Fasting has a way of stirring things up, doesn’t it? It flips the lights on in your mind – forcing you to look at your habitual behavior around food, your feebleness to resisting sugar, processed foods, and advertising, and your routines that are otherwise completely unconscious. (How many of us have ever found ourselves inhaling chips or ice cream when the TV’s on, sometimes without even realizing we’re doing it?!)
One of the most common pieces of advice that I hear people give new fasters (I do it too!) is to “stay busy while you’re fasting.” The idea being that if you can stay so busy at work, reorganizing the garage, listening to book after book on Audible, etc. you won’t have time to fixate on your hunger. You can trick yourself into completing the fast. These distractions will carry you through the hours until you can finally escape and resume un-restricted eating.
And, there is nothing wrong with that approach. Period. I did it regularly myself for almost two years.
However, as I’ve become more comfortable with this sensation of an empty stomach, I’ve started experimenting with something I’m going to call “Mindful Fasting.”
Rather than try to escape hunger pangs, cravings for particular foods, antsy-ness to go grab something out of the pantry, I:
1. Become aware of the urge
2. Sink deeply into it
3. Through awareness, give it a voice: What is it pulling me to do? Why does it have so much power that I am tempted to act on it?
4. Choose to let it be and just continue to witness it
5. Stay with your fast despite the temptation
I don’t always get it right. There are times where I find myself, like a kid with her fingers stuck in her ears (“la-la-la!”), not wanting to be present in the moment with the craving. Instead, I choose to give in to its pull or find a distraction.
When I succeed, however, when I’m able, with compassion and calmness, to look at what is coming up for me in this moment and choose to continue my fast, I feel like a freaking superhero. A powerful fasting goddess. No craving, habit, or refined sweetness is going to take me down! I’m a badass!
For me, this means sinking in – becoming incredibly present in the moment and aware of my thoughts, feelings, and sensations – I almost always learn something. Some of the things Mindful Fasting has taught me are:
· Hunger passes often within less than 30 minutes
· More often, I’m actually not hungry – I’m craving something…
· Images and smells of food are often triggering for me (as is supper time)
· I am not my cravings and I do not have to give into them
· I am stronger and tougher than I know
It always amazes me how our craving brains are so similar to that of a simple garden slug or reptile. We get an urge and, nine times out of ten, we act on it. Fasting in general forces us to use higher-order parts of our brain and be more aware of our choices. I find it incredibly challenging and simultaneously empowering.
Have you ever experimented with Mindful Fasting? Do you prefer it to Distracted Fasting?