Fasting has long been linked to religion, spirituality, and wellbeing, and with new versions of fasting becoming popular again, I had all the reasons I needed to try my first fast. There are a number of different fasts and fasting practices, but here are 10 things I learned that will help you with whatever fast you decide to try.
1. Define your fast.
People can abstain from many things and be "fasting" so define your fast, and know what you are trying to achieve. For me (and this article), a fast is abstaining from food or drink (clean water is fine) for a pre-established period of time.
2. Do your homework.
Read about the potential risk and benefits of a fast. The idea is to do your body and soul some good, so knowing what "doing harm" looks like should help you avoid it.
3. Ease into your first fast.
When I fast now, I just pick a day and go with the flow, but my first fast was a lot different. I started by having a day of only raw fruits, veggies, and water, followed by a day of just 100% fruit or veggie juice. This made the third day, or first real day of no food, much less dramatic, because I prepared my system for a reduced caloric load.
4. Clean out your fridge.
I like to fast after I've gotten rid of all or most of my perishables; this makes food a lot less tempting. Plus you can take the days prior to a fast to donate some of your shelf stable goods to charity.
5. Set the start date.
Knowing when you're going to start is really helpful because it allows you to focus on eliminating temptations around the house, planning activities to keep you busy, and keep you from scheduling a conflicting event, like a business dinner.
6. Don't set an end date.
Setting an end date can be disastrous. When I was much larger I could go a week without food and feel fine, but when I lost weight and tried the same thing I felt awful. I learned to listen to my body, do it while it feels good, and if it starts to feel bad, stop. There's no point in harming your health because you picked an end date that's too far out.
7. Have plenty to do.
When I fast, I usually have a little extra energy, which surprised me the first time around. Your fast will be different, but if you do feel more energetic you're going to want to have things to focus that energy on, mental and physical. I found that during a fast I like to change my workouts — I've found I enjoy yoga, swimming, and light cardio a lot more than normal, but I expect this to vary from person to person.
If you haven't tried it, or tried and struggled, a fast might just be the key. With a quiet place and a quieter body I was able to slip in and out of a meditative state with ease for the first time.
9. Ease out of your fast.
After my first fast I went out and ate a giant and unhealthy meal to celebrate, which left me feeling like garbage for the rest of the day. Since then I've learned to do this more sensibly, by starting with things that are easy to digest, like salad greens or berries.
10. Eat your first meal slowly.
I have a very bad habit of eating quickly. The first post-fast meal is usually the easiest meal for me to sit down and enjoy, slowly and without distraction.
Since my first fast I've made it a yearly "spring cleaning" tradition. It helps me remember to slow down and enjoy things that have become automatic, (cooking, eating, exercising, etc.). It helps me clear my mind and evaluate my life.
I hope this guide can help you with your first fast, and I hope you find fasting to be as beneficial as I do.