Why Fast on Your Next Flight
Intermittent fasting entails not consuming anything besides water for 12-16 hours in a day. It can be done by fasting for a period between dinner and breakfast, by skipping dinner, or at other times entirely. Some people choose to fast for a full day, even weekly. While it might seem absurd or extreme, it’s not some new fad - it’s an ancient health practice, and doctors, army officers, and many others have been doing it for decades.
There are a few reasons to fast on your next long haul flight
THE HEALTH BENEFITS
Why? Evidence indicates that intermittent fasting includes a plethora of health benefits, including increased energy, detoxed system, reduced oxidative stress, stabilized metabolic processes, and weight loss. The core of it is about restoring the body’s natural balance between eating and fasting; boiled down, this natural balance reflects allowing our bodies time to burn food energy and not constantly - from the moment we get up to late night munchies - be in a state of fed and/or eating.
You’ve probably felt a bit off on a flight before. Digestive issues in particular are common, due to the dry, high-altitude environment in the air. Flight crew member experiments and studies show the decreased air pressure is highly correlated with a slowing of gastric mobility and delay of digestion. Doctors attest that by fasting, the gut will be relieved of its duties and the associated symptoms—like gastric reflux and bloating—may be avoided.
RECOVERING FROM JET LAG
There’s more than just the health benefits. Because food is as critical to our survival as sleep, our circadian rhythms are deeply affected by when and what we eat, similar to the light/dark patterns we encounter. Army, Navy, and CIA officials actually often use a 4-day preparation of irregularly timed meals on a feast-fast cycle to allow their bodies to reset from jetlag more easily. For those of us who can’t do 4 days of prep work, simply avoid consuming any food for 16 hours prior to your destination’s breakfast time. Try this calculator if you’re confused at all. Help align your daily rhythms with your flight and transit and nearly avoid jet lag altogether.
THE ENVIRONMENT IMPACT
This one is only relevant for those who eat the food and drink provided on the plane. Due to stringent regulations and expectations around food served in-flight - like thawing, reheating, shelf life, and more - an extremely high amount of plastic is used. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated there were 3.6 billion commercial airline passengers in 2016. If, conservatively, half of those passengers are served a single in-flight meall, that’s 1.8 billion airline meals a year, each of which has 5+ single use, individual pieces of plastic. Think about it: the cutlery, the cutlery wrapper, the cracker wrapper, the cup for OJ and the other cup for water, the butter container, the containers for each food item, the dressings and sauces containers…it’s a long list that ends in a high pile of waste. How can you combat this? Don’t eat on the plane. Maybe even gently explain why and over time, see if others react similarly. Bring your own cup or bottle for drinks and fill it up before getting on the plane, and then ask for refills of water or other beverages directly into your reusable container/cup. If you do plan on eating on the flight, use reusable containers or bring whole foods like fruit and vegetables, that don’t require excess packaging.