A Beginner’s Guide to Fasting, the Do’s and Don’ts…Here’s Everything You Need to Know


Fasting is not starvation or deprivation. Starvation can lead to nutritional deficiencies and acidity, while a well-planned fasting schedule eliminates acidity. Fasting is a discipline where you voluntarily give your body and digestive system a break, redirecting energy towards rejuvenation and detoxification. Skipping meals is not fasting.

Fasting should be practiced at around the same time each day, so our body builds a memory around when it can expect food. Fasting, if not practiced correctly, can actually do more harm than good. It can cripple our health and immunity.

Here are 10 common mistakes that can turn fasting into a fad:

● Using fasting as a shortcut to weight loss

● Fasting then feasting

● Eat too less during the meal window

● Fasting with tea and coffee

● Exercise vigorously while fasting

● Consuming processed foods in the feeding window

● Confusing fasting with starvation

● Do not track sugar levels, if diabetic

● Not drinking enough water in the feeding window

● Treat fasting as a competition

Yes, fasting will help you lose weight because obviously your calorie intake is less than before, but that realization is in the very first few days. Once this weight plateaus or if people revert to old eating habits, they regain double the weight. Fasting prevents people from making lifestyle changes, the main reason they gain weight in the first place. I always encourage people to change their mindset when it comes to fasting.

Fasting is not the solution for your weight gain. Use it to instill discipline in your life by eating, respecting food, listening to your body, etc.

Second, individuals try to compete with each other on fasting and the number of hours of fasting. Fasting is not a competition. Fasting is what suits you. There is no magic number of hours in which to fast.

Finally, some people modify the fast according to their convenience. They claim to be fasting but still have tea/coffee/juice etc. This is not fasting and such an approach can be detrimental to health. If one wants to embrace fasting, one has to do it in the right way. Fasting is not a fad.

Beginner’s Guide

Fasting is very personal, just like nutrition or exercise. What is safe in terms of quantity and frequency depends on each individual based on their goals, lifestyle, any existing medical conditions, the amount of toxicity in the body, and several other factors. So while the 4:08 fast seems to be one of the most popular ways to fast on social media, it doesn’t have to work for everyone.

Identify what works for them. For example, I like to practice a basic 12-hour circadian rhythm every day, followed by a 24-hour long fast on Sunday after lunch which I break on Monday when my body feels ready. It works wonderfully for me.

We don’t have to be rigid when it comes to fasting. One can think outside the box and do what suits them. Fasting is not a competition.

Depending on whether you are a beginner or a seasoned faster, your health goals, your current state of health, your lifestyle, the amount of activity and emotional stress you are exposed to, the toxins in the body, it takes decide whether a 24 hour will suit them or not. No one, not even a nutritionist, can decide if a 24-hour fast is right for you. Your body is your best guide.

If you are in the habit of fasting and fasting often, have no underlying medical conditions, have a decent and balanced lifestyle, are active enough, have low levels of stress manageable, that you are indoors and live in an environment with pleasant weather conditions, go ahead and try a 24-hour fast. However, if you live in hot weather conditions, are exposed to the sun, have a urinary tract infection, or have unstable blood sugar levels, exercise daily, it is best to avoid long dry fasts . You may want to reduce the length of your fast and switch to water fast instead of dry as your kidneys will need water to flush out infection and toxins.

So generic fasting advice never works. Intuitive fasting is also more effective. Some of my cancer patients, who are totally unresponsive to any medical treatment and have lost their appetite to eat anything, have been instructed to fast (to use low appetite) under constant supervision and we have seen to how their body’s intelligence begins to engage.

That said, here are some scenarios where prolonged fasting is not advised.

– Extremely weak and underweight individuals

– Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers

– Very unstable blood sugar and blood pressure levels

– Kidney diseases

– Urinary tract infections (if dry quickly)

– People on medical treatment and medication should make an informed decision

Next week we will discuss the various methods of fasting.

(The author is a holistic nutritionist and lifestyle expert in integrative medicine and lifestyle, and founder of YouCare – All About YOU by Luke Coutinho)

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Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2022, 07:00 IST


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