Just. Stop. Eating.

Fasting is good for you. I knew this. Many clever people had tried to explain it to me in blogs, books, and broadcasts. But I still sort of didn’t really fully get it. That ignorance caused fear of doing anything longer than one-day fasts.

Then I read yet another book. The Complete Guide To Fasting is written by Jason Fung, a medical doctor in Canada who has cured thousands of patients of Type II diabetes and related conditions—which are both deadly and deemed “incurable” by most doctors—through longer fasts.

Finally it all clicked for me—how the body deals with food, and why it works that way.

I condensed my notes on the book into the diagram below, and promptly did a 5-day fast like it was no big deal. Because it isn’t.

Of apples and avocados

Some years ago, an expensive consultant cardiologist explained to me about cholesterol (if there’s not enough of this essential nutrient in your diet, the body has to make it, so the amount of it you eat itself doesn’t really affect your blood levels)—and then told me to eat less avocados to bring down a very slightly “high” cholesterol level. Not only was the advice self-contradictory, but the fellow himself resembled the shape of an apple. Since the real modulators of blood lipids (and body fat) are hormones, I guarantee that his bloodwork was in worse shape than mine.

It’s with this story firmly in mind that I give the obligatory “I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t medical advice” disclaimer. This short article is intended to remove some confusion and fear about not eating for a while. You should still do your own research before making any decisions. Also know that pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and people with certain medical conditions or on certain drugs (ask your disease specialist) should not fast.

What does this have to do with trading?

A surprising number of successful traders have interesting self-care routines, because you’re basically competing against the brightest minds around, day in and day out, so you’d better be on form or you’ll get eaten up.

Thinking more widely, the only sensible point of investing or trading can be to live better. It makes sense to me to also write about non-financial things that help one directly to live better, where I have something to add.

Shut up and tell me already

Ok here’s my diagram.

Diagram of different modes the body goes into with relation to food intake and fasting

What use is that?

This diagram is just a summary (I recommend you read at least the book it’s based on). Some things are over-simplified: for example, Human Growth Hormone is also increased by short fasts to some degree; longer fasts obviously also improve insulin resistance, there’s not a cutoff at exactly 2 days, and so on. And some things are left out, such as how to break a fast.

But simplification serves a purpose. Here it allows us to think in modes, which is my contribution in writing this. What mode you’re in determines what’s happening to you. These modes are more important than counting calories, or tweaking macronutrient ratios, or most of the other food stuff we get obsessed with.

And even though it’s simple, this sketch answers tons of questions one might have about fasting.

  • Why is it so hard to lose weight on my diet? The answer is in the diagram.
  • Why am I grumpy just before dinner? The answer is in the diagram.
  • Why do I keep storing fat even though I work out? Why are one in ten children in the US (clue: who drink sugar every single day) now getting fatty liver disease as if they were 50-year old alcoholics? What’s a cheap intervention for a longer healthspan? Guess where the answers are.

Goodbye and OK

My main takeaway from this was that fasting is part of a natural cycle. The unbalancing of this cycle through always feasting and never fasting is so clearly and unambiguously helping to cause many of the health problems around us that, once you see it, it’s painful. But to the extent that we control our hands and our mouths, it’s in our power to do something about it.

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