Health — May 4, 2023 at 10:00 am

Food as Fuel – Lessons From Fasting


The phrase “food as fuel” never really resonated with me until I started fasting. Now, a word before I go on. Goodness knows I’m no expert on fasting. I did my own research before I started, and you should too.

So, a couple of years ago, I decided to give it a try. I chose the period from Sunday night after supper to Tuesday breakfast – a 36 hour weekly fast. I soon realized that while reading about the experiences and recommendations of others was helpful, my experiences would be mine alone and I would have to listen to my body.

I expected to be hungry, and I was, so no surprise there. While other people suggested drinking clear tea, I learned that ingesting anything except water during my fast upset my stomach, so that meant no tea and no over the counter medication for the occasional headaches I experienced; nothing but water. Then I learned that increasing my already-generous water intake helped to eliminate the headaches. But what I didn’t expect and was surprised to experience were two side effects that brought home the concept of food as fuel: Fasting makes me exceptionally cold and tired.

On fasting days I’m exhausted and ready for sleep by 7pm. I used to fall asleep in the chair and then I would wake up to go to bed, but I slept fitfully. Then I struggling to stay awake until my usual bedtime but that resulted in fatigue the following day. I also tried going to bed at around 9pm but found I was wide awake by 2am. The quest for the optimal time to go to bed on fasting days continues.

I think feeling cold was the biggest surprise. I know some people who are naturally cold – their hands are freezing, they crank up the heat and wear extra sweaters. I’ve never been one of those people.  My body temperature self-regulates well – that is, except on fasting days when I am indeed one of those people. As my fasting day progresses and regardless of the time of year, I have the space heater pumping away in my office, I’m layered in sweaters and curled up under blankets.

Someone asked me why I fast if my body reacts this way. In fact, I’ve found fasting to be exceedingly beneficial despite the negative side effects. Supported by other lifestyle changes, my digestion and mental acuity have improved. I feel healthy and have more energy overall. I’ve come to appreciate the role of food in not only supplying nutrients but also as the fuel that helps heat my body and regulate my sleep cycles. I fast because my body likes it, not because I do, and that’s one of the most important lessons of all.

By Susan Harrison, Senior Vice President, EXIT Realty Corp. International

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