I like to fast. I discovered it a few years ago in a book called Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon, did it once a week, abandoned it for no apparent reason, but now I’m bringing it back. I’ve fasted for the last eight Mondays and am looking to have it stick this time around.
So what is it? For a 24-hour period I’ll ingest as close to zero calories as possible. No solid food, only liquids. Only water, tea, or what you’ll see me carrying around all day Monday: a cup of black coffee. I’ve experimented with a few different 24-hour periods, like eating breakfast, then not eating again until breakfast the next day, but despite sleeping for the toughest part of the fast, going to bed incredibly hungry is very difficult.
After more experimenting, I’ve settled on early dinner to early dinner. I eat dinner on Sunday night, usually around 6pm, then refrain from eating until 6pm on Monday, breaking fast with a reasonably-sized, healthy meal – not a complete gorging of everything in sight.
Why do I fast? For me, it’s an effective tool to have in my fitness arsenal, along with exercise, and keeping sweets out of my sight (I have a problem). If I’m ingesting 1/7 less calories per week, every week, over the long term it ensures I’m not overeating, assuming my eating on other days is kept relatively in check.
Aside from the obvious calorie deficit created over a longer time period, here are five other not-so-obvious benefits that I enjoy with a weekly fast.
It builds discipline.
I wake up on Mondays knowing it will be challenging. I know my stomach will growl. I know I’ll want to jump on the first breakfast sandwich I see. But I know I have to get through some tough times first. Delayed gratification is good for the mind. It reminds me that even though I desire something, all will be OK if I don’t get it this second. And man does it feel good to finally eat!
It makes me rethink the standard three meals.
I’m not a nutritionist. Based purely on my own experience, I’ve found I don’t need three meals, and certainly not always at the exact times that we’re expected to eat. I eat breakfast late, I usually skip lunch in favor of grazing on portable, healthy snacks like overnight oats, nuts, and fruit, and I do a relatively early dinner, usually around 6pm. I know that if I’m not careful I can gain weight easily, so revisiting the standard meal schedule has helped me maintain. It’s worth a shot if you’re in the same boat as me – susceptible to easy weight gain if not careful.
It’s mentally refreshing after the weekend.
It provides a great, structured start to my week. I ease up a bit on the weekend with eating and exercise, so this is a nice way to jolt myself back. Some would rather “dip a toe” into their week, especially on a Monday morning, but I’d prefer to jump right in and get this somewhat more difficult day behind me.
It saves money.
One less day of eating, depending on diet habits, can be significant. If I’m not meal prepping properly every week (I’m definitely not) and eating out frequently, skipping a day’s worth of eating can save anywhere from $15-$40 a week. I happen to live in an expensive town so I estimate that this can save me up to $100 month. It may not sound like a lot, but it can quickly add up over a year or longer.
This is the best one for me. It requires zero thought. I don’t have to think about what I’m eating for breakfast, where I’m going to eat dinner, what I’m going to snack on, anything. It even makes my backpack lighter. It’s not easy, but it eliminates the mental energy expended on food. Well, except for the first few times when all I did was obsess about when I get to eat! But this has faded for me, and has become easier and easier with each passing week.
I can only recommend this, and mostly everything I share, through my own personal experience. I’m always seeking simplicity in any aspect of my life, and this one made total sense to me.