And so it came to pass that on an evening in November, I found myself next to a naturopathic doctor, looking for a quick fix.
I had thought this beautiful woman, who glows inside and out, was just the mother of my 3-year-old's new best friend. But as is the case with most mothers, there was more to the story, and due to my well-worn party-girl tendencies, I was impressed on several levels. I poured myself another glass of prosecco (she passed), and asked her to tell me her top five tips for healthful living. She wrote them out:
- Vegetables, low-sugar fruit, fish (eat low glucose, check for inflammation, and address if high)
- 12 hour fast / 80% full
- Social connection, inspiration, purpose
The next morning, clearing the table, I came upon the list, and sat down with my Berocca and coffee to consider it. What was this 12-hour fast? 80% full? Here it was! The new idea I'd been hoping for. I started researching and set my breakfast aside.
There are several versions of intermittent fasting, with the most extreme being doing two 24-hour fasts each week. My friend's approach is more do-able, and is something one could do almost every day of the week. It simply means not eating from, for example, 9pm until 9am. A more restricted version of this is also popular, which limits food intake to an 8-hour window (and not eating between, for example, 7pm and 11am).
For my money, this is the best kind of change to make; one that benefits you externally (controlling weight) and internally (benefiting health). Because your body goes into fasting mode after approximately 10 hours, it starts to burn fat. That's also the cancer-fighting part, because it removes glucose from your bloodstream. Furthermore, fasting puts your brain in prevention mode, which can fight off strokes and cognitive decline.
80% full (Hara hachi bu)
This is a Confucian teaching which advises to eat until you are 80% full. This is practiced by the Okinawans, who live in the southernmost prefecture of Japan, and includes the highest proportion of centenarians. On a whole, they eat 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day, and have a BMI of 18-22 (as opposed to 26 or 27, which is the average for American adults over 60).
Two days later I am feeling lighter, and I know why. I eat well during the day, but if I eat anything after 8pm, it's bad. Ice cream with episodes of Breaking Bad. Two more glasses of wine followed by emergency chips and salsa. Cheese and crackers because I burned the midnight oil and got hungry. To these urges, I usually say yes.
Could this be as easy as saying no? Yes. As for living like an Okinawan, I'll work on that next week. Before 7pm.