In light of the Warrior Pose Series, my “life” blogs will be challenges I face or have faced in my life.
In my last “life” blog I wrote about the 4 minute plank challenge. This week I am writing about fasting.
According to Dictionary.com fasting means: to cause to abstain entirely from or limit food; put on a fast.
Eating and Health Disorders
Before I start telling you about my experience, I feel like I should address eating disorders since there is obviously a line somewhere between intentional fasting and a serious problem. If anorexia or bulimia is something you struggle with, fasting isn’t going to be for you, and I would encourage you to get professional help. Your self-image is, by definition, what you make it. Acknowledge your value as a person. Don’t be too proud to recognize a problem in yourself, and if you see it developing in someone else, help them.
Also, if you have any health issues (like diabetes) or concerns of any kind, I wouldn’t do this without checking with a doctor first. In fact, no matter what your background, I’m not recommending you try this. I’m just relating my experience.
Why and Why not?
I didn’t do this to lose weight, and I don’t think it’s a healthy way to lose weight. See my blog on Balancing Your Menu for advice on what is healthy from two nutritional coaches. I did this fast to train my mind and to learn to control my desires rather than being controlled by them.
Although the Bible mentions fasting for various reasons, I have never intentionally fasted for the purpose of a mental or religious exercise. However, there is clearly a benefit to resisting urges for some specified period of time – even natural ones. If you can train your mind to resist, you can take control of your life. Suddenly, you aren’t reacting to urges but are conscientiously moving through your day in a deliberate and controlled way. Controlling yourself in all situations is a valuable skill and one that leads to success in life.
I am small(ish) person. Before kids, I could eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted, and I would promptly burn it off through my daily routine. I was a whopping 90 pounds when I got married Granted, I had been ill awhile, and my healthy weight was probably closer to 105-110. But not today! Now, one week of holidays and I easily gain 5-10 lbs.
I reluctantly asked my husband for advice, and almost immediately regretted asking because we got in a “discussion” – it was really an impossible question for him to answer correctly. He so lovingly pointed out that I graze all day, and he is right – but it angered me to hear it from him. On that point, don’t be prideful when somebody is trying to help you. Assess whether there is truth and then move on with a plan to do better.
Grazing is not a bad thing if you can say no to food when you aren’t hungry and if you can consistently resist the temptation of sweets. I had the self-control of a penguin staring at a fish (I’m guessing that’s close to zero). I ate whatever was in front of me, especially chocolate. I finished the kids’ plates (x3) – I have no idea why. I swiped a handful of mixed nuts here and there, raisins, cookies – whatever was there. Maybe you can relate.
Again, I did this for me to take control of my life by taking control of the small choices I make every day. To start I needed to set up some maintainable guidelines and goals. Before I started, I chose from 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. as the time for the fast. I picked a day my children were in school so that temptation was not staring me in the face while having to prepare food for them. I also had plenty of chores to do around the house just in case I needed a diversion.
I also decided to allow myself to drink water with lime and any fruit juice. I only drank the lime water though because the sugar in fruit juice without food to help the body absorb it isn’t the greatest thing for health.
For experienced fasters (and people who regularly skip lunch), I admit this was a feeble time frame to resist food, but I wasn’t sure I could do it at all so I wanted something achievable rather than something overly challenging.
Before starting the fast, I ate a healthy breakfast of homemade parfait. This included yogurt, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut flakes, semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, half of a banana and granola. After completing the fast, I ate a normal/slightly small portion for supper and continued light grazing until bedtime.
To be honest, I was a little excited to do an experiment. As a yogi and math/science person, I love discovering more about myself and life in general.
1:30 – I started to feel it. All of the lunch hunger queues were coming at me. I started sipping heavily on my water. My two younger children would soon be home and eating voluminously.
2:00 – I texted my husband, “Just 2 more hours.” I started to feel tired. I kept drinking my water.
3:00 – I texted my husband, “Just 1 more hour. I can do this.” I also started preparing for dinner. I told myself, “not one nibble.” I did not even lick the spoons!
4:00 – I made it! I broke the fast with small portions and ate slowly. I still maintained a normal intake of calories, rather than splurging all at once, but I jumped right back into nibbling everything in sight.
Next Day – I was surprised that the next day I had more control and awareness of my intake. Almost a week has gone by since my experiment, and it is easier for me to say no. I still eat healthy and often, but I limit myself.
I am proud of what I accomplished. As an American this feat of self-deprivation may sound ridiculous, but I am glad that I tried fasting. I want to starting fasting and meditating in prayer more often. That may be my next journey. You never know what is possible until you try it.
Please share any suggestions or insights that you may have on the topic. I would love to hear from you!
Can intermittent fasting improve mood?