2012-05-04

Intermittent fasting

At least for the past 15 years I have been taking two meals a day, that is, lunch and supper but no breakfast. I did not start this after reading some book, but I simply found myself following this habit of (not) eating instinctively as if I listened to the inner voice of my body. Although I run every weekday morning before work, I take in nothing but water afterward until I eat lunch around 11:30; I eat supper around 19:30 after daily swimming on weekdays. In other words, I fast for 16 hours every day and eat at the beginning and the end of the "window" of 8 hours. Actually, religious Jews also follow this habit on Sabbaths and holidays, but the problem is that many of them overeat.

Although many people seem to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I feel this habit of eating two meals a day suits me, every time I am forced to eat breakfast for some, mostly social, reasons and feel bad physically later. In short, breakfast destroys my day. Incidentally, academic conferences in Israel also destroy the rythm of my body, as they are organized by and for people who eat breakfast rather late in the morning and eat lunch between 13:30 and 15:00, which is too late for me, as I have to fast 18 hours instead of 16.

Several years ago I stumbled upon books by two Japanese medical doctors recommending this diet and explaining why it is good for the body. Being only a linguist-cum-runner-cum-swimmer, I cannot validate these explanations of theirs, but the fact remains that I feel much better physically without breakfast.

While reading a new book entitled Fitness for Geeks by Bruce W. Perry this week, I found a section recommending this diet. I also found it has a name ("intermittent fasting") and has followers among athletes. The author cited medical explanations about why intermittent fasting is good for the body, and they made sense to me. One of them is that our body is used to fasting but not to overeating, which characterizes many people in our age and seems to cause a number of modern diseases that were not known to ancient men.

In spite of all the physical benefits intermittent fasting seems to have, it may not be for everyone. And if you should decide to try it, please follow guidelines available on a number of websites about it and/or even consult your family doctor in advance. Like every new habit, you also have to adjust yourself to intermittent fasting little by little.