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Why Fasting is not Starving (and clearing other confusions as well !).

Posted Apr 17 2012 12:00am

Lets get into it straight away :how is Fasting different from Starving ?
Starvation comes when due to lack of food or nutrients ; you have depleted all your body stores ,atrophying the muscles and organs. Intermittent fasting is a break in continuous eating : when your body maintains out of it's own fat reserves, and rids you of harmful toxins that you consume in the Modern Diet on a daily basis. 
All Newbie fasters want to go fast with the fasts .They can not believe that a simple fast can make them so light ,so energetic ,so clean inside out .So they want more of it .And they want it now.
But fasting is not just a hep new Diet and Weight Loss Technique that we never tried before.And more fasts may not be better fasts.And what worked for me may not work for you . Moreover : before getting all enthu and then all disillusioned ; all friends-especially girlfriends and fellow fasters must understand that IF is not about voluntary starvation using Iron willpower . Fasting at the very basic level is about modifying the hormonal basis of hunger .There are two hormones which predominantly regulate body fat:  insulin and leptin.Biologically the interplay of Insulin (which pushes glucose into cells) ,Leptin (satiety hormone which says ' no more' ) and Ghrelin (the hunger hormone which goes together with glucose depletion) decides when a person will want to open that packet of Lays Chips.
During starvation the body is so deprived of food, and more importantly of nutrients that it starts affecting the vital tissue and processes.Hormonally this means your blood sugar is so low that in panic your body has abandoned all else : muscle building , reproductive related activities to store whatever fat there is.Missing a meal or two does not put your body in starvation mode. However if you have blood sugar issues you may feel shaky ,jittery or famished. Fasting just once a week will help you enormously to correct that .You are all familiar of  the photos of the anorexics and the starving .What you may not realize is that  many overfat people too are starving at cellular level because the messed up hormones  ensure that all the food they eat can not get across to the cells due to insulin resistance and leptin resistance at the cellular level.
This also means that how well you move into a cycle of short, intermittent fasts depends on how stable your blood sugar already is.If you have been eating clean and exercising regularly, fasting will be easier- because acute blood sugar falls will not plague you. For people having problems with fasts :problems do not mean that fasting can not be/should not be done by you.Only that if you are at the base of a mountain ,climbing up will take a bit more time and effort .And trying to run before walking may put you off the whole thing. A regime of weekly fast IMHO is better for someone who feels l ow ,headachy,nauseous or jittery with a missed meal .
However whatever be the Blood sugar status : short ,intermittent fasts will help to improve it . Doing a weekly fast is not less beneficial than a daily fast.For every body and for every hormonal status there is a protocol that will work and will yield benefits .Whats more, fasts, as the ancients knew it ,for 16 to 24 hours once or twice  a week will not reduce you to a anorexic bundle of bones ;only make you cued to real hunger vs mindless social eating. Hormonally what they will do is :
  • Improve the Insulin sensitivity of the cells .With constant eating cells are so full of unneeded glucose that they start saying no to more energy by becoming Insulin Resistant .Insulin in the blood is a precursor of Diabetes.Going without constant eating for 16 to 24 hrs uses up that stored energy so that cells again start appreciating Insulin-they become sensitive and take up its offering.You can further help by eating non starch sugary stuff to improve your blood sugar status. You will see dramatic reduction of hunger pangs,sugar shakes every two three hours.
  • Improve the Leptin sensitivity.Like cells become Insulin resistant ,at the pitutary -hypothalamus level there is a deafness on part of Hypothalamus to hear leptin which is the "I- am- Full" hormone . Fasting is the most well researched and documented way of enhancing leptin sensitivity .
  •  In healthy individuals, as Byron Richards describes,
  • "A drop in leptin signals hunger. Food intake stimulates insulin release. As a person eats, insulin is always directing some amount of triglycerides to go over to white adipose tissue and enter fat cells….This turns on the production of leptin in fat cells, causing the blood level to rise in response to the meal. As the leptin levels rise high enough, they signal to the brain that enough has been eaten. Leptin now signals the pancreas to stop making insulin…In overweight people, the communications involving insulin and leptin are inefficient. It is like making a phone call where no one answers. Insulin and leptin resistance mean that the hormones don’t communicate efficiently in response to food.” (The Leptin Diet, p. 13, 17, 23, 36) In short, if you want to control your appetite and burn fat faster,  you want your brain ,your liver cells to hear leptin and insulin imemdiately .  The problem for most people eating the modern sugars and starch based diet is that these hormones are not adequately reaching and communicating with the appetite center of the hypothalamus.
    Remember : whenever you attempt to change hormonally hardwired habits ,it will not be a smooth ride all the time .Yet more than will power ,rely on willingness and common sense .You will need the willingness to start.But have the good sense to break the fast a bit early if you are feeling headachy or low.And to try a different fasting frequency if one is not working for you .If you skip one week start again next week.Never doubt that your liver will love you for it.
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