What A Week Long Fast Taught Me
I never thought I would purposefully do a 7-day fast to get my body back on track. My only exposure to fasting growing up was from a religious stance of "no meat" on Fridays during Lent. Of course, that meant enjoying fish and chips at a local pub, so it really wasn't that bad. What I used to think fasting was for some extreme desire to connect with the Divine, or necessary for a medical procedure.
Whatever beliefs you may have about fasting, doing a 7 day fast convinced me that there is more to this practice than what we've been told. It can honestly be life-changing on so many levels.
I decided to try a week long fast after reading Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Complete Guide to Fasting. It seemed to be the only way I could get my insulin resistance back on track. I had gone Keto for a year, which helped me fix my adrenal fatigue and regain my health and vitality. However, I was still unable to budge the last 12 pounds I wanted to lose.
It got to the point I was barely eating anything. Rich and I would be at lunch, and he would comment, "Honey, you need to eat a little more than that. You're barely eating!"
I thought less on the plate would keep up my metabolism, and fewer calories meant less to burn. However, I had the whole concept wrong.
I was basing my entire knowledge of eating on the American Dietary Guidelines which was to eat small meals throughout the day. I already changed my belief system about fats being bad for you. Keto taught me that fat is an excellent fuel source for our brain and body.
Now I had to shed another contrary belief; eating many meals a day is good for my metabolism. What eating many times actually did to me was cause my insulin to stop working correctly.
Each time I put food in my mouth, insulin was injected into my system telling my cells to only take energy from the food I ate and not take energy from my own fat. My cells closed their walls and refused to release fat as its energy. So, it became a nasty cycle.
The instant I felt hungry, I'd eat, especially if I felt a little hypoglycemic. It wasn't until I read Dr. Fung's book that it clicked; stop eating, and you can't fire off any insulin. With no insulin to boss my cells around, my body would finally turn to my excess weight as fuel. I was already eating a Keto lifestyle, so my body was already used to burning fat as its fuel source.
Now, I just needed to shut off my excess insulin. So I decided to stop eating for 7 days to get my body sensitive to the hormone insulin again.
What I Learned
1.) Eating was a habit. I was stunned how much eating was out of habit and not of need. By 10 am, and 2 pm, I was naturally inclined to grab something to eat. During my 25-year teaching career, these were the times for our recess breaks, so it was natural to go to the teachers' lounge and take a break snacking on something. Was I really in need of giving my body energy? Absolutely not. It was a habit.
During my fast, I would make an herbal tea or have coffee. It was more about the act of doing something than feeling like my body needed fuel.
Also, I noticed that if there were food left out after Rich would make something to eat (yes, he ate while I fasted that week,) it was a natural inclination for me to grab a piece of food. Several times I literally would have a cracker or piece of cheese in my hand before I realized what I was about to do. I laughed at how easy it was just to grab and munch.
It really became a psychological game to watch how food was more reactionary than out of necessity.
2.) Fasting Resets Your Body's Natural Portion Size I was told by doctors and dietary charts that for my 5'2" frame, I should be consuming 1200 calories a day. However, many days I was only consuming between 500-800 calories thinking there would be automatic weight loss. However, the scale wouldn't move. In fact, I felt like I was gaining weight.
Fasting helped me learn about my natural portion-size. Dr. Fung talks about caloric numbers giving us a false sense of understanding of how our body burns food. Give your body butter, and it understands how to burn this lipid. Butter, or any fat, is a clean, long burning fuel the body naturally knows how to utilize. It's also very satiating.
Give your body highly processed, and sugar-laden foods like pureed yogurt, protein bars covered in chocolate, or a fruit smoothie and it will store it in your fat cells unable to discern how to break down the artificial sweeteners, binders, and glutens. It will also burn the glucose first, and once the sugar is burned off, your body will not run to your stored fat for fuel. It will beg for more of that easy burning sugar instead. So what do you end up doing? You eat and eat and eat.
Fasting helped me stop eating, and let my body use its natural fat reserves. I felt so proud of my body, and that it knew how to take care of me. It was as if it was saying, "Don't worry, I got this."
Each day of my fast, I felt more energy. I literally felt my body buzzing with a vigor that many fasters talk about within their inner circles.
So, after fasting