Over the last wee while I have been doing some research, reading and personal experimentation on fasting. I know, its a bit of a scary word, but it really doesn’t have to be as extreme as you think. Right from the start what I learnt was that its not about starving and/or denying yourself. It is about consciously giving your body and digestive system a break from the constant demand of breaking down, digesting and extracting the nutrients from the food we eat. Consider it a weekend off for your insides.
There are all sorts of extreme ways that people fast, and while there are proven benefits, a lot of the time it is simply to out there or to hard for people, including myself, to even bother. This is why I personally find a 24 hour raw fruit/vegetable fast an achievable option. 1) It’s not to long. 2) I don’t miss out on dinner (critical point :-)) and 3) you still get to actually eat. What’s not to love, all the benefits of fasting without giving up eating!
The health benefits of fasting are not new concepts, a lot of the oldest religions and health regimes in the world include some sort of fasting. I like to look at it simply as giving your body/gut/cells a day off work. If you have a day off work, you get a chance to chill out, relax and maybe get a few extra bits of cleaning and tidying done that had piled up around the house. Fasting effectively does the same thing inside you body. Every single bit of food or drink that we consume has to be physically moved through the digestive system by our muscles, it has to be processed and broken down into usable components and waste products and toxins have to be removed. All of this requires energy and attention from the cells that form our digestive system. When we stop putting food in for a bit, these cells have a chance to relax, refuel and potentially have a bit of a house clean of toxins, waste and old dead cells that they have not had time to sort. This helps our digestion to work more efficiently when we are eating, so that we can extract the best possible nutrition from the food that we eat. When our digestive system is clean and eliminating waste well, we will see improvement in issues from bad skin to bad breath, water retention, bloating, and constipation just to name a few.
Fasting is also a great idea if you feel you are coming down with a cold or something, it gives our cells the chance to throw all their energy at fighting and removing bugs and virus’ rather than just focusing on processing our last meal. Another benefit I have personally found from doing 24 hour fasts is that it really helps you to become more aware of when you are truly hungry, and when you are just eating from habit or boredom. It really drives home how little we really need to eat and how often our head rather than our body is telling us we are hungry. The immediate benefits are that you feel more light and bouncy, not weighed down with a bloated tummy or undigested food and often times you feel less tired and more alert.
What I have found works best for me is (as I have said) a 24 hour fast. Sometimes I do one a week, sometimes its not that often. I didn’t feel to inclined to do it during the winter, but have started again now that is warming up and I am feeling like eating fresh raw food. How I do it, is 24 hours starting after tea one night, up until tea time the next day. In reality it might be just under 24 hours, depending on when you eat tea, but it’s the general idea that counts. Doing it this way means I don’t miss out on tea, which is just too hard when I still have to cook for everyone else. I usually do it on a day that I am at work, so that I am not at home and around food that I can just eat whenever, where ever. Because lets face it, even for just one day of not eating, its still a bit of a commitment and takes a wee bit of self-control, but I have found that it does get easier. What I eat is any fruit, vegetables, salad, juice or smoothies that I feel like, just as long as it’s something in its natural grown form and is raw. Pretty much you can eat as much as you like to feel full, satisfied and not lacking in energy, but bare in mind that suddenly going crazy on raw food when you are not used to it can also have some interesting side effects, if you know what I mean. So eat what you need, but keep it in perspective that the whole point of this is to give your body a break, not to stuff it to bursting with banana, kale and blueberry smoothie!
The hardest parts of the 24 hour period I find are around 11 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Not sure why but those are the hard hours for me, but just drink plenty of water and think about how good you feel. The other hard part is not going all out crazy when dinner time does roll around. There is probably not a whole lot of point in doing a 24 hour fast if you just go and over eat to compensate straight after.
When you get used to fasting, and if you are generally have a pretty clean and healthy diet, you will probably feel quite good during a fast. However, if you do not eat very healthy or are just starting to change your diet, or a used to a lot of processed food, or have never fasted before you may actually not feel so good to begin with. This is because your body will be ridding itself of built of toxins and waste and this can cause headaches and sort of flu like symptoms. I found the very first fast that I did I felt great, but the next couple I had headaches and felt a bit tired, then a started to feel great again. So bare with it and realize the world of good you are doing for yourself, having a spring clean.
There is lots of information out there about fasting. Jason Shon Bennet from the Exceptional Health Company is a big fasting advocate, and has actually done up to 30 day juice fasts. Also Joe Cross from the documentaries “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” and “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead 2”, which I would recommend people watch for an interesting perspective on turning around a lifetime of ill health through fasting and changing our diet. Have a read, do some research for yourself and give it a go.