known living organisms - your biological brick and mortar, if you will. Regeneration is the renewal, restoration, or regrowth of a damaged or missing cellular organism (e.g. cells, tissues, organs). Cellular Regeneration then, is the renewal and regrowth of cells - your body’s foundational materials.
Why then is preservation mode, or “survival mode” as some like to call it, important? Because it is in this state your body begins recycling, repairing, and ultimately creating new cells, and only through this process are you able to attain every element of exceptional health. In the words of fasting and longevity expert, Dr. Valter Longo, "Everything gets a little younger and goes back to working a little better.”
So how do you activate preservation mode? Well, you have to trick your body into thinking that it’s starving. There are a few ways to accomplish this - either with a ketogenic diet that eliminates carbohydrate intake, which can be difficult and tedious so it doesn’t satisfy our need for simplicity; or more efficiently by fasting. Hey, don’t freak out; seriously, deep breaths - whatever your preconceptions, knee-jerk reactions, and thoughts are when you think of fasting, just set them aside for a moment in the name of open-mindedness. [ Note: This is not the same thing as starvation. See point number 7 in this post by Authority Nutrition.]
First, What is Fasting?
Simply put, fasting is abstinence - from objects, luxuries, places and practices, or food (our focus). The word itself is derived from the Old English word fæstan which means “to fast as a religious duty”, also “to make firm, pledge”. According to Wikipedia, “Fasting is primarily a movement of willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time.”
These definitions sound intimidating, and fasting is often thought of as extreme, dangerous, even scary. That is naivety (or perhaps misinformation dubiously sewn by the diet industry). Fasting has been safely practiced in some form by almost every culture since antiquity, yet somewhere along the way it lost relevance.
Still, there are many different forms of fasting being used today. Each method has its purpose and can be very beneficial when used properly, but for now I am only going to discuss the forms that accomplish our purpose and to do so it must satisfy the following definition:
Fasting - a reduction in calories over a period of time significant enough to activate preservation mode.
Forms of Fasting that Activate Preservation Mode
- Dry Fasting - The purest form of fasting, specifically long-fasting. You consume nothing, including water, for an extended period of time, usually 3 days or more.
- Water Fasting - The next purest form of fasting - also long-fasting. You would only consume water for a period usually 3 days or longer, but can be less.
- Juice Fasting - During juice fasting you only consume natural juice of raw fruits and vegetables. This category bleeds into the detox realm, but it is still restricting categories over a period of time.
- Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) - The newest member of the fasting community, fasting mimicking came out of a study performed at the University of Southern California in 2015. The way it works is each month: 5 consecutive days on FMD - 25 days eating normally. It breaks down like this:
- Day 1: Approximately 55% normal caloric intake - 1,100 calories
- Day 2-5: Approximately 35% normal caloric intake - 725 calories
Where This Leaves You
If you take nothing else away from this article, I would like to leave you with this to ponder: If you refuse to give up your quest for exceptional health, then you have to be open to finding better methods for getting there. Modern scientific research is beginning to show that we can achieve significant health changes by tapping into our physiology through fasting - so maybe it is time to take another look at fasting and try it for yourself. All you need to figure out is, what’s the best form of fasting?