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. Fasting can help cleanse the liver, kidneys, and colon.
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 according to your body type. 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:
This method 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.
Mono-diet method is popular in Ayurveda as an ancient healing method. It basically means eating the same thing over the course of several days. The one-pot dish called Kitchari is the 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. 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.
Now let’s look at these techniques through the individual lens of your body type:
Your metabolism tends to run high, and your weight, although you may have gained a little around the middle over the years, is on the thin side. Your appetite can be variable, depending on external factors like sleep, stress, or varied energy levels. You tend towards an “eat to live” mentality and may tend to undereat when stressed or when the stomach feels unsettled. The airy digestion is fragile to extreme changes and needs to be mindful of staying warm. Considering these factors, you can feel a sense of renewal and increased energy by fasting during a certain time of year.
Preferred method: mono-diet
Ideal time of year: late spring or anytime during the summer months
Duration: from 3 to 7 days
Breakfast (within an hour of waking): Kitchari
Snack: Simple Applesauce
Evening Meal: Butternut Squash Soup
Before bed: Turmeric Milk
Tips and Tricks:
Make sure to stay in a routine during fasting to maintain good energy levels.
If you experience achy joints or feel chilled, take an Epsom Salt bath.
Mentally prepare yourself to have extra time on your hands as your meals will be made ahead. Have a creative hobby like knitting or gardening to pass the time.
Your metabolism is fairly balanced with normal variations in weight so you would do well combining both methods of fasting. The only problem you may run into is that your appetite is generally high, and you can become irritable if you go too long without eating. To avoid this, add small and hydrating snacks between meals.
Preferred method: A combination of mono-diet and intermittent fasting
Ideal time of year: transition of seasons
Duration: 3 to 10 days
Upon waking: sip on Strawberry Lemon Basil Water
10am: Cooling Kitchari
12pm: Green Drink
2pm: Creamy Cucumber Soup
4pm: Green Drink or raw vegetables
6pm: Cooling Kitchari
Tips and tricks:
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.
Your metabolism can be on the slow side and your weight can creep up if you are not mindful. This makes you a perfect candidate for implementing the intermittent fasting method on a somewhat regular basis. The 8:16 or 8-hour eating window, 16-hour fasting window is a great schedule to follow. 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!
Preferred method: Intermittent Fasting
Ideal time of year: year round
Duration: 2 to 7 days per week
Timing of meals: 10am until 6pm
Suggested meals: Earth section of your BYG Recipe Library
Tips and Tricks:
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.
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, make lunch dates or early dinner dates.
“The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self”, Eisenstein, Charles. New Trends Publishing: 2003.