I’ve got a powerful tip for you today, but I need to make it clear that this advice is not for everyone. If you have been AltShifting long enough to see some results and regain some metabolic flexibility, then this is for you. If your primary obstacle is a damaged metabolism and results are moving slowly while you heal your body, then you should definitely read on, but you should also hold off on executing this advice until you are in a healthier place metabolically. If you aren’t sure, then be sure you have been doing AltShift, and nailing the guidelines, for at least a couple of months and you feel great.
Sheryl and I have occasionally fasted for 24 hours for a long time now. When I say “occasionally,” I mean maybe as often as once every 3 weeks, but usually more like every couple of months. This has been going on for a lot longer than AltShift has existed, but I have always been hesitant to talk about it because I never wanted to give anyone the wrong impression. Please understand that we fast occasionally because it is healthy, not because it is good for fat loss. In fact, I do not at all like the idea of fasting for fat loss. Let me repeat myself for crystal clarity – I AM NOT SUGGESTING, NOR HAVE I EVER SUGGESTED, THAT ANYONE FAST TO LOSE WEIGHT. I am also not suggesting that anyone fast for longer than 24 hours. This is not to say that it would be unhealthy for a metabolically healthy person to fast for a bit longer, but I can’t see the point. One more reiteration – DON’T FAST FOR FAT LOSS AND LONGER IS NOT BETTER. Also, if you have a history of disordered eating, be honest with yourself when considering a fast. You shouldn’t do anything that takes you back to a bad place in your head.
Great, now my conscience is clear and we can move on.
Sheryl and I have had a great relationship with food for many years, so it didn’t occur to me that an occasional fast might have psychological benefits until AltShift was born and I began watching the Facebook group and the struggles of longtime dieters there. Once the idea popped into my head, I asked Erica, my assistant to give it a go.
Erica’s initially thought that I was asking her to forgo food for one day on the calendar – a Wednesday for example. That is not what I meant. Fasting for 24 hours, in this case, means eating dinner one evening and then not eating again until dinner the next evening. Once she had the concept straight, I didn’t give her too many more details so as to not influence her experience.
Prior to the fast, she built up all kinds of fear and anxiety in her head, which is exactly what most people would do. When we have constant access to food, we so easily forget that this wasn’t always the norm. ANYONE who is healthy, or even just not unhealthy, can easily fast for 24 hours without physically hurting themselves. We are built for it, but asking someone in our modern world to go 24 hours without food, while also expecting them to do it without the desperation of starving themselves to lose weight, is often asking a lot.
The day came and Erica got through it with only a little anxiety in the morning. And then the magic happened. She felt like she had control again. She had proven to herself that food is just, well, food. It’s not a powerful overlord governing her life and telling her when she can and cannot be happy. It’s…just…food.
Her ability to make good food choices skyrocketed. Her power over cravings and trigger-foods grew to substantially. It was like she was bitten by a radioactive Buddhist monk! Okay, I might be overselling it, but you get the point. She felt like she had a new level of control that would allow her to accomplish her goals, and she had a stronger belief that those goals were within her grasp.
Since Erica’s experiment, I have had numerous other AltShifters give the 24 hour fast thing a shot. All have shared similar experiences. All have reported a little anxiety up front, but all have also reported ongoing psychological benefits afterward. If you feel that you fit my description above, and you intimately understand the parts in all caps in the second paragraph, then here’s how I recommend that you proceed:
- Fast from dinner on 3 Shift day 2 to dinner on 3 Shift day 3. Try to eat dinner at about the same time so that your fast ends up being 23-25 hours long.
- Don’t change anything else about your schedule. Walk as usual. If you would normally work out on that day, then do so. Your performance might suffer a bit, but it doesn’t matter.
- Don’t fast more than once in a calendar month.
- Don’t fast for longer than 24 hours.
- Accidentally going 24 hours without eating because you are busy does not count as a beneficial fast, but it does count as your one fast per month. In other words, avoid accidentally fasting for 24 hours, but don’t fast on purpose if you already fasted by accident this month.
That’s it. Don’t make it any more complicated than this. The benefits could also include better glucose control and metabolic flexibility, improved digestion, decreased inflammation, and increased autophagy (cellular housecleaning). Give it a shot and let me know how it works out for you. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. I sincerely hope it helps.
Go forth and be awesome.