DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician and the following information is based on my experience and personal research.
So many people do the Daniel fast, especially at the beginning of the year, which is a replication of the fast the Biblical prophet Daniel did in the Old Testament where he only ate fruits, vegetables, legumes and water. No meat, no wine, no dairy. While some follow this diet strictly, there are many variations of fasting. For example, some people focus on cutting foods that are guilty pleasures, like junk food, sweets, alcohol, fast food, or processed food. Others cut out meat and adopt a vegetarian diet or some opt for a vegan diet, and still cook entire meals.
You can also fast in other areas of your life. When I was young that meant no TV and only 30 minutes of playtime. Now that I’m older it’s time limits on social media and no secular music. You can really fast from anything that you think has too much of your time, is pulling you away from God or that you would like to put aside to devote more time to your personal and spiritual growth.
This article will explain how fasting or dieting can cause harmful effects on your body. If you prefer to watch my video on this, click hereor scroll to the bottom of this page!
Everyone from Terry Crews or Beyonce to your favorite personal trainer has sworn by some form of fasting. That being said, whether you fast for religious purposes, or weight loss (remember Beyonce’s Formation prep “no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol” plan?) you can experience physical consequences on your body.
Every time we eat, our bodies obtain energy from the food we’re consuming. So whether it’s a salad or a big Mac, you get the energy that your body desperately needs. I like to use the analogy of a smartphone. You plug your phone into the charger to get energy, which fills your battery. You’re able to go through the day texting and talking, and as it depletes you get warnings to refill the battery, which is when you plug back in. If you dismiss those warnings, your phone will get sluggish and eventually go dead.
Your body has the same relationship with food.
The energy that we get to fill up our “battery” is in the form of glucose. Glucose is a fancy word for sugar. When you eat, your body stocks up glucose to give your body and brain energy. In fact, glucose is one of the few energy sources the brain can process. When you don’t eat, you use up the sugar in your bloodstream. Your body gets weak and various symptoms start to show up, much like the “low battery” warnings on your phone. If you ignore them, things can get serious. You could have a seizure, coma or – in a very worst-case scenario – death.
That’s right, you could die without sugar. Tell that to the next person who tells you to lay off the donuts. LOL But on a serious note, if you are restricting your food intake, it’s important you understand blood sugar.
Normal blood glucose is under 140mg within the first two hours after a meal and just under 100mg if it’s been 8 hrs since you’ve eaten (which is why blood glucose is usually lowest when you wake up in the morning). If your blood sugar drops below 70mg, medical professionals automatically declare this hypoglycemia – low blood sugar. If you’re under 90mg AND experiencing symptoms, you are also considered hypoglycemic. (Those with diabetes have too much glucose in the blood, and they take insulin to regulate it since their bodies are not naturally providing enough insulin. If they take too much insulin or take insulin AND don’t eat, they can experience hypoglycemia as well.)
Although hypoglycemia is common in diabetics who often experience extremes in their blood sugar levels, non-diabetic hypoglycemia is a common occurrence. If you’ve ever felt weak, had a headache, even got a little dizzy because you hadn’t eaten in hours, this is most likely the cause. Every person is a little different and may experience hypoglycemic symptoms quicker than others. Symptoms include:
- pale skin
- sweatiness or clamminess
- blurry vision
- confusion/impaired cognitive function
- dry or tingling lips
- sleep disturbances
You might be wondering how fasting or dieting plays a role in this since you still eating food. The truth is, many strict diets depend on you consuming foods that are low on the glycemic index, which is a measure of how much sugar is in a food. You could eat potatoes, salad, veggie soup and drank water all day. While you might not feel hungry, you may have zero sugar intake. This will cause your blood glucose to fall.
Since you’re not eating cake or sugary cereals, you want to put an emphasis on foods that fit within your diet and provide a modest amount of natural glucose. Fruit and organic fruit juices are good choices. Just a half glass will help. Bananas, pineapples, berries and apples are also great choices. Crackers, honey, sweet potatoes and rice are also helpful to regulate blood sugar. Peanut butter is a slow-acting option. Starburst taken a couple times every few hours also help boost blood sugar.
If it’s an emergency situation where you have fallen below 80mg and are experiencing several symptoms, many medical sites recommend that you consume a fast-acting sugar-rich carb, such as one spoonful of honey or straight sugar or a cup of sugar water can help you.
It’s also important to eat first thing in the morning and take small snacks throughout the day. If you are intermittent fasting, make sure you levels are normal after your meals.
Some of my favorite meals and snack to eat while fasting or dieting is oatmeal with berries and honey (versus butter and sugars), hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, brown rice and vegetables, bananas or granny smith apples with nuts or nut butter. These have all helped me to avoid hypoglycemia during my month-long fast.
Before, learning about low blood sugar, I often felt weak and nauseous during fasts, especially upon waking up. I spent many mornings in the bathroom, dizzy and hunched over a trash can trying not to vomit. You don’t have to suffer. Learn which foods are fast and slow-acting for regulating blood sugar.
If you believe that you are susceptible to hypoglycemia, you need to monitor your blood sugar with a home meter so you can understand your body better. Take a reading when you feel the symptoms and take one after you’ve eaten any of the above foods so you can see what’s working and what doesn’t. Having low blood sugar and not checking it or treating it can lead to hypoglycemic unawareness, where your blood sugar with dropping with no symptoms because your body has grown accustomed to it. This is a risky situation because if you hit dangerous levels, your body won’t send you the signals you need to address it and you could end up passing out.
If you are hoping to adopt a diet of no added sugars, that’s a good thing! But keep in mind that natural sugar is important to our survival, so keep a healthy balance to your brain and physical functions remain strong!
I hope this blog was really helpful to you if you’ve been experiencing any consequences from dieting. If you’d like to know more check out my YouTube video below and happy fasting!