The One-Day Fast: Part 3
New to the fasting series? Check out Part 1 in which I discuss why I tried the 1-day fast and Part 2, which includes a journal I kept during the fast. In today’s installment, you can see what conclusions I came to in the weeks after the fast. Did I meet my goals of resetting my hunger and fullness cues, reminding myself how lucky I am, and dealing with my feelings? Read on to find out.
Things I Learned: 1 week out
I’ve realized in this experiment that I spend a lot of my time feeling a low level of anxiety. I HAVE TO GET X DONE! AND ALSO Y! AND Z! AND ALL OF THEM IMMEDIATELY! I jump from task to task, feeling stressed that I’m not doing well enough or that I’m not getting enough done. When fasting, I still jumped from task to task, but not effectively, so I’d have to stop myself and go back to what I was originally doing.
Normally, I walk at the pace of a power-walker. When fasting, I walked so slowly. It makes me wonder if slow walkers just need to eat more.
During the fast, I’d vacillate between feeling really anxious and calmer than I remember feeling...ever? Like, I really just didn’t care. I imagine this is how the big Lebowski feels all the time. Everything’s cool, man. What are the hormones that are released when fasting? Maybe I need more of them.
I also didn’t get hangry, which I often do when I’m eating normally and it’s been too long without food. I think it’s because I knew that I wasn’t going to eat no matter what obstacles were in my way. As in, I have 5 hours of clients with no breaks or I’m stuck in traffic or there’s no food in the house. None of that matters if you can’t eat anyway. Getting angry at my surroundings wasn’t going to change anything. Instead, I accepted my hunger and moved on.
I also took the day of the fast off from TV. I’m so used to eating in front of the TV that I worried that if I chilled in front of the TV I’d have all sorts of cravings. I got so much done! And I didn’t nap. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel tired at bedtime either, though. That could have been because of green tea that I drank in the late afternoon.
It’s now a week later. Here are things that I’ve noticed:
I recognize fullness sooner.
I’m not snacking as often as I had been.
I’m working on eating without distraction, starting with breakfast.
I watch too much TV.
Things I Learned: 3 Weeks Out
It’s been 3 weeks since my fast. I find that when I think back to it, I remember all the calm feelings. I’d forgotten all the anxious feelings until I reread my journal. That’s interesting to me. Does that mean that I want it to be a more positive experience than it was? Or am I so used to feeling a low level of anxiety that the calm feeling is what was notable? It’s probably the latter.
In my 1-week write-up, I wondered what hormones are released when fasting. Here’s what I found out. 1. Jon Berardi is correct in his Intermittent Fasting (IF) book that it is really hard to find fasting research studies done on humans. I had a lot of trouble finding the answers that I was looking for from scholarly sources. 2. The info that is out there from non-scholarly sources seems to be mainly about the effects of IF rather than a single-day fast on hormones.
Ultimately, I have found nothing that indicates that my feelings of calm were brought on by any hormones released by fasting. Instead, I wonder if it was brought on by my mindfulness. I paid a lot of attention to how I was feeling at any given moment so that I could record it for Fitness for Feminists. I was also moving more slowly and intentionally paying attention to one thing at a time. This pause in my normal I’m-the-best-multitasker-ever energy may have been enough to make me feel more calm and it makes me reconsider the pace at which I’m living my life.
So did it work? Did I meet my 3 goals of resetting hunger and fullness cues, reminding myself of how lucky I am to have access to food, and not emotionally eating?
Fasting did help me with my hunger and fullness cues, even in the long term. Even three weeks out, I am more aware of my hunger, I am less likely to eat when I’m not hungry (at least some of the time), and I am more likely to stop eating when I’m full. In the last 2 weeks, one of our cats, Ophelia, became gravely ill, deteriorated in front of our eyes, and had to be euthanized. During the ordeal, I was more mindful of when I was using food as fuel and when I was using food to soothe my soul.
Also, fuck cancer. Seriously. What a stupid disease. It serves no purpose. At least viruses and bacteria are living organisms that are trying to take over the world. That’s a motivation I can understand. But cancer? Our bodies attacking themselves? How is that helpful?!?
But I digress…
I did feel lucky during the fast. I was reminded of all I have in a visceral way. There are people who are going hungry in the world and I am not one of them. There are people who are going hungry in my city and I’m not one of them. It’s a luck of the draw that I was born to my parents in New England. Proud to be an American? Lucky to be an American. (Though right now there are some complicating factors. Right now I also feel disgusted with this administration, baffled by the people who still support it, and helpless to do anything about it. So, that’s fun.)
Finally, I wanted to do the fast because I wanted to stop using food to make myself numb to my feelings. That didn’t really work. I continued to avoid negative feelings using other sources. Sure, I didn’t “eat my feelings,” but I made myself busy all day. When I wasn’t with clients I was working on this blog and when I wasn’t doing that I was talking to customer service trying to get my phone fixed. I didn’t really take any time to sit with my feelings about my friend Sarah’s death, which I discuss in Part 1. Perhaps I’m not ready to. Or perhaps I’m a master of denial and avoidance. #Winning!
Would I fast again? I’m not sure. I am curious about intermittent fasting (IF), but my health is fine and I don’t need to be super lean to be happy. I think the only reason for me to try it would be to experiment with it for my nutrition clients. However, if I find that I lose my hunger and fullness cues again, I might do another 24-hour fast to help reset those physical sensations.
Would I recommend fasting? If you have a mostly healthy relationship to food, I’d say try the 24-hour fast if for no other reason than to teach yourself, like PN says, “hunger is not an emergency.” If you want to lose weight and you don’t want to follow a daily restricted-calorie diet, read through Berardi’s book and see if IF might be right for you. If you have a history (or present) of disordered eating, especially of restrictive eating, IF could exacerbate those issues and so it’s probably not for you.
IF is sometimes recommended to help control Type-2 Diabetes, but that’s beyond the scope of my practice. IF has also been found to be detrimental to some women, so if you try it and you’re biologically female, pay attention to how your body is feeling. Have your periods stopped and you can’t sleep? IF might not be right for you.
OK, that wraps up my series on fasting! As you can see, I still have some work to do on choosing the best food sources and employing better coping mechanisms than food and TV. But, you know what? I’m a work in progress. Yes, I’m a fitness and nutrition coach, and I don’t have it all figured out. That’s just how life goes. I’m not perfect and I never will be. And, you know what? Neither is anyone else. We can only try to make the best choices for ourselves and for our bodies most of the time. (Because we are more than our bodies.) Let’s work on our imperfections with the knowledge that they’ll never be completely beaten and let’s celebrate our little wins.
I was asked once how this is a feminist blog, and I really think that the idea that we can be strong women-identified folks who are not perfect and who don’t fit an ideal of whatever the patriarchy thrusts (pun intended) upon us is a feminist idea. I’m not here to make people feel badly about themselves or their bodies and I’m not here to hold myself up as an ideal that you should strive for. I’m here because my expertise in fitness and nutrition might be of interest to you. Maybe I can pass on a little knowledge and you can use it. And maybe we’ll all be just a little healthier and a little happier for it.
Want a coach who isn’t perfect and never will be? Who doesn’t expect you to be perfect either? Want to be just a little better than before and then a little better than that? Check out my fitness and nutrition services!