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Regardless of the reason for fasting, it can be a difficult practice when our lives so often revolve around food and the feeling of an empty stomach is foreign and uncomfortable. Recently I’ve been consuming a lot of unhealthy food and have found it hard to get back on track with more nutritious food as my carb and sugar cravings have been out of control. After mentioning this to my functional medicine doctor, he recommended that I try doing a water fast to get back on track. After doing more research into the benefits of fasting, I discovered that The National Center for Biotechnology suggests that fasts lasting between 24-48 hours will provide the most benefits in terms of autophagy. So far, I have completed 3 different bouts of 24 hours of fasting successfully, and I’m working my way up to completing 48 hours next.
Whether you are practicing intermittent fasting every day, the 5:1:1 method (5 days of carb restriction, 1 day of fasting and 1 day of high carbs each week), or you are aiming for a fast that lasts a few days, I wanted to share a few strategies that have helped me complete my periods of fasting and made it feel less daunting. Note: please be sure you consult with your physician before starting any type of fast to make sure it is safe and there are no contraindications for you (pregnancy is a great example).
- Start Your Fast Mid-Late Afternoon
When I’m doing a 24 hour fast, it has been easiest for me to start the fast around 4 or 5 pm. Mentally, this really helps me to know I don’t have to go through a full workday without food. When I can look forward to eating something at the end of the day, it helps me push through. For intermittent fasting, I generally try to stop eating around 8pm and break my fast at noon the next day.
2. Plan Ahead To Stay Busy
Before you start the fast, make sure you have a plan in place for how you will occupy your time that you would have normally spent eating or preparing food. It’s helpful to fast on day(s) when you don’t have social obligations that require you to be away from home and I’d recommend fasting during the work week whenever possible since your job will help to keep you busy. For those fasting on weekends, some ideas to occupy your time : volunteering, going to get a massage, reading, walking the dog, cleaning, writing, praying, and spending time with friends and family.
3. Avoid TV, Social Media And Strenuous Exercise
You’ll likely see advertisements and posts about food and restaurants that will make it difficult to avoid eating, so staying away from these sources is a good idea. As far as exercise goes, I would not recommend anything that requires a lot of exertion, as you may feel weak and not have the energy needed to safely exercise the way you normally would.
4. Drink Plenty Of Water
This might seem obvious, but drinking enough water is key to getting through the fast in a safe way. I’d recommend drinking water at regular intervals throughout the day and not waiting until you start to feel hungry. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces. Sometimes using fruit infused water can make the water more palatable if you’re someone who struggles to drink enough. My favorite things to infuse in my water are kiwis, cucumbers, strawberries, and citrus fruit.
5. Determine Your Why
Make sure this is clear in your mind before you start any type of fast. If your motivation is to lose weight or get healthy, that’s OK, but try to go deeper. What will better health or a lower weight enable you to achieve or enjoy? If your why relates to your spiritual life, determine what you want to focus on during the fast. Do you want to spend the time praying for something specific or more time reading the Bible? Do you want to give up food for a period of time because it has become an idol in your life? Do you struggle with gluttony and want to establish a healthy relationship with food?
While you are fasting, take note of how you feel throughout the day compared to how you normally feel during a day of structured meals. Do you notice any differences in your mood or mental state? Something I experienced while fasting for 24 hours was a marked improvement in how clear-headed I felt and my ability to focus. At the end of 24 hours, I typically feel a little weak from not eating, but it has gotten easier with each fast I have completed.
I hope you find these tips helpful in completing your fast. I’d love your help sharing this post with anyone who might find it useful.
Do you have any other tips that help you when fasting? Let me know below!
Thanks for reading!