Can I improve my health with fasting?

The single most important ingredient in healthy longevity is love. Glorious love, which lifts us skyward. Full-spectrum love, which knows all colors. Without love, we perish.

Trickling down from this rainbow are the elements: clean air, clean water and sunlight. A good stiff dose of these three basics, every day, can cure just about anything. But since many of us live in the city, our health care happens at one level lower. The next level is that wonderfully wholesome, sensuous, nourishing, living stuff called FOOD. That processed, additive-laden, addictive, socially complex, political weapon. It has become easy in the land of plenty to take food for granted, never thinking about how or where it was produced. The food level is a focal point for shifting into health consciousness because it can take us higher or hasten our crash. Below the food level is chronic use of medicine and other drugs to deaden our pain. At the bottom of the pit greed and violence fester.

Meanwhile, back in the city we’re not hunting or growing dinner. Food is no longer a survival issue but something to look forward to every day. Mealtimes provide an excuse to stop working; a time to just sit with friends, family or even peacefully alone. Food indulgently satisfies our sensory apparatus. No wonder we do a lot of it. Sometimes way too much. It’s so available; it’s cheap; it’s socially condoned and sinfully good. Mouth, mouth, mouth.

Familiar picture? Fasting can help but not if it’s about control, competition or rapid weight loss. These are not good reasons to fast.

A fast is best accomplished in the spirit of gentle self-purification.

The best way to fast is every day for 12 hours. Except for breast-feeding infants and toddlers, this is advisable for everyone. Digestion of food and the elimination of organic waste uses 1/3 of our total energy intake each day. This is because the protein molecules (enzymes) which catabolize (break down) the ingested nutrients are intricate dynamos, only available in live, raw food. So the more processed food we eat, the less energy we ultimately receive from it. Enzymes also facilitate the transport of the broken-down nutrients (amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids) through the gut wall, into the blood stream and into our cells. All of this catabolizing and anabolizing (building of molecules from nutrient fractions), not to speak of masticating, ruminating, churning, pushing, squeezing, urinating, defecating and secreting, all takes lots of energy. And helps to wear down our body parts. So give it a good long rest, every day.

Occasionally it may be appropriate to do additional fasting. I like to do a “spring cleaning” for 5 to 10 days of raw foods only. It is important to be well prepared, in body, mind and spirit for this special journey. Please DO NOT plan to carry on with business as usual during your fast. Plan to take it easy. The purpose of the fast is to detoxify your body, mind and spirit. You, hey you wonderful person out there, you need rest. Fasting is not supposed to be a struggle against the urges of the flesh. It’s a time to rest, slow down, and Be, quietly. Ideally in a country environment without TV, telephone or motorized transportation. Some people find spiritual holidays like Lent or Ramadan a good time for fasting.

Juiced foods are perfect for fasting because they are partially digested, high in enzymes and incur minimal metabolic wear and
tear. Please do not attempt a water-only fast. Unless you are ill with explosive diarrhea or a high fever, in which case food abstinence is advised until the symptoms subside. Our bodies are made of food, and we need food intake regularly. In Oriental Medicine they say that fasting can damage the Spleen and Stomach Qi (viz., the vital force of the digestive system).

Water only is OK for 24 hours, and can help prevent jet lag if done the day before flying. But please, don’t get macho about this; the purpose of the fast is loving regeneration. Fasting with a close friend or mentor can be particularly enriching.

From personal experience with fasting I know that the most difficult aspect of the fast is to break it properly. It is best to spend about 1/2 the time of the actual fast to come out of it. In other words if you decide to do water and vegetable juice only for 4 days, plan to take day 5 and 6 resting also and eating small meals. One cup of steamed vegetables, a very small bowl (1/3 cup) of cooked rice with 1 Tablespoon of miso might be an appropriate fast breaker on day 5, followed by a fresh pressed juice or some fruit 5 or 6 hours later. The next day add in some protein (egg, organic chicken, fresh fish, tofu, legumes). Next add back the essential fats, Omega 3 and 6.

Please organize your healing cleanse so that you are not tempted to overeat for the first few days post-fast. Please do not plan a fast too close to a commitment to significant physical or mental labor, nor the week before you’ve been invited to a gastronomic extravaganza.

Fasting is a purification for body, mind and spirit. Be prepared for “spiritual” cleansing, even if you have no idea reading these words what that might mean. It has to do with perfectly formed drops of pure love dripping down through the rainbow onto the top of our heads. Of course, it will be an extremely personal experience. For me, I experience that although I rarely schedule “food” time, when I’m not dealing with food as intensively (shopping, chopping, cooking, eating, washing dishes) I have a good deal of extra time on my hands.

This time can be spent walking outside, writing in a journal or starting one, sitting still and feeling feelings, reading a strong, helpful, healing book. Truly amazing self-discovery is possible at these times. And that’s why we dream.