I can spend an astonishingly long time to really recognize when something is off with my body. A few bad nights of sleep coupled with trouble waking. Cravings for sugary sweets or salty savories. Dry skin. Memory issues. Zoning out at the end of the day.
After I take the time to consider these seemingly unrelated issues, I realize my hormones are out-of-whack. Again.
I’ve had more than a few struggles with regulating my hormones. Adult acne, regulating menstruation, fertility issues, and more plagued me for at least the last couple decades of my life. I’m on levothyroxine for underactive thyroid, but these issues still persist.
I tried various ways to manage these issues, but I think I’ve found something that makes sense: healthy fasting, or intermittent fasting.
How I’m Defining Healthy Fasting
On the surface, fasting isn’t really something that appeals to me. I’ve dabbled with juice cleanses and otherwise unhealthy eating habits. I tend to eat when I’m bored, and then be annoyed with myself for doing that. Add a toddler and a pandemic, and it’s been a wild last 18 months. My body is reminding me it’s unhappy. Persistent jawline acne, inconsistent menstruation, foggy brain, and low energy tend to be my biggest tells of hormone imbalance.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, I’m a pitta kapha, which basically means I’m fiery but sedentary. I have a slower digestive system that does well with raw foods. Research shows intermittent fasting can benefit those who are insulin sensitive, as well as help hormones regulate (and everything that goes with that, from better sleep to higher level of focus and productivity).
To me, healthy fasting is basically cutting out breakfast and not eating after 6pm. I tried different strategies, like 12 hours fasting followed by 12 hours consuming, and landed on what helps me feel best (18 hours fasting/6-hour consumption window). I feel my best when I’m eating mindfully and paying attention to what feels or sounds good. And for me, that kind of attention comes toward the middle of the day.
Tips I’ve Gleaned After Three Months of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting isn’t for everyone. I’ve chatted about it with friends who wrestled with disordered eating, and the thought of placing rules around food or when/how to eat can trigger them. Fasting is not recommended for vata dosha types.
If you’re interested in trying intermittent fasting, here are some tips I’ve picked up:
- Try different fasting strategies. Like I said, I tried going 12 hours, 16 hours, 18 hours, and 20 hours before landing on the 18 hours. Give each strategy a few days to observe with compassion and honesty. How are you really, truly feeling?
- If you need to break your fast, don’t punish yourself. Part of my baggage with food is the shame associated with snacking or eating things that are easy versus what’s actually beneficial. Focusing my eating time forces me to make more mindful choices. But at the same time, I’m letting go of the punishment cycle. If I want to eat breakfast with my family on Saturday, I’m going to eat breakfast with my family. And I’ll get back on the fast tomorrow.
- Don’t limit caloric intake. Eating a healthy lunch and dinner is part of what makes intermittent fasting effective. Don’t think you need to go full fast (500 calories or fewer per day).
- Explore liquids while fasting. You do not need to limit yourself to just water. Try some infusions (just the essence, though!) and the wild, robust world of tea.
To keep on top of my fasting periods, I’m using an app called Fastic. While I’m not a huge fan of the gamification aspect of it, I like the messages and educational content. Using a timer and keeping notes about what’s happening in your body are helpful.
Ultimately, fasting is an efficient way for me to help my body perform at its best by keeping my hormones balanced. And that, in turn, enables me to be more present for work and play.
Minnesconsin Yoga offers encouraging, adaptable, alignment-focused yoga classes and workshops in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Lead instructor Meghan Hatalla pulls together elements of different disciplines, aiming to enhance somatic awareness in the body. Meghan completed her 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Maria Toso of Saint Paul Yoga Center, as well as furthered her knowledge with coursework from Jason Crandell, CorePower Yoga (power yoga extensions), and Yoga North (somayoga modalities).