The feast of fall is always followed by the famine of spring. Fall’s harvest is rich in sugars from fruit and starchy carbs from root veggies and grains. The excess fuel from this high-sugar, high-carb diet is stored as fat which the body uses as a source of insulation and energy for the long, cold winter ahead.
By the end of winter, traditionally, the reserves of grains, tubers, nuts and seeds would be waning. Early spring is nature’s fasting season—little if any food is being harvested.
It is not a coincidence that most religions practice some type of spiritual fasting in the spring. Native Americans would go on fasting vision quests, Christians observe Lent, the Jewish practice Passover, Ramadan for Muslims, and the Hindu holiday, Shivaratri.
These rituals are from times past, when the early spring was a period of scarcity. Traditional life was a balance of feast and famine, with the feast being at the end of summer, and the famine being at the end of winter and early spring.
Early spring is the best time of year to burn the fat we used to insulate us all winter. Fasting forces the body to burn fat as fuel. Fat burns slow and steady compared to the carbs of fall, which raise blood sugars and spike energy. Unlike sugar, fat is a slow-burning, long-lasting, sleep-through-the-night, handle stress, and become more introspective fuel. Fat is the spiritual fuel.
While we all enjoy the feast of fall, now is the time to learn how to enjoy the famine of spring.
The science is clear—humans thrive during periods of famine. Forcing the body to burn fat with extreme diets such the Ketogenic diet, Atkins, Paleo, and other variations of the low-no carb theme have become very trendy but, in nature, a reset for fat as fuel happens naturally every spring.
The famine of spring is nature’s way to enforce a season of intermittent fasting. This is also nature’s time to cleanse and detox. Nobel Prize-winning science has found that fasting increases a process called autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning house. It happens during starvation, calorie restriction, and fasting. Autophagy is one method that the body uses to naturally neutralize cancer cells and degrade cells infected by harmful bacteria and viruses. (1)
We RecommendIntermittent Fasting, Autophagy + Ayurveda
Intermittent fasting has been linked to numerous health benefits, including: (6)
- Decreased diabetes risk
- Decreased cardiovascular risk
- Improved longevity
- Protection against cancer
- Reduced risk of neurological concerns
- Decreased inflammation
- Balanced lipid levels
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced oxidative stress
- Balanced weight
Our ancestors reaped the benefits of intermittent fasting quite naturally, as the availability of food was scarce and what was harvested in the early spring was very low in fat. The naturally-occurring, low-fat diet of spring forces the body to derive energy from burning its own stored fat. If you were lucky enough to pig out during the feast of fall, you still had some fat to burn each spring.
Spring is truly weight loss season and with one-third of Americans obese, it seems that many of us could stand to lose a few pounds each spring.
Ayurveda suggests that the spring is the best time to fast as it is kapha season. Kapha season is heavy and watery—fasting and seasonal eating are great ways to lighten up. Here are a few easy spring fasting strategies:
- Fast one day a week, having only water or vegetable juice. (Longer fasts on water should be supervised.)
- Eat a good breakfast and lunch, and skip dinner.
- A daily 13-hour fast. After dinner, eat nothing from 6pm to 7am. Water is OK.
Reset Fat Burning with Ayurveda
In addition to fasting in the spring, Ayurveda suggests cleansing with ghee as a way to reset fat for fuel, lose weight, and strengthen one’s digestion and microbiome for the year to come. Ghee has been used for thousands of years to support detoxification and a healthy microbiome and, now, there is ample science to back it up!
A couple of years ago, I was contacted by an editor from Women’s World Magazine asking if I could suggest a weight loss cleanse. I suggested my free Short Home Cleanse eBook—a self-guided, 4-day, time-tested Ayurvedic cleanse that resets fat for fuel and typically helps folks lose that unwanted winter weight.
The magazine organized a focus group of their readers to do the cleanse. The results were quite overwhelming and amazing, so they ran a cover story on this very simple 4-day cleanse!
The Short Home Cleanse is a powerful way to reset fat-burning, naturally support healthy weight loss and strengthen digestion.
The cleanse starts by ingesting small increasing amounts of ghee (clarified butter) every morning for four days while eating a non-fat diet of kitchari (split yellow mung beans and basmati rice cooked into a soup). Kitchari is an Ayurvedic superfood that is extremely nourishing for the lining of the intestinal tract. It also supports a healthy environment for a new population of spring microbes to thrive in the gut.
We RecommendKitchari: Benefits, Recipe + Cleansing Tips
Starting the day with ghee forces the body to burn fat, as ghee is a healthy fat loaded with butyric acid—the primary food for our gut microbes. (4) Eating a non-fat diet allows the body to remain in fat metabolism. Typically, by the second or third day, the hunger subsides, the energy rises, and you slip into a calm fat metabolic state.
The ghee also forces the gallbladder to contract, supporting healthy bile flow and detoxification. In one study with 88 subjects, 48 of them underwent a ghee cleanse and they saw a significant reduction of 9 different environmental PCB dioxin toxins and 8 pesticide toxins. According to Ayurveda, ghee can be used to help pull fat-soluble toxins out of the body. (5)
Top Ten Reasons to Cleanse with Ghee
- Flushes old bile from the body.
- Stimulates the liver to make new bile, so 94% of old toxic bile is not re-absorbed. (6)
- Scrubs the intestines of toxins opportunistic bacteria.
- Supports the primary source of energy and immunity for the cells of the gut. (7)
- Supports the health of the beneficial bacteria in the gut who make butyrate. (7)
- Lubricates and softens the tissues of the body.
- Pulls stored fat-soluble toxins and molecules of emotion out of the body. (8)
- Encourages fat metabolism and weight loss. (8)
- Supports stable mood and energy levels.
- Supports the body’s natural defense mechanisms against bad bacteria and overgrowth. (7)