Many people automatically baulk at the idea of fasting and can’t imagine how they would survive without food, even for a few hours. Yet there are many people embracing fasting on a regular basis, due to the many Boons of Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) is trending. There are many different I.F. methods promoted widely across the inter-web, and there is a dizzying array of ‘expert’ voices suggesting the ‘right’ way for you to fast.
Examples of popular Intermittent fasting programs:
- Eat.Stop.Eat.Diet = Eat no calories for 24hrs 1-2 times per week
- The Every Other Day Diet = Eat 500calories/day, every other day
- The 5:2 Diet = Eat 500 calories/day, two days a week
- Warrior Diet = Eat during a 4-hr window/day (fast 18 hrs)
- Lean Gains = Eat during an 8-hr window (fast 16 hrs)
- The Fast-5 = Eat within a 5-hr window
Essentially, these programs boil down to two general approaches:
1. Restrict calories one day and eat normally for other days.
Essentially this is a calorie controlled, restricted eating program, which is actually intermittent dieting than an intermittent fasting process. Krista Varady has shown how this is effective for weight management for obese people, as well as enhances other health biomarkers, which are protective against chronic diseases.
In this approach you eat your normal diet three to five days each week, and then eat only a quarter of your normal calories (around 500 or 600 calories) two to four days a week. This diet has a learning curve regarding how many calories are in the foods you consume on the diet days.
2. Fast for part of a day then eat within a limited time window
Generally these approaches suggest to not consume calories for a defined period every 24 hours. That means during your fasting time, your digestive system rests. Also, after 12 hours of fasting your body has used up most of its carbohydrate reserves, so it starts to use alternative fuel sources. This places a mild physiological stress on the body, which as been associated with building resilience in the brain and other organ systems.
Watch this TED talk of Dr Bert Herring’s take on D.I.E.T. and Fast-5.
How ‘should’ YOU intermittently fast?
With the plethora well marketed experts pointing you their way, I suggest you try a range of methods and feel into what works best for you: For your body, mind and life situation.
Here’s a guide on finding your own I.F. way:
1. Do a regular check in
When you start intermittent fasting, ensure you check in to your body a few times. Tune into any cravings, and question what you really need: for example chocolate craving often masks the need for magnesium. Take notice of your hunger and thirst levels. Note if you are feeling dizzy, tired, alert etc. Compassionately observe your emotional fluxes too.
2. Start slowly
You can build up your ‘fasting muscles’ by slowly increasing your periods of fasting.
A good intermittent fasting trick is to fast over night and slowly and gradually increase the hours either side. Not eating during the night time is a wonderful way to start intermittent fasting. And it’s easy!! Allocate a full window of time, say 8 hours, to not eating, and increase it by an hour over a week or two. Eventually you can have a rest from food for 13-18 hours each day. Breaking the fast with vital, nutrient rich breakfast, such as raw fruits, vegetables, seeds and sprouts would be optimal. Read How to break your fast.
3. Drink sufficient water & breathe deeply
Water and breath are key allies to successful fasting. Hydrating correctly helps to quell hunger, reduce the risk of headaches and constipation, and reassures the body. Jazz up your water by having it warm with lemon, infused with herbs, spices or fruits, or as a nourishing herbal tea.
Breathing slow and full breaths will support in many ways; it helps to relax you, it allows you to throw off many wastes and supports your capacity to mindfully observe how you’re traveling.
4. Provide some satiation through bulking fibres
During an extended fasting period, psyllium husks can be helpful to provide a sense of bulk and satiation. Psyllium husks, often available from many supermarkets as well as health food shops, are a bulking laxative. So they can both fill that feeling of emptiness AND help to gently cleanse the bowel.
5. Get to know your hunger
In longer fasting processes, once the first 3 days are done, the reappearance of hunger indicated it was time to break the fast. Because intermittent fasting periods are much shorter, this indicator is not applicable. However coming to know your hunger, and not be scared or averse to it, is an empowering process. Ask yourself, what are you really hungry for, like really?
6. Go easy on the coffee
Excessive caffeine to quell hunger can overstimulate you and drain your energy. It can be damaging to adrenal function, which can imbalance the rest of the hormones. Additionally, excessive caffeine can be a bit hard on the kidneys, which tend to work harder during a fast.
7. Break the fast well
This is often overlooked, but a very important element of fasting. I wrote an entire blog on it, have a look HERE.
Turning in and taking incremental steps is a compassionate and effective approach to healing in the long run. Avoid being too extreme on your precious, remarkable body and mind. Trust it has the ability to heal itself.
Fasting is not for everybody.
It’s particularly not appropriate for you if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or want to be pregnant. It is not good for anyone suffering eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Likewise, anyone suffering from anxiety and nervous tension is better off maintaining regular eating patterns. If your growing, ie a child or adolescent, I wouldn’t recommend fasting unless supervised. Similarly, I recommend having professional help if you have a history of gout, arrhythmias, kidney stones or hypotension (low blood pressure).
Structure your I.F. time
Having a plan is always helpful, especially when you are fasting. Here’s one you can try, and amend to suit your circumstances and levels of fasting experience.
Don’t forget the importance of breaking the fast correctly. Read this blog How to break your fast.
Want to learn more?
Join Sally LIVE in Bendigo’s Old Church on the Hill Community Hub on March 7th 2016 from 6-7pm to discuss and learn more about Intermittent fasting Tickets HERE