Fasting is the complete or partial abstinence from food or drink for a certain period of time. It has been used for thousands of years to promote physical and spiritual health. An absolute fast is a form where no food or water is consumed at all, while other forms allow water, juice or other liquids. Read on to learn how to choose the form of fasting that's right for you and integrate it into your lifestyle.
Method 1 of 3: Prepare for the fast
Step 1. Decide what kind of fast you want to do
People fast for many different reasons: to gain spiritual insight, before surgery, to lose weight, and for many other reasons. The way you prepare and perform the fast is largely determined by the reasons you have for the fast, so do some research on the type of fast you want to do.
- Medical fasting is often prescribed when a patient needs surgery or other treatment that requires anesthesia. Medical fasting usually lasts 12 to 24 hours before scheduled treatment and may involve abstinence from food and drink, or eating alone.
- Detoxifying fasting aims to rid the body of accumulated toxins. This is often done after the holidays, a time when a lot of alcohol and fatty or sugary food is consumed. Detoxifying fasts usually allow juices and other liquids, but not food.
- Intermittent fasting is a practice that helps the body solve health problems or burn fat. Some people believe that regularly abstaining from food for periods of 12 to 36 hours leads to weight loss over time.
- Spiritual or religious fasting is intended to give the mind time to reflect on spiritual ideas while the body abstains from food. The guidelines of religious fasting are often prescribed in religious texts and fasting is performed to honor ancient traditions. For example, Muslims fast during Ramadan, a month in which they are not allowed to eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset.
Step 2. Prepare physically for the fast
Everyone's body reacts differently to fasting, and if you've never done it before, it's hard to predict how you're going to feel. Take a few weeks to physically prepare for the fast before you begin. You will be more likely to stick to the fast if you know what to expect.
- Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about the impact of fasting on your health. Fasting, especially absolute fasting, can be dangerous for your body if you already have certain medical conditions. Get checked to see if your body is strong enough to handle limited food and water consumption.
- If this is your first fast, you may need to gradually cut back on your food intake to get used to the feeling of abstinence. For example, eat less sugar and white dough the weeks before you start a detoxifying fast, so that your body no longer has cravings for it outside of hunger.
- Start fasting when you are in good shape. Your body can handle the abstinence more easily if you are well hydrated, so drink plenty of water. Eat healthy, nutritious meals in the weeks before you fast. Just before fasting, make sure you don't take any alcohol or drugs.
Step 3. Prepare your kitchen for the fast
If you have temptations lying around the house, it will be much more difficult to fast. Prepare your kitchen in the following ways:
- Discard or store prohibited food and drinks. Make sure you don't have candy or bottles of wine on the counter; throw it away or put it somewhere you won't be reminded of it.
- Clean your fridge. Throw out anything that could tempt you while fasting, especially ready-to-eat foods that are easy to grab.
- If you're going on a juice fast, stock your fridge with the ingredients you need to make your juices.
- If you are going to perform an absolute fast, try to avoid the kitchen altogether. Make sure everything is well cleaned so that you don't have to go into the kitchen.
Method 2 of 3: Fasting
Step 1. Start small
It's a good idea to start with a short amount of time and see how it feels before committing to the long-term fast. Try fasting for 8 hours during the day on weekends when you don't have much to do. Skip breakfast and lunch (or eat some broth for lunch), and drink plenty of water throughout the day. End the evening with a light, healthy meal.
- During the fast, be aware of how you feel hour by hour. Do you feel weak or sick, or do you enjoy the light feeling when you don't have to digest food?
- See how you feel the next day, because sometimes the benefits of fasting aren't apparent until you stop. Do you have more energy? Do you feel refreshed and want to try again, or don't you think about fasting again? Let this short period of fasting help you decide whether fasting is going to become a part of your life, or whether you will never do it again.
Step 2. Be determined
You will feel hungry and thirsty at first, but fasting quickly affects your body and condition. You may become grumpy, angry or sad for the first few days as your body releases all the toxins and struggles with cravings. Remind yourself why you wanted to fast when you're in physical and mental pain, and focus on getting to the finish line.
- If you fast for spiritual reasons, turn your mind to a higher power or a religious teaching that inspired you to fast. Read the religious texts that made you want to fast, or read accounts of other people who have fasted before. You can also gain strength from conversations with people who fast for the same reason.
- If you are fasting for health reasons, imagine how the accumulated toxins flush out your body. Fasting gives your body a chance to purify itself before you eat again. Read about the medical benefits to keep you on track.
Step 3. Distract yourself
Fasting can lead to fantasies of huge dining tables full of silver dishes with the most delicious dishes. Daydreaming will only make you more hungry, so find ways to change your mind other than ice cream and burgers.
- Spending time with a friend or family member doing something unrelated to food is a great distraction, as long as he or she knows you can't go out to dinner afterwards.
- Exercise is normally a good way to distract yourself from food, but in this case it can make you more hungry. Take a short walk or plan a trip that won't burn too many calories.
- Don't watch too much TV, because the commercials try to tempt you with tasty things and people eating. Rather read a book or do something crafting.
- Sleep as much as you want. Sleep also counts as fasting, so fasting for several days can get enough rest to get you through hunger.
Step 4. Track your progress
If you fast for more than a few hours, keep track of how you're doing. Write down how you feel at the beginning of the fast. You'll be able to look back and see how far you've come, which will motivate you to keep going.
- Look for patterns that can help make fasting easier. For example, if you notice that you were very hungry after a walk, you should try not to burn too many calories through exercise in the future.
- Write about your feelings when you are grumpy or angry. Writing can help get the negative emotions out of your system, keeping them at bay long enough to complete the fast.
- Also be open to good emotions. Some people report feeling euphoric after a few days of fasting, when the toxins are out of the body. Notice when your feelings change from negative to positive as your body begins to notice the healing effect of the fast.
Step 5. Stop if you start to feel sick
If you start to feel faint, dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous, drink water and eat something small right away. Continuing to fast can harm your health. See your doctor to see what went wrong before fasting again.
- Don't force yourself to continue fasting if you're feeling extreme anger or so hungry that it makes you sick. Rather than fasting, it is better to kick the habit of the things that make you feel this way.
- If you just don't like the feeling you get from fasting, there's no reason why you shouldn't stop. You can always try again later, so don't be too hard on yourself if you don't succeed the first time.
Method 3 of 3: Breaking the fast
Step 1. Start drinking water
Drink plenty of water before breaking the fast so that your body is well hydrated and ready to absorb some food again. Even if you have done a juice fast, start with two glasses of water the day you break the fast.
Step 2. Eat a light meal
Do not break the fast with a heavy meal, as your body is used to very little. Your stomach has shrunk, so you won't be able to eat that much at first. Eat a small meal of healthy vegetables and some protein to help your body get used to digesting food again.
- Don't eat hard-to-digest things like beans or other legumes. Keep it for a few days after fasting.
- Do not drink alcohol the day you stop fasting, because you will not be able to tolerate it well and it can have an adverse effect on your body.
- Some types of fasts, especially religious ones, require that you break the fast with certain foods. Do some research beforehand so you know what to do.
Step 3. Be prepared for your stomach to get upset
When you start eating solid foods again, your body may produce gas or diarrhea until it gets used to digesting food again. Don't be alarmed if your stomach hurts a few hours after the first meal.
Step 4. Feel the benefits
Whether you fasted because you wanted to lose weight, cleanse your body, or get in touch with your spiritual side, congratulate yourself on successfully completing the fast. You may notice the following positive effects when you are done with the fast:
- An increased energy level.
- An improved mood.
- Decreased appetite for sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
Many of the benefits of fasting are linked to psychological well-being and willpower. Therefore, your attitude towards fasting is important and you will have more benefits if you can enjoy it
- Fasting can make some people feel cranky, unhappy, and uncomfortable, and some will make up for that by overeating once the fast is over. Fasting is not for everyone, no matter what you read about all the benefits it can have.
- If you have a medical condition, it may not be good for you to fast. For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, you can only fast under medical supervision.
- Some organizations believe that fasting has negative health effects. Do your research so that you are aware of the potential risks before trying it.