We all know that eating well is crucial to health, but we are afraid to talk honestly about our struggles with it. It is time to step outside of your comfort zone, to test your willpower and to examine what arises. Today, I am going to invite you to challenge your attachment to food by introducing how and why to fast.
The choices and amounts of food that we eat are out of control. This is partially due to physical imbalance, mental weakness and spiritual hibernation. So let’s talk about the power of not eating. Let’s master the art of being OK with the discomfort of abstaining from food.
Fasting is not a tool for weight loss. Hippocrates, Jesus and Buddha all practiced it, and I do not think their goal was to get slim. Fasting is the world’s oldest form of healing. It is a universal method for improving your well-being through building physical immunity, mental toughness and spiritual capacity. It gives your digestive system a rest, softens your attachment to food, and offers yourself space to be.
I have been fasting for almost a decade and do so quarterly. I fast after the seasons change (such as during the first week of spring, hint, hint), after I endure extended periods of lethargy, and after I make poor dietary decisions.
I used to fast for five to seven days at a time using The Master Cleanse. But I lost too much weight on it, and its signature maple syrup-cayenne-lemon juice cocktail tastes like crap! A water fast would make me lose even more weight because it offers no calories. So my weapon of choice is a three-day juice fast.
1. Physical benefits: Fasting resets your batteries by letting your digestive system rest. This allows your immune system to strengthen and your body to repair itself.
Before implementing fasting into my health regimen, I was constantly sick. Bronchitis, salmonella poisoning, mono, strep throat and staph infections hospitalized me on multiple occasions. In the past five years, I have not been sick beyond a mild cold and have not used antibiotics.
Fasting is an oil change for the body. Within 24 hours, the body stops sending enzymes into the stomach because there is no food for them to digest. Instead, it shoots these enzymes into the intestines and bloodstream, where they circulate and gobble up waste, dead cells and pollutants. The organs, tissues and cells receive rest and a cleaning. This purifies the blood and rebalances natural functions.
The general benefits of fasting are vast and include: rest for digestive organs, detoxification, clearer thoughts, clearer skin, increase in energy, change of dietary habits, stronger resistance to disease, reduction of allergies, anti-aging effects and overall revitalization.
2. Mental benefits: In addition to general physical benefits, fasting offers unique mental experiences to each practitioner. Fasting is easy and even enjoyable for some, while challenging for others. For me, it is both.
The challenge of fasting has taught me to be mentally tough. This tenacity affords me perspective on how much I really need to consume. After a fast, I can question my impulses to eat. Am I hungry? Or am I distracting myself from other feelings? This leads to awareness about my tendencies and healthier dietary habits.
I also find fasts to be relaxing. Consider how much time we spend thinking about food, buying food, preparing food, eating food, cleaning up after eating food and eliminating food. Consider how many of our social activities revolve around food and drink. Fasts clear these tasks and activities from my schedule as well as lower my energy to engage with the external world. This allows my body and, therefore, my mind to slow so that they can reset.
3. Spiritual benefits: Fasting also invites spiritual exploration. As my mind slows, I discover space to look honestly at my attachment to consumption. This starts with food and extends to all material goods, as I also do not feel compelled to buy as much stuff when I am fasting. In this space, I gain insight on my tendencies, which allows me to connect to myself more deeply than usual.
The top concerns for first-time fasters are lacking enough self-control to miss a meal and passing out from low blood sugar. Both of these fears are not true.
1. Fasting will challenge you. But let that be OK! If it were easy, more people would be able to control their eating habits.
2. You can miss a meal or two or 10. Humans can go for days without food. If we could not, we would not have survived for millennia during tough times.
1. Tread lightly when experimenting with your first fast. Start with no more than three days.
2. Be sure to use organic juices to avoid adding more toxins to your system. Drink freshly pressed juices from your own juicer or a juice bar, not from a bottle. Fresh juices lose their potency fast, and the pasteurization of most bottled juices kills the majority of the vital nutrients.
3. Find a combination of juices that you enjoy, as they will be your only form of sustenance. My favorite juice for fasting is 8 ounces of carrot juice, 2 ounces of beet juice, and 2 ounces of cucumber juice. This is a fantastic liver, kidney and skin purifier. Do not worry if your skin starts to turn a little orange. This is a sign that your liver is expelling toxins, not a reflection of the color of the carrots.
4. Drink as much juice as you need to satiate yourself and to disarm hunger cravings. Drink as much water as you desire. You may also enjoy caffeine-free peppermint tea to alleviate hunger pains. Whatever you do, DO NOT EAT. This includes even a little snack or a smoothie, which contains undigested fiber. The second you put undigested food into your system, the detoxifying effects of a fast come to a halt.
5. Eat a large vegetable salad for dinner the night before beginning a fast. Eat only light, water-rich fruit, such as oranges or watermelon, for breakfast the morning after ending a fast. For lunch, eat a small vegetable salad. Then, slowly start to reintroduce other food into your system.
Fasting can revitalize your physical system, build mental toughness and offer spiritual insight. Decide whether it is right for you. Always consult your doctor before starting a fast to ensure you are healthy enough for the challenge, especially if you have chronic health issues or are obese. Feel free to leave comments with any questions.
Feeling run-down and in need of a boost? If you are ready to take control of your health, contact me today about private wellness coaching!
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.