What is motivational fasting (MF)? It is a way of fasting and intermittent fasting that offers a refreshing change from the punishing ways that many people approach it.
MF is all about making the experience easier, more empowering and consequently sustainable.
MF is not a set of prescriptive rules (for example One Meal A Day or 16:8), but rather a mindset shift that you can apply to any form of fasting, whether you are daily intermittent fasting, doing two meals a day or extended fasts.
I have been a binge eating coach since 2013, and the 2020 lockdown brought me a most unusual gift: the return of my own compulsive eating. In spring 2021 I decided something had to change. I started using intermittent fasting as a tool to reduce my compulsion and shed some weight. It worked – but what I didn’t expect was how dramatically my mobility, mental wellbeing, productivity and digestion would improve.
I created the whole concept of motivational fasting through noting what has worked for me, and observing just how stressed, inadequate and miserable the vast majority of fasters are. I want everyone else to fall in love with fasting in the same way I have.
So let’s dive in and look at this concept more closely.
I am going to contrast MF with another term I coined: puritanical fasting (PF). Most of the fasting community are engaged in various forms of PF, and are super stressed because of it.
Many people adopt a puritanical mindset when they fast. The harder and more extreme, the better…or as we shall see, the worse.
Motivational vs Puritanical Fasting – The Key Differences
#1 Willpower vs Experimentation
PF 🙁 Every fast is a test of your willpower. If you do not last the entire time you set yourself or deviate from any of the rules of the fast, you have failed and deep shame ensues.
MF 🙂 Every fast is an experiment. An experiment can neither succeed nor fail – it can only give you data. You may not like the data, but you appreciate the value of that information. If a fast goes badly, you learn from the experience and optimise. More on optimisation shortly.
#2 Easy vs Impossible To Fail At
PF 🙁 It is very easy to fail at puritanical fasting – or else see any setback as a failure, and a reason to feel guilty. This happens because fasters have not learnt to navigate their own resistance. Many do not carefully consider how lifestyle and fasting fit together symbiotically – both are important, and compromise is necessary from both.
MF 🙂 It is impossible to fail at motivational fasting. Why? Because you are constantly experimenting. Another way to look at it is like a toddler walking. They have no concept of failure, or indeed success. They just start walking. At first they are pretty disastrous, and require a LOT of support and practise. The first time they attempt the unchartered territory of the carpet between the sofa arm and the coffee table, and plop down onto their bottom after one faltering step, do they give up and trash talk their lack of coordination?
Of course not. They keep going. They are walking. In motivational fasting, you are fasting. That is all.
#3 Food Guilt
PF 🙁 The fast is about trying to purge yourself of food guilt. Inflexible rules and deprivation as a form of self punishment are the order of the day.
MF 🙂 Fasting cannot do the job of dealing with food guilt, because the guilt does not belong to you. There are other, more direct ways to unburden yourself of this toxic emotion. Instead, the motivated faster develops a healthy neutrality about fasting.
#4 Whose Rules?
PF 🙁 Puritanical fasting is about following someone else’s rules. You have less autonomy over your experience than a toddler, who at least is encouraged to choose between healthy options. This parent-child dynamic is incredibly disempowering and a breeding ground for food rebellion.
MF 🙂 is about continually optimising and iterating in order to discover your own bespoke set of fasting protocols. A tailor-made process that suits you, your lifestyle, and sets you up for success. You no longer know the meaning of the word ‘struggle’.
#5 Quick Fix vs Empowerment
PF 🙁 demands quick results. For example, pounds lost (even though you know that at at least some of this is water weight that will reappear post fast) are the highest goal of the fast. The experience of fasting is much less important and just an added bonus.
MF 🙂 encourages you to optimise for the best experience possible, so that it gets easier. The aim is to fall in love with fasting and make it a regular part of your life. Immediate results are less important and just an added bonus.
The irony of choosing the experiental over the quick results approach is that in the end you can have BOTH! Because by making it easier, you are ALOT more likely to keep doing it. For example, one thing so many fasters fret about is putting a little cream or coconut milk in their coffee while fasting. Experimenting with this may show you that it makes the difference between getting through a hunger wave, then completing the fast you are on
throwing the towel in, binge eating and telling yourself how inadequate you are.
In which scenario are you likely to still be fasting this time in 12 weeks? In which scenario do you have a healthier future? One that is free of joint pain, diabetes, inflammation, unwanted weight (not to mention visceral intra-organic fat), Alzheimers and high blood pressure?
#6 The Outer vs The Inner Game
PF 🙁 focuses on external measures of progress: calories and weigh ins. Now of course there are times when it is appropriate to take these external measurements, for example when fasting under medical supervision. The problem is that these measurements A) are used far too often and B) carry too much emotional power. For example, weighing yourself straight after a 36 hour fast on Wednesday and then again two days later will make you delighted mid week and depressed by Friday. You know very well that a good deal of the Wednesday weight loss is water that you will regain by the weekend. Why put yourself through such misery?
MF 🙂 focuses on the inner game. You may have weight to lose, but you know that obsessing over it on a daily basis is an exercise in disempowerment.
Whereas external measures can change and seem temperamental, the inner game of tolerating hunger is one that gets easier the more you do it as long as you do it in conjunction with other aspects of this approach outlined in this article.
This inner game the key to your health. Why? Because the more you play the inner game of fasting (making it easier), the better your body gets at reducing inflammation and insulin resistance. The better your mental wellbeing gets. The brighter your future looks: a future where heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s – to name but a few – have less and less chance to get a look in.
What is going to happen to your waistline and the number on the scales when you reject the feverish daily weigh ins, and instead start getting excited about a increasingly real future free of the biggest killers of the 21st century? When you see the discomfort of hunger as a price you are happy to pay? And fasting becomes easier?
You know what will happen to your waistline.
You get the weight loss, minus obsession and misery.
Creator of Motivational Fasting