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OPINION: The benefits of fasting from food, spending, and technology


OPINION: The benefits of fasting from food, spending, and technology

It’s that season again when I consider giving something up between now and Easter.

What will I fast from for the next forty days?

Even if you’re not religious, fasting in anticipation of the full swing of spring is a healthy practice that has been followed throughout human history.

Abstaining from food, however, isn’t the only way to fast these days. We have so many modern conveniences and pleasures that we use to distract ourselves from what’s
important or hard to face that we can “fast” from as well. Online shopping and overspending. Hours of highly bingeable TV. Instagrammers who send our self-esteem
plummeting.

Choosing to fast can help you lose weight, free up hours of wasted time, or bulk up your savings account. Read on to learn the hows and the benefits of giving one of these fasts a go.

Food

THE HOW: Crafting your fast should depend on you, your needs, and your starting point in order to be successful. If you’ve never fasted before, you shouldn’t launch into 72 hours straight without food. It will be incredibly hard to stick to and cause you so much grief that you won’t reap the benefits.

Be realistic. Fasting can be as simple as eliminating a food group. Aim to cut one you seek out in comfort rather than in nutritional value. Losing it will remove an unhealthy crutch. You’ll confront the root cause of a craving rather than smother it with a salty, sweet, or fatty snack. It should make you feel uncomfortable and be a mental challenge.

A personal favorite and a big toughie to give up is added sugar.

Before you begin any food fast, do your research. If you’re going low carb, you need to replace the lack of carbohydrates with another macronutrient such as increased fat.
Doing your homework will help be you successful and make sure you don’t damage your health.

Another intermediate option is intermittent fasting before you make the big leap to a full fast. Intermittent fasting involves cutting one meal out of your day and eating only within an eight-hour window. There is a lot of good information out there about this style of eating.

THE BENEFITS: Planned, healthy fasting can reduce insulin resistance, which lowers blood sugar levels. It can also reduce inflammation by allowing your body to rest
because it doesn’t have any food or nutrients, or fewer, to process. It may improve brain function and enhance heart health. Clearly, it can help with weight loss since you’re eating few, if any, calories. It increases the amount of growth hormone released and could delay aging and extend the lifespan.

In addition to the physical benefits, fasting can improve mental and emotional well being. Many report that fasting offers a mental clarity that cannot be achieved in any other way.

Denying the loud desires of the body forces people to reflect internally and face larger issues that they’ve drowned out with food. Food is no longer available to distract the self. What’s really eating away at you?

Attaining self-control through fasting bleeds over into other areas of life. You can experience a newfound confidence. If you are strong enough to resist food, what other
obstacles are you strong enough to overcome?

Shopping

We live in a culture where no one bats an eye at spending more than your means for the sake of superfluous material possessions. People take out payments on cell phones. Not having credit card debt is the exception rather than the rule.

I have fallen prey to the consumerist culture for years. I love buying makeup and expensive sunglasses. I have enough scarves to clothe a classroom of kindergartners
for winter. Just like with eating comfort foods, I indulge in retail therapy to escape a deeper frustration or stress. Clicking the confirm order button on my favorite online
shopping site gives me a rush of anticipation for the nice thing to come. But, once it arrives, it gets lost in my stash of products. I use it once or twice because there are only
so many lipsticks in the same shade of pinky nude that one can wear. Then, I need to repeat the process again because I haven’t solved the issue that moved me to shop in
the first place.

THE HOW: A “shopping ban” or a “no buy” must work for you and target your weaknesses. I devised my own rules for a “no buy” and wrote all about it in a previous
article. What tempts you the most? What types of product(s) do you buy over and over again? Ban shopping for makeup. Ban shopping for home decor. Ban shopping for
slightly oversized knits in the shade heather grey. Again, aim to fast from something that will result in you feeling uncomfortable because it removes one of your toxic coping strategies from your life.

THE BENEFITS: I’ve been on a “no buy” since the start of 2019, and it has already been incredibly rewarding and begun to rewire my thinking. I’ve eliminated the cycle of
coveting what I can’t afford, buying it anyway, and feeling anxiety and stress caused by the choice. It’s freed up time in my mind and in my day as well as freed up money for my savings account.

I’ve learned better strategies for dealing with stress than browsing my favorite online stores. Quite frankly, there have been no downsides to this fast.

Technology

So, I’ve already personally enacted management of my unhealthy eating and unhealthy spending, so I struggled to come up with something to fast from as my go-tos were
already accounted for. Until, I looked down at the thing clutched in my hand for most of my waking hours: my phone.

Technology has improved our lives in incalculable ways, but its creation of a constant and immediate access to hours of mindless entertainment hasn’t, for the most part, been one of them. Social media and the Internet have given me a new outlet in which to express myself creatively and to connect to people with similar interests, but they’ve also further enabled my online shopping habit and increased the pressure to be “perfect.” I’ve allowed YouTube, Netflix, celebrity gossip sites to steal hours (days; weeks) of my life.

I need a technology detox.

THE HOW: Nowadays, technology is unavoidable, which makes it so difficult to manage. Just like with food, we can’t avoid it.

I know I will have to use technology, and I want to be able to use it for pleasure too, but I want to implement a limit. As always, make the fast personal. I watch too much video on Instagram and other platforms, and that’s what I want to limit the most. I allow myself to watch two of my favorite shows per week while relaxing on the couch. I allow useless video watching when I’m doing a chore, but not when I’m sitting down and doing nothing. I will not use any technology after 9 p.m.

THE BENEFITS: More sleep. More time for useful pursuits. Improved focus and attention. More simplicity. Less stress.

Fasting could be just what you need this season. What will you avoid for the next few weeks?

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