Here’s something that every person who fasts knows, but perhaps hasn’t really thought about consciously. It is much easier to fast than it is to break a fast correctly. Or, in the words of Gandhi, “More caution and perhaps more restraint are necessary in breaking a fast than in keeping it.” The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw put it more bluntly when he said, “Every fool can fast, but only the wise man knows how to break a fast.” What does that mean? Let’s explore these statements.
Despite being utterly terrified the day before I started fasting, I was amazed at how easy it was even on day one. I wasn’t weak or dizzy, I was able to concentrate and focus, and I didn’t even feel significantly hungry until within just a few hours of breaking my fast. Although days later I did experience some of the symptoms of becoming fat-adapted, I was amazed at how quickly my body adjusted. Within a few weeks I was used to not eating for most of the day, within a few months my appetite was greatly normalized and within a year I had lost 50 pounds. Fasting is easy. It really is. The hard part is eating well, even when you practice fasting.
When I say “eating well” I don’t mean within the confines of orthorexia, as in eating perfectly healthy all the time. Do people who eat healthy all the time really exist? If they do, I don’t want to hang around them. What I mean by “eating well” is eating in a way that contributes to your overall good health and energy and helps you achieve and maintain your ideal weight. You can achieve that and still eat carbs, sweets, meat, processed foods and a whole host of other types of foods that are often villainized these days. You just can’t eat them all the time, of course. However, when you’ve spent many years eating a steady diet of such foods and eating them around the clock, making the switch isn’t easy no matter what road you take to better health.
That being said, fasting comes close to a panacea. Since it’s not a diet, you don’t have to worry too much about what you eat, count calories and fuss about macro-nutrients and you’ll still likely lose some weight. In turn, losing weight is likely to improve your health in several areas such as insulin sensitivity, inflammation and cholesterol levels.
But it’s not all about losing weight. The big question is, how do you feel? If something’s off – such as your energy is low, you’re not losing weight at the pace you’d like, or you’re still battling intense cravings and hunger – then it’s time to look at what you eat too.
This is where we come to what Dr. Bert Herring calls our “study of one.” We have to go on an all-out investigation of what works best for us when breaking our fast. No one can do that work for us. Reading studies, books and blogs, even this one, though beneficial, isn’t a shortcut.
Still, we can start by filling in some blanks, which I’ve suggested below. This is your assignment, should you choose to accept it. These may seem like obvious statements to explore, but there is power in bringing them into more conscious awareness. Be as detailed as you can with these. I encourage writing each statement on one page and answering each with as much explanation, examples and specifics as you can. Better yet, start a diary or add this as a section of your diary. Also, revisit your answers down the road to determine any changes. This will be fun and helpful, I promise!
Things I’ve Learned about How What I Eat Affects Me
I do best when my eating window is in the (choose one) morning/afternoon/evening because ______________.
When I eat ______________, I tend to feel great.
When I eat ______________, I don’t feel so great.
I notice my energy level tends to be best when my diet consists of foods such as ______________.
I notice my mood tends to be best when my diet consists of foods such as ______________.
An occasional ______________ doesn’t seem to affect me, so I have it as a “cheat.” (Although I don’t categorize food as good or bad and therefore there’s no such thing as a “cheat” in my view, I recognize this is common terminology for foods that are not very healthy.)
When I “cheat” by eating ______________ I usually regret it.
I notice when I’m stressed I tend to eat ______________.
I eat roughly about _______ calories a day. (Whether you count calories or not, I think it’s beneficial to know about how many you’re consuming daily as many people underestimate their intake and might benefit from reduction.)
Some of the foods that seem to contribute to a weight-loss plateau for me are ______________.
When I take ______________ supplements they seem to help with ______________.
Some healthy foods that I can eat every single day and not get tired of are ______________.
You get the idea. I encourage you to be your own nutritional researcher and explore these questions thoroughly. It’s a great starting point for assessing how what you eat might contribute to your fasting experience and your overall health goals.