Updated: Jul 30, 2021
There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, an ugly metal
statue sits where your spirit should. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.
Over the past few years I have experimented with a few fasting variations and have found intermittent fasting to be of most benefit for me. 16:8 Intermittent Fasting is when you consume your food within a shortened time period (typically around 6-8 hours) and fast for the rest of the time (16-18 hours). The easiest way to do this is to skip breakfast, break your fast at around noon, then stop eating for the day at around 8 pm. Dave Asprey suggests one crucial biohack to make your intermittent fast easier and more effective: drink a cup of Bulletproof Coffee in the morning. I don't drink coffee. I like to drink a cup of Living Koko drinking cacao with MCT oil added instead.
There are many benefits to fasting. Below I share a list of benefits from Dave Asprey's recent book 'Fast This Way'*.
- makes your body burn fat
- helps your gut heal itself
- provokes the body's self-cleaning system (autophagy) and detoxification process
- reduces your risk of almost every chronic disease
- causes your body to produce stem cells
- reduces your risk of type II diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity
- slows the ageing process (from oxidative stress)
- reduces inflammation
- boosts your emotional state
- improves your relationship with food
- enhances your ability to enter into a spiritual and meditative state... and I would also like to add that it enhances your creativity.
It's important to recognise that fasting impacts the female body differently to the male body. Historically most research on fasting has been done on men, hence most fasting guidelines have been developed for men. We need to remember that women's bodies are built for childbearing, so they are more sensitive to shortfalls in energy. Men and women also have different hormone levels and this results in them requiring different dietary patterns.
If women fast too much it can send a stress signal to the body - "Emergency! There is a famine. Don't reproduce." This results in a rapid decline in sex hormones and can lead to irregular periods (even temporary infertility), hair loss, sleeplessness/insomnia, anxiety and poor bone health. So it's important to learn to listen to your body and not take fasting too far as a woman.
Women can still get all the benefits of fasting WITHOUT compromising their health by following these intermittent fasting guidelines:
- Don't practice intermittent fasting every day.
- Never fast when pregnant. I also recommend not to fast during the few days before your period is due (when your metabolism is high) and during your bleed.
- Listen to your body. If you start to crave salty foods (a sign of WATER element weakness in TCM) and fatty foods, it may be a sign of adrenal exhaustion. Try adding some good quality salt and healthy fats into your diet (like Himalayan sea salt, avocado, olive oil, grass-fed butter), and rest off fasting for a while.
- Don't exercise too heavily or do high-intensity interval training whilst intermittent fasting.
- Don't fast if you are underweight, have a history of an eating disorder, or are anaemic.
- Please check with your G.P. before fasting, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions.
- The YANG seasons of the year (Spring, Summer and Late Summer) are more conducive to fasting naturally. Please exercise more caution and/or avoid fasting during the YIN seasons (Autumn and Winter).
I wish you all the best with your practice,
* "Fast This Way. Burn Fat, Heal Inflammation and Eat Like the High-Performing Human You Were Meant to Be." 2021, Dave Asprey.