In the spiritual context, fasting is abstaining from food and/or drink for a specific period of time. In the context of health, it is being looked upon as a change in dietary pattern; the way you eat.
What is Healthy about Fasting?
Different people have different ways they consume food. 3 meals per day seem to be the norm in many places although some people eat up to 6 times or more. Eating is necessary to prevent hunger and to nourish the body however when people consume too much food daily, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, it results in excessive build of fat, insulin resistance as well as other metabolic disorders.
On the other hand, when people fast, your body is not receiving food. So, it starts to make available nutrients that you have stored up. Energy is made available for breakdown. Your nervous system and hormones all work to send signals to other parts of your body to do the needful because you are not receiving the using supply of nutrients.
Leptin, which is a hormone that tells your brain that food is enough, becomes more sensitive to your body. Your behavior changes too, some studies have shown that you become more alert and mental acuity increases. See here for more benefits of fasting.
How to stay healthy while you fast?
The most popular types of fasting include the intermittent fasting (16-8 method: where you eat only during an 8 hour window and fast for 16 hours); restricting calories for 2 days out of 5 days a week. Others include 24 hours fasting (dinner to dinner), and so many others.
Whatever type you choose, ensure that:
- During periods that you have to eat, you eat quality foods – whole, natural and less of processed and refined foods
- You reduce your calories if you so desire but do not overcompensate by overeating during the time you schedule to eat
- You are consistent for a period if you want to see a change in your health
- Include some strength training to maintain muscles because muscle loss can happen when weight loss occurs.
Unhealthy fasting habits:
- Binging after a fast
- Breaking fast with highly processed foods like pastries, soft drinks
- Fasting for too long. This can be counterproductive as it can suppress your metabolism.
- Going on a dry fast in very hot climates. This can lead to dehydration and other negative health implications.
- Going back to a bad eating habit after a fast.
- Doing very strenuous and energy-sapping activities while fasting.
In a Nutshell:
Fasting has many health benefits for the mind and body. If you choose to fast to improve your health, it is worth a try. However, if you have a health challenge, ALWAYS seek your doctor’s or dietitian’s advice before embarking on any fast.
Also, it is important to note that fasting affects people differently. Understand your body and what works for you. Do not just join a bandwagon because intermittent fasting is popular; be decisive and mindful about your health and nutrition.
As always, don’t forget to eat better and live better.