part 2 - Extended Fasting
Humans have been practicing some sort of fasting for time immemorial. Most of the time, it was done out of necessity rather than voluntarily – ancient hunter-gatherers had an inconsistent food supply, with regular droughts and famines which caused temporary shortages in food. However, in the 21st century we are blessed with a consistent food supply, and naturally many of us overeat from this 'unnatural' abundance, causing many preventable ailments.
Fasting has been an important part of the Indian culture for a long time, and is emphasised for those on the spiritual path. Still many Hindus choose to fast on specific days, such as Ekadashi (the 11th lunar day) for Vishnu, Chaturti (4th lunar day) for Ganesh, or Monday for Shiva. Fasting is known to bring a sort of 'purification to the body'. But is there more to it?
Fasting as a practice can be broken down into two main types: intermittent (shorter duration) fasting, and extended (longer duration) fasting.
This article will cover extended fasting.
How does one do it
While fasting, the main idea is to not consume anything with calories in it. This means that you can consume water, green tea, black coffee, etc, since they do not contain any calories in them. Not only that, but consuming black coffee for example has been shown to be helpful in the fasting process by supressing your appetite.
Another trick to help banish cravings during a fast is to use chewing gum. Through the chewing process, the body's desire for food reduces and it can help concentration too.
So, what is the difference between intermittent fasting and extended fasting? In general, any time one goes without food for over 24 hours it can be considered as an extended fast. Therefore, there is a wide range of durations that can be extended fasts: from 24 hours, 48 hours, up to 5 days and even more if you are up for the challenge.
One example of extended fasting is to do a 24 hour (1 day) fast once a week. For example, you may complete dinner on Sunday and not eat until dinner on Monday. As I mentioned earlier, you can have a cup of coffee on Monday morning, but with no calories, which means no milk or sugar added.
When you start incorporating fasting in your routine, it will be difficult. Your body is used to consuming food often so a lack of food can cause you to get hungry. Over time however, fasting gets easier and the benefits become visible to you.
Here are some examples of how you can incorporate longer durations of fasting in your life:
24 hrs (1 day) fasting once a week
48 hrs (2 days) fasting once a month
96 hrs (3 days) fasting once a year
Extended fasting has benefits that are different than the benefits from intermittent fasting programs like 16 hours fasting and 8 hours of eating per day. Therefore it is a good idea to incorporate both types of fasting in your daily life.
Over the last 5 or so years, scientific research has been published showing the wide range of benefits of fasting for longer periods of time:
Reduce weight, waist circumference
Reduce blood pressure
Can reset the immune system and trigger generation of new stem cells
If you have any major medical condition, it's a good idea to do your research first, and ease yourself into it.
When you embark on your fasting journey, I recommend that you download an app called Zero. It is the world's most popular fasting app. You can choose a program based on where you are, and their fasting challenges help keep you motivated too.
Want to learn more?