The practice of fasting spans history, cultures, and religions; and in recent years, has grown in popularity within the health field. It is a fascinating topic, and one that I believe is relevant to every individual as we develop a thriving lifestyle. First, we will explore the benefits of abstaining from food, then briefly look at another area of our lives in which we can apply and benefit from fasting.
Food is meant to nourish and cleanse our body. However, taking time to abstain from certain or all nourishing foods, can serve a healing purpose. “Intermittent fasting”, a term that has grown in popularity in recent years is the practice of abstaining from food for various windows of time to promote weight loss, blood sugar handling, digestion, and brain function. There are numerous methods of intermittent fasting, so to discuss them all would be quite extensive. Since every individual has different needs based upon biological sex and current health concerns, I will share with you one of the more gentle forms of intermittent fasting, ideal for nearly every individual: our night fast. We should naturally fast 12-14 hours every night so that our body can detoxify and repair while we sleep. However, late night meals or snacking will “interrupt” this process as the body will prioritize digestion over detoxification. Ideally, you should finish eating for the day 2-3 hours before bedtime, allowing your body time to totally digest your meal before lying down for the night. Then, eat breakfast (when you “break” the “fast”) 12-14 hours after your evening meal. An example would be finishing dinner at 7pm, going to bed at 10pm, then eating breakfast between 7 and 9pm. Additionally, I believe that by disciplining ourselves to finish eating by 7pm, we eliminate some of the mindless eating or late night cravings that “derail” our health goals.
Another healing form of fasting does not always mean an abstinence from all foods but only certain foods. This form of fasting is very healing. For example, you could choose to replace one or all meals of the day with nourishing broths. You may also choose to step away from foods on which you've grown dependent. Even though I’ve made lifestyle changes, and have chosen to only eat nourishing foods, I often find myself in a rut of “needing” certain foods to be satisfied--nuts are a great example. At these times my body just needs a break from these tasty treats. With discipline, I set a period of time (3 days, or a week) when I do not eat them at all. This actually allows me to creatively discover other options for nutrient dense fat.
So, from what else can we fast besides food? Fasting can also be applied to other things in our life upon which we can become unhealthily dependent. Can you think of an area or two that could apply to you? One which I commonly evaluate for myself and clients is the use of technology. Often, social media and work requirements can keep us in front of our phone, tablet, or laptop without a break. Not only does this have the potential to mess up our sleep, as discussed in last week's article, but can also become addicting. I encourage you to evaluate this area of your life. Perhaps you can take a weekend and eliminate TV time, turn your cell phone off for an afternoon...or day, or have “technology free zones” such as the bedroom or dinner table with family. This can be so refreshing for your body and allow your mind to fast from the constant digestion of information.
I am excited for you to evaluate your current health goals and determine how fasting can compliment them. I believe as you practice these three habits: fasting, paired with sleep, and work-life balance, you will experience a new level of rest within your lifestyle.