Intermittent fasting has been an approach to food and diet for thousands of years. Monks, yogis, and laymen pursuing spiritual fulfillment used fasting as a tool to attain purity and enlightenment. The space that opens when we’re not bogged down by excessive consumption can be a beautiful, illuminating space to explore.
Where intermittent fasting began for me
My foray into intermittent fasting was admittedly inadvertent. I grew up in a food-insecure home. Sometimes we had enough food—most of the time, we did not. In hindsight, with enough time passed between the shame of going hungry and all the things you do to avoid feeling that hunger, I have examined the nuances that surround food insecurity.
The not so nuanced is that what my siblings and I experienced did not occur in a third-world country. We did not go hungry because of war. By no means did we live in a food desert or the ghetto. We grew up in a highly affluent part of central Texas.
Think about that for a moment. I have.
In a first-world country, within a community with access to first-rate resources, families live below the line in which they can afford regular, nutritious meals. Scratch nutritious. Just regular. What does this have to do with fasting? I’m getting there, I promise.
My siblings and I were often hungry. It took me years to realize that that urgent, gnawing, empty, sometimes painful sensation was not a fundamental deficit within myself. It was a sensation. Feelings, states of mind, and bodily sensations are often intertwined, and one gets mistaken for the other. When I became curious about hunger and how it existed in my childhood, I did what felt natural.
I talked to my siblings. One of my sisters revealed that one day during summer break (a time when free meals from school do not exist), she rushed home from school and went straight to the refrigerator of our shared duplex. Mustard was the only thing available.
She yanked it from the otherwise empty shelves, sat down on the kitchen floor, unscrewed the cap, and began scooping out globs of mustard with her fingertips. My sweet sister’s admission struck me so deep. That’s hunger.
How to begin intermittent fasting
Before you dive into what has become a wellness trend with promising thinness results, consider this… what are you starving for? When you’re hungry, you will think and consider many things. You’ll push yourself, feel hungry, straight up angry, annoyed, and then you will adapt. Drink a lot of water. Water is magic.
Start small. If you’re coming from a place where empty carbs and highly processed foods are your primary calorie source, you’re going to fail. That’s ok. It’s a food fail. Start again. Start with a 6 hour fast. This includes when you’re sleeping! Late-night eating is tough, but my guess is that if you’re enjoying fasting, you’re not looking for fast and easy. You have to build up to intermittent fasting!
The 16/18 method
There’s the 16/18 method, also referred to as the Leangains protocol. You skip breakfast (the fast begins from your meal the evening prior) and do not eat for 16 hours, then have 8 hours to eat. Many people say that means you eat whatever you want in that period. That’s fine, and I’ve certainly had clients still experience benefits such as marginal weight loss doing so.
In my opinion, the way to maximize the many benefits of fasting is to do so mindfully. I love breaking my fast with lots of greens and healthy fats like avocados and food cooked in coconut oil. An egg white omelet with microgreens and cooked spinach topped off with microgreens is heaven.
You come out of a state of fasting feeling well-nourished and brimming with clean, sustainable energy. I’ve absolutely broken my fast with a burger or Chipotle burrito fully loaded, and it was delicious, but here’s the thing, I did not feel great. My body was sluggish. So was my mind from the extra (unnecessary) effort that goes into processing heavy ingredients and low-quality cooking oils.
Make what you eat after a fast count and take a moment to have gratitude for it. I like to say a silent blessing or grace, especially if I’m consuming an animal.
Growing up in a food-insecure home was tough. Still, it’s given me an enormous sense of gratitude and appreciation for delicious, quality food.
My grandmother would go above and beyond to get a little extra money for avocados and other seasonal fresh fruit. That was not lost on me. When she made her Spanish rice, I could practically taste the love. Slow down and enjoy your food. Another integral aspect of fasting is the opportunity to slow down and relish in the flavor and texture.
Since you’re intermittent fasting, you’re allocating far less time to the overall experience of eating, so again, when you do so, really take it in.
Properly chewing your food also has far-reaching benefits for digestion and satiety. Some clients like to fast two or three full days of the week and then eat whatever manner they choose. Personally, I do not enjoy going a whole day without food, but everyone’s different. Do what works for you.
There are also “dirty” fasts in which you can have black coffee or tea. Lemon water is also acceptable. Fasting for short periods is more akin to how our ancient ancestors lived. It simply was not sustainable or practical to eat 3-6x a day. That’s a lot of time and resources.
When we fast, we give our gut and the rest of our system a chance to properly rest and reset, which increases the absorption of vital nutrients and minerals. It also keeps our blood sugar and, by extension, mood an even keel. “Hangry” is not a normal phenomenon. We’ve all been there. With granola and protein bars stashed in center consuls and desk drawers, we eat on the run. It’s no wonder we’ve trained our bodies to consume anything in reach just to avoid feeling. We’re alive and attuned to listening and obtaining what our body needs.
Benefits of Fasting
• Human Growth Hormone – (HGH) significantly increases up to 5x, which aids in fat loss and muscle gain
• Insulin levels – Insulin drops significantly, making stored fat more accessible
• Cellular Repair – cells digest and shed old proteins that we no longer need
• Gene Expression – longevity and protection against disease improve
While intermittent fasting or while considering doing so, many people can’t fathom being hungry. “How will I get through it?” “That will suck!”. I strongly encourage building a mental and emotional strategy to counter this kind of thinking.
Stay positive. Allow yourself space to cut through the vitriol and use what’s on the other side. You might find yourself in a lighter, more spiritual, or focused headspace. I often consider what the world would look like if we all committed to consuming a little less for a while. There would be more to go around. We would feel complete with what we do have rather than frenzied and hurried in a constant effort to just fill. Instead, feel and fuel ourselves with quality life-giving foods.
Maybe a fast can start with the next time you mindlessly go for that packaged snack or fast food and instead ask yourself, “Am I really hungry”? “What happens if I wait?” if the answer is “No” and “I’ll be ok,” drink a full glass of water and go for a walk on your lunch break instead. Time with nature might satisfy your soul more than a Big Mac that satisfies your taste buds.
Remember to contact me anytime you may have any questions!