Today we talk about fasting in our English listening practice. There are lots of reasons for fasting, some religious, some to help with weight loss but more recently people are doing it to help with their health. Fancy that, an English language podcast that’s interesting, on a topic worth listening to.
Today we talk about not eating food, and why this is a good idea for your health. The world-wide trend on the consumption of food is up, we eat much more than we used to. In the UK it’s normal to eat three enormous meals a day, and snacks in between. So why is there a growing fasting trend in the UK?
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Fast Metabolism Cholesterol Autophagy
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Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Let’s do a chatty podcast today – on a subject which I hope you’ll find interesting. It’s one I’ve covered before, a while ago – but let’s take a more in-depth look today.
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One of the things that I do for my health that I’ve spoken about before in podcasts – is fasting. The verb ‘to fast’, FAST means to go without food. And it doesn’t mean when you go without food because there is no food. ‘To fast’ means to go without food, when you have a choice. And like many words in English, the word ‘fast’ can be used as a noun as well as a verb, to describe the period of time that you go without food – so you’d talk about ‘doing a fast’.
And of course, you’ll know the other, more common meaning of the word ‘fast’ in English, still FAST – as an adjective meaning ‘quick’. But that’s not the meaning that I’m talking about here. And just a word on pronunciation. My accent, my ‘slightly northern’ accent means that I say ‘fast’ with a short A. If you’re speaking with someone from the southern half of the UK, they will say ‘fast’ instead for this word.
So fasting has become a popular habit in the last few years, a thing that people do. And it’s not uncommon for this habit to come up in conversation. Clearly fasting on religious grounds has been around for centuries. People of the Islamic, Hindu or Jewish faiths have always fasted as part of their religion. But the idea of fasting as something you do for your health and your well-being was first made popular in the UK by a man called Michael Moseley.
He’s a well known medical journalist. He was a GP first of all, a doctor – he then went on to work in television, who worked for the BBC. And he first came up the idea of 5:2 fasting. This means that you eat normally for 5 days of the week and you ‘fast’, for two days. And when he says ‘fast’, Michael Moseley doesn’t mean a complete fast for those two days – you are allowed to eat 500 calories. So not a complete fast – but considerably less food than you’d normally eat in a day. You soon find out 500 calories isn’t very much!
Since that original idea, other modes of fasting, other patterns of fasting have emerged. Many people do what’s called an 8-16 fast. So the idea here is that you naturally fast overnight anyway. The English word for the first meal of the day is ‘breakfast’, BREAKFAST – literally ‘break-fast’ – you break your overnight fast with this meal. So if you do an 8-16, you’re effectively extending your overnight fast so that it lasts 16 hours – and then you have 8 hours during the day, when you can eat normally.
So obviously, having only 8 hours in which to eat probably means that you can fit in just two meals a day, instead of three, simply because you aren’t likely to be hungry enough within 8 hours to eat three meals. Some people who are more extreme go with the so-called OMAD idea – OMAD stands for ‘one meal a day’. So effectively they’re not doing an 8-16, they’re doing a 1-23 – or a 23-1, as it’s known. 23 hours of fasting and 1 hour of eating, every day. That’s quite extreme – I’m not on for that. But people do the 8-16 every day of their lives, so that one feels more doable.
There are of course other modes of fasting – where people do it less frequently, but where they fast say for three days at a time. So the other mode of fasting which I do – as well as a loose 8-16? Every fortnight, I’ll go from Sunday evening to Tuesday lunchtime without eating at all. So that’s a 40 hour fast, every two weeks. I’m allowed drinks, though nothing with sugar in it.
I find for me, this helps me keep my weight the same – and I feel better for it. I’m not rigid about it – for example I didn’t fast on my birthday, when that was on a Monday and I didn’t do it when I’d had my COVID-19 vaccination, when I felt quite ill! But most of the time I do these two types of fast. And for me, it means that food and eating can remain happy and carefree when I’m not fasting. I love food, but that doesn’t mean that I eat badly. But I’m not someone who wants to worry about counting calories when I’m eating – that would make me unhappy! I’d rather just enjoy my food – it’s important to me!
Another way of fasting is recommended by Valter Longo of the University of Southern California. Here you do 5 days of only 500 calories, as a reset for your body – and you might do this 3-5 times a year. So you space them out – with periods of normal eating in between. This is believed to reset your body, reset your metabolism. Your ‘metabolism’, METABOLISM - that’s the system in your body for burning calories – so this type of fast ‘resets your metabolism’. And this type of fast also burns fat, especially the fat you don’t see.
A photograph of a boy eating a sugary donut which will have far more than 500 calories. Our English listening practice is on intermittent fasting today.
That’s FAT – the fat that which grows around your important internal organs, like your liver, that’s LIVER. It’s this internal fat, the stuff you can’t see, that can shorten your life. Professor Longo recommends for people who’re severely overweight – you might do this fast of 500 calories a day for five days a month, consecutively for three months. But of course, it’s another case of ‘Don’t do this without consulting your doctor’. Professor Longo is an expert in Gerontology – the science of ageing. So this type of fast is designed to increase your life expectancy – the length of time you can expect to live.
If you’ve looked at doing fasting yourself and you’ve researched it, you’ll know that the benefits are not just around managing your weight and your body fat. Your weight, WEIGHT means ‘how heavy you are, how much you weigh’ and being ‘overweight’ means that you weigh too much, you are too heavy. So in the UK, there are of course, a lot of people who have health problems because they’re overweight.
If fasting helps people manage their weight, then this is a good thing, of course. If you’re not eating, your body uses its own fat for energy, you burn your own stores of fat. But the benefits to your health of fasting are much more than this. Fasting helps increase your muscles and your body’s ability to renew and repair itself.
Fasting can also help lower your ‘insulin resistance’ – this is the problem you have if you’ve got, or you’re on your way to getting Type II Diabetes, that’s DIABETES. So fasting can help with the ‘insulin resistance’ that’s associated with diabetes. Obviously if you already have diabetes, again talk to your doctor before fasting. Fasting can also reduce your cholesterol, that’s CHOLESTEROL and your blood pressure or your BP too.
I’m using lots of medical terms here, which you may know – or which you can look up yourself, if you’re interested. But ‘insulin resistance’, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol level – these are all recognised as indicators of your general health or ill health, wherever you are in the world.
Another reason to do it? If you fast, your brain and your body also will do more ‘autophagy’ Hmm – that’s an unusual English word. Not every body knows that one. ‘Autophagy’ is AUTO...like ‘auto’… and then PHAGY. And ‘autophagy’ is when the old and the damaged cells in your body are cleaned out. It’s like taking out the rubbish. ‘Autophagy’ literally means that your brain or your body ‘eats itself’, it clears out the old cells before they can cause problems. Scientists are starting to see how greater ‘autophagy’ reduces the possibility of many diseases, of the brain and of the body. And these are diseases you’ll really want to avoid – like cancer, auto-immune diseases or Alzheimer’s.
And fasting benefits you because digesting food takes lots of effort. Lots of your body’s energy. If there’s no food to digest, then your body’s energy can be used for other things – to help your immune system, to make repairs. If you do fasting like me, you will probably experience feeling quite energetic, quite ‘zingy’, ZINGY – that’s a good word – on the days that you fast.
If you’re interested in fasting, I’ve included some links at the end, so that you can do some more research, but there’s plenty of information online by now. If you care about your general health, it’s a good thing to research and find out about – and you can practise your English language at the same time.
Anyway, I’m sure that’s enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.