I was introduced to intermittent fasting about one year ago and since that introduction I have been practicing the 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol religiously. To spice things up a bit I occasionally do a 24 hour fast too. Fasting has changed my life, more specifically it has changed my relationship with food. Food no longer controls me the way it use to and I have found a new sense of power when it comes to saying no to food.
Before I started fasting I would graze all day, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. Although I was eating a healthy balanced diet I could not lose the extra weight and I was frustrated. I worked out all the time and found that I was picking up weight instead of losing it. I turned to fasting to help me solve my weight loss issue.
Intermittent fasting helped me to shed a bit of weight but it was only when I started introducing the occasional 1 day fast that I started to see dramatic results. Through fasting I learnt that I have more self discipline than I gave myself credit for and with discipline comes freedom.
Attempting your first fast might seem like a daunting prospect and to tell you the honest truth, it is. We are taught that we need to eat all the time and that we will die if we don’t keep our bodies fueled. I and many other people who fast are living proof that we don’t need to be eating all the time. Seriously, you aren’t going to die if you dont eat for one day.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is simply a pattern of eating where you cycle between specific times of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting should not be seen as a diet because you aren’t changing what you eat. What you will be adjusting are the times you allow yourself to eat. We all fast naturally when we go to sleep so intermittent fasting can be as simple as skipping your breakfast to extend the fasting time.
If you wake up and only allow yourself to eat at noon and then stop eating at 8 pm you would have performed a 16/8 fasting day. You didn’t eat anything for 16 hours and allowed yourself to eat in a 8 hour window. This form of fasting is known as the 16/8 protocol and it is by far the most popular method because of it’s ease and flexibility.
What Happens To Your Body During A Fast?
During a fasted state various cellular processes and hormone changes occur that facilitate the burning of body fat. Scientific studies have shown that during a fasted state your body changes on a cellular and physical level.
Below are 7 health benefits of fasting:
- Insulin levels are reduced significantly, this facilitates fat burning.
- Blood levels of growth hormone are increased, sometimes up to 5 times. When the level of this hormone are increased fat burning and muscle gain is accelerated.
- Fasting promotes cellular repair ( removes waste material from cells )
- Fasting helps you lose weight and reduce belly fat by increasing a persons metabolic rate, this in turn helps people to burn more calories.
- Fasting reduces the amount of food you eat, and therefore reduces your calorie intake.
- Fasting lowers your risk for type-2 diabetes by lowering your blood glucose and insulin levels.
- Intermittent fasting reduces blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels and improves overall heart health.
Preparing Your Mind For Your First 24 Hour Fast
“Start the practice of self-control with some penance; begin with fasting”
The first thing that you need to get your mind around is the fact that fasting is not dangerous. We live in a world where food is abundant. We can find something to eat at any hour of the day. One phone call can supply you with any kind of food your heart desires.
We no longer follow the feast and famine feeding cycles our ancestors were forced to live by. Hunter gatherers survived and thrived on this way of eating, they would go days without food before they successfully hunted and feasted.
What is your perception of hunger? We all have two types of hunger that we have to deal with. We have the physiological hunger and the emotional hunger.
Physiological hunger is the hunger you experience when your body is in a low state of energy. You might experience physiological hunger when you have exerted yourself in the gym or just come off an intense hike in the mountains. Your body is telling you that you need fuel to replenish your muscles, organs and brain. It is time for your body to take in carbs, fats and protein to repair your tissues.
Emotional hunger is the type of hunger you experience when a thought or feeling dictates that you are hungry. Your emotions fuel your desire to eat. This can feel like true physiological hunger so it can be hard to tell the difference. If you want to make a positive impact on your overall health then you need to learn to understand the difference between these two types of hungers. Introducing a short fast into your life can help you to determine the difference between the two.
The 1 day fast is not forever. When you decide to embark on the journey of a short fast, just remember that it’s not forever. I use this as a tactic when my emotional hunger starts getting the better of me. I just tell myself that it’s not forever and I will get to eat something in X amount of time.
- Fasting is not dangerous
- Think about your perception of hunger
- Be aware of the two types of hunger: Physiological and emotional
- The fast is not forever
How To 24 Hour Fast
Now that we know how to prepare your mind let’s dive into how to 24 hour fast. Doing a 1 day fast is extremely simple. The fast lasts from breakfast to breakfast or from dinner to dinner. I go with the dinner to dinner variation because that suits my lifestyle. It is important for you to choose a time that works well with your lifestyle.
I eat my dinner at 6pm then I fast until the next day and throughout the day until 6pm. I then have my dinner again at 6pm to break my fast. You dont actually go a full day without eating on a short fast. You are still eating on that fasting day.
What my fast day looks like
- Have my last meal for the next 24 hours at 6 pm
- Get to bed around 11 pm
- 6 am wake up And have a glass of water.
- Mindfulness body scan meditation and affirmations are next, this helps me calm my mind and prepare myself for the day.
- One cup of coffee (black, no milk,no sugar) 8 am.
- Do some light cardio.
- Get to work.
- I experience my first real hunger pang at around noon. Drink some water to fill my belly and satiate myself.
- If the hunger pangs get intense I will do another mindfulness meditation.
- Stop working around 4 pm and have another coffee (black, no milk, no sugar)
- Start preparing dinner around 5:30 pm
- Have my dinner at 6pm
- fast complete.
I choose to start my fast at night for a couple of reasons. We eat dinner as a family so my fasting wont impact everyone else. In the morning and afternoon I can stay away from food without impacting my family life. The second reason I choose to start at night is that I get to sleep through a big chunk of the fast. If I choose to start the fast in the morning I will be going to bed hungry and well, no one likes to go to bed hungry.
In the morning I like to do some mindfulness body scans and I practice my affirmations for the day. I will usually adjust my affirmations for that day and keep it revolving around fasting and succeeding in my fast.
I drink coffee and water only. My coffees are black with no milk or sugar. Carbonated waters are also on the menu as all these drinks help to curb any hunger pangs I might experience throughout the day.
I also do some light cardio in the morning to get my blood pumping a bit. Don’t do anything to strenuous. I usually either go for a light jog or a long walk with the hound.
That’s my typical fast day. If you are new to fasting then you could think about planning your fast for a day when you have a lot of errands. It will help you to stay distracted from the thought of food and eating.
What Breaks A Fast?
What breaks a fast is one of the most common questions when it comes to fasting. Your main objective during your fast is to stay away from any and I mean ANY calories. Stick to water, green teas and black coffee and you will be fine. If you consume anything else like milk, sugar, almonds etc you will kick yourself out of your fasted state. You will break your fast if you consume anything that contains calories, it’s that simple.
How To Break Your Fast Properly?
After the 1 day fast do not binge eat when you break your fast! I know that its tempting to just run to the fridge and stuff your face but this can be harmful. Breaking the fast is one of the most important steps in the fasting experience.
I’m not going to lie the first couple of times I fasted I did exactly what I am telling you not to do. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. The true test of your self discipline will come when you eat again, just be wary of that and be vigilant.
“Every fool can fast, but only the wise man knows how to break a fast”
I like to break my fast with some yogurt and a small amount of fruit. Right before I eat my meal I have one glass of water. Typically you do not want to dive into a big meal of solids and complex foods. Keep your first meal simple and make sure it’s easily digestible.
Soup is also a great meal to break your fast with as its liquid and easy on your system. I like to have bone broth sometimes too, not everyone’s cup of tea but its a great health kick.
I also love practicing mindful eating when I consume my first meal. It helps me to eat slowly and appreciate the nourishment my body is receiving. Here is a great article on mindful eating and how you can practice it.
- Drink water
- Eat a small meal
- Chew your food well
- Eat easy to digest foods
Intermittent Fasting Tips
Fasting isn’t easy and it’s definitely not for everyone but if you can make it through a fast once, you can do it again. I love intermittent fasting and I incorporate a 1 day fast into my lifestyle once a week. Here are some tip’s if you would like to do the same.
- Stay hydrated at all times. Unless you are doing a dry fast of course.
- Make sure you have distractions to keep yourself busy on your fasting day. If you get bored you might start obsessing over food and that can really make the experience unpleasant.
- Don’t do anything strenuous on your fasting day. Light cardio is good and something like yoga or Pilates.
- Start your fast at night so that you don’t have to go to bed hungry.
- When you feel hungry drink coffee or carbonated water, they will both help to ease your hunger.
- When you feel hungry try and identify if it’s emotional or physiological. There’s no better time to tell the difference than when you are in a fasted state.
- Plan the meal you are going to break your fast with. Don’t just wing it when it comes to breaking your fast. Remember this is the most important step.
- Explore your body and observe how you feel throughout the day. This is where I find that the body scans come in handy. It’s a great distraction and a wonderful tool to get in touch with your body.
- Avoid drinking to much coffee, dont allow yourself to become dependent on coffee to save you during your fast. Too much caffeine has its negatives.
24 Hour Fasting Benefits
There are a number of fantastic benefits that come along with fasting.
- Blood sugar control
- Fights inflammation
- Improves blood pressure
- Boosts brain function
- Weight loss
- Increases your growth hormone
- Shown to delay aging
- Promotes cancer prevention and improves the effect of chemotherapy
- Increases your self discipline
- Breaks your emotional eating habits
- Your fast is flexible
Dr Eric Berg On Intermittent Fasting Schedule
I was introduced to intermittent fasting by Dr. Eric Berg. If you don’t know who he is I highly recommend him as a great teacher in the fasting space.
What Have I Learnt By Doing My Weekly 24 Hr Fast
If you had found me in the street two years ago and told me that I would be intermittent fasting everyday while incorporating a weekly 24 hr fast I would of probably laughed you off. Before I found this way of eating I was totally addicted to food. Hook line and sinker.
Over the years of my life I moved into a healthier diet but I still ate whenever I wanted. I struggled to tell the difference between my emotional hunger and my physical hunger. I still do sometimes but back then I didn’t even know there were two different types of hunger to be aware of.
Through fasting I have learnt that I can take back my power over food. More importantly I have learnt how to say no to myself. This is the most powerful skill I have acquired. The power to say no to myself has changed my life for the better. There’s no doubt about that.
What will you learn?