Fasting has been a practice of healing the body for centuries. I am not talking about current trends that call for you to drink copious amounts of cayenne laced lemonade for 10-30 days. This article will deal with some reasonable methods of fasting based on traditional practices from other cultures.
The concept itself is fairly simple and does not, nor should, not require “starving” yourself. Simply eliminating food for days on end without a proper plan will result in your body falling into survival mode. You may burn important muscle mass to get energy and may actually make it more difficult to shed pounds if your purpose in fasting is weight loss. I do not endorse fasting as a mode of losing weight, which should be done in a sensible manner with a balanced diet, exercise and the consultation of a trained wellness coach or doctor. Always check with your doctor first before taking on any major change in your diet or exercise. However, there are some basic elements of fasting that can be done by any healthy persona at anytime. If you have any illness or serious disease, find a holistic doctor who should walk you through this process.
Fasting is a lot like cleaning house – you get rid of excess baggage that is holding you down in any way- physically or emotionally. A fast from any processed foods, sugars, sweets, caffeine or alcohol will benefit anyone and help your body be healthier overall. It would be ideal to fast for short periods from these foods that can lead to completely eliminating these anti-nutrients from your diet. True therapeutic fasting totally eliminates any food, relying only on water, and should only be undertaken under the guidance of a physician.
The history of fasting dates back to biblical times. Daniel’s Diet is a fast based on the Biblical historical figure, Daniel who was captured and sent to Babylon to be trained under the King’s leadership. Daniel requested that instead of eating the rich foods of the king, that he and his companions eat only fruits & vegetables and in time they would see Daniel was healthier because of the wholesome diet. Daniel’s Diet is a sensible fast that eliminates everything except fruits & vegetables and cleanses the mind, body & spirit. Lent is a common time when many people of faith give up something to prepare their hearts for Easter. The ancient Greeks practiced fasting regularly, including Hippocrates who stated
“Our food should be our medicine, our medicine should be our food”. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness” and Plutarch who commented
“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day”.
What should you fast from? Since fasting is often a mind, body & spirit exercise in wellness, you can fast from many things. The most common are processed foods ( including anti-nutrients: processed foods, candy, soda) alcohol, smoking, really anything that has become a habit that challenges your will power. This could include watching tv, reading gossip magazines, gambling or any other habit that keeps you from focusing on who you are as a person and making the best choices in your life. Many of these things are not harmful in and of themselves, but if we participate in an activity and it consumes much of our thinking, it might be time for a fast. We are creatures of habit and some habits are defining who we are. Fasting can be effective to our emotional selves when we choose to fast from things or habits that distract our attention from what is most important to us.
When is a good time to Fast? Some people fast when they need to make an important decision about something. Fasting can improve your mental clarity when your body is not bogged down with sugars and chemicals that may give you a “brain fog”. Some people fast as an act of worship in their religion and as a way to accentuate a time of prayer and devotion. Fasting can be done before undertaking a change in diet as a beginning to clean up your eating habits.
It is also important to keep in mind when it is not appropriate to fast
- When you have important deadlines due for work or family
- Before an important event (wedding, trip or major performance) anytime
- If you are going through a difficult situation or major crisis
- If you have any illness that requires medical care
Fasting should be done when you have time to plan, reflect and rest to maximize the benefits. If you suffer from any major illness, consult with your holistic practitioner to plan a therapeutic fast to improve your health situation.
Breaking a fast is just as important as starting a fast. You’ve given your body time rest and renew, so you should ease yourself back into eating other foods like meat, carbs, eggs & dairy. You may even find you are feeling better without many of these as you limit your intake of them in the future.
Essential oils can compliment a period of fasting. Food grade citrus oils like lemon and tangerine will help move toxins out of your system and drinking citrus flavored water can help you feel satisfied from cravings. Some essential oils like grapefruit act as a diuretic and may help move stagnant fluid out of your body. Make sure you are replacing lost fluids with plenty of pure water.
Peppermint Putting food grade peppermint essential oil in your drinking water may help decrease overall inflammation in your body. It will give you energy when you need it rather than relying on caffeinated beverages that will undermine your efforts to fast. Peppermint oil can also ease digestive issues as your system eliminates toxins from your colon. Apply a drop of peppermint essential oil on your tongue to curb your appetite .
Lavender Taking salt-water baths with lavender essential oil and massaging areas of cellulite with therapeutic grade essential oils may further move toxins out of your system. Lavender can also calm your nerves if you become anxious about craving what you are fasting from.
Empower yourself with your health and focus on the things you can do while fasting rather than on what you are missing and the time you are fasting will be successful. Above all, be sensible. Fasting is a good activity to improve your mental clarity, boost your energy and possibly lose some extra weight when combined with proper diet and exercise. Fasting has a reputation for creating weight loss. More importantly, it allows your major organs to rest and heal so they work optimally. For the long run, doing a reasonable fast like Daniel’s Diet or an Ayervedic Kitchari Cleanse 4-5 times a year will help to strengthen your psyche, eliminate toxins and give your body a break from less-than-ideal foods.