So a few days ago my dad emailed me with some questions he has about getting started with fasting. I wrote a response to him which also sounded like a good blog post so I thought I’d share most of it with the group as a way to think about your fasting schedule. This is my personal perspective on fasting and has worked for me. It may not work for you but maybe it will help you with the psychology of getting into a fasting habit.
Emmy and I try to take very simple approach to fasting and not overthink things.
What would a daily schedule look like? Eating/fasting? Work/exercise?
Every person l’ve talked to does it a little bit differently. For me, I think about my fast cycle as beginning in the evening with dinner. I eat a healthy dinner of roasted veggies and chicken thighs or something similar. I might even have a dessert like a bowl of mint chip ice cream (I do work out a lot) but maybe only once or twice in a week. Dinner and dessert should be finished before 7pm (I shoot for 5:30-6pm). This is when I begin my fast. I will have a cup of sleepy-time tea between 8-10pm as a nightcap. Sometimes I might even have a glass of scotch if Emmy and I are watching a movie. I’m usually in bed by 10:30-11pm. If I were better I’d get to sleep by 9:30pm because I’d get better sleep and I’d lower my cortisol levels (a hormonal driver of weight gain). Now I’m asleep and my fast is already on the clock…. tick tock tick tock… 6am! I’m already twelve hours into my fast. Two thirds of the way already and the only requirement was to go to sleep at a healthy time. Easy.
Morning: Emmy starts her day with a cup of coffee. She has learned to drink her coffee black but I know of a lot of people who use a teaspoon of heavy cream. I do NOT eat anything for break-fast (because I’m not breaking my fast yet). I drink caffeinated green tea in the morning (but I’m still working on trying to give up energy drinks… some days are good and some are bad). I make the kids breakfast and sit with them. I do find it difficult sometimes to watch them eat (food-lusting) but I’m not usually hungry and often I’m dehydrated. If I drink a glass or two of water I’m A-OK. I take my multivitamin, fish oil pill, magnesium pill, and maybe a dab of pink Himalayan salt.
Mid-morning: If I get hungry I stop and ask myself, “I’m really hungry or am I bored, or more importantly, thirsty?”. Many people confuse thirst with hunger. I also talk about it with Emmy (either by text of when she’s home). Having a support structure of people you can talk to about it is important. One of the reasons we started the Facebook group is because we wanted a safe place for people to connect and discuss their fasting process without getting judgemental looks from friends/family. I will also go for my workout. I workout 1-2hrs a day and balance cardio and strength (resistance) training. 3-13 miles running or swimming, biking, lifting. Stay hydrated and make sure I have some salt after I work out.
Breaking the Fast: At some point in the day I get hungry so ….I break my fast (anything over 15 hours, but I don’t sweat it if i break my fast early. That’s the beauty of this lifestyle is that it’s really flexible and accommodating to your changing daily life. I usually average 18-22hrs for my fast so anywhere from 12:00pm-4pm). I eat my first meal of the day. Since I’ve been fasting it has given me time to think about what foods I want to eat. When I break my fast I start slow and eat a small snack for a few minutes and then wait about 15 minutes before I eat a full meal.
Foods I eat at feeding:
- Macadamia Nuts (1-2 servings) 300+cal. sometimes up to 1000cal ( I Iove them)
- sugar snap peas (a whole small bag 150 cal)
- cheese (emmy gets this super awesome yummy cheddar from Sam’s Club)
- fruit (oranges, pears, watermelon, cantaloupe)
- Basically any whole food that isn’t a processed carbohydrate, I don’t really track it.
Foods I don’t eat at feeding
- candy (I used to do this a lot. have snickers bar (or two)
- Juice (It’s basically just sugar and fruit flavoring. It will raise insulin levels and that’s what we are trying to avoid)
- Crackers, or highly processed chips, carbs, pretzels, dried fruit (they are dipped in sugar, read the label), et al…
12-6pm- I make sure that I’ve had water and then I DO NOT EAT until dinner time. No snacking in the afternoon. I work in the garden every day and sometimes it’s been labor intensive weeding or digging but I only drink water until dinner. This is an important concept because the body needs time to digest the food but more importantly let the body return to a normal insulin level. When we put food of any kind into our bodies, our insulin levels go up. It is this long term elevation of insulin that drives insulin resistance and weight gain. We are trying to put a stop to that cycle.
Dinner: I’m back to where I started the night before. I eat a healthy, hearty meal and start my fast over again.
What are the foods to eat?
Real food. This can be:
- prepared meats,
- cheese (CHEESE IS GOOD!)
- coffee (working towards eliminating cream/milk)
- High fat, Low carb (HFLC) food. as a percentage of foods to take in a good rule of thumb is 50%fat, 30%protein, 20%carb.
What are the foods to NOT eat?
- dried fruit
- high sugar/sweetener foods (ice cups)
- english muffins
- anything that is high in processed carbohydrates.
What are the signs of being on the right track or of getting into the wrong health space?
You will start losing weight. Some people who have had a long term resistance to insulin will take longer than others. Most people we have talked to have said that they are seeing results in the first two weeks. Some longer, some shorter. Also, the weight loss might not happen but you body composition might change and clothes may start fitting differently. It can be a little confusing at first if the scale is not moving but you need to adjust your belt one loop smaller… Still, little gains are a confidence builder.
Hunger pains are a real thing but they are different than food lust. I ask myself if I really hungry or am I bored. Usually I’m bored and I’m near the fridge or walking past the candy aisle in the store. But, if I’m hungry… I eat. If I’m close to reaching 16-18hrs I might push it a little but I don’t try to overthink it. That’s the beauty of fasting. You can go as short or as long as you want to. You can skip a day and then start over again. Some people fast only 2 days a week for 24hrs at a time. Some people do a 24 hr fast every day (it’s called OMAD, ‘One Meal A Day’ ). Some people will average 16hrs every day while others (like myself) vary the duration of my fast . I’ve read that by varying the duration you are keeping your body guessing and working to adapt.
Start slow with a 13-15hr fast and work up to 16-18hrs. Most people don’t need to do anything longer than that. There is a wealth of information about long term fasting for extreme weight loss. I know of people who are doing 5-10 day fasts but it is not recommended unless there is a doctor monitoring progress.
Resources: There is lots of information out there:
I bought it as an audiobook on iTunes and have listened to it several times. This book has changed my relationship with food. I can’t recommend it enough.