The Habit - Intermittent Fasting
Finding deep hunger, allowing for deep satiation
Have you heard of intermittent fasting? Many cultures & religions partake in fasting, either seasonally, weekly, or on specific days of the year.
In Ayurveda we are taught that intermittent fasting is about the spaces in between your daily meals.
In giving our bodies adequate space to rest instead of digesting, we optimize our metabolism. In Ayurveda, this is referred to as your AGNI, and is something that is worshipped as a deity. This is your fire. And one of the best ways to honor yourself, others, and your agni… is to give it a break. The easiest way to do this, is to expand the time between your last bite of food at night and your first bite of food in the am.
The meaning of the words Supper and Breakfast
The word supper is derived from the latin word ‘sup’, meaning to sip. Before the invent of electricity, and then the industrial revolution, humans were hunter-gatherers. We were farmers. We ate our largest meal when the sun was highest in the sky because we couldn't see in the dark. The evolution of man is that of one who eats during the day. Supper was most commonly a soup that had been boiling on the fire all day.
Breakfast literally means to Break your Fast. Nuff said.
In today’s culture, people are often having dinner later, and it’s the main event. AND often we find ourselves eating again past that. Take a sec now and do a little math in your head. Determine how many hours there are between your supper, and breakfast the next day…. Got it? Right on.
Now some people skip breakfast… so they still have quite a break. But this still isn't optimal, as the human body is unable to fully and effectively digest food overnight. Between 10pm and 2am is when the liver is actively detoxifying and preparing the body for the next day. Late meals and late nights disturb this cycle and compromise the body’s ability to detox efficiently (food hangover, anyone?).
The ideal fast from an Ayurvedic perspective would start by 6pm.
The most popular method of intermittent fasting (and you can google this it’s very popular right now), is the 16:8 method. 16 hours of rest and restoration of cells. 8 hours of well spaced meal intake. Breakfast at 10, big lunch at 12:30-2, supper before 6.
Something really interesting I discovered in trying this was Letting myself find deep hunger, and deep satiation. Do you really know what it feels like to experience hunger? When you’re truly hungry, you may find your body is more likely to crave healthy, nutrient dense foods. If your cravings are for things that are not healthy, they’re more often coming from emotional or habitual hunger.
16:8 is not a one size fits all. There are 3 Ayurvedic body types - vata, kapha & pitta.
Kaphas can often go much longer than 16 hours, they digest a little slower. Vata types may need to eat a little earlier, 14 hours may work best. Pitta types will likely find that 16:8 is just perfect. You can google around to find your body type, or just aim for the 16:8 and see what happens.
The Steps to Consistent Intermittent Fasting:
Swapping lunch for supper. Pack your carbs, fats, heck even your dessert to start, into your midday meal. Don’t restrict yourself, restriction diets rarely work. Just take a look at what you eat, and adjust when you eat it.
Have an earlier dinner. Aim to be sitting for your family meal by 5:30pm at the latest. Kitchen closed at 6. If you have to eat later, make it lighter. Consider soups & salads - water based meals.
Get smarter around the size of your meals. Listen to your body - how much food do you need on your plate? When you overload your system over and over again, you’re taking away from your body’s ability to rest. But when you find rest between meals, it translates to a restful feeling in the mind and emotions as well as the stomach.
Find your hungry and get to know it. In going through this adjustment myself I realized I no longer knew what it felt like to be hungry. In fact maybe i had never known. I’ve always been a grazer. But getting to know that chicken scratch feeling of hunger has allowed me to let go of a lot of the emotional or habitual eating I’ve been doing my whole life.
Go for 16:8, or somewhere close to that.
If you’re eating 6 small meals a day, or allowing less than 12 hours of space between dinner and breakfast, you’re not allowing your body to digest fat tissue. After 12-14 hours, the female body converts to fat metabolism. This is kind of what Ketogenic diets are about. NOT Ketones, I don't know what that’s about... I'm talking about Ketogenic diets. Bringing your body to a state of ketosis, where you’re burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
This is hugely beneficial.
When I switched to a daily 16:8 fasting/feeding routine, I optimized my digestion. I increased the quality of my sleep A TON. With the help of a few other things (see here) I lost 30 pounds!!! And I can say 100% that this is THE TOOL that has kept the weight off.
As with many things, good habits are hard to keep without the support of friends or loved ones. Share this with someone who you can work together with!