Last updated on April 28, 2021
What Is Fasting
Fasting is a practice that has been utilized in ancient cultures for many years. Fasting is a recommended practice in the Bible and is a valuable tradition for the religious holiday Ramadan. Fasting is a way to cleanse the mind and body and elevate the spirit. It offers a time to focus inward and to relieve the body of digestive responsibilities.
This can allow mental clarity to come through because we are not focused on where our next meal will be or spending lots of time preparing meals. In other cases, fasting allows us to focus on spiritual responsibilities or religious practices to strengthen our resolve and demonstrate commitment to a path of healing and devotion.
We can use fasting to align ourselves with a higher power, or with our higher selves, in order to achieve a new perspective in life.
Fasting involves taking a break from eating completely, from eating certain foods, or from eating during certain hours of the day.
Fasting is not only a cleanse for the body but also allows the mind to come to a space of healing. When we take a break from eating, we also learn a lot about how our mental processes and habits are engrained in us.
Eating is a habitual process for so many people. Many people can simply walk to the refrigerator and eat at any time. Eating can become mindless and we may forget that to have food available to us in excess and abundance is a blessing.
Fasting reminds us that we can eat to live and we do not need to live to eat. Eating lavish meals can be a wonderful indulgence, but it can also place a hindrance upon our bodies. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and other eating-related illnesses can be caused by improper diet and a lack of mindfulness and accountability in our dietary habits.
Fasting is a great way to put a stop to the madness of mindless eating, if only long enough to give us a break so we can see the truth of our actions in eating.
Fasting is a great way to eliminate toxins and allow the digestive system to reset. When we are constantly eating, our digestive organs like our liver, kidneys and colon are working overtime to digest our foods, gain nutrients and eliminate toxins from our bodies. If we overeat, the liver as our main detox organ can become overburdened and sluggish. Fasting allows the organs to take a break and begin the process of healing and rejuvenation.
There are various ways to undertake a fast and each individual will react uniquely to fasting. If possible, it is always recommended to work with a health care professional to oversee the process of fasting, especially if you are new to the experience or if you have severe health conditions or are on medications.
Methods Of Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become a popular option for people who want to ease into the experience of fasting. Some claims associated with intermittent fasting include a tendency towards weight loss, improved metabolism and metabolic health and perhaps even extending the lifespan and improving longevity.
There are various ways to approach intermittent fasting, which involves eating only during certain hours of the day and then leaving a specific window of time in the day without the intake of any food or other item that starts the metabolic and digestive processes. While fasting you can drink water, coffee, herbal tea or other zero calorie and zero sugar beverages.
The 16/8 Method
One of the approaches to intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method which involves fasting for 14-16 hours each day and restricting the eating time window to 8-10 hours. It is possible to eat 2-3 melas during the eating period. So, you are not necessarily eating less food than you normally would, but you are eating meals closer together so as to give the digestive system a break during the 14-16 hours each day when you are not intaking foods. This fast can be an easier adjustment because it can be as simple as not eating after dinnertime and skipping breakfast.
If you finish eating dinner by 8 p.m. and then eat again at noon the next day, you have upheld your intermittent fast. If you are someone who likes to eat breakfast, you may prefer to stop eating earlier in the day to maintain your fast.
The 5:2 Method
Another way to engage in intermittent fasting is to try the 5:2 diet. This diet involves eating normally 5 days of the week and then on 2 days per week restricting your caloric intake to 500-600 calories.
This is colloquially known as the “fast diet.” You can eat completely normally for the five days, and on the two days eat two small meals of 250-300 calories each.
Eat Stop Eat Method
The “Eat Stop Eat” method of fasting involves taking a 24 hour fast 1-2 times per week. Most people choose to fast from dinner to the next day’s dinnertime. If you finish eating dinner at 8 p.m. then you will not eat again until 8 p.m. the next day.
During the eating periods through the rest of the week you will eat normally and will not restrict intake of foods. This can be a difficult fast for some people who are unaccustomed to fasting and restrictive eating. Those who are new to fasting can start with a 14-16 hour fast and work up to a longer fast of up to 24 hours.
Another fasting method is the alternate day fast which includes eating one day and fasting the next, essentially fasting every other day. This is similar to the 5:2 diet in that on the fasting days you will want to eat up to 500 calories for the day.
This is a more extreme version of fasting which is not appropriate for all people. Additionally, with this fast you will likely end up feeling hungry on a few days of the week, which may be unnecessarily uncomfortable for many people.
The Warrior Diet™
Another version of intermittent fasting is called “The Warrior Diet.” This involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and then eating one large meal at night. You will fast all day and then feast at night within a four-hour period.
An easy way to intermittent fast is to skip random meals, also known as “spontaneous meal skipping.” It is not necessary to follow a schedule for intermittent fasting in order to achieve your goals.
If you do not do well with maintaining a rigid schedule and prefer to work with you own innate tendencies and urges, you may prefer to skip meals on your own time or at your discretion. On a day when you’re not feeling hungry you can skip one meal and then eat whenever you are hungry again.
Some people like to designate certain times to fast like when traveling on airplanes, before or after religious holidays or in other specific times.
Another popular way of fasting for detox and cleansing is to undertake a water fast. Water fasting is a fast in which you choose to only consume water for a certain number of days. Water fasting can be similar to the “days off” in intermittent fasting when you choose to only consume water, or other non-caloric beverages such as herbal tea during the fasting period.
Coffee is also a non-caloric beverage, though many people who are doing a water fast do not include coffee in their fast due to its caffeine and tendencies to addiction or dependency on caffeine and coffee. If needed, you can substitute decaf coffee.
Another great option is to drink dark and rich herbal teas like dandelion and chicory root which are specifically blended for their herbal and dark rich qualities.
How To Prepare For A Water Fast
- Begin by preparing your body for a water fast by consuming healthy foods including mostly organic fruits and vegetables for at least 1-2 weeks.
- You will want to make sure you are in proper health and are nourished before beginning the water fast.
- During the pre-fast phase, you will slowly begin to reduce intake of foods and allow the body to become accustomed to eating smaller and healthier meals. In the few days before the water fast, you will want to eat fruits to begin the cleansing process.
- During the water fast you will drink water throughout the day. Plan ahead and make sure you are drinking the purest water source that is available to you. Fresh spring water, purified water, electrically reduced water, and specialized sources are the best option for completing a water fast. If you only have access to one type of water you can try adding a powdered charcoal to the water to ensure that you are able to easily excrete any pathogens in the water without stomach upset or bloating.
- Drink a normal amount of water and do not excessively drink water during the cleanse. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or sick be sure to consult the medical professional who is supervising your fast.
Water fasting is a practice that can be done for up to 7 days, but most commonly a person who is new to water fasting can experience great benefit by water fasting for 1-3 days. This gives the body plenty of time to flush toxins and to reset the digestive system without putting any pressure on the body to use its precious reserves of energy.
During the water fast, it is good to maintain a relaxed demeanor. Participate in relaxed activities like yoga, walking, meditation, stretching, reading, or writing. Journaling about you experience can be a great reflective exercise and can be a good way to keep track of your experiences during the fasting period.
To break your water fast, it is good to eat lightly and use your intuition.
The fasting process can bring forth a lot of physical and emotional components. When bringing food back into the diet you will want to eat light foods and reintegrate slowly into more normalized eating patterns.
After water fasting you will want to eat lightly for about a week. The first few meals you eat should consist of fruit, juices, water-based vegetables or melons, or a light smoothie or broth.
Resist the urge to eat heavier foods like breads, pastas, meats, and other meals until you have eaten lightly for a few days. If you overload your digestive system with a huge meal to break your fast you may experience a worsening of symptoms or bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or other digestive upset.
Considerations Of Fasting
There are various benefits to fasting for cleansing, and many ways to undertake a fast. Choosing the best fast for you involves easing into the process and trusting your intuition. You will want to start with a fasting protocol that seems accessible to you and not so overwhelming that it will become more stressful than interesting and engaging.
As you become more experienced with fasting you will be able to try different methods and choose a style of fasting and a schedule that brings energy and enthusiasm to your life. Instead of feeling like you are losing meals, you will become excited by the process of fasting and the outcomes and benefits you receive from skipping some meals.
Fasting can help you lose weight as it is a version of a low-calorie diet. When you go longer without eating your blood sugar begins to balance and you can burn stored fat. Breaking the fast in a responsible way will also help to maintain any weight lost during the fast. Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance for fewer spikes and crashes. Fasting can also lower inflammatory markers in the body which indicate inflammation from chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Fasting is good for cardiovascular health and can reduce risk factors for heart disease and high cholesterol, especially LDL which has earned the term of “bad” cholesterol. Studies show that fasting may have an antidepressant effect and might relieve negative emotions while boosting feelings of euphoria.
Animal studies show fasting could have an anticancer and anti-tumor effect. More studies are needed to examine the role of fasting in cancer prevention and in chemotherapy effectiveness.
Science suggests that there are a number of benefits to be gained from fasting. Fasting is an experience that can enhance mental clarity, engage the emotional body, and give the digestive system and organs a break from processing. You could lose weight, regulate your blood sugar, and jump-start your metabolism so your body can alleviate or ease chronic disease.
To engage in fasting, it is recommended to consult a dietician, natural medicine doctor or other medical professional who is proficient and experience in the practice. You can also find reliable and reputable resources online from professionals with programs which outline the details of fasting. If you are new to the practice, it is great to have guidance and understand that each body reacts differently to the process.
Choose a fast that is easy and accessible and does not cause unnecessary stress mentally or physically. As your health improves you may choose to undertake more advanced fasts and try different approaches to calorie restriction for cleansing.
Stay well and take care!