Overcoming mental hurdles of fasting?

(Kristen Ann) #1

Hi all, I’m looking for tricks to get my mind off of food when I’m fasting. I really would like to try extending fasting for autophagy but my brain is not cooperating. Every time I decide to do a 36 hour fast, I start talking myself out of it or craving food. The longest I’ve gone is 26 hours and I only ate because I was worried I’d wake up at midnight starving. I’m 8 weeks into keto. Lets hear your tricks!

(John) #2

Things I do in general is to have plenty of non-caloric beverages (primarily water, but also coffee and tea or herbal teas) immediately at hand. Also, some pink salt for “snacking”. It seems to help me to do it after a day of full eating, and when I am busy with other things - like work.

I’m doing my first 36 right now in fact, though I have had no problems before doing a 24 or 30.

Helps that I love black coffee, regular and decaf, green tea, herbal teas, and have always liked drinking water.

(Kristen Ann) #3

Thanks John! I like black coffee and teas too so I’ll try having a cup when my willpower starts dwindling.

(Robert C) #4

Try starting your fast at a different time.
If you start after dinner - try starting after breakfast.
Then, the 26 hour mark is mid-morning, so no “wake up hungry” worry and your 36 hour mark will coincide with a usually large (worth waiting for) meal (dinner).

(Kristen Ann) #5

Great idea!

(John) #6

Something else - for me - I have never planned a fast. They seem to arise naturally when things come together right. It happens when I am otherwise well rested, have been eating normally for a few days, and have a busy day without time to worry about food. And it just “feels right.” Then it’s just a natural thing to do.

I would hate to plan it all out in advance and it happens to hit on a day when the stars and planets are not aligned right, and I am hungry, cranky, tired, and bored and have to fight it uphill the whole way.

(Robert C) #7

Also, the desire to eat is coming the old “lizard” part of the brain that wants to keep all habits going (because that has kept you alive this long so - must be good).

So, keep this in mind - you cannot argue with the lizard part of your brain, you cannot reason with it. Ask it “if I eat this at hour 26 and break my fast - will you let me get to 36 hour later?” Answer will be “yes” but later - lizard part of the brain (which cannot think and has no memory) will demand you eat at hour 26 again.

The only way I have found to not lose the fight with the lizard brain is to not enter into the fight (somehow make it not an option to eat - keeping busy or keeping a bet). Once the internal dialog starts “should I break now, should I break in an hour, should I break now…” begins - I’m toast.

In my opinion (and my experience) you really need to break through to the 48 plus hour mark where you realize that you are not hungry at all (different amount of time for different people - keto people vs. SAD people for example). Once you have done this - and gone on for few extra days - you are never the same again, you know there is an easy multi-day period after the first X hours.

(John) #8

Good point about the lizard brain - but I don’t know if I agree with the 48-hour time frame as being required.

Free-divers who hold their breath for long times have to teach their brain that it won’t die if you don’t breathe constantly (now THERE is a hard reflex to overcome).

So you can also train your body that it won’t die if you skip a few meals. I felt like I discovered that after going 24 hours sort of by accident (had to skip a couple of meals one day), and extended it to 30 hours just out of curiosity. The realization that you don’t have to eat unless YOU decide to is very empowering.

(Robert C) #9

48 hour time is not for all. Maybe you will find you can go for 2 days or 30 days depending on your fat reserves (or much more 40, 50 or 60 days).

Oxygen deprivation times are not relevant - you cannot suddenly think you can go 2 hours without oxygen - ever.

(Carl Keller) #10

The hardest time during EF for me was around dinner time. From 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM my body and mind knew what time it was. Once that window of time passed, I wasn’t really bothered about wanting to eat.

I found that staying busy and not paying attention to the clock helped. I started doing laundry and tidying up around the house. Next thing I know it’s 7:30 PM and my ritualistic desire to eat had passed.

Skipping the first dinner time was the hardest. The 2nd wasn’t half as bad. I felt like I could skip a 3rd fairly easily but 72 hours was enough for me.

One thing you can consider is drinking bone broth during your fast. It’s a great opportunity to get some electrolytes (add salt) and mentally, it might get you over the lunch or dinner time hump. Fasting purists might frown at the idea of this but Dr. Fung says this in regards to fasting:

Yes – Bone broth is highly recommended. It contains numerous minerals and vitamins and is quite ‘filling’ in terms of reducing hunger pangs. The other benefit is that you can add a good amount of sea salt to it. The other fluids taken during a fast – water, tea, coffee – don’t have sodium and you can become dehydrated. Mild dehydration, for example may lead to cramps and headaches during longer fasting.

PS: Don’t go grocery shopping while fasting. I was torturing myself buying steaks, bacon and all that good stuff… just thinking about what would go well with this etc…

(Kristen Ann) #11

I love this :slight_smile:

(Kristen Ann) #12

Cleaning sounds like a good distraction.

I drink bone broth pretty regularly but I read that you should water fast for autophagy. Not sure if bone broth could stop/prevent autophagy or not. If I was just fasting for weight loss I’d take that chance.

(Carl Keller) #13

Yeah Fung does say not to use bone broth if you are fasting for autophagy. My mistake.

(Old Baconian) #14

Fasting is a missed steak, lol! :grinning:

(Carl Keller) #15

So is veganism. :stuck_out_tongue:

(Bunny) #16

Your probably not use to fasting? It gets easier the more often you do it (with time, of course)! Try shorter fasts, then work your way to longer ones you want to try without feeling ill or too hungry?

Dr. Fung discusses this here:

Fasting and Ghrelin – Fasting 29: “…Also, note that ghrelin does have a learned component since all these subjects were used to eating 3 meals per day. It is not merely by coincidence that these peaks of ghrelin happen. This is similar to the ‘cephalic phase’ of insulin secretion that we’ve discussed previously. There was one other big finding of this study. Look at the average ghrelin levels over 24 hours. Over the day of fasting, ghrelin stays stable! In other words, eating nothing over 33 hours made you no more or less hungry than when you started! Whether you ate or did not eat, your hunger level stayed the same. …” “…Next, notice that there are 3 distinct peaks corresponding to lunch, dinner and the next day’s breakfast. BUT IT DOES NOT CONTINUALLY INCREASE. After the initial wave of hunger, it recedes, even if you don’t eat. Ghrelin shows a “spontaneous decrease after approximately 2 h without food consumption”. This correlates perfectly to our clinical experience that ‘hunger comes in waves’. If you simply ignore it, it will disappear. Think of a time that you were too busy and worked right through lunch. At about 1:00 you were hungry, but if you just drank some tea, by 3:00 pm, you were no longer hungry. Ride the waves – it passes. Same goes for dinner. Further it has been shown that ghrelin spontaneously decreases independently of serum insulin or glucose levels. …More

(John) #17

Well, as I am ending my first (approximately) 36 hour fast, I will have to say this is dead-on accurate for me. My last meal was finished about 7 PM-ish on Thursday. Friday was water/coffee/tea with no calories at all.

But around dinner time I was not psychologically hungry per se but really had signals from my body that I needed to eat something. Some of that may be that I went out for a 2 mile walk right before that.

I had a mug of decaf coffee, some herbal tea, a sparkling water with the juice from one slice of lemon, and some pink salt, and by about 8 pm the whole “eat something” feeling was gone and I felt fine.

So yes, getting through that dinner period at about the 24-hour mark was the only time where I really had to work to drown out the signals to eat.

I did wake up in the middle of the night to empty my bladder but otherwise slept soundly, and did not feel hungry when I woke up then, or this morning after a normal amount of sleep.

This morning I did not feel hungry either, but as this was my first 36-hour fast, done more as an experiment to see what it is like, I am going to have a normal breakfast.

(Alex ) #18


Not sure if there’s any science in it, but fizzy/carbonated water always seems to give me a bit of a hit as far as “fullness” goes… Although it tends to disappear slightly after a big burp!

Seriously though, I find that is a good stop gap.

Sometimes you just have to ride out the cravings and find something to do to keep you busy and keep your mind off food.

You Tube is good, TV generally not as there’s always TONS of adverts for food and drink.

Be interested to see how you get on, I’m wavering badly currently with my keto choices, and need to fast and get that hyper energy back!

(Kristen Ann) #19

Thanks! I’m trying @RobC’s advice and I changing the timing around. I had a big keto breakfast this morning in hopes of making it 36 hours. I’m still so full that I can’t imagine I’ll be hungry tonight, but I’m prepared to fight the lizard brain.

I think I’m going to clean my house like @CarlKeller suggested if I start getting any cravings tonight. I drink a lot of carbonated mineral water, so I’ll give that a shot too, thanks!

Good luck! I had 3 IPAs last Sat at a social event so I feel your pain.

(Carl Keller) #20

Visitor: Wow Kristen, your house is immaculate!
Kristen: Yeah, I was hungry.