Updated: Aug 21
Okay guys – let’s talk autophagy! I am seriously interested to know who has heard of autophagy before (if anyone) and why more people aren’t talking about this seemingly magical anti-aging and disease-fighting strategy, especially given its recent accolades.
You see, a Japanese biologist won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2016 for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content…a process known as autophagy. It is believed that fasting activates the cellular recycling process.
I have been totally nerding out this and this is what I have gathered: studies have shown that after all glucose stores are depleted through fasting, the body turns to its own cells for energy. This would be dangerous if we were in true a starvation state, but this is 21st century America and food is everywhere. So luckily for us, we can fast just long enough for the body to burn up misfolded, pre-cancerous cells and then break-the-fast before the body burns up good cells / muscle.
I “discovered” this fountain-of-youth strategy through my investigations on getting rid of inflammation in my body follow my ACL surgeries. Fasting, it seems, is not just a weight loss diet but an overall health strategy with many benefits including anti-inflammation and warding off diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
I decided to give it a whirl. I did my first 24 hour fast in May. Never before in my 40 years have I gone 24 hours without food. I did it on a day where I didn’t have much going on. I stayed busy through my first hunger pain and it went away. I did it again through my second and third hunger pains, and then it was time to eat. I followed suggested protocol and broke my fast with healthy fats (an avocado mixed with a little bit of bacon and hot sauce = nom nom). Inflammation was way down and I have to admit I did feel great.
And so here I am sitting on this landmine of information, hemming and hawing whether or not I want to be the one to start the conversation about fasting. I mean, I have never, ever heard anyone in my circle off fitness professionals talking about fasting / autophagy. Do I want to be the one beginning this conversation? Would I ever really advocate to my clients such a strict eating pattern?
The answer is probably not and here is why: When it comes to diet, I know what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Variables affecting success range from age, body composition, food sensitivities and just plain differing goals.
However, this article is less about losing weight and more about anti-aging and disease prevention. So I will start this conversation but I do so carefully. I recognize fasting is not for everyone. In particular, if you have a poor relationship with food, fasting could be a slippery slope to disordered eat. And people with type 1 diabetes and/or pregnant women, sorry…no go.
But if you think it may be for you and you want to try it, I encourage you to read some articles, listen to podcasts, and talk to your doctor. If you have the all clear, I think a good place to start may be with intermittent fasting (also known as time restricted eating). Try restricting your food intake window to eight hours a day and see how you feel, then go from there.
Only you will know if fasting is right for you. Food is part of the enjoyment of life, too, so I definitely don’t want to lose sight of that. What is the point of living 100 years if you aren’t enjoying it? However, I know I will enjoy those years more if I can keep inflammation at bay. It is certainly food for thought (pun intended, ha!).
Articles that might be of interest to you:
Super interesting podcast on the matter:
Article by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is the founder of Kalispell's Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catch phrase "fitness is fun" is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. Mindy is also a columnist for "Montana Woman Magazine." Her column "The Real Levitation Experience" shares expertise for elevating health and wellness that she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer and life coach. For more about Mindy, please visit: https://www.levitationnation.org/mindy