Fasting has been a hot topic with many questions circulating around it. What is fasting and could it work for you? Indy-based certified trainer Alex McKinley has been exploring fasting, and she gave us the scoop from her own experiences.
Fasting has been trending lately, and we’ve heard the topic circulate in a few different industries. First off, can you tell us a little bit about the industry you’re in and what you do?
I consider myself to be an Energy Dealer, as one of my favorite trainers, Kirsty Godso, calls herself. Whether it was during the sports I played or the opinions I voiced in class, I was never lacking in the energy department. That being said, I now harness my energy in the Indy health and wellness space to inspire and educate others on finding what fires them up.
As a certified trainer, I love to give others a good sweat along with trying out various gyms around the city myself. Being born and raised in Indy, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing my city come together to make healthier choices in their lives. And I know there are still so many people to reach! That is why I recently became the Community Director for IndyFitnessMag, and hope to impact as many people as I can throughout Indianapolis. I am also going to be managing and training at a new gym called F45 Training that will be opening downtown at the start of the new year.
Complementary to the training that I do, I am also certified in Cryotherapy and fully believe in the “without rest, there is no work” mindset that was instilled in me through my past work with the Recovery Room. They are a local “sports spa” that gives athletes access to the latest recovery technologies to help them recover faster from injuries and prevent new ones.
All in all, as my various “roles” seem to change with the seasons, one thing is certain; I want to bring as much value and positivity into the city that raised me as I can, and it all starts from sharing my energy.
If you could describe fasting in your own terms, what would that be?
I’d describe fasting as allowing yourself to stop being a slave to food and letting your body catch up to itself. In our modern society, we’ve streamlined all of the ways we used to labor for our food, all while mass-producing heavily processed foods and increasing portion sizes. This makes no sense. Generally speaking, we sit in our cars on the way to work, keep sitting at work all day, and sit in our cars on the way home; only to get home and lay on the couch exhausted from sitting all day. Fasting is not only a way to give our bodies a rest from constantly digesting our meals and snacks, but it helps in debunking the mindlessness that has become American living as a whole. After about 18-20 hours of fasting, your body goes into “autophagy,” which essentially means it is eating itself. This means that your body is getting rid of the old, unwanted cellular material and starting to stimulate it’s growth hormone, which regenerates cells and can even destroy lingering bacteria or viruses.
How did your journey with it begin?
I had previously read up on fasting a little bit just due to my general interest in all things body-optimization, but it wasn’t until I randomly walked into a Goodwill recently that made me decide to go for it myself. In the corner where the books are (hidden gem alert!), I was casually sifting my way through the healthy living section when I stumbled across The Miracle of Fasting by Paul Bragg (1972). I immediately started reading it when I got home and was honestly so impressed by how much of his warnings and teachings still rang true, and are even amplified, in today’s modern times. So I decided to give it a go and start fasting based on Bragg’s suggestion of one 24-hour fast a week, consuming nothing but water throughout.
Weight loss is what many people associate this topic with. Do you agree that fasting aids weight loss? Are there specific reasons you fast that you would like to share?
I definitely agree that fasting aids in weight loss, whether it’s intermittently or multi-day, but for me, fasting is more about internal detoxification of the body and self-preservation. When your body isn’t focusing as hard on the digestion of all of the food we put into it, it can harness that energy to remove toxins and purify your body physically, mentally, and spiritually.
What kind of benefits have you experienced from fasting, if any?
Although I am still fairly new to fasting, I have already started to feel the benefits from it. Physically, I notice that I am less bloated due to the excess sodium that is being removed from my body; additionally, once I break my fast I can tell my digestion runs more smoothly. Mentally, I am learning to not associate certain times of day with eating and am truly starting to listen to my body’s own hunger cues. Spiritually, I am honoring my body and increasing the longevity of my life. I truly believe that a consistent fasting routine will set me up to live a longer, healthier life as well as assist in warding off illnesses. In his book, Bragg mentions how when animals are sick, they don’t eat anything as this stimulates a faster healing process within the body.
Fasting seems like a somewhat strategic endeavor. Is that something you could shed light on?
To some it could seem strategic, but once you’re in your fasting window, it’s really one of the easiest things you can do! You can focus on your daily tasks without worrying about what to eat or where your next meal is coming from. You save money, and you can still go about your routine as usual, all while internally cleansing your body. For me, my schedule changes weekly so at the beginning of a new week I will look and see which 24-hour window works best for me and I’ll commit to it. My fast usually starts at 2 p.m. and goes until 2 p.m. the next day, but based on your schedule and preference, you can do a breakfast-to-breakfast or dinner-to-dinner fast just as well.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in fasting but are unsure about doing it?
First and foremost, if you have any type of medical condition or rely on certain medications that have to be taken with food, I would highly recommend consulting your doctor before putting yourself on a fasting regime. After that, experiment! You might want to ease your way into fasting by doing it intermittently during the day by setting an 8-hour feeding window and a 16-hour fasting window. Or you can just throw yourself into a weekly 24-hour fast like I did!
When it comes time to break your fast, I recommend doing so with a healthy, whole-foods meal. This will help train your body and mind to naturally crave healthier food upon ending your fast, while also flooding your body with nutrients as to not negate the whole point. Throughout your fast you should also be drinking as much water as you can to not only flush out impurities but to keep a feeling of fullness as well. As they say, half of hunger is thirst!
Do you have any suggested informative resources on the subject that people may find beneficial?
Luckily there are a lot of really helpful websites and people who advocate for fasting which can be easily Googled. One of my favorite super-humans to listen to is Ben Greenfield, who not only discusses fasting, but all forms of body optimization for increasing your longevity and quality of life. I was recently told about a really cool app called Zero that is centered around fasting as well. You can set up which type of fast to do, track it, and pull from their library of resources to help you learn more about fasting as well as the best tips and advice from professionals.
Any final remarks?
Regardless of how you begin exploring the world of fasting, remember to have patience with yourself and know that your mind is stronger than any urge or moment of weakness you feel. It takes practice just like anything else. One of my favorite quotes from The Miracle of Fasting really puts your health into perspective. It says, “For life is self-defense. What you lack in stamina you must make up for in strategy. You are fighting a losing fight, and will be knocked out in the end. Whether the match lasts ten rounds or twenty entirely depends on you.”
Rachel is a freelance writer who focuses on mindful living, aiming to help people live healthier, more intentional lives.