Dr. Will Cole Explains Conscious Eating and Metaphysical Meals
Intuitive Fasting 101: What to Eat And When
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, and author of Intuitive Fasting, is a renowned and celebrity-beloved functional medicine expert. In his years of clinical experience, he has noticed how chronic inflammation and states of metabolic imbalance push people into states of bodily disconnection that are anathema to wellness. “When your body is out of balance, it can be very difficult to discern what your body really does need to build vibrant wellness,” Cole says. He is known for his use of intuitive fasting, one of his favorite tools for recovering this connection to the body’s innate healing wisdom.
Below, learn more about how Dr. Cole’s philosophy differs from conventional thought as he works with his patients to rē-connect with themselves and to empower them on their healing journeys.
Functional Medicine: rē•spinning convention
Too often, patients head to the doctor with symptoms impacting their quality of life, yet end up without an official diagnosis. It comes down to the fact that “normal” lab tests actually speak to a broad range of averages dubbed “healthy.” As you have likely experienced, this standardized notion of wellness simply does not speak to the intricacies of our individual health. As Dr. Cole points out, the decline into disease begins long before the diagnosis actually shows up on your lab test; by this time, you have likely been experiencing adverse symptoms for a while.
This grey area between imbalance and full-blown diagnosis is where the beauty of functional medicine can truly shine. Put simply, functional medicine experts take a look at your holistic functioning to help make your health plan meet you where you’re at, rather than forcing you to adapt to normative ranges. As a functional medicine expert, Dr. Cole seeks to hone in on your body’s unique rhythms and to help you find what levels truly reflect your ideal state of functioning—hopefully addressing the root causes of imbalance before they develop into the full-blown diagnosis.
“Our goal is to shed much more light onto your particular health situation, so you won’t fall through the cracks of the standard model of care and remain untreated and suffering until you are ill enough to finally get a diagnosis,” he says, at which point the advanced diagnosis is also more difficult to treat. “Functional medicine takes into account that we’re all designed a little differently, so what works for one person isn’t necessarily best for you.”
Intuitive Fasting: rē•spinning mealtimes
One of Cole’s favorite tools for improving the health of his patients is fasting — but it’s not the strict, rigid type of fast you’re likely thinking of. “I wanted to eliminate the strict dogma that can sometimes be associated with intermittent fasting and bring in concepts from mindful eating that allows a person to really lean into what works best for them during different periods of their life,” Cole says.
This type of fasting helps promote metabolic flexibility and rē-spins your relationship with food. You’re allowed to eat when you’re actually hungry rather than as a response to emotional stress or cravings. “When blood sugar is balanced, satiety signaling is improved, inflammation is lowered, the gut is healthier, and metabolism is more stable, we will be able to eat and gently fast intuitively. Here, in my experience, you can find food peace. This means you are centered and in touch with your body instead of allowing the food to control you.” His new book contains a four-week program contained to help you strategically eat and fast to reset your body, recharge your metabolism, renew your cells, and rebalance your hormones.
Does This Vary Between Men and Women?
One of the common criticisms of intermittent fasting is that it is not appropriate for women, in whom it can cue and prolong a state of bodily stress. In Cole’s experience, some female patients do experience success with fasting, ranging from menstrual regularity, improved weight loss reduced bodily inflammation, and improved hormonal acne. But others do better with a “lighter” schedule of cyclical fasting windows that he calls a Cyclical Ketotarian approach. This diet and schedule consist of a mostly plant-based, keto diet.
“Does this mean that women who are sensitive to intermittent fasting shouldn’t do it at all? No, for those individuals, it may just require some more gentle fasting windows around certain days of their cycle, and some more clean carb-up days to be added to their long-term lifestyle plan,” Cole explains. Cole explains how to do so at greater length in his new book. To try it out, you can try increasing your clean carb intake (i.e., fruits, potatoes, rice) on days one and two of your menstrual cycle, and again on days nineteen and twenty, which is approximately five days after ovulation. Remember, however, that the key is to tune into your body and its unique needs.
The End Goal: Conscious Eating and Metaphysical Meals
“When you feel more grounded and centered physically, it can improve every other area of your life,” Cole explains. “Using mealtime as a meditation and flexibly fasting as a meditation is something I call ‘metaphysical meals.’ It’s not just about what you’re eating. What are you serving your head and heart?”
While a rigid adherence to a new diet can exacerbate an unhealthy relationship with food, rē-spinning your diet to accommodate your body’s needs is a way to make mealtimes more mindful. Remember that food is medicine, and infusing consciousness and presence into the way you nourish your body can also go a long way in tuning-in to the wisdom of the mind-body connection.
“I teach you how to eat consciously,” Cole asserts of the ritualistic way he makes mealtime sacred. When you are fasting, use it as a mental exercise: rē-spin your mindset away from a lack-mentality (of how you are not eating), and redirect your attention within. “Use this time of stillness to look inward,” Cole directs. “The magic often hides in the spaces we are ignoring.”
Kale, Brussels Sprout, and Blueberry Salad
- 1 ½ cups chopped kale
- 1 ½ cups shredded Brussels sprouts
- ⅓ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon no-sugar-added whole-grain mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 to 6 drops liquid stevia, or to taste
- ½ cup blueberries
- To make the salad, combine the kale, brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, and jalapeno in a large bowl.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and liquid stevia until well blended.
- Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and toss until well coated. Add the blueberries and toss gently. Combine between two plates.