For thousands of years, fasting has been a religious and spiritual act. It is our ancestors’ way of purifying their spirits and showing their sacrifices.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been about a century ago that fasting has become a health practice. Moreover, it’s only been about a couple of decades that experts began studying the physiological benefits of this millennium-old practice.
One major type of fasting is the intermittent fast. It is the kind of fasting that requires the person to fast for a certain period of time and then resume regular eating habits.
A popular intermittent fast is called the 5:2 diet, which calls for a 2-day a week fast. In these two days, which you can choose to your convenience, you are allowed to take only 600 calories per day.
Alternate Day Fasting, on the other hand, allows a person to eat to their heart’s desire on a particular day, and then consume a restricted amount of calories the next day.
My Fasting History
The very first book I read on fasting was written by the legendary Paul Bragg – The Miracle of Fasting. At the time I bought the book, I knew nothing of Bragg. I only knew that I had read a few articles about fasting and decided I wanted to give it a try for greater health. It was by pure luck that I ended up buying Paul’s book.
Before I even read the book and started my first fast I was fascinated by all the mysterious ads on the back cover of the book. Ads about things like amino acids and other books Bragg wrote.
I sensed there was more to this man then met my eye. So I looked into his life story.
A lot of what I read then about Paul has since been proven to have been his own exaggerations. Once Paul saw that he was on to a growing health movement he positioned himself to ride the wave.
And unfortunately he didn’t shy away from embellishing his life story, including the year he was born.
That said, many of Paul’s health practices – such as fasting- have stood the test of time. Several newer types of fasts are in vogue at the moment. As ancient a practice as fasting is, there are many variations.
Recently I came across an article that was very critical of Paul’s exaggerations. The article rightfully points out that anyone could look more youthful if they lied about their age as Paul apparently did. Despite that, the author also acknowledged that he still benefited from Paul’s teachings.
I am not one to condone lying to promote your career. Still, the fact remains that Paul Bragg put out some life changing health teachings and products. I plan on continuing to benefit from those teachings. I still admire Paul for the gifts he gave the world. What is more precious than good health?
Health Benefits of Fasting
The benefits of intermittent fasting are truly promising for health and are supported by a growing body of scientific evidence. These benefits include:
Enhancing insulin sensitivity
Contrary to popular belief, fasting does not cause blood sugar levels to drop or soar abnormally. Moreover, experts agree that doing regular short fasts, which can last between 20 and 36 hours, even enhances insulin sensitivity and can be a great beneficial factor to those who have higher risks of diabetes and heart disease.
Helping to repair damaged cells
Short fasts help minimize oxidative stress, which can trigger cell inflammation. In addition, fasting can also help repair cells that are already damaged, thus aiding in the prevention of cancer development.
Moreover, intermittent or alternate-day fasting, gives us this advantage by turning on our bodies’ repair mechanisms, which rejuvenates our cells and possibly hinders the formation of cancer cells.
Promotes HGH production
HGH or Human Growth Hormone is known to promote physiological changes that help improve our bodies’ overall well-being.
A research group from the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute concluded that men who fast for 24 hours have an increase in HGH circulation of about 2000%, while women who do the same reflect a 1300% rise in HGH levels.
Apart from repairing cells and tissues, HGH benefits include strengthens the tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. Moreover, it hastens skin healing and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Fasting For Weight Loss
I think too many people hear the word “diet” and think “eat less.” That is not necessarily true. Certainly people do go on “diets” to lose weight, counting calories and do eat less but the word itself is much more than that.
Along with its other health benefits, fasting can also lead to weight loss. Intermittent fasting diet plan, for instance, can be a very effective strategy if you want to shed those excess pounds.
But diet really is not just how much you eat, but what you eat. This aspect of dieting is often not given the attention it deserves.
For the most part I have always eaten more “health food” than super market food. I discovered early on that eating fruits and vegetable is not always so healthy. Especially if that food is commercial produce that is saturated with all kinds of pesticides and other chemicals.
Today, I believe fasting is even more important. With the FDA relaxing labeling regulations, it is very difficult to know for sure what you are buying. This is true also for Health Food Stores. A lot of tofu today is genetically engineered. I want that out of my body as soon as possible!
How I Control the Spare Tire
Let’s turn to my spare tire issue. I didn’t get that from eating apples. Ice cream is my down fall. More specifically, Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond. Large! Okay, there is also Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. ..Also large.
I eat ice cream, various foods and fruits and vegetables that have all kinds of impurities in them. Some of these impurities collect in your body and turn into all manner of illness, including cancer.
Yet, I am not overly concerned about that. The reason is that while I eat fairly healthy, I still make sure I fast regularly to detox my system.
Fasting produces a deep cleansing of the internal organs of the body. It is a great benefit to the colon, where some foods, like meat, would otherwise lay there for years waiting to turn into disease. You will also notice a tranquil feeling emotionally. And you will, after time, lose unhealthy weight.
I started fasting before it became popular. Fasting has always been something I did since I was a teenager. I did it for both spiritual and health reasons.
The point of what I am saying is that we all take in poisons to one degree of another, if not from food, certainly from air.
I believe plain water is the best for that. You will not only cleanse your body with a water fast, but also chemical deposits in your body and brain will burn off. A lot of those contaminants cause worry, fear and anxiety.
Fasting is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body.
Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
Fasting for weight loss and other health benefits are gaining in popularity today. Many fasts have made the news recently because of the testimony of many celebrities.
Still, people start practicing these diets in the hope of turning their bodies into the healthy, vibrant physic they always dreamed of. A lot of people fast for health reasons only and then discover the mental and spiritual benefits.
Fasting for spiritual benefits on the other hand is not so main stream. Certainly many religions practice and promote fasting for spiritual benefits to one degree of another.
These folks are conscious of fasting for that reason. But for those of us who turned to fasting for health reasons, the spiritual benefits can be an unexpected bonus.
I know that for people new to fasting you may be thinking, “What spiritual benefits? Headache? Nasty taste in my mouth? What?”
Yes, it is true we do experience unpleasant experiences early into the fast. But that is generally just your body expelling toxins that make us sick. And those symptoms go away after a time.
The spiritual benefits I am talking about include an ever increasing mental “peace.” You actually feel a tranquil state come over you. I actually fasted so long once that I didn’t want to start eating again. It just felt so good mentally and emotionally.
For me, and your experience may be different, I also noticed feelings of tolerance and forgiveness sweep over me. I certainly felt more in touch with my higher-self. Forgiveness and understanding come easier. I worry a lot less- if at all.
I also feel the need to pray more when I fast. I just feel a stronger connection to the creator at that time; or explained more accurately- a less impeded path to the creator.
As we fast, toxins and impurities burn off, making us healthier, and we begin to lose unhealthy weight. It is only natural then that we will feel better mentally.
There are scores of books on the topic of mind-body connection. It is now scientifically proven that your mental state is directly connected to your physical, and vice versa.
So the next time you fast, enjoy the experience beyond the knowledge that you are getting healthier and shedding unwanted pounds.
Embrace the spiritual benefits that you will now be conscious of. Notice how loving and caring you are. Notice that you worry less. And feel and bath in the presence of the Supreme Intelligence – your creator!
Is Fasting Safe?
Although fasting can be beneficial to one’s health and appearance, not everyone can fast. An averagely healthy person could be a candidate for fasting, but of course, like any other forms of diet, there are certain exceptions and these include:
Pregnant and lactating mothers: Although its effects on the fetus are not yet established, pregnant women should refrain from fasting to avoid any complications. On the other hand, some nursing mothers claim that fasting makes their milk “less nutritious”.
Children: Regardless of the weight, the U.S. government does not advise fasting in children. However, if you are in Europe, fasting is permitted as long as the child is obese and the fast is done under the supervision of a medical professional.
Individuals with certain health problems: A person with kidney or liver problems should refrain from any fast. The same goes for people who are malnourished, exhausted, extremely frail, anemic, have compromised immune systems, weak circulation, severe high blood pressure or diabetes.
Individuals with mental conditions: Fasting is not recommended for people with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental conditions.
Persons with eating disorders: Individuals with bulimia, anorexia, or other eating disorders should not be allowed to fast.
People who have had a surgery or serious illness: The body should be allowed to recuperate after a serious illness or surgery. And one should not do a direct fast before undergoing a major surgery.
Fasting Safety Tips
In order to receive the maximum benefits fasting can bring, you should make sure to practice safety during your fast. To be on the safe side, observe the following during your fast days:
Don’t stretch it. Fasting for days in a row is not a prerequisite to getting its benefits. Although some people are capable of fasting for days, a 20-hour fast should be enough to give you health benefits and help you lose weight.
Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will keep your mind and body alert during the fast. It also prevents any complications that may be caused by fasting.
Avoid doing vigorous exercise during your fast. Although it is okay to take your regular walk, running a marathon or doing vigorous exercises is not advisable on your fast day.
A Bit More About Mine Personal Experience With Fasting
I grew up health conscious, and over the years I guess I instinctively picked up some habits, that today, I see are very beneficial to my health.
One of those habits is cleansing my system. And in all honestly, I have always drank “lemon water” or did straight water fasts.
I also learned that I would from time to time lose my motivation to train. So I devised certain little “tricks” to make sure that even when I didn’t train, I was still getting exercise.
These little “tricks” are not original with me. That said, we need to stop looking for new fads or trying to reinvent the wheel.
For example, I will walk to the store that usually I would drive to; I will take the stairs instead of the elevator; I will go on more walks to the park and find a hill to sprint up.
Being Healthy Is Not A Fad!
The point is that being healthy is not a fad. I don’t “diet.” My habits are my diet. I make it a point to load up on nuts, granola or fruit before I have that small piece of cake.
I often buy the cake from an organic store and avoid all the sugar and preservatives. The point is I load up on the healthy foods, avoid or substitute the unhealthy food and just do that everyday.
However, no matter how careful we are about what we put in our bodies, the impurities and toxins will still get in. That is why it is crucial to good health to detox.
At the end of the day, whether I “exercise,” or “diet,” or “fast,” I am doing all of that everyday, instead of treating my health like a fad.
When you treat your health like a fad, the weight you lose, you regain. The “cleansing” you do, is usual not very effective because you have already clogged up your system and the poisoning and damage has begun.
Sadly, I know people who are wealthy but are in poor health. Every one of them has told me they would trade every dime they have to stop the suffering that they are living under due to some affliction.
We have all, at one time or another, been sick and miserable. For some people that is their everyday existence.
Eating live foods, getting plenty of sunshine, water, exercise and practicing fasting sure sound like pretty easy and fun ways to gain and enjoy long-lasting health. And if you want the many benefits of fasting then go for it. Just make sure you are doing it correctly, regardless of your preferred method.
Moreover, it is crucial to monitor how your body reacts. In the long run, you will be amazed how being in sync with your body leads to emotional and spiritual benefits in addition to the health benefits of fasting you initially went for.
So I strongly encourage you to exercise, eat healthy and detox your body regularly. Make fasting a part of your habits and the health benefits will be enormous and you won’t have to struggle through the newest fad.