You’ve just finished a 24-hour fast. You’re hungry. You’re ready to eat. And you’re proud of yourself for successfully abstaining from any food or drink with calories for the past day. Maybe you want to give yourself a pat on the back for doing so and you should as long as it’s just that a pat on the back. After you complete a fast, don’t congratulate yourself with extra helpings of food or dessert.
You may feel like you deserve a treat for enduring the past 24 hours without food, but get rid of the idea that to treat yourself or celebrate a happy event (or console yourself in the wake of an unhappy one) that you need food.
For many people, food is often the ultimate reward. Get a promotion? Go out for a celebratory dinner. Win the softball league championship? Victory beers and pizza are in order. Get through a particularly bad day at work?
Break open the pint of ice cream. After all, you deserve it, right?
But this thinking can have some incredibly negative effects in the long run. Because you can always find reasons to celebrate or reward yourselves, all too commonly you wind up eating a surplus of calories and typically, high- calorie foods that are unhealthy on a regular basis.
When you finish your intermittent fast, keep the following pointers in mind when you eat so you don’t end up throwing away those 24 hours that you fasted.
Journaling what you eat
The easiest way to keep track of what you eat is to keep a food journal on the days you aren’t fasting. Doing so allows you to see exactly what you’re eating each and every day. The adage “what gets tracked, gets managed” is true.
Try it out for a week: Log everything you eat or drink for seven days. Even on your fast days, you can jot down the noncaloric beverages you drink, as well as what you eat to break your fast.
In your journal, write down what you eat, how much you eat of it (calorie count), and when you eat it. In short, if it goes into your mouth, it goes into your journal with as much detail as possible. The food journal isn’t so much a way to make you count calories (although can certainly do that if you have a specific calorie count you want to hit) as it is a way to gently remind you to make better decisions when it comes to food, particularly food quality. By writing down everything you eat, the journal holds you more accountable and will help you make better decisions.
You may not even realize what exactly you put in your mouth each day. A food journal can help you track and manage unhealthy eating habits, from snagging chocolate out of your office mate’s candy jar to adding an extra pump of caramel to your daily latte. You may even see that you have a history of this kind of celebratory eating.
Selecting healthful and nutritious food
When you come off a fast, you should eat what you would have eaten if you hadn’t fasted. Just make sure you focus on choosing nutritious food, meaning you stay clear of the double bacon cheeseburger with fries and a milkshake. Focus on the effect that each macronutrient (such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat) will have on your post-fast body. If you completed a dinner to dinner fast (say, 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Thursday), then you eat dinner. If you fasted lunch to lunch, then you eat lunch. Just make sure that you aren’t engaging in any celebratory eating, so pick wholesome foods.
You’ve spent 24 hours controlling your blood sugar levels. Regardless of what you choose to eat after you begin eating again, your body will experience a change in blood sugar. That’s to be expected, but you can mitigate that change by making better food choices. For example, if you end your fast by going out to dinner with friends, you may be tempted to eat the dinner rolls. However, by eating carbohydrates as the very first thing after a fast, you’ll experience a rise in blood sugar levels that is different from if you broke your fast with dark leafy greens or protein.
Watch out for what we call weekly food traditions. Maybe you have a friend who partakes in this type of eating or maybe you and your family do. These weekly food traditions involve eating a particular food on a certain day of the week, such as Hoagie Tuesday, Pizza Friday, or Pancakes and Waffles Sunday. Following these traditions can lock you into poor eating habits and make it that much harder to adopt a healthy lifestyle. That’s not to say that you should get rid of them entirely, but you should be aware of them and be willing to adjust them in order to meet whatever your weight loss, health, and fitness goals are.
Planning your eating ahead of time
To help mitigate the chances of you eating unhealthy foods when breaking your fast, don’t set yourself up for failure. Prepare ahead for what you’ll eat and have it readily on hand. Don’t wait until the last 30 minutes of your fast to realize you have nothing in the house to eat. Have easy to eat but healthful foods available to you at the end of your fast. You may find them especially helpful to have in stock to snack on when you’re preparing your first regular post-fast meal.
Some healthy foods that are good to have available post fast to snack on include:
- All-natural jerky (beef, bison, ostrich, and so on)
- Apple slices with all-natural almond butter
- Fresh crudités, such as sliced fresh carrots, celery, cucumber, and broc- coli or cauliflower florets (you may pair these with homemade vinegar dipping sauce, if you want; check out the recipes in Chapters 9 and 10 for some dressings)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Raw unsalted nuts, such as Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and walnuts
Despite their name, peanuts aren’t nuts; they’re legumes. Although you may not have a full-on peanut allergy, if you experience digestive issues when eating peanuts, as you would with other legumes (such as beans), then limit how much you eat and/or switch to a different food.
To help you plan your post-fast meals in advance, prep the vegetables with which you’ll be cooking your next meal. Set aside single servings of raw, unsalted nuts in plastic sandwich bags. Make it as easy as possible to break your fast.
Also, be aware of just how much you’re snacking in your post-fast period. Nuts can be especially deceiving because they are so small and easy to eat yet pack a powerful caloric punch. Limit how many nuts you’re eating in a given day because of their omega 6 fatty acid content.
Avoid going grocery shopping toward the end of your fast when you’ll prob- ably feel the hungriest. Not only will you probably wind up buying more food than you actually meant to when entering the store, but you’ll also more than likely purchase some less than choice foods that look especially good through the eyes of an empty stomach.
Head to the grocery store before you begin your fast or on a non fasting day. Bring a list that includes just the healthful and nutritious items you need (and stick to that list), rather than blindly wandering down the aisles (which is where the packaged and generally unhealthy foods reside). Having a list and sticking to it helps you spend less time and less money in the grocery store. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.