Have you ever fasted for an extended period of time? Or have you ever thought about it but didn’t know how to go about the process?
Well, my church challenged all of us to a 21 day fast as part of the “Fresh Air” series they are currently in. And, I mean, if the beginning of 2022 isn’t a great chance to get some Fresh Air and a new vision for your life – when is?
First, the disclaimer: Everyone has to decide for themselves what form of fast is appropriate. You may have a medical condition that prohibits you from fasting food. There are other ways to fast including social media, TV, news, toxic relationships, processed food items, etc. I am outlining what I did and the lessons I learned.
For my 21 day fast, I chose to only eat fruits and vegetables. There was no limit to the number I could eat or the type (other than the limits explained below which are due to my personal needs). I did keep my morning coffee because I am not an animal. And, let’s be honest, no one wants to be around me when I haven’t had coffee. That’s just not fair to the other people in my life.
The food I missed most during the fast was nuts. Particularly pistachios and almonds. These are my “go to” snacks when I am hungry because they are quick. I really missed having their salty goodness in my life.
At the end of the 21 days I truly felt my body was stronger and cleaner. The lack of processed food helped to improve my digestion and gave me less fatigue throughout my day. I am sure I lost a few pounds, too, but I don’t own a scale so I can’t measure that. Weight loss was also not my goal. My goal was to get my body healthier by decreasing sugar and processed foods so that I would have more energy.
Want to Know What I Learned Along the Way? Here are the Top 7 things I Learned During 21 Days of Fasting.
Fruits and vegetables are very filling without weighing you down
I ate large portions (think – entire dinner plate) of vegetables for my meals and did not limit the amount of vegetables at each meal. I would leave the table feeling very full but not weighed or drowsy like when you eat a hamburger and fries. This left me with more energy for all the other things I did during my day.
I didn’t miss protein
Before I started, I thought that I was really going to miss having protein with each meal. In fact, I truly believed that I needed to have protein at every meal due to my high activity level every day. I am on my feet for 10 hours a day and workout 6 days a week. I was pretty sure that required a large protein load.
I was wrong. I had more energy each day and never missed a workout. Now, I am not going to eliminate protein from my life forever. I am sure that is not healthy. But, I am looking to reconfigure my usual diet to include MORE vegetables and different forms of protein moving forward.
When I was hungry, I usually needed more water
I struggle to drink enough water during the winter because it’s cold and I don’t sweat that much. When your body is dehydrated it will often give you cues to eat food so it can suck the water out of the food. Many times I found that chugging a glass of water when I felt hungry took care of the hunger pangs.
This is a good tip to use moving forward – if you are hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Many people are dehydrated and not listening to their bodies cues. So, the body uses a cue that will be addressed – hunger. Next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 minutes to see if the hunger cue goes away. Either way you will have gotten in another glass of water for the day!
Protein powder spikes insulin
The second week I implemented protein shakes – again, I felt like I couldn’t go 21 days without protein. One hour after drinking the protein smoothie I had a ravenous hunger. After doing some Google research, I found that protein powder does indeed cause a spike in insulin. You see, the straight protein doesn’t have to be processed in the stomach like chicken, beef, or even nuts would. Which causes your body to increase it’s insulin production to help “use” the powder.
I eliminated the protein powder a couple of days after starting. However, if you use protein powder regularly with your workouts you do need to watch for this insulin spike.
Homemade vegetable soup is amazing
I have never made a really good homemade vegetable soup until now. But, when vegetables are all you can eat and you are tired of roasted vegetable, you start looking for some new recipes. I now have a vegetable soup that I will make weekly because it’s a great way to increase my vegetable intake on a daily basis. I could also add as much salt as I wanted because I found a new problem during these 21 days.
I needed more salt
As I was drinking more water and not eating processed foods, I found that I didn’t have enough salt to hold onto the water I drank. The homemade soup helped to increase my salt intake and I also increased the salt that I put on my roasted vegetables. When this was not enough, I added an electrolyte mix that doesn’t have added sugar.
Note of caution: If you suffer from high blood pressure, you most likely should not be adding salt into your diet or using an electrolyte mix. Please remember, this is what I learned about my body during this process. Please read it with the keys to your body in mind. Every body is different. Think critically about what you know works for your body.
Rice is Nice
I know, I usually say “Ice is Nice” – and it is! But, in this case “Rice is Nice”. You see, on day 18 of my 21 day fast I saw my accupunturist for a regularly scheduled appointment. I told her I had been only eating fruits and vegetables for the past 21 days. She stated that I needed some simple carbohydrates to help deal with the bloating I was suffering from.
Now, I will admit that I am stubborn and really wanted to keep with my plan. However, when my 21 days was up I did indeed add in some rice and – yep, it dealt with the bloating.
BONUS #8 – Chocolate and wine count as fruit (and vegetables?).
Okay, you got me, they don’t really count as fruit. This one is about giving yourself some grace no matter what you are trying to do. If you are trying to implement a new eating strategy or get more exercise you need to give yourself grace when things don’t go as planned.
I had a rough day and my patient had brought me a bottle of wine and some chocolate. That night dinner was wine and chocolate. I admit it was not the best choice but I chose to give myself the grace to get back on the plan the next day.
Our lives are imperfect and our plans can get derailed. It’s not about the adversity we face but rather about how we respond to that adversity. Do we simply throw up our hands and believe that all is lost? Or do we shrug it off and get back to what we were doing? Always remember – it is your choice.
Now, it’s over to you – how are you welcoming in this New Year? What healthy habits have you decided to implement this year? If you run into any physical limitations including pain or dysfunction, know that we are here to help. We offer a Free Discovery Visit for people who are wondering if we can help solve their problem. I mean, what do you have to lose by coming in to see if you are a good fit for what we offer here at Physical Therapy for everyBODY?