In a previous article, 5 Food Tips for Fasting were shared based on the understanding of fasting as a means to cleanse and detoxify the body, mind and heart.
When fasting is performed successfully, over a consistent period of time, results may show better balanced all-round health including weight loss of excess fat, toned muscles, greater mental clarity, increased intuition, compassion, patience or a sense of calmness, connection and contentment.
Applying Traditional Chinese Medicine further, this week’s article gives 5 simple lifestyle tips for enhanced fasting results that you may desire to achieve by the end of your fast, however long or short you keep it.
As one participates in a fast of extended duration, whether during the month of Ramadan or at any other time for other purposes, the effects on the body can be intense. Fasting is a time to pay very close attention to your body, emotions, thoughts and words.
1. What emotions do you feel when you eat? How aware are you of these emotions? Not only does the body become more sensitive to the foods and drinks you ingest, but it also becomes more sensitive to absorbing unsuitable energies and emotions, whether in oneself, or from the outside environment. Avoid eating when you’re angry, upset, impatient, worried, sad, or fearful.
TCM theory relates each major emotion to one of five organs. Liver—stress, anger, resentment, irritability; Heart—hyperexcitability, impatience; Spleen—anxiety, worry; Lung—grief, sadness; Kidney—fear, shock.
For example, when people overeat when they’re depressed or sad, this can lead to harmful affects on the lung meridian energy pathway as well as the lung organ itself, manifesting as cough with phlegm, shortness of breath, phlegm and fat accumulation, etc. This principle applies for each of the other organs named above.
2. Extending on #1, eat in an environment that best matches how you want to feel. So if you desire to feel vibrant, happy energy, then eat your meals with those who laugh freely and are joyful. If you desire quiet reflective time at meal-times, then share your needs with family/friends so they understand and can respect your wishes.
According to Chinese medicine, not only is the kind of food and method of cooking important to health, but also the environment we eat in, which of course affects the emotions we feel at mealtimes.
Chaotic, disruptively loud, and grief or fear-filled atmospheres can cause upset digestion or poor appetite, and is also part of the energy “ingested” with one’s meal. Likewise, happy, joyful or quiet, peaceful energy is ingested when we surround ourselves with that energy at meal-times.
3. For those who experience unwanted symptoms while fasting like sluggishness, increased fatigue, headaches, or joint pains, following these tips and the previous 5 food tips will be important.
As we know, when a person fasts for an extended number of days, the body becomes very sensitive to what is put into it. So fasting is a great way then to figure out which foods have particularly unwanted effects on one’s health. One way to discern this is by keeping a food journal of what you eat and drink, and the subsequent effects you notice in your body the same or the following day.
For example, did the flour products or deep-fried food at meal-time make you feel heavy, sluggish, constipated or have looser stools? Did the spicy dishes tend to make you feel more agitated, have increased joint pains or heartburn? Did you feel weak and tired or have headaches after having cheese, pop, or more sugary desserts than might have been best for you?
To keep an easy log of the foods you eat and how they affect you, visit this Chinese Medicine Food Journal Guide* to download and print out an easy-to-use guide.
4. While fasting, TCM does not recommend exercise or activities that cause excessive sweating, especially if you already suffer joint pains. Instead, yin yoga is an excellent form of light exercise to practice while fasting – this is a special form of yoga that quiets the mind, body and heart, and fosters unconditional acceptance of wherever you are in life.
Unlike more yang forms of exercise (i.e. ones that cause sweating and involve constant movement), this is a gentle, reflective form of exercise very compatible with fasting. It facilitates greater consciousness of deep breathing and specifically stretches the myo-fascia connective tissues of the body (eg. ligaments, tendons), which take significantly more time and intentional breathing to relax and lengthen.
There are 3 principles of yin yoga:
a. find your transformational edge where you feel the stretch out of your comfort zone, but is not painful;
b. stillness – breathe intentionally and deeply, inhaling and exhaling fully, because outward physical stillness breeds inward stillness; and
c. hold the stretch for time, usually 3-5 minutes per pose.
Considered part of the traditional martial arts, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are other forms of light exercise also beneficial to practice while fasting. However they often require a greater degree of skill and memory, so fasting may not be the best time to start learning for beginners.
5. Fasting is often a time to also quietly reflect on one’s life, thought-processes and life purpose. While many people fast of food and drink, performing your fast silently, even for just several days, without speaking or engaging in communication via internet can also further enhance the fasting benefits.
Silent fasting deepens one’s intuition, connection, and inner peace and calmness. And it is a wonderful time to write and keep a personal journal.
Overall, where possible, adjust the balance of your daily regime when fasting by reducing heavy
physical exercise and levels of activity, increasing intake of appropriate, healthier foods/drinks, setting yourself up to eat in a happy, joyful or quiet environment, and making space and time to be gentle, patient and compassionate with yourself.
Read 5 Food Tips for Fasting.
*This Chinese Medicine Food Journal is designed by, and kindly permitted to use with gratitude to Renee Klorman, Licensed Acupuncturist, Founder of Three Parts Wisdom and Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine.