A fasting diet is a nutritional therapy involving either full or partial caloric restriction. It can be a challenge if you embark on one unprepared and unaware. There are many ways you can prepare yourself for a fast. In this article, I’ll give you the tips and tricks that’ll help you successfully reach your fasting goals such as healthy habits, nutrition, and hunger management.
Make things easy on yourself from the very beginning. First, make sure you do your research into fasting, especially if you’re aiming for a specific health benefit. Not all fasts have the same results, so choose your fast carefully to achieve your goals. Before embarking on your fast, speak with your trusted health care provider about your plans. They’ll be able to advise you if any medications or supplements you take will need to be adjusted for the fast.
The Fasting Diet - In-depth Interview with Dr. Goldhamer & Dr. Group
Length: 93 minutes
Tips on How To Get Through a Fast
- Get a head start on any new projects before starting your fast.
- Complete any chores to make mornings easier.
- Don’t over-commit to social engagements for the duration of the fast.
- Prepare yourself emotionally for hunger and irritability.
- Begin fasting on Friday afternoon.
- Take a nap during lunch breaks.
- Go easy on your workouts.
- Go to bed earlier.
- Drink plenty of water or tea.
- Trying indulging in a hobby you don’t normally have time for to keep busy.
- Set clear boundaries before beginning.
Establish Clear, Measurable Goals
With any new routine or healthy habit, it’s important to set measurable goals, instead of vague, undefined objectives. Assign a number to the goal. Pick a percentage, duration length, or reading on a ketone strip. You’ll get a big boost in your sense of accomplishment once you make it. If not, you’ll be able to evaluate how close you got to it, giving a new milestone for next time. When fasting, your goal might be to go a set amount of time without breaking the fast, liver detoxification, losing body fat, cleansing your diet of particular foods, or experiencing the clear thinking associated with fasting.
Despite the many benefits, fasting is still challenging. If you’re irritable when you’re hungry, expect to be the same on your fast — only slightly worse. For the first 2-3 days, you’ll likely experience some negative sensations, and your mood may suffer as a result. During the first day or two, intense hunger is normal, but this feeling quickly fades. You may find the mild physical discomfort of hunger pales in comparison to the effect on your mood. Some people report feeling shaky, weak, dizzy, or just generally out of sorts while their body adjusts. Prepare yourself mentally for these sensations.
These feelings can affect how you respond to adverse situations and interact with other people. Check in with yourself and your feelings. Are you impatient for a reason or are you just feeling a little irritable? Are you dealing with your challenges healthily, or are you letting them get the best of you? Be cognizant of your mental state and emotional disposition through your fast and do what’s necessary to steer yourself toward a more positive experience for yourself and those around you. When you speak with others, try to acknowledge that any crankiness is due to low blood sugar rather than the person or project you’re currently working on. Take a moment to compose yourself by breathing deeply or try meditating to reflect on your emotional state.
Get a Jump on Work
The first few days will be the toughest, so prepare yourself at home and work so that your days run as smoothly as possible. To compensate, try to get ahead on any projects that require intense mental effort in the days leading up to your fast. The best practice is preparing as though you’ll be slightly dazed for the first 2-3 days. Stress and fasting are not a good pair, so try to make up for any heavy mental lifting early by getting ahead. That way you can relax, and you’ll be able to dial it back a little and take the pressure off for the first few days.
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Detox Your Diet
Two weeks before your fast, eliminate the food you crave the most. If you have a particular weakness for soda or fries, try eliminating these items from your diet before you begin fasting. Cravings for specific foods are normal, but while you’re fasting, you won’t be able to satisfy them. To dispel their power over you, try cutting these kinds of foods from your diet a week or two before fasting.
Tidy Up at Home
Losing your shoes, misplacing your keys, or not having something to wear are some of those daily frustrations that you can easily avoid with some timely preparation. When you’re fasting, these kinds of frustrations can feel a lot more frustrating, so plan for them to make mornings easier.
Before your fast, complete your chores. Pick up the dry cleaning, pay any bills due soon, wash and fold your laundry, make sure all the walkways in your home are clear of tripping hazards. As you fast, you might begin to feel floaty and euphoric, so try to be diligent about putting your belongings where they need to go.
Overcoming Obstacles While Fasting
Now that you know what to expect, here’s a little primer on overcoming the obstacles that arise while you’re fasting.
Drink Water to Manage Hunger
Cravings are one of the most significant obstacles when you’re just starting your fast and it may begin to feel like an uphill battle with little incentive to keep going. You may notice that your sense of smell is heightened when you’re fasting. Fortunately, you’ll only feel cravings for the first 72 hours.
Hunger and thirst are often confused, and while this might not be the case on day two of your fast, filling up on water can help alleviate some feelings of hunger. Warm, fragrant herbal teas are another excellent option to quiet a grumbling stomach. If you’re not on a strict water fast, you can also have some clear broth or thinned juice to keep your energy up.
Keep Your Fast to Yourself
Of the many potential challenges that stand in your way is the people around you. Scientific research on fasting is not well-known among the general populace, so you’ll likely meet with vehement resistance if you tell anyone that you’re fasting for health purposes.
Your friends and family might not approve, especially if they’re unfamiliar with fasting. Most people equate fasting with starving and immediately dismiss the merits of the practice. Of course, you could show your naysayers studies and articles on the benefits of fasting, but chances are you won’t be able to change their mind. Your best bet is only telling the people who need to know. This list includes your partner, your health care provider, and maybe your immediate supervisor.
Start Your Fast Before a Weekend
Since the first 2-3 days are the toughest, try timing your fast to begin on a Friday after lunch. This way the most difficult days will be on your own time when you don’t have to deal with getting ready for work, traffic, or the scent of donuts wafting from the break room.
Get Plenty of Rest
Expect to feel tired, initially. Your body is adjusting, and you’ll likely feel drained both emotionally and in terms of energy. Treat yourself to a good night’s rest.
Go Easy at the Gym
Coping With Boredom
Without all the meal prep, cleaning, and meal times, you might find you have some extra time on your hands. To avoid giving into that initial gnawing hunger, try picking up a new hobby you don’t normally have time to do. Something that keeps your hands busy is a better option than idly sitting and watching tv. Knitting, sewing, reading, woodworking, journaling, video games, or another hobby are effective ways to keep your idle hands from reaching into the pantry. Find something you look forward to doing to keep your mind off eating.
Take a Nap
Meal times might be difficult, so don’t hesitate to skip out and take a power nap. If you’re at work, try taking a short siesta in your car or a quiet room. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready instead of stuffed.
Remind Yourself of Your Goals
If you find yourself trying to rationalize breaking your fast earlier than you planned, reflecting on why you wanted to fast to begin with will help you overcome this desire. That said, make sure to listen to your body. If you begin to feel ill or very weak, don’t put off breaking your fast out of stubbornness or competition. Don’t try to do more than your body can handle. Don’t worry, you can always try again.
Keep Your Energy Levels Up
Fasting can leave you feeling depleted in more ways than one. In addition to staying hydrated, you might also consider supplementing with B vitamins to recoup some of your energy. VeganSafe™ B-12 is formulated with methylcobalamin, the form of B-12 your body needs to keep you energized.
Breaking Your Fast
Breaking your fast properly is critical. The first foods you feed your body after fasting determine how successful you are at maintaining the progress you’ve made. Don’t undermine all the progress by breaking your fast with unhealthy starchy, greasy, or fried foods.
When you’re coming out of your fast, try to stay away from sugary foods. The ideal first meal would be something like watermelon or a small healthy mixed green salad with some healthy fats like walnuts and a drizzle of full-fat salad dressing. You can also try raw veggies with a little tahini or some olive oil with herbs. Avoid bottled dressings that are loaded with sugar, salt, and vinegar that may be a bit too sharp for your palate. This will help you refamiliarize your body with solid foods without overwhelming it.
Ideally, the foods you eat in the transition period between fasting and eating normally should be the kinds of things you would eat on a cleanse. This is going to be things like raw, fibrous vegetables, watery soups that don’t contain too much starch, nuts, seeds, and ancient grains mixed with raw or steamed vegetables. Start incorporating fruit back into your diet 1-2 days after breaking the fast. Fruits contain a lot of sugar, so try sticking with low-glycemic fruits like cherries, coconut meat, watermelon, avocados, and blueberries.[3, 4, 5, 6]
Lasting Changes After Fasting
Think of breaking your fast as the chance to upgrade your lifestyle. Fasting is not only one of the best ways to activate your body’s self-healing process, but it also re-sensitizes your palate to subtle flavors. You’ll find that foods that were once bland or uninteresting are now bursting with flavor.
This is your opportunity to structure your diet around micronutrient-dense foods bursting with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are essential to your health. Eat the kinds of meals built around foods you usually aspire to eat — celeriac, kale juice, and smoothie bowls — all of those beautiful, healthy things you would eat if you only had the time and inclination.
If you want to learn more, read our guide to the different types of fasting to figure out which fast is right for you.
Do you have any fasting tips to contribute? Tell us about them in the comments below!
- Berg, J.M., Tymoczko, J.L., Stryer, L. "Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. Section 30.4, Fuel Choice During Exercise Is Determined by Intensity and Duration of Activity." Web.
- "Muscle Physiology - Metabolism Of Fatty Acids." Muscle.ucsd.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
- "Cherries, Sweet, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories." Nutritiondata.self.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
- "Nuts, Coconut Meat, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories." Nutritiondata.self.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
- "Watermelon, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories." Nutritiondata.self.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
- "Blueberries, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories." Nutritiondata.self.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.