Diary of an Extended Fast – 72hrs completed

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72 hours! I did it! Here’s how I felt over the final 24hrs of my fast. This was uncharted fasting territory for me and I was really curious to see how I would feel.

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 1540 – Only just beyond 48hrs and my tummy is gurgling and rumbling like crazy. I like to think these are the noises it makes as it’s eating sored body fat!! In all serious by this time, my body is using stored fat as fuel as all food and stored glycogen will be gone.

I had a little Sea Salt and a mug of warm water which helps. I also have sparkling water, it’s totally psychological but I find it easier to do a longer fast when I drink sparkling water rather than still.

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 1830 – My brain is now asking me “where is the food?!” My body however isn’t hungry, I feel very focused and like I have more energy than usual. But my brain is still thinking about food – cheese and chocolate buttons to be precise! What a combination!!!!

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 1900-2215 – My brain did quiet down and I was completely fine for this part of the evening. I felt a little bit emotional as I got ready for bed, almost like I wanted to burst into tears. I didn’t though. I had magnesium an hour before bed and slept really well again.

Friday 5 June 2020: very, very early – there are some baby birds in a nest not far from my bedroom window and this morning their chirping jolted me out of sleep. I actually love hearing them when I wake up but I definitely wasn’t ready to be awake this early!

Friday 5 June 2020: 0730 – With a pounding headache I got up, had some water and a shower and feel much better. Once I’m doing things I feel more energised again.

Friday 5 June 2020 : 1145 – Back from a trip to Sainsbury’s to get some shopping. I felt great on the way there, chatting to my friend on the phone as I walked. Walking back with my shopping however my muscles felt a bit weak. I realised I may have been slightly dehydrated as I only had a coffee and a glass of water since I woke up.

Friday 5 June 2020 : 1330 – Feeling properly hydrated and 100% fine again.

Friday 5 June 2020 : 1500 – 72hrs completed! I have reached the end of my fast! Or have I…? Read on…

Overall I found this fast much easier than I expected I would. I’ve mostly felt completely fine. I’ve felt my focus has been sharper and I’ve had more than enough energy. Hydration is definitely key though. I love knowing that my body has had a break from digestion and the opportunity to do it’s housework and that I’m reducing inflammation and improving the health of my gut and brain. (see here for more information on these processes).

As I mentioned in the first instalment of this fasting diary (see here), Friday has become known as Food Free Friday so, again on a psychological level, my body doesn’t expect food on a Friday. With this thought I’m going to continue on with my fast. If I feel ravenously hungry I will eat later this evening, if not I will break fast tomorrow morning. The main reason for doing this is so that I start back into my regular fasting pattern, but as I say this will depend on how I feel as this afternoon/evening goes on.

How to break your fast (this is really important after an extended fast)

If you search around online you will find all sorts of conflicting advice on what to do to break your fast (to be honest you’ll find lots of conflicting advice about the benefits of fasting too – this is something you have to decide on for yourself. For me, I’m 100% convinced of the benefits and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend intermittent fasting to clients).

So when looking at what to eat when breaking an extended fasts, I looked at lots of recommendations and compiled a short list of things that most appeared on almost all the articles and videos I read/watched.

Most important: do not break your fast with carbs or sugar – it will spike your insulin too much.

Break your fast with: fish or chicken or other lean protein source, you can have it on its own or with some vegetables; bone broth (great for gut health too and a very gentle way to wake up you digestive system), for women you may want to add some seaweed or shellfish for an iodine boost.

One hour after breaking fast: have something that stabilises cortisol and insulin; black coffee with a sprinkling of cinnamon, some sea salt, or a magnesium supplement.

After this you can prepare and eat a meal. I would still recommend going easy on heavy food and carbs – especially if you’re not close to a bathroom!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series detailing my first long fast. If you feel inspired to try it, please remember not to jump straight into an extended fast. Ease into it, let your body get used to it.

If you feel you’d like some support please do message me to request a coaching appointment or to join my upcoming Introduction to Intermittent Fasting Webinar which will take place on Friday 19 June

Diary of an Extended Fast – the 2nd 24hrs

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Welcome back to the 2nd day of my 72hr fast! Here’s a little breakdown on how things are going…

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 1600-1900 – I kept myself busy during the afternoon and early part of the evening by doing some research and planning ahead on some work projects. I also made sure to keep hydrated with sparking water and warm water.

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 2100 – I started to feel hungry around this time, on previous 40+ hour fasts this is usually the time I feel hungry and like I could actually eat my arm! However, forearmed (ahem!) is forewarned so I knew it was mostly psychological and that I would be going to bed soon. I had a last mug of warm water, a little bit of sea salt, and a magnesium supplement, and thanked the Universe for the TV distraction that is The Great British Sewing Bee!

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 2215 – Bedtime! I slept really well, in fact I barely remember my head touching the pillow. This is one other great side affect of fasting, once your body is used to it you will sleep really, really well.

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 0630 – Woke up, refilled my hot water bottle for a morning liver pack (still not sure it’s doing anything but it feels nice), I did my morning meditation in bed while the hot water bottle was maybe doing it’s thing. I did a Google search on the hot water bottle thing when I got up and it seems like it should be used in conjunction with castor oil (which I don’t have) to help the liver detox. The liver can detox naturally but there is no harm in giving it a helping hand, though maybe the hot water bottle on it’s own isn’t doing anything. If you’re concerned about liver health then some Intermittent Fasting is definitely a good thing to do.

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 1200 – “Eating Window” opens – again this means some sea salt, coffee and warm water. I’ll also keep topped up through the afternoon with sparkling water.

Thursday 4 June 2020 : 1500 – My eating window is closed and I have now completed a 48hr fast, this is my longest fast to date and now I’m into uncharted territory. So I’m sure you’re wondering how I’m feeling? To be honest I feel great. I feel really alert and quite energised, I’m still going to the bathroom (sorry, sorry but it’s an important topic when you’re fasting – constipation can be a bit of an issue, as can it’s opposite number when you break your fast; something to keep in mind!) and overall I feel great.

REMEMBER: Do not dive straight into an extended fast (48+ hours) if you are new to fasting. Let your body become accustomed to periods without food before you try an extended fast.

What’s happening in my body when I fast? (the science stuff)

Digestion: During the first 24hrs your body is completing the digestion process, depending on how much food is in your body before you start it can take roughly 12-24 hours to fully digest everything.

Fat Burning: When your body realises there is no more food coming it’s way it will start to use stored glycogen for energy – glycogen is the excess glucose that the body converts and stores for emergencies. Once the stored glycogen is used up, the body will then start to use stored fat for energy, this is where you will start to see weight loss benefits (you don’t need to do an extended fast like this one to get this benefit).

Autophagy: This is when the cells in your body start to do their “housework”. Autophagy happens in the body all the time, but when we eat autophagy is down-regulated so that digestion is prioritised. When we fast, autophagy is up-regulated and our body gets to work clearing out and regenerating old, dead and damaged cells. This is a great way for your body to heal itself and it also promotes longevity. With up-regulated autophagy you will even notice you start to look younger!

BDNF: Or Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This is basically a fertiliser for your brain. It strengthens the neural connections and helps grow new neurons. For decades scientists didn’t believe it was possible for adults to grow new neurons but it has now been proven that they can! If you’re in your 20s or 30s you may not put much importance on this but it is important for everyone; recent research shows that brain degeneration can begin up to 20 years before showing as illness so it’s super important to look after the health of your brain.

Gut Microbiome: I’m sure most of you have heard of probiotics and the importance of looking after the millions of beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. Fasting also helps these little critters by increasing the levels of Immunoglobulin A (IGA). IGA helps your gut flush out any harmful bacteria that may have taken up residence and it also helps to grow more good bacteria. More good bacteria = better health and stronger immunity. You can also give your gut bacteria a helping hand by eating fermented foods and lots of vegetables. Plain boiled potatoes (allowed to cool before eating) are also great food for growing beneficial gut bacteria.

Changes in the gut metabolism also change the fat in your body, altering the white fat (this does nothing but make you look fat) and converts it to heat producing, thermogenic brown fat which helps to burn excess calories.

Magnesium Supplement: There is some research that shows fasting uses up a lot of magnesium (although there is no conclusive reasoning as to why this happens). I know that my magnesium levels can get low so I supplement just to be sure they don’t get too low.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Part 2 and also enjoyed learning about some of the science and other health benefits you can expect from fasting. I’ll be back with Part 3 tomorrow and I’ll also include some information on what to eat when you break your fast.

Diary of an Extended Fast : The First 24 Hours

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Since the end of January 2020 I have been living an Intermittent Fasting (IF) lifestyle and I must admit it’s the easiest thing I have ever done to improve my heath.

When I first heard of IF, due to a history of disordered eating, I was a bit sceptical. To my uneducated eyes it seemed crazy and like a free rein to an eating disorder. However, I was curious and intrigued by the health claims being made by people who regularly incorporated fasting into their lifestyle. So I did what I do best, I got into “Geek Girl” mode and did a lot of research! I soon realised there is a huge difference between intentionally fasting and disordered eating, and that there are a whole heap of benefits to be gained from fasting. However, I will say that if you have a history of eating disorders please do your own research to be sure that you are fasting for the right reasons (health and healing).

With a few months of fasting under my, ever decreasing, belt I have decided to do my first extended fast. My aim is 72 hours, I may do more or I may do less. It all depends on how I feel – I’ve learned to listen carefully to my body and what it needs and I don’t put any pressure on myself to “achieve” a certain length of fast. The time is more of a guideline than something set in stone.

As well as being a fantastic weight loss tool, IF is also great for helping your body clear out old cells, repair damaged cells and create new cells. This is called autophagy and can help you fight back against ageing and the aches, pains and illnesses that we’ve been told are “just part of getting older”. It’s also great for clearing up brain fog, using fat (rather than sugar) as fuel and for helping to reduce inflammation, reducing blood pressure, and to improve markers on a host of chronic illnesses.

So here goes… The first 24 hours! (If you are new to fasting please DO NOT start with an extended fast)

Tuesday 2 June 2020 : 1500hrs – I’ve closed my “eating window” and through the afternoon I’ve kept myself busy with work, having an Epsom Salts bath and chatting with friends.

Tuesday 2 June 2020 : 1845hrs – I’m still feeling full from the meal I ate earlier in the day. When I’m only eating one meal per day, within a 3 or 4 hour eating window, it’s really important to focus on nutrient dense food. However, if I have a day where I want takeaway or a burger or chocolate then I adjust my window accordingly and eat without guilt. For me, the key is one meal per day, in a short window (never more than 6 hours) and to get back to nutrient dense foods within a day or two.

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 0900hrs – I’ve posted my Wednesday video for my Facebook group and taken a black coffee and my journal into the garden. It’s so cold I only managed 30 minutes. Who turned down the temperature?! Note: It’s okay to have one or 2 cups of plain black coffee or plain black tea when fasting. Hydration is super important though – drink lots of water!

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 1130hrs – This is when I normally start to prepare food to break my fast at noon. Today, to keep this routine, I’ll have a 2nd coffee and a pinch of sea salt (sea salt, Kosher salt or Himalayan salt is permitted during the fast and is important for electrolyte balance – simply place a few grains of salt under your tongue and let them dissolve).

Wednesday 3 June 2020 : 1500hrs – The first 24hrs is complete. In my head I “close my window” and I’m now fasting through the evening the same way I would on any other evening. If I feel a little hungry I’ll drink more hot water and have another little bit of salt. After 24 hours of fasting the body will have used up most, if not all, of the glycogen stored in the muscles and liver and will now switch to using stored body fat for fuel.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the next 24hrs.

If you are completely new to Intermittent Fasting, or if you’re looking for some more information why not join my Facebook group? It’s not all Intermittent Fasting, I cover all aspects of health and wellbeing – mind, body and spirit. Simply search Morag Ferguson Life Transformation and request to join!

A bum deal

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Do you suffer from back, knee, ankle or foot pain?  Have you been to see doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, orthotics specialists and, despite their best efforts, you’re still in pain?

What if I suggested some of these issues could be righted by strengthening your glutes?  I first came across this connection in Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book “The Four Pillar Plan” (called How To Make Disease Disappear in the US) and it totally changed my thinking about back pain.  I don’t suffer from chronic back pain, but I do work a desk job and sitting for long periods of time weakens the glutes and shortens the hamstrings.  And unless you’re super vigilant about your posture and the setup of your desk, it’s very likely you won’t be sitting in the best position to keep your body aligned.

So what to do?  If your job involves long periods of sitting, the best thing you can do is get up and walk around every now and again.  You might not be able to walk away from your desk but even walking around behind your desk, stretching out your hips, stretching your hamstrings and (if you can) maybe doing a few jumping jacks will ease you out of that stiff feeling and get your circulation flowing.  Maybe you can encourage your colleagues to get on board too, if you’re all doing jumping jacks or walking around the office you don’t need worry about getting strange looks.  Though to be fair, better health might be worth a few strange looks – I’ll let you decide.

If you haven’t ever given this much thought it may be worthwhile have a few sessions with an osteopath or chiropractor to make sure your body is in alignment.  Speak to your employer about having a work station assessment to make sure your desk is as comfortable as possible, and investigate the possibility of a stand up desk (one that you can change from standing to sitting works best as stationary standing for long periods of time is no better than stationary sitting), also look into the possibility of sitting on a Swiss Ball at your desk (you might need to get the okay from your Health & Safety people for this one) – the instability means your entire core is getting a workout and it will do wonders for your posture.  Plus you’ve got instant access to fitness equipment for a quick lunch time routine.

So strengthening your glues – what to do?  Some things you can do at work (once you’ve stretched out your hips and hamstrings) are bodyweight squats, walking up the stairs (taking them 2 at a time if you can – build up to this if you find it difficult), hip bridges (you can use your Swiss ball for this, or just do it on the ground), rising up on your tiptoes as high as you can, squeeze your glutes at the top and lower back down, releasing the glutes when your heels are back on the floor.  There’s also a wealth of easy glute exercises available on YouTube.  Look for short, easy to do, 5 minute exercises you don’t want to be building up too much of a sweat at work.

If you can, get outdoors for a walk at lunchtime – if you have a park or woodland near where you work you are so lucky, make the most of it!  Take a 20 minute walk if possible, though any walk is better than none if you’re not in the habit of walking regularly.  Walking gives you time to reflect on your morning, gives you some quiet time to yourself, you can do a walking meditation.  Alternatively you might want to start a lunchtime walking group and get to know your colleagues a bit more, build your connections and strengthen team spirit.

Most importantly…  engage your glutes and your abs as you walk.  It might not feel like much at the time but done regularly your glutes and abs will get stronger, resulting in better posture and less pain.  Oh, and you know that way when you sit down and you’re belly looks like it’s grown a few inches?  Turns out this could be related to poor glute strength too – so come on, get working on those poor neglected glutes.  Improved health, a toned butt, what’s not to love here?!

And if all that isn’t enough to motivate you, check out the picture (found on Pinterest) – numb bum, numb brain; your boss isn’t going to be happy with that…