How Fasting Can Help You Break Unconscious Eating Habits
If there’s one thing that most nutritionists agree upon is that fasting is a bad way to lose weight. I believe, however, that although fasting is a terrible way to lose weight directly, it can have some indirect benefits. In my case, it helped me shed over 20lbs of weight over the course of 90 days, and I had only fasted for one of them.
As part of an effort to raise money to combat world hunger, I participated in the 30 hour famine program in high school. Me and a group of other high schoolers gathered pledges for the thirty hours in which we would not eat one ounce of solid food. We were given an allowance of fruit juice to keep our blood sugar levels up, so it wasn’t a “real” fast, but it was real enough for kids who had never gone without their three squares a day.
Although it was more than 10 years ago now, I remember that we spend most of the day doing volunteer work, painting walls and moving heavy crates for the local food bank. Later in the evening, when we weren’t volunteering, we spent time learning about the causes of world hunger and the things that we could do to help.
One thing that surprised me about my 30 hours without solid food was that I wasn’t really hungry at all. Because we were busy most of the day, we never really had time to think about food. Not once did anyone talk about how “starved” we were.
After the fast was over, I found that I was much more conscious of my impulses to snack and overeat. I realized that a lot of the eating that I did was recreational, and that to eat was to “occupy my tastebuds.” In other words, eating was just something to do. I was much more aware of between meal cravings, and was much more able to let them pass without giving into them.
Furthermore, I realized that it was a force of habit to eat everything on my plate. It became clear to me that much of what I piled on to my plate was more than I needed to sustain myself. Ever since the fast, I’ve been much more in tune with just how much my body needs. I use smaller plates at the buffet tables, and I also usually save nearly half of what I eat at restaurants for later in the day.
Using smaller plates, eating half portions and avoiding snacking between meals are all common sense solutions to weight loss. These are tricks that we all know or have heard of in the past. As we all know, however, there is a difference between knowing and doing.
Fasting helped me adapt a different perspective towards food, to be more conscious of what I ate. At age 12 I was nearly 185 pounds and shorter than I am now. At age 28 I’m 162 pounds at roughly six feet. It’s been a while since I’ve fasted so I do slip into some bad habits from time to time, but I’ve always manage to catch myself and go back to doing and eating the right things.
Fasting is not for everyone, especially with those who have medical conditions. You may want to consider volunteering for the 30 hour famine or something similar to get a good idea of what potential risks that could be involved with forgoing food, even for a short period of time. 30 hours should be okay for most people, but please do consult with a doctor before trying it on your own.
This is a Guest Post By Kenji Crosland, a writer for TeachStreet. TeachStreet is a website dedicated to providing local and online classes, including nutrition classes and exercise and fitness classes.