Health Care and Fasting

- April 30, 2014
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When you purposely go for a period of time and not eat or drink, the experience is commonly known as a fast. Fasting can be going without food or liquids or both for a specific time frame, and is done for a variety of reasons. Going on a fast may have spiritual implications, or for the purpose of losing weight, preparing for a medical procedure, or for some other reason to the one who is going into the fasting period. However, there can be certain physical and mental risks to fasting. No one should enter into a fast unless they have consulted their doctor to make sure they are capable of withstanding a loss of food or liquids for a specific time.

According to, there are those dieters who believe that skipping meals will actually kick start the weight loss process. But experts know better -- bypassing breakfast, lunch or dinner is actually the quickest way to derail your diet efforts. While it may help you lose weight in the short term, it's actually water weight. In addition, fasting can cause dizziness and fatigue.

When your body goes into starvation mode and you can no longer tolerate the hunger, you're likely to binge and pack the weight back on...and then some. Even worse than that, it may increase your risk of diabetes. Researchers at the National Institute on Aging recorded elevated fasting glucose level and delayed insulin response -risk factors of diabetes -- in people who skipped meals and overate in the evenings.

In most cases, a spiritual fast involves abstaining from food while focusing on prayer. This can mean refraining from snacks between meals, skipping one or two meals a day, abstaining only from certain foods, or a total fast from all food for an entire day or longer.

For medical reasons, some people may not be able to fast from food altogether. They may choose to abstain only from certain foods, like sugar or chocolate, or from something other than food. In truth, believers can fast from anything. Doing without something temporarily, such as television or soda, as a way of redirecting your focus from earthly things toward God can also be considered a spiritual fast. Much more information about spiritual fasting can be found at this website:

According to Men’s Journal online, it seems counterintuitive, but skipping meals helps you feel more energized, recover better from exercise, blast fat, and retain lean muscle mass, and even protects your body from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive decline – which is why NASA is interested in looking at fasting to improve the cognitive functioning of pilots and unmanned-aerial-vehicle operators.

How does skipping meals provide these types of benefits? Because people sometimes went days between meals, bodies were designed to survive in times of feast and famine. Most Americans now live off a constant drip of processed food, which keeps blood sugars elevated and immune systems depressed. More material on this subject can be found at this site:

Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a dieting pattern. In simpler terms: it’s making a conscious decision to skip certain meals. Intermittent fasting can potentially have some very positive benefits for somebody trying to lose weight or gain lean body mass, according to Men and women will tend to have different results, just like each individual person has a different result. The only way to find out is with self-experimentation.There are multiple ways to “do” intermittent fasting:
  • Fast and feast regularly: Fast for a certain number of hours, then consume all calories within a certain number of hours.
  • Eat normally, then fast 1-2x a week: Consume your normal meals every day, then pick one or two days a week where you fast for 24 hours. Eat your last meal Sunday night, and then don’t eat again until dinner the following day.
  • Fast occasionally: probably the easiest method for the person who wants to do the least amount of work. Simply skip a meal whenever it’s convenient. On the road? Skip breakfast. Busy day at work? Skip lunch. Eat poorly all day Saturday? Make your first meal of the day dinner on Sunday.
By fasting and then feasting on purpose, intermittent fasting means eating your calories during a specific window of the day, and choosing not to eat food during the rest. Much more info on this topic is available at this website:

Fasting requires discipline but also involves getting to know yourself. One of the reasons it is part of numerous religious traditions is that fasting is a great way to discover things about yourself and what you believe. Fasting is a journey of discovery. Some elements of your experience will be similar to other peoples' experiences but the combination of reactions, insights, challenges, and success you have will be unique to your fasting practice, according to John Demlin who manages the “How to Fast” website.

If you have become motivated to fast and have never done so before you will need to begin to learn how your respond mentally and physically to not eating. As you gain experience you will discover your own set of internal challenges. These will be physical and mental. There will also be external challenges. As you move through your day you go from place to place you will inevitably come across food. This is true whether you stay at home, go to work or are on vacation. You will also find yourself in different social situations.

These may be interactions with your family, co-workers, and people that are part of the social communities that you have in your life. Interactions that you have with others can be a challenge because many social interactions involve food. There are also many social norms that influence how people think and feel about eating. All of these internal and external forces come into play when you carry out a fast. Once your fast is completed you can potentially realize more benefits and avoid some discomfort by being aware of a few things.

You have just put your body through a period of heightened detoxification. If you have been on an extended fast, you should have sought medical guidance that includes plans for how you will deal with some potentially serious issues once your fast ends. Your body has adjusted to a different state and you should not severely shock it by eating and drinking things that will cause discomfort and physical problems.

Even if you are not coming off a long restrictive fast (and are following the medically provided plan you have in place to break it!), you should carefully consider your first meal. The health effects of shorter fasts, for instance, can be extended by eating a simple but nutritious meal. If your fast has gone longer than a day, there is also a chance that you may experience discomfort that can include diarrhea or other sickness if you eat too heavy or too dense a meal when you break your fast. Much more detail on fasting can be found at this website:

Fasting is done for many reasons. Many organizations of all types offer suggestions or tips on various ways to fast. When you decide to fast, always make sure you are prepared and have the right reasons in mind. Then, follow the instructions that have been provided, and check in with your doctor before and after to make certain you are healthy. Whether you are fasting for spiritual, physical, mental, or other purposes, it makes sense to always be careful.

Until next time.
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