So, I decided to try intermittent fasting. I’ve been reading studies in medical journals and anecdotal evidence that suggest intermittent fasting improves health in a variety of ways. A couple of days ago I finally said, Why not?
My interest in health and wellness has led to various forays into self-experimentation, including the elimination of refined or added sugars, processed foods and coffee (some of which have since been reintroduced).
Intermittent fasting is along the same line for me. I’m not trying to lose weight or cure any particular ailment. While I don’t have an outcome in mind, I am curious. Maybe intermittent fasting will improve something so let’s find out. Besides, it’s time I do something for the first time again.
What did you do to prepare?
I’d read that the last meal before fasting should contain fat as well as nutrition. Makes sense. I figured it should be satisfying too. So, I had hot oatmeal with a banana, an egg, steamed broccoli, a slice of cheese and Himalayan salt.
Next, I decided my mindset.
Weren’t you worried or stressed?
I’d read that some people who have devoted their lives to spiritual practices undertake fasting as a form of self-mastery or a step on the path to enlightenment. (Some religious approaches are more oriented to deprivation, but that doesn’t appeal.)
I liked the idea of self-mastery and aligned my thinking to intermittent fasting accordingly.
How did you deal with hunger?
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel very hungry so it wasn’t a problem. I know, if someone had told me that beforehand I wouldn’t have believed them.
Around the time I would have usually had an evening meal, my stomach grumbled. I told myself it was a physiological force of habit and that my body had more than enough stored energy.
The next morning I had my favorite matcha tea. I focused on my body and told myself I could eat something if I wanted. I focused on my body some more and decided I wasn’t genuinely hungry. I would ordinarily have eaten out of habit, but at this time it wasn’t necessary.
My original goal for this first fast was 16 hours (16:8). This 16:8 ratio (i.e., in a 24-hour time period = 16 hours straight without food + 8-hour window allowing food) is generally accepted as a good entry point to fasting.
Since I felt ok after 16 hours, I kept going. As I approached 20 hours (20:4), I started feeling genuine hunger. I told myself that my brain might interpret this situation as scarcity but there was no cause for alarm–my brain would learn that my body had enough stored fuel.
When did you break the fast?
After I made it past the 20-hour mark, I revised my goal to 24 hours. I ended up lasting 25.5 hours. My curiosity and competitive spirit wanted to push to 36 hours, but I decided not to do anything that could be extreme especially this first time.
Did you experience any benefits?
I felt peaceful, at deeper levels than the regular peace and calm of the physical world. I understand now why fasting is part of many spiritual and religious traditions. For me, it was an experience in self-mastery and transcending the physical.
When I had food after 25.5 hours, the flavours exploded and I tasted the fulness of each individual ingredient.
My appetite had decreased, and I only had a portion of my meal. Yes, after 25.5 hours of not eating I couldn’t finish my meal. Well, maybe I could have finished it but I didn’t want to.
Did you experience any negatives?
At one point around the 20-hour mark I felt light-headed and told myself it was unrelated to the fast, then focused my thoughts elsewhere. The sensation passed.
I anticipated hunger pangs, a headache, shakiness, weakness, possible collapse– none of which happened.
What would you do differently?
I’d drink more water, or tea. I forgot about maintaining fluids and likely became a bit dehydrated.
Will you fast again?
Yes. Weekly for a month.
Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice and the author is not a medical practitioner. Please consult your health care provider before attempting to fast, to be sure it is safe for you to do so.