When I use the F-word I get a lot of weird looks. Then, in my typical, people-pleasing way, I feel the need to explain myself:
“Because it makes me feel good.”
“Because it can be powerful.”
“Because it challenges me.”
“Because there are tons of health benefits!”
No, this probably isn’t the f-word you were thinking. I am talking about FASTING, the practice of not eating for extended periods of time. You’ve probably heard about intermittent fasting, I had heard about it years ago, but there seven types fasting, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
- Intermittent fasting (IF)
- Autophagy fasting
- Dinner-to-Dinner (OMAD)
- Dry Fasting
- 36-48 Hour Water Fast
- 3-5 Day Water Fast
- Fast Mimicking
Fasting does have a lot of great benefits. In my opinion, the greatest benefit is that autophagy can boost your immune system. You always hear how you should be consuming various foods and supplements to improve your immunity, but NOT eating could have the same effects. I urge you to research this for yourself. You will be amazed at the wealth that adopting a fasting lifestyle can bring you.
Introducing a Fasting Lifestyle
When I stopped breastfeeding Jensen, I reached a plateau in my physical fitness. I also had a ton of joint pain and stiffness, especially when I would wake up in the morning, that made even household tasks difficult.
My husband, Doug, mentioned he had listened to an episode of a podcast (Peak Human, I 10/10 recommend!!) that interviewed Dr. Mindy Pelz. She is known as “The Reset Doc” and teaches (for free!) fasting and diet variation techniques through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and the Resetter Podcast. I began to follow her on Instagram and watched a lot of her videos. She does a really good job of explaining the science and benefits of fasting.
I decided to work my way towards a three-day water fast, which sounded really scary at the time. But you can’t just go from zero to one hundred when it comes to fasting…well, you can but it doesn’t feel great. I was definitely a carbohydrate burner and I definitely didn’t restrict my eating window.
Following Dr. Mindy’s advice (not direct advice, I have not paid for any of her personal coaching), I worked on getting fat adapted. I trained my body to easily switch back and forth between carbs or fat as a fuel source, cutting carbs out of my diet and replacing them with high fat, whole foods and good quality animal protein. I realize this sounds like “Keto” but I do not count calories or macros so I don’t classify my lifestyle that way.
I started out with intermittent fasting 13-15 hours a day, finishing eating by 6 pm and not eating or drinking except water until at least 7 am the next day. This meant drinking black coffee without sugar when I woke up or I could wait until my eating window started to get my caffeine fix. I rarely waited.
After a month of practicing, I was able to push my fasting window to 16-18 hours a few days per week, which stimulates autophagy. Your body will breakdown damaged cells and remove toxins that have been hanging out, causing inflammation and other issues. How cool is that?
After a few more weeks I pushed myself to do a 24-hour, dinner-to-dinner water fast. Boy did that suck. By the time dinner rolled around that Monday I was starving, shaking, and had the beginnings of a nasty migraine. I learned that what you eat before a fast can make a HUGE difference. I was determined to make this one-meal-a-day (OMAD) fast a weekly occurrence.
Do not do an extended fast the week before your cycle. Your body needs proper fuel to produce the right amounts of estrogen and progesterone to have a normal, healthy menstrual cycle. You should not fast if you are pregnant or nursing. If you are post-menopausal (or a man), this doesn’t apply. Most importantly you should always consult with your physician before taking my word for it and jumping into a fasting lifestyle.
OMAD fasting days are still really tough for me, but the ketone high I feel in the following days is fantastic. I sleep so well, wake up refreshed, and feel focused and motivated. Oh, and that joint pain? It is almost gone. The only time it really bothers me is when I eat too many carbs.
Another really important concept in fasting is “feasting.” You don’t restrict your feeding window and you want to focus on eating delicious, nutritious foods that fuel you. This can look different to many people, but these are usually the days where I eat three full meals:
- Breakfast: blueberry bagel with almond butter, two eggs, avocado, and bacon
- Post-workout protein smoothie
- Lunch: salmon and veggies
- Dinner: steak, onion, mushrooms, and grilled veggies
Right now I loosely follow a 5-1-1 routine of doing IF for 5 days, feasting for one day, and doing OMAD on Mondays. I say loosely because I listen to my body and adjust according to my schedule, my cycle, or if I’m just feeling “bleck”.
The Three Longest Days of My Life
I must have you wondering, did she make it to a 3-day fast? Yup. I sure did. Doug and I did it together and it was rough. At the end of September we had a final meal for breakfast on a Thursday morning and didn’t eat a single thing until 8am, Sunday. We would have been fine, except that we still had to entertain and feed two toddlers for a weekend (shout out to my mother-in-law who came over and watched the girls for a few hours). We really prioritized a proper fast breaking protocol to repopulate our gut microbiome and prevent any stomach issues. The week after the fast was the best I have ever felt in my life.
Some side effects of extended fasting that no one told me about:
- Your breath will stink no matter how much water you drink or how many times you brush your teeth (the only time I’ve ever been thankful for wearing a mask in public).
- You will spend spend an insane amount of time thinking about exactly how all your favorite foods taste.
- You kind of smell. It’s not like a B.O. smell…it’s something else and it also doesn’t go away when you shower.
- Your urine will most likely be super yellow for the first day as you detoxify.
- You will dream about eating and drool in your sleep.
- You will hate your children every time they get to eat a delicious meal and then tell you they don’t want to eat it because you would gobble it up like a savage if you didn’t have willpower.
After the fast, I noticed some amazing health benefits:
- Reset my gut microbiome
- Decreased painful bloating events
- Ability to tolerate real butter (goodbye gross vegan butter!)
- Depression is gone
- No longer crave sugar
- Reset my cycle to a regular 28-day pattern
- No more joint pain, especially in my hips
- Brain fog dissipated
- Decreased occurrences of anxiety attacks
- Overall improvement in anxiety
Even with all of that, I am excited to try it again in January! How could you pass up the opportunity to feel that great again? Since this fast, I’ve really cut back on my carbs and I don’t even want them. I’m almost totally turned off by bread and refined grains.
Does the thought of not eating scare you? It used to terrify me. I would obsessively plan when and where my next meal would come from and what it would be. This was a profound realization that I had during those three days. How much time and energy was wasted thinking about my next meal. This is probably the most healing aspect of the fast. I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to live in abundance. I always have a refrigerator full of healthy, fresh food and a pantry stocked with all of the essentials. So why was I living in such a scarcity mindset? I have never gone hungry a day in my life.
“So…you just don’t eat?”
I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks when people find out I regularly fast. It seems to be a concept that they just can’t grasp, like rocket science.
Yup. I just don’t eat sometimes, on purpose. I spend that time in awesome ways with my kids, reading books, or writing blog posts sharing my experiences.
Fasting isn’t just a physical feat. It’s more mental. It’s an exercise in will-power. Are you willing to be temporarily uncomfortable if you could heal yourself for the long term?
Would you try a fasting lifestyle? Has this inspired some joy in you today? Let me know!
Check out this article by Dr. Mindy on fasting for beginners! It is a great resource if you are curious and don’t know where to start.