If diets or strict meal plans don’t work for you, give intermittent Fasting a try. Jan gives the low-down on how she made fasting a lifestyle that works for her mind and body.
What if I told you that I never count calories and everyday is a cheat day – and I’m able to stay in good shape and do all my daily work and yoga without feeling weak? I discovered Intermittent Fasting three years ago and it’s a great way to nourish my body and practice mindfulness.
There are no dietary restrictions with Intermittent Fasting. If you want to indulge with ice cream everyday you can do that but, in time, you won’t even crave unhealthy food often because your body will ask for only what it needs.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the practice of not eating for 16 hours straight and only eating during an eight hour window. This triggers autophagy, a process which allows the body to better conserve energy and resources in starvation mode.
Celebrity Terry Crews does IF to build muscle and stay strong and healthy. Some do intermittent fasting only some days a week. Others, like me, make it a daily lifestyle.
Studies show that IF trains the body to use resources better and directs energy towards other processes like immunity. Some doctors even encourage cancer patients to fast before undergoing chemotherapy because it helps decrease the negative side effects of radiation.
The key is you are not starving yourself. You are training your body to better regulate the nutrition and calories you consume, and your mind to make better food choices.
How I made it work for me
To be clear, I’m not a nutritionist. My yoga and meditation practice trained me to listen to my body and aids me to do IF safely for myself. Please consult your doctor before trying any diet or change to your eating and exercise habits.
1. Have a gameplan
I started IF with friends who were also dedicated to fasting everyday. We didn’t dive into the full 16 hours immediately. We started with 12 hours and gradually increased.
We planned our fasting so that most of our non-eating hours were during sleep. If your last meal is three hours before bed, and sleep at least eight hours a night, that leaves only five hours before eating time!
In the beginning, you may have less energy than normal. Allow your body to rest by taking naps and going to bed earlier.
2. Water is your friend
Drink 500ml of room temperature water when you wake up. Aside from the many health benefits, it will make you feel full longer. I also have a glass of water or hot tea (no white sugar!) whenever I feel hunger creeping in and each time I use the toilet.
3. Eat what you need
IF helped me transition more easily into being flexitarian without conscious effort. I now eat a 90 percent plant-based meals. Chickpeas, leafy greens, lentils, mushrooms, seaweed, and root crops are in most of my home-cooked dishes.
No matter what you eat in your eight hour window, use the mantra: “Eat the rainbow.” Meaning, make your plate colourful, vibrant, and natural (Sorry, processed foods are not part of this rainbow).
4. Talk to your body
Start mindfully conversing with your body. When you feel hungry, first, breathe deeply. Then tell yourself to be ok with hunger for a few minutes even if it’s uncomfortable. Notice any physical sensations, reactions, or thoughts that start to arise.
Now ask body, “What are you telling me with all these sensations?”
If body answers, “I seriously need food!” Ask what kind of food it needs. It might say potato chips – and that’s ok! But before you order fast food, dig even deeper. Ask, “Why do you want potato chips, or cake, or deep fried chicken, etc…?”
When you crave chips your body may really be needing iodine. And that fried chicken urge is your body needing protein. If you must eat, try healthier variations like grilled fish instead of chips, or lentils instead of chicken.
By speaking regularly with your body, you will be friends with it, and in turn, your body will learn to send you the correct signals for food it needs to get through the next 16 hour fast comfortably and healthily.
5. See that life doesn’t revolve around food
When you fast, you’ll discover so much extra time to do other activities that you love. Instead of spending so much of your time preparing and consuming food, maybe you’ll finally declutter or write a page a day of that novel you always wanted to write.
Or start a meditation practice to nourish your mind and spirit. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is a pillar of Islamic faith which gives Muslims gratitude for everyday blessings. A practice we can all benefit from.