Three Lessons from Fasting and Dieting
20. Who loves fasting? I didn't! I’ve been working on my health through food and have learned my first 3 lessons through changing my food habits and fasting. I discuss how the lessons came about and you might consider looking at food, dieting and even fasting in a new light!
I thought of myself as a person that would never fast! Those judgements kept me from looking into something that could grow me. And did it ever!
After dealing with 'small' health problems like feeling tired all the time, I did what I normally do, read a bunch of books. And I found myself immersed with gut health. There's a lot of common themes that came up throughout the books and well, one of them was fasting.
I, of course, thought that it wasn't for me. So, I took the other advice in the books and started with some changes in my diet. These changes were different than any dieting I had done before. Some dieting programs that I had been on taught me eat less and exercise more. But often there was no real knowledge in what I was putting in my body.
We get the usual calorie management and eat more fruits and vegetables rhetoric yet I missed something in earlier diet plans. And when it came to looking at food in ways to 'cure' my chronic ailments that was something that lead me to look at food and fasting in a while new light.
In this episode, I focus on what I learned in the beginning and I continue to learn and continue my journey with food and as well as continue to fast periodically.
I’m T. Vyas, you can call me T because most people do. I’m, as you’ve guessed, a person of colour who looks forward to chatting with you about some things identity, some things colour and ALL things Love! Tune in Tuesdays for a new episode! In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram @bareinmind.podcast.
You're listening to the Bare in Mind podcast Episode Number 20.
A podcast about love, colour and identity, and where driving yourself crazy is totally sane and curable. Now, your host, T. Vyas.
The wilful abstaining from food and drink. That's fasting, and I'm gonna talk today about why I love fasting. And every 10 episodes, I talk about something that I didn't love, so I didn't love fasting before this. In fact, I didn't even hate it, I was indifferent to it. I had never really done it. And the first time in my life that I actually understood the idea of fasting was from a really good friend of mine when I was a teenager. She was practicing Ramadan and she was fasting, so I think I probably asked her all the usual questions like: Are you gonna go hungry? And things like that at that time. And since then, I haven't given much thought to fasting until recently. So today I'm going to talk about not only fasting, but also dieting. And I'm going chronicle my journey over the last eight months and share with you three major learnings that I've had over the last eight months. And I continue my journey with food at this moment actually. And so if you want to see updates on this journey, I post them on my Instagram account @bareinmind.podcast. And so these major learnings that I've had have kind of given me a way to evaluate any sort of diet program or anything that's told to me about food, so I think you'll find it helpful if you're on a journey with food or any sort of changing a food habit to kind of evaluate what that regime is actually telling you about food or what it’s teaching you about food.
And so a little back story about eight months ago, I started noticing I had some sort of problems with my body and it's nothing that's major. And I didn't really see a need to go to the doctor for it, but I started having these little problems, and so I kind of looked it up, and I did a search on the internet. And I found myself reading more and more about gut health and I wanted to know more. And so I did kind of my usual thing: I’m like, okay, I'm going to read some books. So I read a bunch of books on gut health and our digestive system and things like that. And so from there, I started my journey eight months ago, and the first major learning I had was that ‘it's not about what you take away, it's what you add in’. And so after I first got all this new information, I decided to take out wheat and dairy and there were other suggestions of what to take out, but I said: okay, I'm going to start with wheat and dairy, and I found it really difficult, the dairy, not so much, and the wheat was really challenging.
I think the first two weeks I thought: Okay, I'm not gonna make it at all. And then the third week it got better, and one of the things that I needed to do when I was cutting out wheat, was I actually was like: Okay, I need to eat carbohydrates, some sort of carb, and I hadn't really realised that in the grocery store there were many options to have different kinds of grains. And I had been so automatic in picking things for snacks like crackers or picking up bread, and that I hadn't really seen this whole other stuff. Now I had mostly grown up on wheat and rice, and I still was eating rice. However, I wasn't eating as much oats and other kinds of grains, and so things started opening up to me, and I also was able to find things that I could eat in some of the local stores near my apartment, and it ended up kind of being cool to go into these local stores and get some local produce and things like that. And I opened up my eyes a lot that I started to realise that even though I was only taking out wheat and dairy, I actually headed in so much into what I was eating and I think that I had been on a lot of diets, the point system, whatever, and you're often taught you have to take away this or manage that, and I didn't do any of those things.
I added in all these other things, and I think a lot of times programs teach you that you have to remove things rather than tell you how to add in things into your life, and so I continued to leave wheat and dairy out. Actually, I had decided I was going to try it for four weeks and see how it went, but I continued actually to not include wheat anymore in my diet, and so then as I continue, the second learning that I had was: ‘not everything about eating is accurate to everyone’, and that there's so many rules of eating that we learn. And the rules that I learned growing up was that, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it has to be big. Or I was also taught when I was on some diet programs, like you need to have a lot of snacks, so actually six small snacks or something like that, and there's all these different kinds of regimes that they tell you to follow and all of those rules, that they’re probably so well-intentioned. They actually didn't make sense with how the body worked. And into about six weeks of removing wheat and dairy, I had to go in for an in-out-patient surgery, and it was something that was not a big deal, it just needed to be done.
And everything is okay. And so before the surgery, you have to fast, and I had eaten the night before, and then I couldn't eat when I woke up, and then I got ready to go to the hospital, and then you were just basically there, waiting without food, and actually the procedure, I think didn't actually take place until 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon. So I had gone from the previous evening and around 7 o'clock at night until after the procedure, which was... I think around 3:30 in the afternoon without any food, and what I noticed is that I felt okay. And before when I would go two hours or three hours without food, I would really feel it, and I would feel so hungry yet here I was in the hospital waiting, no sort of entertainment. And I was okay, I wasn't thinking: Oh, I need to eat something. Which actually really surprised me. And after this experience, I reflected more on what some of the books had said, almost every book had talked about fasting. That fasting is okay, it's healthy, it's important for actually good digestion, and it was kind of fascinating because I had fasted for a long period of time and they had talked about interment fasting and I was able to handle it.
And so these kind of things that we’ve learned or taught about how to eat and what to eat, that can be based on our culture, it can be based on the country that we grew up in, and our friends and who we eat with, we get so influenced by these kind of rules that we take them on and then we probably don't ever question them, because then somebody else comes in with a new diet and then they give us a new set of rules and we're not like: Hey, wait a minute, does this rule actually make sense for our body. And so after this, I incorporated interment fasting, which means from your last meal before in the evening, and then you can prolong it at the very least 12 hours up to 14 or 16 hours, so I slowly started to incorporate that twice a week where I go 16 hours without food. And so then I kind of built up to doing a two-day fast. I had read one way to do a fast in one of the books where you can eat apples, only apples, and any kind of apples and as many apples as you want and drink water, and then that's it.
And so I thought: Okay, I'm going to give it one day and see how it goes, and I did the kind of the interment fasting in the morning into the afternoon, 16 hours, and I said: Okay, now I'm going to eat my first apple, and after that into the afternoon I started feeling really hungry and now I could have as many apples as I wanted, but I didn't want another apple. I was craving so many other things I was... especially carbs, I was craving. And yeah, I could eat as many apples, but I chose not to, and I could tell that there are actually different types of hunger, there's hunger for survival, and then there's this hunger where we really feel hungry and then our hunger signals for survival are so way off that I could actually feel the difference in these types of hunger, and then I actually made it two days on apples. And I bought a ton of apples, thinking I was going to eat a bunch, and I ended up only eating three apples on the first day and three apples on the second day. And what surprised me the most is that I didn't have as low of energy as I thought, so I planned the two days out in advance thinking: Okay, I won't be able to do anything, I'll be really tired, and I should just clear my schedule. And from this, I learned the third big lesson, I would say it's probably accumulative effect from the other two lessons is that: ‘through lack, you gain abundance’. And I think we're taught this a little bit, through the less is more concept and things like that. And I hadn't really seen it so acutely or felt in myself that a true kind of lack of food led to more abundance in terms of my time and my energy, as I started to eat differently and look at food differently, and I started to gain so much more energy and time. And one of the things that I've been struggling with was feeling tired all the time, although I'm not a morning person, I would wake up and I would still feel tired after a good amount of sleep. And so it gave me back this enormous amount of energy and a better focus in my time that I actually increased both of those things in my life through scarcity.
So now I love fasting, I wouldn't have been able to learn: number one, it's not what you take away, but it's actually looking at what you're adding back in, and number two, the rules of eating or actually our beliefs about eating that we've learned from childhood or society don't necessarily make sense with how our bodies work and for example, the breakfast is the most important meal, or even just that butter is a bad food, or some of those kind of beliefs that we are unconsciously taught, and the third is through lack, you gain abundance. And I'm gonna wrap it up here with a quote from a book I recently finished reading, it's by Roxane Gay from her memoir Hunger: a memoir of my body, and she writes: “This is to say, I know what it means to hunger without being hungry, I know that hunger is in the mind and the body, and the heart and the soul.” I'll check back with you next week.
Thanks for listening, tune in next Tuesday for another episode. And in the meantime, check out the Bare in Mind podcast on Instagram @bareinmind.podcast.