I thought I would never be a person that would fast. These judgements held me back. The truth is I didn’t know all that much about fasting. So how I could I end up loving fasting?
My first understanding of fasting was through a friend during my teenage years. She practiced Ramadan and since then I didn’t think it would ever be a part of my life.
Nor did I foresee that it would teach me 3 important lessons about life and of course, how we eat.
My journey into fasting ended up being unexpected as I started reading about gut health. I started noticing small health problems like feeling tired a lot and after reading I decided to change how I ate.
Lesson 1: It’s not what you take out, it’s what you put in.
You ever notice that diet programs are centred around telling you what to take out or what’s not allowed. Well, that’s what I did, I removed wheat and dairy from my diet. And because both had been such a significant part of my diet I needed to find a carbohydrate replacement.
I had forgotten about carbs like oats and rice (although I grew up on rice) were available to me. And as I searched for different ways of fulfilling nutrients I noticed so much more food items that were available to me in my normal supermarket and in local shops near my home.
Lesson 2: What we’re taught about food isn’t applicable to everyone’s body.
This seemed hard to digest (no pun intended) but as I continued working on my diet, I unlearned a big belief of mine. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.
Now, it may be for you and others but it wasn’t for me and in fact, it isn’t necessary to consume breakfast when you start your day. If your first meal is at 12PM then that could be breakfast for you.
So many beliefs about food and how to eat are based on someone’s opinion that came from a study. That’s it. That doesn’t make someone the authority, let a lone an expert, on how you should be eating. It serves as information that could help guide us but it’s definitely not the authority on our bodies.
Lesson 3: Scarcity leads to abundance.
This is similar to the less is more concept and I didn’t really get it until I fasted. After not having a traditional breakfast in the morning I noticed I could go for longer periods without eating. And so I decided to incorporate fasting into my life.
After reading about it, I gave it a try and scheduled a 1-day fast. And I was shocked, I made it 2 days. Not only that, I wasn’t as tired as I thought I was going to feel. I wasn’t ready to do a marathon but I was able to do the normal stuff I needed to get done in the day without keeling over.
And although I “removed” a lot of food, I actually gained so much. I gained time and energy. Eating in a simple way saved me time in planning my meal and eating for my body gave me energy.
And today I love fasting. A woman who thought I would never, I did it. Sometimes those judgements are the ones that will grow us the most.
I discuss more about my personal food journey in the podcast episode 20: Love Fasting.
Have you ever wondered how your personal boundaries were established? Even the ones you aren’t conscious of? This is your chance to see how they were!
So much of what we learn about boundaries happens during childhood – a time when the brain is under development. And that makes setting or changing boundaries difficult in adulthood and then, in relationships.
I define personal boundaries as your body (touch, sex and possessions) and mind (mental and spiritual) and this excludes anything outside the law like physical and sexual assault.
I’m going to highlight the process of child development and you can reflect on how your immediate family, culture and society has influenced your current boundaries. Please note this does not take into account trauma during childhood and the age ranges are only guidelines.
When a baby is born, its first 3 months are quite unique. It doesn’t know that it has exited the womb. And after 3 months, it has the realisation that it has its own body. This separation is important in the infant establishing its own body and therefore, the ability to move it.
The infant spends, apart of eating and sleeping, its time getting to know its body by playing on the floor. Perhaps what is crucial in this stage is how much freedom an infant is given to explore its body and get to know it. This freedom or the lack of it begins to shape how we experience our body and its boundary with the world.
This eventually leads the baby from being horizontal with the ground to vertical as it learns to walk.
1,5 – 7 years
Exploration is the most significant thing about this phase. A toddler has taken shape, walking, talking and getting into things it probably shouldn’t but all in the name of getting to know its world.
They continue to learn about their body through movement. They can test their strength by throwing and kicking, they can refine their hands to pour water and draw. They are constantly testing their bodies in effort to know its capabilities.
How we get to know our body is profoundly developed here through movement. And how we establish how we feel about our bodies is growing with each movement we learn. Often, the freedom to explore their world and their bodies is quickly abated by caregivers in the name of protection and even, conforming to societal expectations – compromising the toddler’s sense of their own body (making them kiss or hug other family members).
If too little exploration is allowed children miss an opportunity to get to know their body, feel confident in it and set limits and boundaries around their body and possessions. Even to the point where we force children to share when really the need to establish boundaries around possessions is the more important lesson.
Hygiene (potty training) is taught and the notion of self care begins to take shape as well. Speaking develops throughout the years and their thoughts and stories become more refined. Again, how much space a child is given to participate in their own self care and learn how to communicate is related to the rules caregivers impose upon them and the lack of freedom given to develop these skills.
Usually before 7 years, a brain shift happens where contrasting thoughts can be held at one time – like I want to hit my younger sibling but won’t actually do it. Children have less tantrums and are more skilled in movements making activities like dance and sports easier.
Cognitive thinking is enhanced further allowing for learning of higher level subjects. Concepts that were so abstract, like time and money, begin to take shape, again, influencing how they view boundaries around their possessions.
Their world opens up through reading and more defined peer relationships. Their able to coordinate relationships in multiple friendships and begin to understand more that not everyone has the same boundaries and handling difficult situations where they feel theirs are crossed influence how we begin to navigate boundaries in relationships.
After just becoming more confident in their bodies, children then undergo a massive body change in puberty.
Intimacy comes into play where children begin to view intimacy as obtainable outside of the family. More intimate connection with another person is sought and touch then begins to take shape into a body boundary – what is comfortable and what is not.
This period is confusing and can be more so with how trusted adults in pre-adolescents’ lives approach it. How is sex and intimacy educated (not through the school system) but on a more personal level and how is this connected to each person’s boundaries – theirs and others. Conversations like these are absent in many cultures as often the uncomfortably of the caregiver takes precedence over lovingly educating a young adolescent so they can make more informed decisions.
Body boundaries with sexual intimacy as well as peer intimacy continue to take shape. Peers begin to influence how one sees the world and beliefs and values of their caregivers begin to be challenged.
This stage is more about separating from their family in more ways than one. Physical separation happens maybe for school reasons and then also mental separation in terms of establishing what they think and believe. They are no longer dependent on parents for small, everyday things and such a separation can feel jarring on both sides.
Even though it may seem that they are well on their way to adulthood, adolescents still need the underlying guidance of trusted adults to feel safe to explore new relationships and new ways of thinking – even if its contradictory to their caregivers.
The balance between freedom but not too much helps establish a base for the young adult and a testing ground to push and test more complex boundaries – what is absolutely not acceptable in terms of behaviours.
By 25 years of age our boundaries have been well established and most of them unconsciously – primarily because we learn them while our brain was being developed. Running through your own experiences / memories at each of these key developmental stages can help make the unconscious conscious so that you can start to set the boundaries you want to have today.
Can you change your script? Absolutely! Well, we’re often advised to get to know our mind first but really how do we get to know it so we can create change in our lives?
It’s difficult to see how to go about it and then get momentum to keep going at it. When we are inundated with so much during the day, it’s hard to see what’s happening with our mind. The good news is that people’s minds are pretty similar.
And the better news is that I have an actual “how-to” for going about changing your script so you can change a habit in your life. I don’t do vague.
What’s a script? We operate from a script and are usually unaware of it. The script is our belief system in which we go about our daily life. It’s hard to become aware of many of our beliefs and all the “shoulds” we say to ourselves.
You can think of it like a script in a film where the script is the base of the story and the actors often don’t act the script word for word but use it to guide what they need to say or do. Our brains work like that and not knowing the actual script prevents us from clearing it.
If we’re not used to knowing what’s happening in our head then the task to understand it and quiet it or even direct it (to change it) becomes next to impossible. Sometimes, space can be created in some of our mundane, familiar ways of doing things.
Start small. And a place to start is with your everyday conversations with the people in your life. It’s small enough as well as having ample opportunity to create the space. Often, in the small moments of interactions, when we can create space, it can reveal the biggest insight.
Pick a person that slightly irritates you – a co-worker, sibling, etc. Think about the familiarity in your conversations. A co-worker of mine used to ask what I did on the my weekend without fail every Monday morning. I’m not a morning person so this was especially irritating.
Since I could plan on the familiarity of the situation every Monday, I said I was going to pause before I answered her question. Now, it may seem difficult at first because we can be on automatic pilot. If that’s the case, there’s another option.
Use social media posts. It may seem like the last place to create space but social media is not all negative. When a friend posts something you don’t like, read the whole post and don’t react to it. Don’t write a comment, etc. Sit there for one minute and look at the post.
In our everyday, mundane interactions we find ourselves in sort of an automatic, default setting of reaction. And because of it’s familiarity we can plan a bit ahead to see where we can pause.
Pause is what helps to create space in the head. And if you can achieve that pause in something you do habitually, you’ll often gain insight into your script.
Write it down. When you first pause it may seem like nothing comes to your head. It’s in there, you need to keep at it and eventually you’ll hear your mind and what its saying to you.
When you have the moment of pause, see what thought enters your head and then write it down in the same notebook (or notes on your smartphone). Keep tackling the same habitual situation and write every thought you “hear” in your mind in the same notebook.
Find the script. You’ll slowly begin to see what’s in your mind. You’ll see patterns. You’ll see your script. You may be shocked to see that you’re negative about a friend on social media or that you don’t want to reveal that you did nothing during the weekend to your co-worker (that was me!).
We live with scripts like “I shouldn’t reveal that I wasn’t productive over the weekend.” or that “I should always have positive thoughts about my friends.” The truth is whether we know our scripts or not, we’re running with them in our head. So knowing them gives us that control in changing them and eventually our habits.