If a one-day water fast feels too frightening, beyond reach, that’s totally okay. Today in the modern world many people feel the same. Rather than pushing yourself into something you’re not ready for, intermittent fasting is a less extreme, more easily achievable goal – and it still offers significant health benefits over the long term.
Intermittent fasting consists of simply extending the natural fast you undertake each and every day: the one between dinner and break-fast. By lengthening the time without food from around 12 hours each night to 16 hours, you allow your entire digestive system to rest more fully. This is time during which it can regenerate, time in which your whole body can begin to heal – especially given that you’ll be asleep and in ‘healing mode’ anyway during much of this time.
Intermittent fasting is something which works best when done everyday: something which is built into your daily schedule. In order to reach a daily fast of 16 hours (that is, restricting your eating within an eight-hour timeframe), most people find that the easiest solution is to skip breakfast. As much as the food industry has relentlessly hammered home the message that breakfast is ‘the most important meal of the day’, this is entirely untrue. The morning hours are a period of natural detox; by eating, you disrupt this process, bringing it to a premature end. Historically, only modern society has emphasised breakfast. The Romans, for instance, never ate before the afternoon.
At first, though, leaving out breakfast will probably leave you hungry, perhaps even low on energy. Consequently, you may soon find a certain resistance building up inside you against intermittent fasting. This is all to be expected until you break out of your old biorhythm of more frequent eating. But it’s just a matter of time. A few days. In the worst case, a week or two.
I always hear the excuse: “I can’t skip breakfast. I work. How am I going to survive until lunch.” Don’t worry, if the Romans were able to conquer most of Europe on an empty morning stomach, so can you! It’s just a question of allowing your biorhythm to adapt. In the meantime, one solution to quell your suffering 😉 is to drink a low-calorie morning coffee (eg. with low-fat milk or soya milk). The caffeine will provide energy while naturally suppressing your appetite, and an intake of less than 100 calories will impact only minimally on morning detox. This isn’t the best solution for the long term, but it won’t hurt while you adjust.
On a totally non-scientific basis, I feel in my own body the benefits of daily intermittent fasting to be approximately equal to that of ‘regular’ eating plus a weekly 24-hour fast. Interestingly, if you add up over the course of a week the extra four hours of fasting incurred through daily intermittent fasting (7 x 4hrs = 28hrs), you end up with a duration similar to a one-day fast. Perhaps this is one reason why, after you’ve grown comfortable with the routine of intermittent fasting, it will be much easier to contemplate moving on to trying a 24- or 36-hour water fast – which itself can provide a springboard to longer, more healing fasts in the longer term.