Fasting isn’t a new concept but it can be an effective tool to help shed a few extra pounds, improve health and grow spiritually. Fasting is simply the restriction of food (and sometimes water, known as “dry fasting”) over a period of time and it is most commonly observed in religious practices. On a spiritual path, fasting has been said to recharge your spiritual battery, provide a deeper level of faith, enlightenment and spiritual growth.
The practice of fasting has many health benefits that are beginning to be understood through scientific research. The art of fasting is as old as time and it has a way of cleansing and renewing mind, body and soul offering new insight to one’s self-awareness and disciple. Fasting aids in the deterioration of mental boulders that may have blocked spiritual illumination or progress in other areas of our lives. When living life holistically, we recognize and accept that all things are intertwined and fasting is no exception.
While one may fast for weight loss or better health to improve upon the physical pillar, improvements to our mental pillar can be witnessed from the experiences obtained by exercising self-disciple to reach a fasting goal. The beauty of fasting is that if one chooses, they can take fasting a bit deeper to use the period of within our spiritual pillar through meditation, prayer and other works.
From a health and weight loss perspective, a few studies indicate that some physical benefits of fasting include:
- Increased Metabolism and Weight Loss
- Insulin and Hormone Regulation
- Cell Repair
- Reduced Oxidative Stress
- Improved Cognition
The associated health benefits of fasting make it a hard-to-ignore tool and there are several methods to fit nearly any lifestyle.
Let’s break down two of my favorite fasting protocols.
16:8 – Lean Gains Protocol: Made popular by Martin Berkhan, this protocol recommends a 16 hour fast with an 8-hour eating window and is done daily. This is most easily accomplished by having the bulk of your fasting done while you are sleeping. This method is as simple as skipping breakfast. With your eating window between 12pm – 8pm you won’t feel like the odd person out at the office potluck. If you can’t stand the thought of missing your morning bagel, an eating window of 7am – 3pm may work better. Get creative with your feeding window. The key to this is 16 hours of fasting each day to reap some of the benefits mentioned above.
With a 12pm-8pm eating window, you could easily fit a block of meditation or prayer in the earlier part of your day. A time that you would normally spend prepping and eating breakfast could be repurposed for a daily dose of connection to your higher power. If you’re one of those people that enjoy the stillness of the early mornings like I do, this may be the best time for spiritual grounding.
One Meal a Day (OMAD) Fasting: One meal a day fasting is one of the most challenging methods. Food is restricted for typically 20-23 hours and allows for water, black coffee and plain teas during the fasting window. Feeding window would be what’s best suited for you by either consuming your meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner. This method affords the least flexibility for social eating as it is recommended to stick with the same eating window daily for better adherence. The results of this technique are phenomenal if one has the willpower to maintain.
For weight loss, the OMAD method is best implemented by starting with the 16:8 Lean Gains protocol and slowly extending your fasting window until you’ve reached and maintained a 20 hour fasting window for at least a week or two before taking it down to one meal a day. During the fasting window, you’re afforded the ability to move throughout the day unbothered and tethered to the fridge. Keep in mind this level of unbothered takes time to reach. You will initially find yourself watching the clock and counting down to your next delicious morsel but it does get better.
For spiritual enlightenment and growth I find that it may be better to start OMAD by jumping in with both feet, picking a day and just starting out with one meal a day for a specific period of time. During this process more time and attention would be given to prayer, meditation and other spiritual rituals.
Abstaining from food and sticking within your eating window may give you a sense of satisfaction as you accomplish each successful day of fasting. This can improve your mood and raise motivation to make improvements in other areas of your life. You may be motivated to become active by starting an exercise program or seek to improve your life by taking a course to learn something new.
Fasting produces results in many areas of your life from excess fat loss and the potential for spiritual enlightenment. Before you take the plunge with fasting, take the time to speak with your healthcare professional first to get medical clearance.
Live well, Eat well, Be well! – Kiki