At this time of the year, it is often the pledging of commitments to early mornings, lunchtime gym visits and evening walks with the power shoes and puppy dog set. Christmas and New Years indulgences are well and truly under the belt and it’s often the time to regret that extra 2,3 or 4 course meal that wound its way into your party card.
But rather than begrudge your decisions and mar the memory of that wonderful party that still makes you smile and giggle, it is best to take heart in the fact that there are moments that allow you to indulge and be the beast of the feast and that it’s actually OK.
So what are the advantages of stuffing your face? Are there any? Feasting is actually one of the most culturally common practices all over the world. Religious festivals across multiple denominations culminate in their celebration of the shared table and meal, particularly after partaking in fasts or periods of restricted eating.
There is some evidence that supports the ingesting of high calorie meals in one sitting actually aids digestion. Go figure! Now this doesn’t mean that you can plan week long festivals of dinner parties with 32 people regularly! It does however, beg investigation. The big factor is hormonal balance.
Is there an advantage to high levels of insulin? As it turns out – YES. An advantage of high levels of insulin is that it can prevent muscles from absorbing fatty acids that are present in the blood. If you are having a particularly rich meal with high glucose levels, then high levels of insulin are advised to deal with the increase in glucose. Thus eating protein and carbohydrate laden foods with that plum pudding may actually be the best thing you could have done for yourself over Christmas. However you cannot indulge in this roo regularly. The nature of what is being ingested is still the main issue. If highly saturated foods are being ingested then it makes sense that these fats won’t be utilised for energy and will be deposited. So it is important to be aware of ‘what’ you are ingesting and not just the amounts.
In particular this idea of insulin sensitivity and how the body can maximise production of the enzyme that deals with ingesting calories and sugars can be manipulated in the Feasting stages. Insulin is the primary regulator of protein and carbohydrate metabolism. By indulging in feasting and absorbing calories in one sitting rather than panning out your daily intake in mini meals, the body can process large calorie rich meals more efficiently as insulin levels are maintained at a high rate to deal with the high calories that are ingesting. In this way – insulin proves to be a great leveller of ‘single seated feasting’. Now of course you can’t make this a regular occurrence as hormonal levels, like anything in the world needs to maintain a balance. But for ‘normal’ individuals (and I’m particularly talking about those who are not in the category of Type 2 Diabetes) this balance can be integrated into a ‘Feast and Fast’ dietary approach.
In terms of health, there is a transition to be made from the FEASTED STATE to the FASTED STATE. Fasting makes for an environment where lipids and fats are broken down and utilised for energy. This process takes more time and energy than what is normally achieved in a high caloric diet or ‘feasting’ mode. Thus its effectiveness is limited according to the amount of time that a fasting period can be maintained. However the flip side is also true in that too much fasting doesn’t allow for protecting the breakdown of other sources of energy, namely your muscles and organs.
As always there is the balance to be maintained. You can fool your body into regulating its ingestion and the timing at which it senses fuel and food. Likewise you can also set the barometer of your body as to when it is in need of high calories or low calories. If you choose the latter, there is a balancing act to be maintained. Feasting to Fasting is important to regulate the balance between Insulin and Growth Hormone (GH). These two hormones are interdependent and have a reciprocal relationship in where one will increase where the other is low. In short – growth hormone controls the release of fat from your fatty tissues so you for many people this is the highest priority. What you may not realise is that continual periods of fasting will downgrade your ability to regulate hormonal secretions. Thus the relationship between Fasting and Feasting is vital.
I have written in previous blogs at length on the apparent values and promotions of fasting and how it has limited effect on athletic performance. But at this time when we have indulged and created a ‘Feasted state’ it is perhaps pertinent to plan a period of fasting. If we are exceedingly disciplined and rigorously adherent individuals (which I am so not) then the need to fast is moot. If however, like most ordinary party goers, we are subject to the periods of Feasting, then we can still enjoy our indulgence and even take pleasure in the fact that it can actually be good for us, IF and only if – we understand that with one comes the other.
I may be clutching at straws here but I think that many of us can often equate with the concept that we regulate our eating process’ way too obsessively. This is why I am not a fan of the calorie counter. This endless rigorous approach to points and valuesthat determine if a cup of hot chocolate is guilt ridden or a celebration of independence. But in looking at the ‘Feast and Fast’ model, there is light at the justification that every now and then, it may be good to get down and get mediaeval at the dinner table and go for that Turducken dish.
So don’t begrudge your feast. Don’t put down Mum’s Roast Turkey with Plum glaze as a devil of dietary deliciousness. It’s OK to FEED! It’s even healthy. We just need to do it in the right balance.