With New Year’s resolutions and the people getting ready for the summer Intermittent Fasting has become all the rage lately. Would you be surprised to hear it’s not a new concept? Your doctor may have asked you to fast prior to giving blood work or getting your tonsils removed but did you know there are a lot of health and spiritual benefits of fasting?
If you are new to my blog, my name is Paula. I’m a mother to three beautiful kids and the wife of a Law Enforcement Officer. Because of my interest in health and fitness since about the age of 12, I ended up getting a degree in Health Education. My heart and passion have always been to help people get healthy from the inside out!
However, I have always struggled with the right balance between food, exercise and enjoying life. But because of my “education”, I thought intermittent fasting was bad for me. Turns out, it’s incredibly healthy and has helped free me from the diet roller coaster I’ve been on for the past 30 years.
What is Fasting?
By definition, fasting is willing abstinence from food and drink. Different people fast differently. Some will take a little food or nutrition in the form of juice; others will stick to only water and herbal tea during for the duration of their fast.
Fasting for Spiritual Reasons
Fasting has a long tradition in all major world religions. The idea is that the removal of food and with it the worrying about food preparation helps you turn inward. You can use fasting as a way to meditate, pray and get closer to a higher being based on your faith.
In Christian Faith, fasting is used as a tool to atone for sins and bring us closer to god. Quite a few Christians will fast for 40 days during lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter). Native Americans believe fasting allows the person to reach a higher level of spiritual awareness and is used to gain visions. No matter what your faith, your soul and mind can benefit from a fast.
Fasting for Health
You may have heard all the hype about the benefits of fasting. The basic idea is that if we abstain from food for a period of time, our bodies move energy from processing the food we eat to maintenance mode. The idea is that when food is scarce, our body does everything it can to keep us in good shape to go out and hunt and gather.
Without food in your system, your body shifts to burning fat for energy, resulting in fat loss. This shift away from burning sugar for energy also helps your insulin levels. And, certain types of fasting (in a controlled environment under the supervision of your doctor) can you help reverse diabetes. In addition, fasting has been shown to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. There even seems to be some healing on a cellular level going on.
Intermittent fasting (probably the most popular) is a particular type of fasting where you go for long periods of the day without food, but end up having one or two meals. In essence, you’re extending the period of time you usually go without food (while you’re sleeping) by several hours to give your body a chance to switch into fasting mood with all its health benefits.
Unlike traditional fasts where you go without food and most drink for three or more days, intermittent fasting still allows you to eat during a smaller window in your day. Other forms of intermittent fasting have you fast for one or two days per week, eating normally the rest of the time. Either method is a good alternative to traditional fasting and often easier to do and maintain will going on with our everyday life.
With a traditional fast, you usually consume no food and hardly anything other than water for an extended period of time. How long you fast is really up to you, but it isn’t uncommon to fast for 30 days. While there are some definite benefits to this, it also isn’t something that’s easily done. Sure you’ll do fine for the first day, but as your stomach starts to grumble and you’re getting tired and cold (because your metabolism starts to slow to a crawl) things get a little harder.
And if weight loss is one of your goals, a slow metabolism is the last thing you want. The solution is something called intermittent fasting. The idea is simple. Instead of fasting strictly for days and week on end, you alternate periods of feast and fasting. Think of it as interval training for your metabolism. It’s one of the most effective and quickest ways to burn body fat.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
You can do intermittent fasting several different ways, but what seems to work best for most people is to skip food for a large part of the day and limit your eating to a few short hours. For example, you could sleep, then run on just coffee, tea and water through lunch. In the early afternoon, you could have a meal followed by a light snack a few hours later. From there you can easily make it until bedtime and sleep through a large part of your fast.
This is a very effective way for you to start intermittent fasting. Since you are eating a fair amount of food each day, your metabolism keeps burning strong while also forcing your body to burn at during the long stretches of time when you’re not taking food in. It is pretty easy to do and stick with since you know you can eat what you want in a few short hours. Almost anyone can stick to this to the next “feast”.
If You’re Trying to Lose Weight
If your main fasting goal is to lose weight, try sticking to a low carb diet as much as possible when you eat your meals. Skip the candy, the sugar, and the bread and instead feed your body with plenty of healthy fat, protein, and veggies. This will keep your body in fat burning mode even while you’re eating. As an added benefit, without the sugar and carbs in your system, you won’t suffer from headaches. They can be a common and unpleasant side effect of fasting.
Either way, the best way to see if this is something right for you is just give it a try and see how it makes you feel. Once I got into it I was hooked!
Need more help getting started? Check out my free guide Intermittent Fasting Made Easy!
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