I just read an article about a 94 year-old woman in Maryland who decided to end her life through fasting. This touches me deeply after spending the last 3 months or so practicing intermittent fasting (IF). IF, as I am implementing it, simply requires a shorter window of each day when I eat. In my case, I’m eating for between 6-8 hours a day.
I’ll get in to the details of the fasting regimen that I am on in another article. But what struck me about this woman in Maryland, Rosemary Bowen, was that she declared control over her own body, and indeed, her own life. In the film her daughter made of the fast that ended her life, she says “I cannot tell you how content I am and I recommend it highly to do it this way. Be in control. Don’t let people decide anything about you and keep you doing a lot of procedures that are not going to benefit your health at all. Just get on with it and go.”
This notion of being in control of her existence is something that we all yearn for. I am having a similar feeling doing IF. There is something very powerful that comes with imposing a discipline on our basic urges. In this case, the urge to eat. We don’t always need to eat, but we eat anyway. We often feel like we need to eat - we feel hungry - but this hunger can mean a variety of things that don’t actually require eating.
We may feel hungry simply because our body has become dependent on glucose (sugar) for energy. This fuel source is abundant and is quickly used or stored in the body. As long as there is more available from the outside, the body will keep the stores and project hunger to have you provide more cheap, easy energy.
But if we don’t feed the body, it will begin to use the stores. One way the body stores excess energy is as fat. When we elect not to feed the body, the liver will eventually begin to covert the fat to a usable fuel called ketone bodies. We can operate just fine for quite a while on ketones. Actually, it's quite possible that we evolved to be in this state most of the time, so it might be that our bodies function more efficiently on ketones than on glucose.
We can also feel hungry because we’re bored. Or we would like to have the instant gratification of the feelings that eating provides. This can be tied into the sugar issue and the high we feel when we’re on this potent energy source, but it’s also tied to emotions and the perception that we're lacking something, or that we should feel different. There are a lot of positive feelings that come along with eating. Beyond the nourishment that food may provide, we also feel safe. This safety provides a temporary sensation of control.
What I find most profound doing IF - more than the weight loss, blood sugar regulation, mental clarity, muscle development, and overall body-age reduction - is a sense of control.
It is a powerful feeling not to be at the mercy of my hunger; not to be at the mercy of my desire for satiety; not to be at the mercy of my need to feel better in this moment.
It is a powerful feeling to know that I can be alive and even thrive while not requiring food all the time. It’s powerful to know that I don’t need, or really want, to drink alcohol or imbibe something else to take me away from the suffering I feel now.
This is what the story about Rosemary Bowen reminded me of, and gave me greater hope for… that I can be in healthful control of my daily life. And if I want it at some point, healthful control of my death.
At the moment, i plan for that to be in the distant future.