Fasting is defined as going without food or drink for a period of time. This timeframe ranges significantly depending on the purpose of refraining. In today’s world, we are often told to do it by our medical professionals to prep the body for certain procedures and/or blood tests. However, the practice of fasting can also be an effective way to cleanse and renew the body as well as the mind and spirit.
According to Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging (part of the US National Institutes of Health), there are several theories about why fasting provides physical benefits. “The one that we’ve studied a lot is the hypothesis that during the fasting period, cells are under a mild stress,” he says. “And they respond to the stress adaptively by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and, maybe, to resist disease.” In other words, fasting gives cells a chance to expel the built-up waste products that accumulate during our ordinary lifestyle.
On a non-physical level, fasting has been both a spiritual and mental/emotional practice for thousands of years. Going without can be a wonderful tool for bringing more awareness to appetite and cravings, therefore, renewing our relationship with food. In modern culture, we eat because the clock says its time, for pleasure, out of boredom, when feeling stressed, and other countless reasons besides hunger.
Fasting can be very helpful when done in a safe manner. However, it is essential to let your body be the ultimate authority before entering into fasting. If you are taking medication, please seek prior medical or professional advice.
Let’s discuss two safe and effective methods of fasting:
As our modern lifestyle has evolved to meet our social and vocational needs, many of us have a habit of eating and/or drinking later in the evening. Intermittent fasting has has become a popular way to manage or maintain a healthy weight as it can easily be put into our regular lifestyle without much disruption. The method is based on an eating window (generally 6-10 hours) in which you consume all your daily caloric intake. Outside of this eating window, you refrain from consuming caloric food and/or drink for anywhere from 12 – 16 hours. An example of the most common schedule, 8:16, would look like eating from 10am until 6pm. During the fasting time, consuming non-caloric beverages like still or sparkling water, black coffee, or herbal teas is permitted. This allows your digestive system to empty during the fasting period.
Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that you can concentrate on the schedule of eating instead of making sure you have the correct calories and/or perfect balance of macros. This, in effect, can take you out of the dieting mentality of trying to stick to a set of rules and regulations that eventually leaves you disempowered and frustrated. Simply mind the clock! Start as slowly as you’d like. Many people feel a difference at just 2 days per week but in order to reap the detoxifying benefits of fasting, aim to make it a daily routine.
Mono-diet method is popular in eastern healing traditions such as Ayurveda as well as modern approaches to detoxification. It basically means eating the same thing over the course of several days. The one-pot dish called Kitchari is the BYG preferred meal preparation but there are other ways to, as the title suggests, eat the same thing over the course of the fast. Kitchari’s mixture of mung beans and basmati rice cooked with spices provides a well-rounded meal that is easy to digest so you can maintain strength and energy during a fast. This mono-diet method can be done a variety of ways from simply eating the Kitchari for one of your meals, or solely eating the beans and rice meals for a period of about a week. If you have trouble with spices, try our Cooling Kitchari recipe. Some chose to prepare smoothies and solely consume these for a particular time period. Dr. Oz provides an excellent 3-day plan and you can download it here.
The overall goal of mono-diet fasting is to simplify the food consumption, minimize food preparation, and feel satisfied while giving the body a break from the norm. Because of its relatively easy preparation and well-rounded nature, this is a great option for a beginner or as a quick reset to get you back on track.
To tame hunger, drink more water.
Go slow on your exercise routine, perhaps a short hike or a low impact outdoor activity.
Read a book or start a project to pass idle time.
To avoid the urge to snack or drink alcohol after dinner, take a walk shortly after eating.
If the eating schedule impedes on your social commitments, be creative with your outings so that they don’t have to evolve around eating. Some ideas might be a movie matinee, a stroll around the block, tea time.
A great time to try fasting is during a transition of seasons, but please consult your healthcare professional to choose the best time for you.
Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent Fasting. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680567/
Eisenstein, C. (2003). The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self”, New Trends Publishing.