Mindfulness and Intermittent Fasting

Teach yourself how to change your response to hunger cues and make alternate day intermittent fasting or Fast Days easier through mindfulness–the act of witnessing an experience (like hunger) without reacting to it. Join DocP as she explains mindfulness and its important association with successful intermittent fasting regardless of the alternate day fasting plan followed: 5:2, 4:3, JUDDD, EOD, or others. This simple trick of consciously changing how you think about food, through mindfulness, can help reduce the mental challenge of ADF.

However you approach your Fast Day—eating once daily, or minimally throughout the day up to your calorie limit, or perhaps even fasting entirely—both your mind and body will react to the absence of your normal feeding pattern. Those of us who have time and experience fasting, realize that most of the time, if we simply ignore those hunger pangs, they tend to subside and then abate. We can teach our minds and bodies that waiting for food is not an emergency and that eating more liberally every other day can come to feel natural.

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Wild geese in flight.

In addition to the liberation that comes from not reacting to cues from our stomachs, there is a wonderful freedom that can also come from recognizing the thoughts, ideas, and emotions that our minds can generate in response to hunger or lack of feeding. Mindfulness is the act of witnessing these experiences without reacting to them.

Ordinarily, we don’t notice our thoughts—as a matter of fact, most of the time, our thoughts drive our behaviors in helpful ways:  “I’m tired, I should sleep,” or “I need to pee, better find the bathroom.”  In other words, our natural biological functions have been paired with normal thoughts and behaviors that provide relief.

Sadly, after years of abnormal eating, snacking, dieting, and obsessing about food and our bodies, many of us have developed some abnormal thoughts and emotions around food and eating:  “I know I just ate breakfast, but it must have been too low in protein, I’m starving!” or “I just went for a run, better refuel,” or “this is my Fast Day, and it is only 10am and I’m starving!  I can’t stand this!  I’ll try again tomorrow.”

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Meditation pond.

Mindfulness in combination with committing to your planned Fast Day can help you become aware of these thoughts and the fact that they are just that:  Thoughts. They are not a reality, they are not who you are—they are mostly a kind of neurologic junk generated by your brain in response to a biological trigger (hunger).

Most of the time, if you simply notice the thought and tell yourself that your hunger is temporary and will disappear after a glass of water or a walk or by just reminding yourself that you will have plenty of food tomorrow and you aren’t going to die of starvation before then, the thoughts and the feelings disappear. This kind of mindfulness develops and grows over time:  The more you practice it, the better you get at noticing how disconnected your food and hunger thoughts can be from reality.

Author: DocP

DocP is an international lady of mystery and acclaimed psychologist to the psychologists in the San Francisco Bay Area, for over 25 years. Author of many published brainy articles, DocP did her undergrad in biochemistry and has an abiding passion for health and nutrition. DocP understands the important role neurobiology plays in health, happiness, wellness, and in conquering the obesity epidemic prevalent in our society. Nutrition-nerd at heart, DocP loves digging through the latest PubMed articles concerning nutrition and the alternate day fasting model of insulin and blood sugar control. Email DocP with questions, comments, and chit chat about the controlled calorie, intermittent fasting lifestyle.

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