How To Fast The Easy Way
So your doctor has given you the green light to practice fasting. Where do you begin? First and foremost, adhere to his or her medical recommendations, which were provided for your unique situation. Then the following tips will help safeguard your health as well, and keep this experience a positive one.
Prime Your System
Abruptly stopping solid food can make your body rebel in ways like headaches, intestinal chaos and severe fatigue. To lessen these effects, try easing into your fast. Shift your reliance on glucose from carbohydrates for fuel gradually to ramp up to your body’s maximum fat-burning state.
Seven to ten days before you plan to start, gradually begin cutting sugars from your meals. You already know to give up the highly processed forms in snack foods and high-carb choices like white potatoes, rice and pasta. But be mindful of naturally occurring forms in fruits as well.
During this pre-fast, choose high protein and high-fat foods instead. Your body needs less of these to feel satiated, so your caloric intake gradually reduces naturally. Concentrate on only eating until you’re not hungry anymore, rather than treating the fast as a hibernation for which you must prepare.
Weaning your system off of low-quality foods prevents a sudden crash in insulin levels. By maintaining a steady blood sugar count, you’ll reduce chances of overwhelming cravings and minimize the irritability that comes with changing one’s eating habits.
Rough Moments Will Pass
If you’ve ever owned a pet, you can set your clock by when they show up at their bowls. Likewise, our bodily systems are used to being fed at certain times. When that schedule is altered, we neither feel well, nor think clearly. And while hunger is a genuine physical state, it’s also a long-ingrained habit.
At your standard meal times, hunger pangs might be distracting and uncomfortable. But they’re much more manageable outside of mealtimes, and they don’t intensify as your fast progresses. In fact, as your body flushes itself out, you might experience hunger as simply a mild wave that subsides a little sooner each time.
That being said, your body knows what it needs. Should your hunger become severe enough that your stomach aches or you’re concerned about passing out, don’t beat yourself up for ending a fast before you planned to.
Hydration Is Key
Alcohol is strictly forbidden on a fast. Not only does it provide 100% junk calories, it leads to bad decisions like half a bag of rippled chips and eight snack-sized peanut butter cups. And plain water is boring – we get that. But you need it more now than ever.
Cucumber or lemon & lime slices add flavor without adding sugar or calories. Assemble a large pitcher in the morning or the night before, so the flavor has time to “steep”. If you find that you’ve added too many lemon slices, add a sweetener to tone down the tang, and use fewer slices next time. Natural sweeteners like plant-based Stevia or Monk Fruit are always preferable to lab-created choices, which could break your fast.
There are also plenty of commercially available “drops” for flavoring water. Read labels to make sure you don’t pick one that flavors with added sugar. And follow the directions – these products can taste bitter if you double the amount for a stronger flavor.
Sparkling water is also an option. However, don’t buy an excessive quantity until you know whether carbonation on an empty stomach will trigger indigestion.
Caffeine Does Not Add Calories
Contrary to popular belief, caffeinated beverages won’t break your fast. It’s what you put in them that might. Plan to skip the cream or milks, and if you must, use only natural sugar substitutes.
Regular tea and coffee deliver enough caffeine to dull hunger pangs. Caffeine also improves the body’s ability to burn fat and sustain one’s energy level in the absence of calories. If you’re sensitive to caffeine’s effects, even decaffeinated products still contain trace amounts which can still help suppress the appetite.
Watch For Electrolyte Imbalance
Electrolytes are crucial to our health. They are particles that carry a charge – either positive or negative – that we can consume by dissolving them in water. The body contains some of these naturally (magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium chloride, sodium), and these aren’t replaced when we fast. Since they help regulate muscle and nerve functions, fluid balances, heart health and bone strength, you literally cannot live without them for long.
Be prepared to supplement with electrolytes throughout your fast. When the body is depleting its store, the symptoms we mentioned earlier – intestinal/dizziness and fatigue, possibly even fainting – become a problem with little notice.
You’ll want to keep a supplement on hand without sugars. Opt for a clean powder mix or liquid product, simple trace minerals or a pinch of high-quality, coarse pink or gray sea salt.
Determine Your Goal And Keep Track Of What Works
Is your goal a systemic reset, or to improve your relationship with food? Are you fasting as a way to observe your faith? What do you hope to achieve? Your approach may be different depending upon your desired outcome. Be clear about what you mean to accomplish.
Log the supplements and activities that work for you. If your mind was too busy throughout the process, try adding meditation next time. Do mini-journaling sessions – once in the morning to map out your day, again in the evening to offload thoughts you’ve gathered since waking.
Ending your fast should be done with as much care as planning it. Break the fast with a small, low-carb snack that won’t spike your insulin levels. A small meal roughly an hour later can follow, again keeping it low-carb. Avoid sugars and junk carbs for the first 12-24 hours to minimize intestinal discomfort.
NOTE: Fasting is not safe for certain individuals including children, pregnant or lactating women, anyone at risk for hypoglycemia, or those living with certain chronic diseases or eating disorders.