It was going so beautifully. You finally got over the keto flu, you figured out the meal planning, you were even learning to like avocado mousse. Every morning you woke up to thrill of another pound down on the scale—you finally had this weight thing figured out—and then it just stopped. You went from losing a pound a day, to a pound a week… and then painfully, only a pound a month. It’s a common story with the keto diet, for many of us it can only get us so far and then we stall out. You have a few options at this point: stubbornly cut your carbs lower and lower until you’re living on cream cheese, decide that the weight you’re at is good enough (at least you finally feel good, right?) or introduce a fasting schedule.
Our bodies are designed to fast, and people have been doing it for thousands of years. It’s only in the last 30 odd years that advertising has convinced us that going without a snack is a bad thing (I’m looking at YOU, Snickers commercials!). Remember when people used to say, “don’t eat that, it will ruin your dinner”? Can you imagine a caveman saying, “better have a snack, or your metabolism will slow down”?! More likely, those cavemen fasted all day while hunting and then feasted on a big kill. They intentionally built up a little layer of fat over the summer so they could live on it over the winter when wildlife and vegetation were sparse. Contrary to popular belief, in a fasted state we have access to a steady flow of energy and our senses are heightened—so we can go out and find food.
Contrary to popular belief, in a fasted state we have access to
a steady flow of energy and our senses are heightened—
so we can go out and find food.
Being weak, lethargic and “hangry” are not symptoms of hunger; they are symptoms of sugar dependence. The obesity epidemic is not a puzzle when we consider the fact that we are eating more often and larger portions than ever before in human history. Our bodies are simply doing what they are designed to do—storing fat for winter (and doing it exceptionally well!). Fasting isn’t bad or scary, it’s simply an artificially induced “winter”—giving the body a chance to burn through the extra fat and divert its resources from constant digestion to healing and housekeeping.
Fasting isn’t bad or scary, it’s simply an
artificially induced “winter”—giving the body
a chance to burn through extra fat.
So are you ready to get started? Don’t worry, you don’t have to swear off food for a week right off the bat; fasting is a discipline you develop over time and it definitely gets easier with practice. Depending where you are on your keto journey, start with zero snacking. I know, it’s painful—but get rid of those fat bombs! You want your body to snack on the fat around your waist, not out of the freezer! Give your body a break between meals and let yourself feel genuine hunger before your next meal. Once you’re ready to advance to the next level, give intermittent fasting a try.
This is the easiest way to fast, and once you’re fat adapted it comes pretty naturally. It starts with cutting out breakfast and eating within a 16 hour window. You can still get away with a splash of whipping cream in your morning coffee if you like—just don’t consume any carbs or protein (ahem, collagen), as this will trigger insulin and take you out of the fasted state. When you aren’t sugar dependant, hunger isn’t an emergency—more a gentle reminder that can easily be put off.
When you aren’t sugar dependant, hunger isn’t an emergency—
more a gentle reminder that can easily be put off.
Once 16 hours feels easy, push it to 18, then 20, etc., until you’re doing one meal a day (known as OMAD). Take your time with this process, let it become your new “normal.” If you find yourself bingeing or overeating when your window opens, you are pushing yourself too hard. Don’t try to be a hero and set goals that you haven’t worked up to yet—it will only lead to discouragement and guilt when you end up eating early. In fact, take guilt out of the equation completely—if you do break your fast early you are not a failure—the survival part of your brain is going to be screaming at you, “EAT EAT EAT!” It takes time to learn to tune-out that voice and get some small successes under your belt. Once you realize you actually can survive without food for 16 hrs, you’ll be ready for more! When you do plan to eat, don’t worry about calorie or macronutrient counts, just eat whole keto-friendly food to satiation—have a nice glass of wine and some dark chocolate if you like, then close your eating window. For many, 18hrs of fasting daily is all they ever need—they lose the extra weight and feel great. That wasn’t me. I did OMAD for an entire year and didn’t really lose anything. It wasn’t until I got over my fear of extended fasting that I began to make headway on the scale again.
It wasn’t until I got over my fear of extended fasting
that I began to make headway on the scale again.
Extended fasting is anything past 24 hours. Dr. Jason Fung’s Intensive Dietary Management blog [HERE] is a fantastic resource on this. He has his patients on regular fasting schedules to lose weight and reverse diabetes. I attempted to skip my one meal a day a few times before I was actually successful and got over the mental hurdle. I mostly remember feeling crabby, like eating supper was a “right” that was being withheld from me. It wasn’t until I changed my thinking about it that I was able to do it—fasting is a positive healing thing that I get to do for my body.
It wasn’t until I changed my thinking about it that I was able to do it—
fasting is a positive healing thing that I GET to do for my body.
Just like my body adapted to keto, then intermittent fasting, then OMAD, it is adapting to longer and longer stints of extended fasting—it’s amazing and confidence-boosting! Since introducing extended fasting, I’ve lost over 40lbs in the last 9 months! I started with 48hrs, then 72; my longest so far being 118hrs. The best thing to do is plan out a schedule that feels doable and works with your weekly routine. I often still have whipping cream in my coffee, and otherwise live on carbonated water with lime or unsweetened tea (when buying tea, read the ingredients carefully and make sure there’s no added sugar). Another important factor is the type of water you drink—you want to make sure it’s mineral water or add minerals to it. Reverse osmosis water is empty of minerals and will actually wash out your electrolytes and dehydrate you. You can add Himalayan pink salt, a sugar-free electrolyte supplement or trace mineral drops. Just add enough that you can barely taste it.
I have only dabbled a bit in the world of dry fasting, but it’s definitely a new trend on the horizon—for popular culture anyway. It has been an eastern spiritual and healing practice for thousands of years. The idea that we can’t survive without water for longer than three days is a myth that more and more people are busting. When you go without water for an extended period of time the body will begin a process of aggressive autophagy where it will actually begins to incinerate fat cells and other defunct cells to get at the water inside of them. Dry fasting is especially great for healing skin conditions, infections, getting rid of parasites and even cancer.
Dry fasting is especially great for healing skin conditions,
infections, getting rid of parasites and even cancer.
When an animal is sick or injured it will often simply go lie somewhere without food or water and let its body get to work healing itself. God created our bodies with an amazing ability to heal themselves if we get out of the way and let it happen. If dry fasting perks your interest, make sure to do your own research and determine if it’s right for you. It is definitely the most intense way to fast and needs to be undertaken carefully. You can try beginning with a daily dry fast from the time you go to bed until 12hrs later and then go back to water fasting for the day. Just like the other forms of fasting, you can work your way up to longer hours.
Every major world religion has periods of fasting built in to them because it is ancient wisdom that our modern culture has completely forgotten. Even though it’s considered an important spiritual discipline, it’s no longer regularly practiced (other than the popular annual Daniel Fast that Christians commonly partake of in January. Note: drinking juice is the hardest way to fast because you will be riding a hypoglycaemic roller coaster!). But today we need fasting more than ever before, both for the health and the spiritual benefits.
Today we need fasting more than ever before,
both for the health and the spiritual benefits.
Fasting gets our focus off ourselves and our appetites—it frees up time, money and mental real estate for the business of living and being all that we can be. Fasting brings a new sense of freedom and confidence as addictions and dependencies fall away. I wrote back in January 2018 about wanting to feel “all the way” free—in the past year fasting has brought that feeling! Food is something I love and celebrate with, but it doesn’t have me anymore. I don’t need it, I’ve learned I can easily go without it. I think God built periods of fasting and then feasting into the lives of the Israelites because He wanted them to get this. Food is a good gift, but God is the One we can’t live without—He is our daily bread. This is something you want to build into your life. It may feel scary at first, but you will be amazed at how easy fasting will become. It’s something you CAN do; It’s something you’re designed to do.
Share with us, if you didn’t have to spend so much time shopping for, prepping and eating food how would you invest that extra time?