Fasting Is a Mental Game

Overcoming the mental hurdles involved in fasting proved daunting. After starting out strong on my first few fasting days, I began to let extras sneak in here and there — a handful of almonds at 9 p.m. when my stomach was growling, or a couple extra cups of popcorn (damn you, tempting giant Costco bags of Skinny Pop!). Although those little extras didn’t add up to many calories, the act of going over my allotted 500 calories a day made me feel that I was failing to comply with the plan.

I was not going to be deterred from my quest for a more princely life, and I have a competitive streak a mile wide. I was not going to let myself go down in defeat during month one! So, I turned to my sister-in-law, who had begun Alternate Day Fasting in July 2017 and still follows the plan today. She is the type of person who easily holds herself to her own internal expectations (yes, Virginia, people like this do exist) and thus had few issues complying with fasting. After patiently listening to my plaintive whining, she suggested that I should make a list of the benefits of a fasting day. That would help reframe my outlook from “I feel deprived and sorry for myself” to “I enjoy my fasting days, and here’s why.” Enjoying fasting felt optimistic in the extreme, but at this point, with January ticking away, who was I to argue? Maybe success in submitting to this plan meant also submitting to this advice. Hard-headed me was quickly realizing that fasting was a mental game and the hurdle I had to overcome was my own mind. So I went to work. My list included:

  • Getting used to going for long stretches without eating makes it easier when you’re traveling or in another situation where you might be thrown off your schedule and not be able to eat for a long stretch.
  • You only have to plan one meal a day. Easy!
  • You are giving your pancreas a good rest. Your pancreas loves you more now.
  • You are lowering your insulin levels and that can only be helpful in terms of keeping weight off going forward.

With that helpful reset of my mental state, I rededicated myself. On my next fasting day, I shut down my complaining brain, instead focusing on how energized I felt, even if my emotions might have been a little on edge. Somewhere around 4 p.m., the euphoria of a runner’s high kicked in. Waking up the next morning, I felt a rush of pride: I had done it!

As I forged ahead, I began to notice a link between my fasting days and creating. On “eating” days, consuming whatever food I wanted led to more consumption, whether that was consuming videos on YouTube or consuming whatever Target had on sale that week. A lot of times, the consumption was mindless — both the food consumption, and the YouTube consumption. But on fasting days, I didn’t want to go to stores. I didn’t want to look at food at Target or at the grocery store, and I really didn’t want to go to a mall with all the smells and temptations. On fasting days, I preferred to stay home. So I wrote. Then one fasting day, I found myself pulling items out of cabinets and drawers and culling them.

Fasting was prompting me to shed more than weight. I was creating space in my life so something new could enter.

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