The month of February tends to be when the holiday spirit dies down a bit. As we settle back into work and school with the haze of New Year’s Resolutions fading from our minds, some of us look in the mirror and think, “I don’t remember eating that much over the holidays … but my waistline doesn’t lie …”
If this is something you can relate to, February Fasting Month might be the fresh take on the New Year spirit that you need. Just in time, expert Dr. Bill Cole, founder of the largest functional medicine group of its kind, explains the benefits of fasting to us here.
So, buckle in and join us in learning from Dr. Cole about fasting for February.
Why Should You Fast?
Metabolic health, which relates to digestion and metabolism, can be the underlying factor in many diseases. In the past few years, scientists and doctors developed the belief that healthy diets consist of not only nutritional content but also timing. When we eat seems to be just as important as what we eat. Enter intermittent fasting.
“By fasting, you are giving your body a break to digest your food and further burn energy from stored fat,” said Dr. Cole. “This should happen every night. Past cultures that hunted for their food most definitely fasted, probably for days, between finding new food. Humans aren’t built to eat the way we do in developed countries. We need to take breaks, or the nourishment that is supposed to energize us will kill us.”
Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation which is one of the leading causes of disease.
History of Fasting February
2019 marked the first year of Fasting February, but intermittent fasting in the medical field dates back much earlier. Intermittent fasting – which is different from fasting for religious, political, or mental health reasons — was defined by Doctors Valter Longo, Satchidananda Panda, and Mark Mattson as the alternative to the ‘gold standard‘ of life-lengthening methods, calorie restriction.
It’s Not a Diet
Dr. Cole has plenty of other reading material and feature articles regarding diet, but he explained that intermittent fasting, as a concept, does not seek to edit your food content. Rather, it seeks to disrupt the window you have each day to consume any food, thereby shortening the amount of time you have to consume unhealthy food.
While Dr. Cole does stress the importance of a healthy diet in terms of nutritional content, intermittent fasting on its own can work wonders.
“Cut out all forms of ingestion for a minimum of 10 hours every night,” said Dr. Cole. “You can go up to 16 hours eventually. Make sure you only drink water during this time. Some people opt to eat fewer than 500 calories a day for one to two days max per week, which is a viable option for my seasoned intermittent fasters. But if you are new to this method, please do not start with this option.”
Fasting February is a great month to try this for your first time because with the social media hashtag #FastingFebruary, you won’t be alone! Plenty of people just like you join together this month to fast for their first time — don’t hesitate to be part of the fun! You will feel amazing, create a lasting habit for yourself, and even make some friends.
Intermittent Fasting Safety
Please be sure that you practice safety when intermittent fasting. Fasting suddenly for two days will have highly damaging effects on your body and mental health. If you want to fast for long periods, increase the length of your overnight fasts by an hour or two every couple of days.
Tell a friend or family member what you are doing before you start. Fasting makes us feel so good that some people develop an addiction or eating disorder. If you prepare a safe person with the correct information ahead of time, you can avoid this.
Fasting is not anorexia, although some people assume the two are linked. While one can include the other, that is usually not the case.
“You might already fast intermittently without realizing it,” said Dr. Cole in closing. “If you naturally wait a while to eat breakfast in the mornings or never snack after dinner, you are already off to a great start. Track when you eat for a few days and see where you can expand your window of non-consumption time per day. The benefits are immense.”
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