Fasting means different things to different people. A good number of people see it through the lens of religion. Such people hold the view that man is a duality composed of a spirit in a physical body.
They believe that when you deprive the body of food, you strengthen the spirit; and when you deny the spirit by feeding the body, you strengthen the body. The longer you withhold food from the body, the stronger your spirit being gets.
Some weight loss buffs however, believe that a 5:2 or 3:4 weekly schedule of fasting on a regular basis can lead to weight loss
5:2 means fasting for two nonconsecutive days of a week of 7 days and eating your normal meals for five days; 3:4 on the other hand, means fasting for four days and eating your normal meals for three days of the week.
Let me say upfront that fasting is not for everyone. There are certain health conditions that can preclude one from fasting, so I strongly advise that you check with your doctor to ensure you are medically fit before you engage in fasting.
My romance with fasting started when I was very young way back in my home country, Nigeria. I was living close to a muslim family who observed the Ramadan.
The Ramadan is a time of the year that Muslims dedicate to fasting for a period of 30 days. It is obligatory for Muslims to fast at this period. I got starry-eyed with the evening meals that marked the end of the fasting. They told me that if I would like to participate in their meals at the end of fasting, I would need to take part in the fasting. To which I quickly agreed.
At 5 am the following morning, they woke me up to start fasting and in the evening, they allowed me participate in the meals to mark the end. That kick-started my odyssey into the world of fasting which has continued to this day.
When I came into this country, I had a totally different experience. Most Americans I met at church did not share my belief in fasting. Even my Pastor then was talking of fasting from TV, newspapers, books and barely touched on fasting from food as a means of atonement.
Unlike in Nigeria where fasting for 30-40 days among pentecostals is a prelude to Easter celebration, Easter is only mildly celebrated in the US. I am not even sure it is a government approved holiday.
If the church was not sympathetic to my idea of fasting, you can imagine the shocker I got trying to discuss fasting with co-workers at work.
It was not so much of ignorance as a wilful reluctance to participate in it.
Some of my fellow workers can not understand why one should fast with so much food around. When I worked as a Special Ed. teacher, one of my aides used to tease me by asking me,
“What sin have you committed that you are fasting? May the good Lord forgive you!”
The typical American workplace is not the most conducive environment for fasting. There is so much food around. Why is it that on the day you make up your mind to fast, that’s precisely the day your co-worker will decide to celebrate her 40th birthday and set up tables stacked high with mouthwatering food? Or your temporary aide gets promoted to a permanent employee and decides to fete you at a nearby restaurant after work
Fasting is not for the faint of heart. It calls for a good measure of discipline for you to be able to turn your back on a gourmet’s delight that is thrust in your face… But that’s precisely the mindset that is required of you to achieve the results you want.
According to Harvard Health Publishing 38% of those who tried fasting dropped out at their first attempt.
Fasting can be helpful in weight loss. Results may not be as dramatic as some of the ones reported from other sources, but if you engage in fasting regularly you are bound to experience weight loss.
I can recall two years ago, I had neglected my morning exercise routine, my dieting and was horribly out of shape. My doctor scheduled me for a physical.
When the doctor reviewed my test results, he informed me that I was a borderline diabetic patient. My weight tanked at 202 lbs. He advised me to engage in more physical exercises and watch what I ate so the diabetes did not become full-blown.
I got home and re-started my early morning aerobic exercises, but more importantly, I started my 5:2 weekly fasting regimen.
I would eat my three meals on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday only to fast on Wednesday and Friday. After my supper at 7 pm, I would not eat again until 7 pm the following day on my two days of fasting. I restricted myself to water diets alone to keep my system hydrated.
I cut out all binge eating after breaking my fast on both days for maximum result.
Six months later, I went back to the same doctor for a re-evaluation… He was pleased with the progress I had made since the last time he saw me. My weight was down from 202 lbs.’ to 193.5lbs and I was no longer a borderline case for diabetes!
The health benefits we get from fasting do not stop with weight loss alone, they extend to other areas of wellness like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, brain, and even cancer.
Fasting may cut heart risks. In a study of more than 5,000 men and women, a doctor found out that people who fasted were 40% less likely to be diagnosed with Atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease that causes about 70% narrowing or blockage in at least one artery.
Dr Benjamin D. Horne, Director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City supervised the study which composed 90% Mormons.He maintained that his observation holds true for people of other religious denominations who engaged in fasting for at least 24 hours.
Fasting can be instrumental in reducing high blood pressure.174 hypertensive patients were admitted to the hospital and given vegetables and fruit for 2 days. They were then put on strict fasting until their blood pressure stabilized. The hypertensive patients were then given a vegan diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, and juices, combined with moderate exercise. Roughly 90% of the patients noticed a significant decrease in their blood pressure readings.
Are you afraid you might lose your ability to think rationally as you grow older ( neurodegeneration ) as a result of attacks from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases? You are not alone. A good number of people are.
A small study has shown that Fasting has the ability to improve thinking skill in people with cognitive impairment. Ten people with early signs of Alzheimer’s made some changes to their lifestyle which included addition of a 12-hour fasting. Within the space of 6 months, nine of the ten patients started showing signs of improved cognition. That’s a whopping 90% improvement rate within a relatively short time.
Fasting can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases in animals as shown in a study. These trials are still restricted to animals and not extended to humans just yet.
Fasting is able to slow down and even stop cancer, tumor growth and metastases. Fasting and calorie restriction can kill cancer cells in their own right. It can also help improve chemo and radiotherapy effectiveness.
I am convinced that we have not even begun to scratch the surface of the health benefits that can be derived from abstaining from food at regular intervals by engaging in intermittent fasting and calorie reduction.
As research continues into the field of intermittent fasting, I am optimistic that many more benefits will be unearthed.
However the bar still remains high for people who are not willing to give up their favorite meals even when they are aware of the health benefits they stand to gain by making such a choice. That remains a challenge.