5 Tricks That Will Help You to Get Through Your First Intermittent Fast
Fasting is not easy. If you are not used to it, you might feel hungry or cranky or both. The mental challenge is often tougher than the physical one. Eating is fun, it can distract you from uncomfortable thoughts, or it can help you to procrastinate tasks that you don’t want to do.
I often use meals to “give myself a break” or to “get ready” for work, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if food becomes a substitute for rest — or anything else for that matter — you need to revisit these behaviors. Fasting might be a great way to break them and disconnect specific “outcomes” (e.g., feeling relaxed or having time for yourself) from food.
Here some tips that will help you to get through your first fast and to make intermittent fasting part of a healthy lifestyle.*
Use a fasting App to track your progress and to stay motivated.
According to a study by the University of Kentucky, self-monitoring can improve adherence to adopt new healthy behaviors such as exercising. I made the same observation with my clients: the ones using tracking apps are more consistent with their efforts. There are many fasting apps. My favorite ones are “Fast Habit” or “Zero.”
Some of the recent research on physical activity suggests that exercise decreases levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite while increasing levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. However, this does not seem to apply to everyone. Some of my clients get hungry after high-intensity workouts, some not. But — more importantly — exercise is an effective distraction from food, can help you to decrease stress, and add some me-time, which are some of the things that many people also associate with eating.
Tea, Water, and Coffee
Filling up on calorie-free beverage is essential during fasts due to many reasons:
- Dehydration can be confused with hunger. So if you feel hungry, have a big glass of water or a cup of herbal tea, wait for some minutes and see if you still want to eat something.
- Drinking water, tea, or coffee can help you to curb appetite (for a while).
- Sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee or some water flavored with lemon or mint can eventually turn into a healthy and relaxing ritual
Please don’t opt for artificially sweetened beverages. They don’t have calories but can mess with your insulin levels. Plus, that stuff is absolutely terrible for you.
Distraction, Distraction, Distraction
Fasting IS a mental challenge. You will not die because you don’t eat for 12, 14, 16, or even 24 hours. However, many people are not used to the sensation of hunger anymore and might feel very uncomfortable. Embrace that new-found sensation. Be mindful of it. Observe it. However, if you feel that your mental or physical performance drops, you know it’s time to break your fast.
Focus on the benefits
- The best motivation might be to visualize of your fasting challenge. Intermittent Fasting can not only help you to lose weight** but also has MANY amazing health benefits:
- Studies have shown that Intermittent Fasting can help to reduce fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, which can help to decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Fasting also increases the secretion of the human growth hormone. A lack of this so-called “youth hormone” can lead to decreased bone density, reduced muscle mass, and increased body fat.
- According to Dr. Petra Bracht, a German expert on Intermittent Fasting and Bestselling Author, our body initiates a waste removal process called autophagy after 12 hours without food. Autophagy does not only help the body to get rid of the waste but also “recycles” it for cell renewal.
- Fasting can also help to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations as well as blood pressure and can thus help to prevent heart disease.
How can you start?
If you are a newbie to fasting, I suggest starting with a 12 hour fast. If you can manage that for a week, you can increase the fasting window to 13 hours and then add 1 hour every week working your way up to 16 or 18 hours.
*Fasting is NOT for everyone. If you have any chronic health condition or other concerns, please get clearance from your doctor before you try it.
- By Rike Aprea