For the purpose of this article, let’s start with a brief synopsis on my background with fasting. I began fasting 4-5 years ago. It started with fasting in the morning, replacing breakfast with bulletproof coffee. Then it turned into pushing the first meal back to 1-2 pm. Now, I rarely eat before noon and have begun incorporating 1 or 2 24-hr fasts in my weekly diet.
*GASP* “THE HORROR! “ “How do you do that?” “I could never!” “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
First, in response to the last comment- breakfast literally comes from “breaking the fast”. It doesn’t matter when it is. The purpose of it is to break the fast from our last meal before bed.
If you are anything like I was about 5 years ago, you are cringing at the mere thought of going without food for any length of time. You have muttered at least 1 of the phrases above. And you are probably also thinking people who fast are insane because who would voluntarily do that? I get it, those were my thoughts at one point, too. But the bottom line is we overeat. We are run by food. We plan our entire lives around our feeding times, and we are more concerned with when our next meal is than people who rarely have enough to eat could even fathom. And we do all of this with an overabundance of food available at our fingertips! We have completely fucked up our relationship with food. The processed and fast foods out there have completely exploited our primal reward pathways and made us more obsessed with food than ever.
Ever been in a relationship with a needy significant other? The kind that constantly needs you for everything. Is always worried you’re cheating. Constantly checking up on you. Always asking for approval. That is how we have become with food. Needy. Obsessed. We have completely surrendered our control. How unempowering is that? Ugh. Now that is cringe-worthy.
The great news? Everything is temporary. And so is our current relationship with food. It’s possible to change it and take control again. I’ve done it. It’s freeing. Empowering. No longer needing something that once controlled all of your decision-making power? One of the greatest transformations. Yes, it requires self-discipline and effort. Everything awesome does. But the benefits are at least tenfold to any hardship fasting comes with. There are numerous health benefits of fasting that can include things like increased insulin sensitivity, weight loss, anti-cancer benefits, etc. You can find many sciencey articles written by people far smarter than me about these benefits. But there’s more to it. Here are 4 less-obvious benefits of fasting that I’ve learned over the last 4-5 years.
1. More time.
Time. Eveyone’s favorite excuse for lacking in the health department. The irony? We spend an ABSURD amount of time obsessing over food. Why? Because we can. Because we have more TIME than we ever realize. And because we justify it with necessity- thinking we need to eat to survive. We do need food to survive, obviously, but not as much as we all lead ourselves to believe.
Take a minute to imagine if you only had to plan for and eat one meal a day. Or what if, for 1 or 2 days of the week, you didn’t need to prepare any food? Imagine how much time you’d free up! Less meal planning, less decisions to make, etc.
P.S. To those of you who are still thinking, “Yeah right, I could never!”, you’re way more capable than you would ever imagine. Stop limiting yourself with those thoughts. Stop it right now and open your mind! #growthmindset
2. More willpower.
Yes, this actually happens. Once you master fasting, your relationship with food changes. It no longer controls you. You gain the willpower to refrain from food that you think would taste amazing. You gain the freedom to make rational choices about your food. You gain an abundance mindset about food.
This means that when you see cookies brought in from a customer at work, you’ll have the power to refrain from eating them, knowing that if you really want a cookie, you can always have one later BECAUSE THERE ARE PLENTY OF COOKIES IN THE WORLD. No matter the type, you can always find one another time. By the time “later” rolls around, you’ll have forgotten about it. Or if not, you’ll have a cookie because you really want one. Not just because it’s in front of you at the moment.
Does this mean you will never crave or “give-in” to any of those foods ever again? Hell no. Those foods tap into a primal reward pathway that will always be there. But you will be more likely to stop yourself and think about whether you actually want to eat them. You’ll have the ability to rationalize if eating that particular food or cookie at work is actually worth the negative effects within your body.
In a nutshell: you’ll be less inclined to opt-in every time an unhealthy food option presents itself.
3. Less stress.
This goes along with #1. Not only does food take up a ridiculous amount of our time, but we STRESS about it too. I’ve known that eating healthy is better all my life. My mom is a nurse and always instilled the idea that we need to eat veggies more than cookies. Then I entered the real world and moved out of my parent’s house.
As I began studying exercise science and health, I started learning more about healthy eating. This didn’t exactly help me make better decisions. It just made me stress about the decisions I was making about food. I would stress out every time I ate pizza, knowing that I hardly ate vegetables or anything that resembled real food. Perfect example that knowledge does not always equate with better decision-making.
We stress about when we will be able to eat next when we’re busy. We stress about what exactly we should eat. We stress about the food we eat when we know we should do better. That’s a lot of stress eliminated when you have a few less meals to worry about. Or when you gain the confidence in your ability to go without a meal no problem.
When food no longer controls you, you will feel more in your power. By removing the emotional attachment from food, you are reclaiming your power to make rational decisions about what’s best for you, rather than what your gluttonous subconscious brain wants.
Imagine being the needy partner in that relationship I described above. Lacking in self-confidence. Unsure about yourself and what you are. Afraid every day that your partner is leaving you (#scarcitymindset). Every decision you make feeling like it’s out of your control. Made out of fear. Uncertainty about the future.
Now imagine if you focused on improving your confidence. Decreasing your need for that other person. Realizing that you actually don’t need him or her after all. Finally coming to terms with the fact that they are actually not leaving you (hello, #abundancemindset!). That is empowerment!
That’s what can happen with your relationship with food by approaching fasting with an open mindset. When you begin fasting, you begin to mend this relationship. You learn self-discipline. You get a clear perspective on what hunger really means. And I firmly believe we all need to experience hunger more often. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.