The secret to successful fasting is ensuring two specific hormones are functioning well and within normal range. While your first thought about fasting might be, “How will I overcome a growling belly or will I have the willpower to refrain from the office bagels?” what might actually serve you better is to shift your thinking towards controlling your levels of insulin and cortisol. When you focus on making choices in your diet and lifestyle that keep these hormones balanced you’ll find fasting to not only be easier but a successful way to take back your youth, health and your beauty, too. When these hormones are stable, cravings don’t really exist as you know them. Nor does that uncomfortable ravenous “I could eat anything” feeling either. It’s at this place of hormonal harmony that fasting becomes a natural part of your feel-good self-care routine–and you’ll actually look forward to it!
Before beginning your first fast, assess how happy your body is with your hormones by checking in on your:
If any of these are off for you that means you likely have imbalances in the way either your insulin or cortisol (or both!) are functioning. If so, you’ll want to start slowly by first fasting for 12 hours, say from 8 pm – 8 am.
Become more fat-adapted for a better fasting experience. Break your fast with a fat-based breakfast such as half an avocado with an egg or two. Skip the toast and fruit plate – by consuming mostly fat (and no carbs) at breakfast, you will help your body transition to the metabolic biology of fasting. As your hormonal rhythms normalize, you’ll be able to gradually lengthen your fast to 16 hours, say from 8 pm – Noon the following day. How will you know? Trust me, you’ll feel it. Fasting is a sport – practice makes perfect. Hang in there and keep at it because the payoff can be life-changing.
Be thoughtful about what you eat before you begin your fast. Plan your meals to ensure sufficient calories from fat, protein, and carbohydrates are included, particularly in the evening meal. All of the macronutrients play an essential role in normalizing your hormones.
Sleep your way to a pleasurable fast. In order to sleep well, your cortisol levels must be following the appropriate pattern for nighttime (low) and wake time (high). Sometimes for certain women going too low carb can be stressful and raise cortisol levels, especially at night which makes sleeping difficult. If cortisol is off, you can bet your blood sugar will also be off as well which can cause you to both struggles falling and staying asleep. Have you ever slept poorly and then found your caramel latte and flaky croissant extra satisfying in the morning? If you have cravings for carbohydrates and little appetite for protein or fat, it’s probably because your cortisol and insulin were majorly thrown off course during the night. Fasting is much easier after a sound night of sleep where your hormones are balanced and working for you!
Get moving to get grooving! The right type of movement is essential for balancing your cortisol and insulin. If you tend towards stress or are particularly sensitive to it, gentle but long walks as well as strength training is very important for you. So is HIIT exercise (high-intensity interval training) or short bursts of intense exercise like sprinting. A little cortisol is actually very important for immune health and even for fat loss. In order to stimulate the proper inflammatory response, your body requires the right amount of stress – not too little and not too much, like Goldilocks said. There is nothing quite as suitable for regulating insulin as the combination of HIIT and weight training. So if your insulin is off (maybe you’ve been told you have insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or you have a little extra stubborn belly weight or insatiable cravings), you definitely want to rein it in so you can utilize the benefits of fasting for your metabolic health and wellness!