Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There's a lot of food in the U.S., but that doesn't mean we need to eat all the time

The United States of America is a nation where food is plentiful for most people. 

Although we waste a surprisingly large amount of food, and there are certainly Americans who know the pain of starvation (a USDA report on Household Food Security reported that 14% of American households were considered "food insecure" in 2014), most Americans have enough food around to not only eat but to overeat as well (roughly one-third of American adults were considered obese in 2011-2012). 

It's honestly saddening how often we take the abundance of food for granted and fill ourselves until we feel like garbage. Like Louis C.K. has said, "I don't eat until I'm full, I eat until I hate myself.

Just as Aristotle espoused that there is virtue in finding a happy medium between extremes in lifestyle (don't be too active, but don't be too lazy; don't be too proud of yourself, but don't entirely debase yourself; etc.), there is certainly a state of moderation in our caloric intake that is good for us. We need a certain amount of calories to stay alive, but sometimes it's fun to eat more than that in a day. However, it seems like we should be balancing out the heavy eating days with some light eating days. It was thinking about that in the first place that led me to intermittent fasting a few years ago.

Intermittent fasting is a form of fasting where you cycle between periods of fasting and non-fasting. You can still go high calorie on a day of an intermittent fast, but I've personally found it harder to overeat while intermittently fasting.

I've been trying different forms of intermittent fasting, to see what works well for me. I've enjoyed the "6 on, 18 off" approach (eating all of my meals in a 6 hour period and then fasting for 18 hours), though now I'm trying trying 24 hour fasts once each week. I'm doing a total fast (water only) once each month, and then the other three weeks I just stay low calorie during a 24 hour period.

I've heard people who claim that fasting is bad for you or who ask "why would you want to do that", but there are some potentially great health benefits to fasting. For instance, Kris Gunnars wrote a post for Authority Nutrition entitled "10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting" where he reports the take-home points for almost 4 dozen peer-reviewed research articles showing potential benefits of fasting in various ways.

However, the main reason I'm using intermittent fasting has more to do with having control over myself. It's a fun mental challenge to push your body into a state of fasting and to have control over the process. I've found it to be a stimulating exercise, as well as a good way to control my caloric intake. Living in a land of plenty, it's refreshing to abstain, just a bit. As I mentioned above, there's lots of food in the U.S. and most people do not have to worry about getting their calories for the day. However, I think if more of us were conscious of how much we eat and when we eat, we might be better at controlling what we eat. Just some food for thought.

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