Why do we eat three meals a day, especially when we mostly live sedentary lifestyles? Why are we told to snack throughout the day and that 6 small meals might be better? Why is breakfast the most important meal? Why, why, why? If you hadn’t guessed, I was that inquisitive child that always annoyed her parents with endless questions. To be fair it might partially be my parents’ fault, they raised us to always ask questions, to seek knowledge, and ultimately, truth. Thus, four years ago I set out on a pursuit to find the answers to my many questions regarding diet and health and I’m thankful I did. Little did I know back then where I’d be now and how much my research would help me. So, where am I now?
After almost 20 years of marriage, I received divorce papers. I’m now officially divorced, raising my children on my own, I’m the sole guardian, and I have my children 24/7. I’m working both a full-time and part-time job. I’m maintaining my house, as in the infrastructure, as well as the household, caring for pets and all the domestic engineering requirements. And I’m in the process of going back to school. You know what I literally have no time for? Well, besides myself and my friends…getting sick! If I go down for even a day all the plates will stop spinning and come crashing down. The repercussions of such an event would be catastrophic, it would literally set me back weeks! What’s more, as a teacher I practically work in a petri dish of germs. So how is it that I haven’t been sick once this year? How is it possible that I could be under such immense stress between going through the divorce process (it wasn’t finalized until January of this year), raising three teens on my own, new job, etc., and not getting sick? One word, autophagy! So what exactly is autophagy?
The word autophagy has a Greek origin, “auto” means self, and “phagy” means to eat, thus the literal meaning is, self-eating. Now before you get creeped out by this meaning, hear me out. Autophagy means that the body can use itself as fuel while aiding in cleaning up all the garbage hanging around in our bodies. Yes, I said garbage, as in, cellular garbage, food particles, viruses, inflammatory molecules, and even cancer cells! Each of our cells has natural healing powers that occur in the lysosomes in our cells which help break down DNA and proteins, lipids, RNA, etc. Basically, autophagy is where our cells clean up garbage, they remove, recycle, and regenerate at a cellular level. It can even help with insulin resistance which leads to diabetes. How do we know all of this? We owe our gratitude to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology on the Mechanisms of Autophagy in 2016. And exactly how does autophagy works? One word, fasting. Which brings me back to my original question, Why do we eat three meals a day, especially when we mostly live sedentary lifestyles? Why are we told to snack throughout the day and that 6 small meals might be better? If our body is always digesting when does it have time to heal? When can our cells rejuvenate? They aren’t.
Fasting allows our body to take a break from the digestive process to actually heal and rejuvenate itself. Intermittent fasting is the best place to start with a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast then work up to 18 hours. I have personally established a feeding window between 5pm and 10pm that works for my body, but remember, everybody is different. And it turns out they were right when it comes to breakfast, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Or, should I say, how you break your fast is important?! Do not break a fast with processed substances (FYI, processed food isn’t actually food, it’s substances) you want to break a fast with healthy fats such as those found in avocadoes, nuts, olive oil….and good news for my fellow coffee lovers, coffee (black, no cream or sugar) actually increases autophagy!
Also, be sure to hydrate hydrate hydrate when you fast! Electrolyte water is also a good idea, simply add lemon and a bit of salt to your water. The benefits that I’ve experienced from fasting are extensive…not only have I not been sick, but fasting is free, in fact, it actually saves me money. Imagine, I feel better, don’t need medication, and I’m saving money, I’d call that a win-win-win! For those interested in trying it but afraid of feeling hungry I will tell you this, we train our body when to feel hungry, and that ghrelin “hunger-hormone” you feel when you think you are hungry will subside after 20 minutes.
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Disclaimer, I am not a doctor. It is advised to consult your physician before fasting especially if you have special dietary or underlying health issues.