When I used to travel to Indianapolis every Monday, I would take an early morning flight and not eating anything until about 1 or 2pm. It didn’t seem to ever phase me very much, though I was pretty hungry around lunchtime.
Turns out my habit of skipping breakfast is technically classified as intermittent fasting, since I had been without food for 14-16 hours. And while the term wasn’t popular at the time (most of the conventional wisdom claimed breakfast was the most important meal of the day), I was unknowingly benefitting from the process of autophagy, which is when your cells start to repair themselves after a certain number of hours without any food.
I started intermittently fasting again intentionally when I wanted to lose weight. I can’t say that not eating breakfast specifically helped me to lose weight, but it certainly made the number of calories I eat in a day decrease.
But what I really learned didn’t have to do with any of this. It has to do with hunger. We often think of skipping a meal as restricting ourselves, and that restriction is bad by default. But to be honest, if I could just eat whenever and whatever I wanted, I’d never stop snacking (and never did, when I had my old eating habits a couple of years ago).
Restriction can be good. It can be healing, if we have addictions. It certainly isn’t the only or best solution for everyone or everything.
But intermittent fasting also taught me that hunger, like almost all things, comes in waves. Instead of deprivation, I think of it as “practicing hunger.” Almost every major religion has some kind of fasting built in as a way of cleansing our spirits. Being uncomfortable, and reminding ourselves that we can survive discomfort is invaluable.
And hunger doesn’t get worse and worse. It gets intense, and then normal again, intense, and then normal again. And while I’d never do something like deprive myself of food for an entire day (though there are people that do it, look up OMAD), practicing hunger makes me remember that our bodies and minds are more resilient than we think.