The other day while on my walk I got to thinking about the amazing benefits of fasting. It’s no secret it’s a topic I am very passionate about, and today I’d like to share exactly why it is I think fasting is so amazing.
I can see why fasting would have a little bit of a stigma surrounding it. In todays world overeating (consciously and not) is the norm and because of this, most people can’t fathom going a few hours without solid food, let alone any longer. We’re all very focused on eating, constantly, for different reasons. But it’s important to realize our bodies are very well adapt to going without food for extended periods of time. In fact, both research and common sense indicate it might very well even be far healthier than chronic overeating. Now, I am not going to turn hardcore hippie on you and promote chronic fasting and undereating, but there is something, a lot actually, to be said for fasting, and the many faces of fasting.
Fasting is a big part of most all religions, and all of them have their own traditions in regards to the concept. Compare Ramadan, not eating between sunrise and sundown, and Lent, where one ‘gives up’ something for the duration of ~40 days. I think all of the different fasting traditions are awesome in their own right. But let me tell ya: I am not a religious person. I have my own reasons for thinking fasting is something magical and something every person would benefit tremendously from.
Fasting: My Big ‘Why?’
Fasting humbles you. When you ‘can’t’ eat or enjoy the things you love for a certain period of time, it makes you ever the more grateful for these things when you end your fast. I think to be more humble and grateful are great lessons to learn for all people. It takes down a little of the connection between yourself and the consumerism state of mind we live in: to be able to have it all, whenever you want it, however you want it. It’s a hard thing to escape for all of us and it’s one of the reasons I think fasting is so great. Drink your juice & be grateful.
For me, fasting is also a time to reconnect with myself and my body. I don’t just not eat any solids, I am at the same time giving my body a lot of other extra attention. Other than treating my body to pure, liquid nutrition all day, I take extra good care of it. I go to bed at a decent hour. I do yoga and go for walks in nature. I relax. I visit a spa, get a massage or a colonic, I dry brush daily, and don’t apply chemicals in the form of make-up or other grooming products. Fasting for me is slowing down, and simplifying. During the duration of my fast, the theme is really to be nice to my body, to pamper it. It does a lot for me, and I think it’s important to return the favor every once in a while and really take some moments to appreciate all my body does. Fasting is like an ode to my body and wellbeing.
Of course, being interested in all things health and wellness related, I can’t deny the huge health benefits derived from fasting. Fasting goes further than simply ingesting little/less calories (depending on your type of fast) for an extended period of time. For starters, it teaches us the strength of our own bodies, the willpower of our own minds, and will make us realize it is not necessary to be full, constantly. We won’t keel over and die if we don’t eat for a few hours, and heavy meals are not a prerequisite for energy (in my opinion and experience, quite the opposite is true). Also, it’ll reconnect us with the distinction between real hunger and mere triggers to eat, like feeling bored and sad. When you can’t turn to food and chewing for comfort, you’ll have to face your emotions and deal with them in a more constructive way. So all in all, fasting teaches us a lot, about ourselves and our eating habits.
But the health benefits of fasting don’t stop there. It’s important to understand the true health benefits of fasting in order to really appreciate it. Note: I’ll talk about juice fasting from here on out because that’s what I know, do, and recommend. The very idea behind juice fasting is to give your body a break from digestion. Did you realize that digesting food takes up the most energy, day in day out? Digesting food can take up as much as 75% of your daily energy, which is far more than any exercise and activity combined (which is also why heavy meals in the end drain more energy than they provide!). Juice doesn’t need any digestion. All of the nutrients, which are now very concentrated too, are being absorped straight into the bloodstream. The massive amount of energy you are freeing up by not putting whole foods in your body, can now go to work to heal and cleanse your body. I notice I don’t feel a lack of energy while juice fasting. The proof is in the pudding juice :).
The reason why I recommend juice fasting (for health reasons) over, say, water or even dry fasting, is that your body needs, besides energy, nutrients to be able to heal and cleanse. In juice, the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients) are ‘freed up’ from their whole form. Yes, fiber and plant cells are valuable, but it also makes the nutrients in your whole food less available to the body. In juice, all the nutrients are 100% available to the body. Without having to spend one bit of energy on digesting! For these reasons, juice fasting is super cleansing. And because you are infusing your body with tons of nutrients (seriously, a few glasses of juice contain more nutrients than most healthy eaters would eat in a typical day..) and still some calories, it’s not too hard at all.
Because of the health benefits I’d say juice fasting is a valuable, if not essential, addition to any healthy diet. I’d like to stress here that juice fasting is only beneficial when you are commited to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Ongoing cleansing is important, and a juice fast every once in a while would be the ‘spring cleaning’. And you can imagine, if you leave your ‘house’ unattended for a year and then go to spring cleaning, it wouldn’t make much of a difference! On that same note, even if you clean your ‘house’ on a consistent basis, it will still always be in need of a period spring cleaning to get to those forgotten nooks and crannies, where waste and filth has been building up! Maintenance, aka the things we do on a consistent daily basis, are undoubtedly the most important but a thorough ‘spring cleaning’ is still very much recommended. The longer the duration of the fast, the more thorough the cleansing will be!