Dr Caryn Zinn shares her top-10 fasting tips for making your fasting journey a pleasant one.
10 Fasting Tips: Rules to Follow
These are not necessarily rules, and even if they were, there could be lots more than 10. But these are the 10 things that I think can be quite helpful when it comes to working with clients and fasting.
- Match your fasting protocol to your goal
- Make it realistic
- Get fat-adapted
- Pay attention to food quality
- Listen to your body
- Lose the detractors
- Keep busy
- Don’t overthink it
- Be like Steve Jobs – use routine to your advantage
- Revisit your why
A Thorough Explanation of the Fasting Tips
Fasting Tip #1: Match your fasting protocol to your goal
The first one is by far the most important. Your goal could be anything from weight loss, blood sugar control to inflammation management. You could be fasting for spiritual reasons, you could be fasting to help you get into ketosis quicker or just get there at all. Some people fast to improve their relationship with food. Others do the more advanced fasting to establish a good level of autophagy, and also the associated benefits that come with that, such as immune system regulation.
Let me present three case studies.
- The first one is a highly stressed female who weighs 70 kilos. She’s a foodie. She’s been on low-carb, healthy fat for six months, and has already lost 10 kg. Her goal is to lose five kg and she’s not in a hurry.
- The second case study is a busy, male corporate. He’s overweight and pre-diabetic. He enjoys cooking and eating with his family. At work, he grabs whatever’s closest to him. He has a smoothie for breakfast because it’s quick. His goal is to lose quite a bit of weight, 15-20 kg, and reduce his HbA1c.
- The third case study is a 46-year-old female. She’s slim, she eats whole food, she’s a foodie, she’s pretty busy. She’s currently on a moderately low-carb diet, and her goal is to live as long as she can live, to be as healthy as she can. She also has family history of cancer.
Okay, there is no right or wrong here. It’s just about appropriately matching things.
- So, for the first case study, a clue there is that she only wants to lose a small amount of weight and that she’s not in an enormous hurry. I would suggest something like the 16:8, time restricted feeding. In other words, missing breakfast, perhaps two days of the week. It seems like a good challenge but not so challenging that it sets people up for failure. So it might be that she does 16:8 two days a week, sees how that goes and adjusts accordingly.
- The second one, the busy male corporate – I think something that could be appropriate for him is the one meal a day option, maybe except for weekends because he has expressed interest in cooking and eating with his family. It looks like the rest of his day is not that important to him, and he does have a lot of weight to lose. So let’s try one meal a day during the week, and maybe on the weekends having three meals a day. If you go with this option, make sure his existing food intake is nutrient-dense to ensure he’s getting sufficient micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
I would also potentially suggest super-fasting. Super-fasting means one meal a day for two days of the week, but also the rest of the week is low-carb. I think because he’s pre-diabetic, he needs to make sure that he gets the overall load of carbohydrate down.
- Finally, the 46-year-old who just wants to be as healthy as she can be. Potentially, you might do a more advanced fast, maybe once or twice a year. If she wants to do something more regular, just extend the time period without food, for example a 16:8. Remember she is a foodie, so if you take too much food away from her, she’s not going to be happy. But also she’s slim, and if you take too much food away from her too often, she might end up losing muscle mass, which is going to be counterproductive. Having a family history of cancer, maybe from a prevention perspective, having that lengthier period of time without food where you can draw on some of that apoptosis cell death and autophagy, and get the most out of that catabolic time period when you’re not eating.
Fasting Tip #2: Make it realistic
Think long term. If people are not enjoying the thought of having to fast in five years’ time, then why would they do it now? It might be that you get the minimum amount that they’re prepared to give now so that they can keep this up long term. A good example here is our super-fasting idea. Try it for a month and then see what you want from it. Some people carry on doing super-fasting every week, but most people might do it once a month and then do some more intermittent fasting in the process, because that’s quite easy to do and to keep up with, long term.
Fasting Tip #3: Get fat-adapted
Getting fat-adapted is the best way because fasting won’t hurt so much. For those who might not know, when you are fat-adapted, you are already used to burning your body fat as fuel. So when you miss a meal, or even miss two meals, the body just carries on doing that. Look at your substitutions here. Get comfortable with cauliflower. You’ve got cauliflower rice instead of normal rice, cauliflower mash instead usual mash, and other ways with cauliflower. This is not a cauliflower push, but it’s just a point to say you can do fasting any way you want to, eating whatever you want to, but being fat-adapted certainly helps.
Your level of fat-adaptation or carb restriction really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and it needs to match your goal. But pay attention to food quality.
Fasting Tip #4 Pay attention to food quality
Whatever type of fasting you are doing, you are missing meals, so when you do eat, make sure the quality of the food is really good – nutrient-dense food. By not eating as often, you are saving money, so put that saved money towards higher-quality food.
Fasting Tip #5 Listen to your body
I know that sounds a bit airy-fairy, and to be honest, a long time ago, I used to think listening to your body was a bit strange. Now I think it’s crucial. It really is. You know your body more than anyone else. You’ve lived with yourself longer than I have had contact with you. When you are working with people, have that in mind. You can’t tell people what they might feel or that they are definitely going to love it and feel amazing. You can only give them some advice. It might not be the right time for fasting. It might be the time in your menstrual cycle where your cravings are high and you just don’t feel like you have the resilience to do it. Then don’t do it. Try it another time. Of course, with the menstrual cycle, if you stop menstruating, you really need to look at what’s going on and get to the underlying problem. So listen to your body, please.
Fasting Tip #6: Lose the detractors
Whether you are at home or at work or in an environment that unravels you, you need to do something about it. You can either leave the environment or leave the fasting for that time. If you are in an environment that’s got lots of gorgeous cupcakes and things around – you could go either way. Some people find it easy say no and to stick to the rule, while others feel hard done-by because they have to be restrictive and not indulge.
Fasting Tip #7: Keep busy
When you’re busy time tends to fly. My best fasting days are the days when I’m just running from place to place, doing stuff. Because you’ll find when you talk to people, that a lot of the time people actually forget to eat when they’re really busy, and when they forget to eat, clearly, they’re not thinking about eating. So keeping yourself busy and focused on other things, means that you’re not fixated on food.
Fasting Tip #8: Don’t overthink it
This is one of my best pieces of advice. When I was doing my three-day fast, I talked to a lot of people and they said, “Day two is the worst, and your sleep gets interrupted”. Of course on the night before day two, I couldn’t sleep. Not because I couldn’t sleep physiologically, I was thinking too much about how terrible I would feel the next day, which is just ridiculous. So don’t overthink it, just do it. Just don’t eat. Focus on your fluid, focus on your electrolytes, and keep busy. Keep those stress levels under control. If you are overthinking it, it might be that the level of fasting that you’re doing is just not for you.
Fasting Tip #9: Be like Steve Jobs
I probably don’t need to tell you who Steve Jobs was. The reason I talk about being like Steve Jobs is that he had this mantra. If you look at most pictures of him, you’ll see he wore the same clothes. He wore jeans and a black turtleneck. He basically didn’t sweat the small stuff. His philosophy was, ‘if I have my go-to clothes, then I’m not going to spend time thinking about what to wear, I can focus on my work, which is most important to me’. And clearly he did very well doing that.
I’d like to say to you, be like Steve Jobs in the way that you plan your go-to meals. If you have your routine dinner meals planned, you’re not going to spend time thinking about it. Having similar foods and similar routines around food is going to benefit you.
Fasting Tips #10: Revisit your why
Sometimes, and particularly with fasting, things don’t go according to plan, and you’ll go, “I’m really hungry. Why am I doing this?”. If you can’t articulate to yourself why you’re doing it, well, then why are you doing it? If you don’t have a goal and you don’t know why you’re doing it, then you’ll lose purpose, and you might not be able to go through with it as you had planned.
In summary, I believe that everyone can benefit from fasting in some shape or form, excluding situations when fasting is contraindicated, of course, such as being pregnant, breastfeeding, children, or being underweight.
Know what it is that works for who, and I come back to that first rule, which is match your fasting protocol with your goal, or the goals of the people that you are working with, and adjust as you go.
Following Through Our Fasting Tips
Indeed, fasting isn’t an easy journey, especially during the start. But with the right fasting tips, you can be on your way to a much easier journey. Are you ready to take on the road to fasting with the tips above?
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