Curious thing about fasting: It teaches you how to eat.
Fasting means going entirely without food and just making do with (plenty of) water. A fast can be as brief as 12 hours or as long as weeks, though the most common duration is between 18 and 72 hours.
I advocate brief periods of fasting for its many health benefits, such as reduction of blood pressure and blood sugar, reduction of inflammatory responses, weight loss, and reduced heart attack risk. Populations who fast enjoy less heart disease. The Mormons, for instance, who fast for 24 hours every 30 days, were shown to have 20-40% reduced likelihood of coronary disease and diabetes in a recent survey.
How can fasting teach you any lessons about food and eating? People who fast will tell you that the experience:
--Helps you appreciate food tastes when you resume eating. After a fast, flavors are stronger; sensations like sweet, sweet, or salty are sharper; you become reacquainted with food textures.
--Makes you realize how you ate too much before your fast. After completing a fast, you will be satisfied with less. You will eat more for taste and enjoyment, less for satiety and mindless indulgence.
--Makes you more mindful of the act of eating. For many of us, eating has become an automatic activity that provides fleeting satisfaction. After a fast, each bite of food brings its own special enjoyment.
--Reveals to you how awful you felt when many foods were eaten. For example, many people are physically ill after eating pancakes, pizza, or other highly processed foods but cease to recognize it. Remove offensive foods during a fast and you might realize just how bad you felt.
--Takes away fear of hunger. Many people have a gut-wrenching fear of hunger. It's probably partly instinctive, that animal-like fear of not knowing when your next meal is coming, partly the abnormal, artificial drive to eat ignited by processed foods like wheat flour and corn syrup.
--Makes you realize just how much of your day is spent in activities associated with food. Shopping, eating, cleaning up, thinking and talking about food all occupy an extraordinary portion of everyone's life. A fast opens your eyes to just how much time is spent in these pursuits. Sometimes, gaining an awareness of a mindless, repetitive behavior can provide the first step towards changing direction.
Most people consider a fast only for weight loss. But fasting is far more than that. Perhaps fasting has become a religious practice because of its capacity for spiritual enlightenment, reawakening, and revelation. We can use the same practice for nutritional enlightenment and reawakening.
Fasting is not something to fear. It can be an enlightening process that can serve to abruptly sever bad habits, perhaps even turn the clock back on prior dietary and lifestyle excesses.
Note: Hydration is crucial during a fast for any period. Also speak to your doctor about your medications if you consider a fast; some medicines, like blood pressure medications, may need to be suspended during a fast, since blood pressure drops. Diabetics also should only conduct a fast after consulting with their doctor.