Fasting has been observed for ages, particularly for religious traditions. But fasting for weight loss is steadily on the rise.
For some people, fasting is a great strategy to purge pounds in a couple of weeks. Others fast to detoxify their bodies from harmful toxins.
Fasting diets range from all-liquid diet to calorie restriction and total ban on food. Today, intermittent fasting skyrockets in popularity, especially among those who want to lose weight.
But, while fasting comes from good intentions, going for extended periods without food and water under certain circumstances can be potentially dangerous.
This is why it is essential to know how to fast safely but effectively. Learn the best approach to fasting without causing harm to your health in this article.
Check with your doctor first
Talk to your doctor first, especially if you have medical concerns. Consulting with a physician is an essential first step to ensure fasting is safe for your health.
Fasting can take a harmful toll on your body, particularly if you’re diagnosed with a health condition.
Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are also strongly advised not to fast. If faith’s traditions bother you in some way, keep in mind that most religions offer exemptions provided your reasons are valid.
Identify the purpose of your fasting
Whether it’s for your fitness goals or faithful tradition, identifying the purpose of your fast is key in succeeding in it. Gaining some sense of purpose can help keep you on track.
For example, if you’re fasting for religious purposes, it’s helpful to explore the essence of fasting in your faith. In most systems of beliefs, fasting is meant to teach devotion and discipline.
You can approach your worship leaders, study religious texts or talk to friends who practice the same faith.
Reflecting on the significance of fasting beyond its literal meaning could help strengthen your willpower and determination.
Begin with small steps
If it’s your first time to fast, it’s hard to predict your body’s response to this new practice. So, what’s the trick? Start small. Instead of avoiding foods completely, gradually phase out meals or reduce your calorie intake.
For example, you can cut your caloric consumption by 50 percent for a day or avoid saturated fats from your diet for an entire week.
Beginning with small steps, and slowly putting your body at ease are some of the safest ways to introduce your body to a fasting diet.
Prepare your kitchen for your fasting diet
No matter your goal, your kitchen must be prepared for your fasting diet, too. Keep prohibited foods away from your kitchen before you fast.
If you don’t want to waste some on-hand food items, you can share it with your family and friends.
Keep in mind, though: You still need food in your pantry and fridge. If you’re preparing for Ramadan, it’s best to stock up on whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and healthy protein sources for suhoor and iftar.
If you’re Christian fasting for Lent, you can sacrifice your favorite treats for the meantime. Don’t leave your favorite jar of cookies sitting on the kitchen table.
Hand them over to others so you can fight the urge of munching on them. Remind yourself: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Refrain from doing strenuous activities while fasting
It is normal to feel weakness in your body during your fast. Most foods contain nutrients that help sustain your energy and strength.
But since you are not eating anything, your body feels vulnerable. Mixing demanding activities with fasting may cause dizziness or even fainting.
Complete fasting is not ideal if your job demands physical labor. You may need to put off your fasting diet first, especially if your daily habits and activities are highly demanding.
Consume permitted meals gradually
Devouring on a large meal too quickly can make you sick. Remember to eat permitted meals slowly, and enjoy it. After all, it’s all you have on a restricted fasting diet.
Permitted meals are often not indulgent, but try to include in your fasting diet nutritious foods such as fruits, veggies, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Also, stay away from rich, fatty foods.
Whether you’re fasting for weight loss or religious tradition, your approved meals during extended fasting periods should include healthy food choices. It is also important to keep a slow pace when you eat.
Keep yourself distracted
There will be moments when you’ll feel tempted to cheat. And the more you think about it, the more likely you are to respond to those temptations.
If you feel the urge to indulge, distract yourself. Self-talk also helps – remind yourself how committed you are to this fast.
Also, try to do light activities such as gardening, playing a game, writing or taking photographs. Who knows, you might even discover a new skill or potential.
Surrounding yourself with a good company such as your family or friends may also be a good distraction.
However, you need to inform them that you’re fasting so they can avoid suggesting binge-watching your favorite shows over bags of chips, and cans of ice cream.
But take note: It is essential to listen to your body. Know the difference between temptation and hunger. Your body might be telling you that it needs food already because it’s beginning to feel unwell.
Try the every-other-day technique
If your doctor gives you the green light to fast, you can try the “every-other-day” technique. This approach is simple. On feast days, you are allowed to eat anything that you want.
But during fast days, you are only permitted to consume 500 calories, preferably from nutrient-dense foods like fresh produce, and lean meat.
Try the time-restricted fasting approach
If the alternate-day fasting doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, you can experiment with the time-restricted fasting approach. For many people, this technique sounds more acceptable.
You can begin by eating within 12 hours and fasting for the remaining 12. Once your body is able to adjust, you can try to increase your fasting hours. Several animal studies noted health benefits and weight loss in an 8 to 10-hour feeding window.
Eat smart always
Fasting diets don’t necessarily come with a detailed list of foods you can eat when you’re not fasting. But, you still can’t make this an excuse to indulge in processed and sugary foods once your fast is over.
Regardless of your fasting diet, your calorie consumption must come from healthy foods such as whole grains, veggies, and lean protein.
Your body will be able to function optimally with the help of these nutritious food choices.
Drink lots of fluids
Our bodies are made up of significant amounts of water. But our bodies naturally lose water, too. For example, we lose water when we perspire, urinate, breathe, and pass a bowel.
And because water also plays a crucial role in the optimal performance of our bodies, we need to replenish what we’ve lost by staying hydrated.
Drinking lots of fluids during your fast not only helps to keep your cellular functions thriving but makes you less hungry, too.
Even if you’re following a 500-calorie fast, you still need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of (preferably) water each day.
Invite your relatives or friends to fast with you
You are likely to feel motivated when you feel a sense of community. Invite a relative, friend, colleague or your partner to fast with you.
Aside from creating a sense of accountability, you and your fasting buddy can also fight temptations together. If your purpose for fasting is grounded in your faith, your religious community can help you succeed in your fast.
Stop fasting if you’re feeling sick
People handle things differently. You may have a friend who also fasts and succeeds in it, but you may be different. We are not made from the same genes nor does the same things every day.
What may be good for others may be harmful to you. The same principle applies to fast.
Even if your friend seems to feel great doing the same fasting diet like yours, if you don’t feel good, stop it. Sometimes we wait to get the same results when our bodies already tell us it’s had enough.
This is important:
If you experience red flags such as weakness, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, nausea or confusion, you can drink water first and consume a small meal.
But, if the symptoms don’t get better one to two hours after you’ve eaten a light meal, it’s time to call your physician. These red flags may indicate a medical emergency that needs immediate attention.
You may have a medical condition that you don’t know of or medications that don’t go well with fasting.
Fasting is never an option for diabetes sufferers as this can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and the elderly are also advised to refrain from fasting.
Remember that it is essential to consult with your doctor if you’re going to make diet changes. You can also ask your physician if he or she knows a registered dietitian who can help you craft a healthy eating plan.