To feast or fast?

Bharat Savur | Updated on March 14, 2018

All or none?   -  M. Periasamy

There are a lot of pros to fasting and, perhaps, only one con. The best thing a fast does is: it enables the body and mind to discern between true hunger and a false appetite. Hunger, a natural instinct as old as cave-folk, is so naturally allied with good health that we actually lose our sense of taste when we're ill. In fact, often, an illness is saying, “You've been OD-ing on food too long. Back off, buster!” Hippocrates would smile at this modern version of his statement, “When you feed the sick, you feed the disease.”

There's delicious irony here. For, many of us are food-addicts (we kindly call ourselves ‘foodies'.) Ah yes, the more we eat, the more we feed our addiction.

And acidity and cravings caused by longish hours of not eating are nothing but withdrawal symptoms.

Naturopathy says the basic fast is simple: no food, only water. If undertaken joyously, you rid yourself of food-addiction. It's like giving up smoking. Senses sharpen. The faintest smells hit the nostrils. Things appear brightly etched. The mind becomes alert and crystal clear. And post-fast, the sensitised taste-buds catch subtle ambrosial flavours in the simplest of foods.

The healing results of a fast are marvellous — the blood cholesterol decreases, blood pressure drops, breathing eases as the lungs de-congest, pimples, pigmentation and their ilk exit, leaving the skin fresh, youthful, glowing.

Ah yes, fasting is a fountain of youth too. Years ago, a simple experiment at the University of Chicago showed astonishing results. A healthy 30-year-old fasted for 14 days and…voila! his tissues regressed to the biological bloom of a 17-year-old!

However, I wouldn't advise jumping with both feet into the fasting waters. Let your doctor and a clinical dietician hold your hand if you have diabetes. If the blood sugar drops abruptly, you can get disoriented. Medical monitoring is also mandatory for a person with a suspect liver or kidney. As these organs help eliminate gross matter from the system, a fast increases their workload as the toxins pour out. Similarly, anyone with a heart condition ought to guard against the heartbeat overly slowing down or speeding up. Initially, enrolling into a health farm may be wiser.

The one con of fasting is that rigorous fasting slows down metabolism by about 20 per cent. When you resume normal eating, you gain weight quicker. It can be disheartening. That's why, I don't recommend it for weight-loss.

I advocate the no-breakfast fast that I've been on for years. Here, it's no food, only jeera-water and a cup of tea/coffee in the morning.

I find that when my digestive system is restful, the body is more energetic.

Lunch should be light — a whole wheat sandwich, salad, a glass of buttermilk. Dinner is steamed vegetable rice- dal- khichdi , salad, curd.

If you've been feeling heavy or out-of-sorts, try it out.

If you adjust well to this fast, you may have found the right-dose-at-the-right-time food-formula for yourself. It's a gentler, more effective lifestyle than fasting for days and feasting forever after. The body feels light.

There's no weakness, no weariness, rather there's a great feeling of being-in-wellness with the body and a joy in moving around effortlessly.

Once you're set on this course, fine-tune further. Go on a moderate salt-fast. You don't stop salt altogether, just desist adding that ‘little extra' to already salted, cooked food. No sprinkling it on the curd either. Be consistent to give your taste-buds a fair chance to adjust.

Next, go on a sugar-fast. Eat sweet fruits (apple, banana, sweet lime, guava) instead of biscuits. Try honey in your tea. Honey has a host of vitamins while sugar has zilch.

Never go on a water-fast. Always, always drink at least one and half litres per day.

Walking the middle path demands a strong resolve and a good environment. If you have people who encourage and applaud your efforts, you're half-way there. To those who disparage, say firmly, without anger, “I need your support. Thank you.”

Avoid stressful situations. They can have you reaching for a chocolate cookie as a smoker reaches for a cigarette.

Exercise daily. It whips up adrenaline and determination.

Read and listen to something beautiful that awakens the poet, romanticist, mystic in you. Good food for thought makes food virtually redundant. Drink water every time a craving hits you. Chew gum if you need to keep your mouth moving.

In your spare time, play table tennis, carom, solitaire… Or pick up any hobby that interests and absorbs you — a huge jigsaw puzzle, for example, that you head for instead of the refrigerator.

And if you occasionally give in to your foodie side, don't feel guilty. As the Master said, “When you are guilty, it's not your sins you hate, it's yourself.” We can't allow that.

The writer is co-author of the book Fitness for Life.

Published on November 17, 2011

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