Trying to focus on being more present is easier said that done, anyone with me? You tell yourself “I’m going to more present, be in my surroundings, and focus on one thing at a time”… then you get SLAMMED with a million different project and tasks at once. Before you know it you can barely tear yourself away from the computer screen to acknowledge someone’s presence when they walk in the room. That all being said, the simple act of remembering that I wanted to focus on people when they spoke to me did help me to become more present. I was able to look up from the computer and give the people talking to me my attention. I realized once I did I was able to make a better decision that didn’t require a million follow up questions later (because sometimes I can’t even remember what decision I made.) So giving the momentary attention needed to the situation led to less stress later on in the day. So, as the day went on and the week went by it got a little less stressful. Crazy how one little action can really change how things stack up! How did it go for you?
Don’t forget to check out this weeks challenge—> Focus On Making Balanced Meals
Fasting & Skipping Meals: Benefits and Concerns
For Catholics, starting this Ash Wednesday the season of Lent is upon us. The church teaches abstaining from meat (fish and eggs are okay) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday – Easter). Fasting or partial fasting is also encouraged on these days, when medically appropriate. (See this article on Why Do Catholics Practice Fasting and Abstinence During Lent.)
Lately, I have also been hearing a lot about intermittent fasting (or IF) practiced by many of those in the cross fit or paleo philosophy arenas. The idea of IF is to abstain from food for 12-18 hours in order to maximize fat burning capabilities. For most, this means skipping breakfast in the morning.
So, given the season I thought this week would be a good time to discuss fasting and skipping meals, especially in terms of weight control and weight maintenance. The general consensus from nutrition professionals is that you should not skip meals, ESPECIALLY breakfast. But why?
Skipping meals may cause:
- Your metabolism to slow down. If your body thinks that no food is coming in then it will slow down your metabolism in order to conserve calories. Therefore you end up burning fewer calories, which could lead to weight gain.
- A dip in blood sugar. Although diabetic patients may find this symptom more pressing, the dip in normal blood sugar levels can happen to anyone. This leads to a tired and foggy haze, which generally leads to cravings for high-energy foods like sugar and fats.
- Voracious hunger. This insane hunger triggers the body to enter starvation mode, causing the release of hormones that tell you to EAT EAT EAT. This can lead to over eating at the next meal.
- Weight gain. Along with the possibility of a slowed down metabolism, cravings and voracious hunger any weight loss experienced during prolonged fasting (greater than 24 hours) is usually regained (and often more is gained then what was originally lost.)
Fasting may have some benefits:
- Resting the digestive system. May help promote a healthy fluid balance in the body.
- Possible promotes anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Some observational studies have shown that some people with inflammatory conditions such as IBD, asthma, or skin conditions experience symptom improvement with fasting.
- Promotes fat breakdown. Once the immediate available energy is used up, the body turns to breaking down reserves. The process is known as “ketosis,” and results in the release of ketones from fat reserves to be used as energy. (The production of ketones as an energy source is the point of IF.)
- Possible improvement in risk of or treatment of some chronic diseases. Some improvement of risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and asthma have all been observed. This is likely related to the decrease in insulin and inflammatory markers that have been observed during fasting.
Like many things in nutrition, this topic does not have a one-size fits all answer. In addition, we haven’t even considered whether the fasting is involving overall calorie restriction. (Yes, you can fast for long periods of time without actually reducing calories.) When I was calorie counting my only concern was restricting calories, I rarely considered my body’s true needs and rarely listened to my body at all. I regularly ate when I was not hungry, and often fasted when I was hungry. So, I think the most important take away is that you should always honor your body’s cues. Skipping meals every once a while may not cause an immediate 10lb weight gain, in fact there is a chance you may even see some benefits. However, regularly skipping meals and ignoring your hunger cues may trigger the stress response and lead you to overeat at other meals (read: long term weight gain.)
Some of my experiences:
- I used to try to stop eating after 6pm, which led to a fast of 12-14 hours, this often helped me keep my weight down and gave me more energy. Nowadays I don’t pay as much attention to when I eat dinner (I’m just too busy! Maybe that would be a good one for Healthy Habits weekly challenge.)
- I used to do one-day juice/smoothie fast weekly. I don’t remember feeling much of a benefit or difference.
- I never miss breakfast on the weekdays, but regularly eat just two big meals (usually a brunch and dinner) on the weekends out with family and friends. Often my meals are richer when I eat out, so it is easier to keep my weight steady with just two meals.
- Honor your body’s hunger/satiety cues: Eat something when you are hungry, stop eating when you are full.
- Make the meals you are having high quality and well balanced. Make sure you get enough high quality protein (chicken, fish, eggs, and beans), healthy fats (avocado, nuts/seeds, oils), and nutrient dense carbohydrates (whole grains, sweet potatoes, winter squash) to sustain your body through the fast.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids; this will help keep you full and energized.
- Discuss your fasting habits with your doctor to make sure it isn’t harming you. Some obvious situations to avoid fasting in are: pregnancy, underweight, cancer, other disease affected by metabolism such as thyroid conditions.
Questions of the day:
What do you do to try and be more in the moment?
What tips to you use to try and keep tasks from building up on you?
I try to do things in the moment as they come up if at all possible, procrastination always seems to make the work load heavier.
Have you ever fasted or do you fast regularly?