How to fast without gaining weight

Orthodox Fasting

Have you decided to fast? Follow these instructions to avoid gaining weight.

Although fasting is the time when we remove many foods that are considered fattening and often unhealthy from our diet, despite their deprivation, weight often increases.

Is fasting good for you?

Fasting is a physical and spiritual exercise that highlights the virtue of temperance against gluttony and other human passions. It is an excellent opportunity to take care of your body by detoxing it from animal fat, which contains significant amounts of saturated fat and is responsible for creating atherosclerotic plaque in the vessels, leading to coronary heart disease and other ailments.

Limited food choices lead to a greater intake of fruits and vegetables, which directly benefits your health by providing more plant fibres, vitamins, and minerals.

On the other hand, the exclusion of specific foods for fasting can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies.

A reduced intake of proteins (which contributes to maintaining muscle mass and, therefore, metabolism), calcium (which is responsible for bone health), iron, and vitamin B12 (which are necessary elements for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children, athletes, and people with a history of anemia) increases the risk of anemia.

Why do I gain weight while fasting?

Animal foods excluded from your diet during this period are usually the main source of protein for the human body. Proteins are responsible, to a large extent, for the feeling of satiety after a meal. Their reduced intake during the fasting period makes it more difficult to achieve satiety with the same amount of food, often leading to the consumption of larger amounts.

In addition, when fasting, the available food options are considered healthier and more innocent, which is often an alibi for overeating.

Finally, fasting means depriving ourselves of what we desire, so its end is often followed by overconsumption of what we lack.

How can I fast correctly?

Eating the right combinations of foods can ensure adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals during fasting.

To ensure adequate protein intake, regularly consume seafood and legumes. Combine legumes with rice or other grains (e.g., bread) so their proteins have the greatest biological value. Soy products and nuts also have a lot of protein. The latter must be consumed wisely, as they contain many calories.

To achieve satisfactory satiety and avoid overeating, eat foods rich in plant fibre. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains (e.g. bread, rice and pasta) contain sufficient fibre. Remember to drink enough water at the same time, which will lead to the swelling of the fibres and their better action.

You can choose almonds, tahini, milk, soy cheese, and certain vegetables (e.g., spinach, broccoli, cauliflower) for optimal calcium intake.

For an adequate iron and vitamin B12 intake, focus first on seafood and then on legumes, spinach, soy milk, and whole grains. Combining the above options with foods containing vitamin C can significantly improve the absorption of the non-heme iron they provide.

Do not forget. Fasting does not only mean "cutting off meat" but "abstaining from my passions."

Those who want to fast need to identify their own food passions and refrain from them. For example, soft drinks, alcohol, and sweets are important addictions for many. Abstaining from them for a time could have equal health benefits as limiting meat and its derivatives.

Evangelos Papataxiarchis is a Dietitian-Nutritionist, MSc (Harokopion University of Athens). Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.

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