The Hollywood encouragement of deprivation continues to rule the American perception of beauty. Consequently, the internet provides limitless suggestions about how to reduce body fat through fasting. For example, there are liquid diets and food plans that propose alternating days of food consumption with starvation days.
I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with feeling guilty about consuming my favorite foods—popcorn and potatoes—and I’m wondering if there’s a beneficial way to approach fasting. It may be time to investigate exactly why so many cultures have found spiritual and mental clarity through starvation. My experiment will test whether ancient cultures knew something about dieting that modern culture has not yet grasped.
However, if you attempt to participate in your own 5 day fast, be sure to consult your doctor. Food is a gift, as is a healthy body and mind.
My Journey on a 5 Day Fast
I dreamt of cake last night, perhaps because my body already hates me for depriving it of the half-eaten birthday cake waiting downstairs. I am off to an interesting start!
Almost all research about fasts states that you will regain all lost weight after the fast is complete. Perhaps fasting makes sense for those in Hollywood, as actors can drop water weight for award ceremonies and it doesn’t really matter if it is regained after these events. Perhaps this method of starvation (which borders on anorexia) isn’t so suitable for those of us with average lifestyles and a distinct lack of $8,000 gowns.
Do you find it discouraging when you cannot seem to flawlessly stick to a diet? Perhaps the goal of weight loss is not enough to truly motivate you—there may be a need to find a diet that offers further benefits if you are to sustain your motivation. Do you want to decrease back pain by losing weight? Do you want to stop turning to junk food out of boredom or out of habit? Find a reason better than the “ideal” body image created by Hollywood, and you’ll have a much easier time eating in a healthy way.
I am only consuming beverages such as V8 and maple water, and my stomach looks a bit bloated. If your stomach hurts from a build-up of stomach acid, try a protein bar. I have noticed that I am highly aware of the energy around me today. For example, I notice a conflict between people nearby, but my own lack of energy prevents me from involving myself in their conversation or in trying to solve their conflict. This separates me from conflict entirely, which feels healthy. Because I have a limited amount of precious energy, I am mindful of how I spend it.
Ever notice how many pizza commercials are on TV? I am also feeling highly aware of those!
My stomach is less bloated today, but the hunger pains have begun. I had trouble sleeping last night, so I made an egg. Fasting can have interesting benefits, but there is no reason to make yourself sick by following a strict diet of only water. There are many different sites that suggest people alternate days of eating and not eating. During the fasting days, you should consume many liquids. Yesterday, I discovered the joy of maple water, which comes directly from maple trees. There are no additives (according to most brands), and it increases blood sugar levels.
Dairy products are a great way to settle your stomach. Yogurt or a slice of cheese may give you a psychological boost if you just miss biting into food! I am also enjoying almond milk and also V8 today. V8 has quite a bit of sodium, so it really just makes me consume more water later in the day. If you are still stuck on weight loss benefits, then be sure to eat a protein bar or make an egg when you are hungry. You may not want to eat as much as you thought.
I feel a bit cranky today, but I do not crave large amounts of food anymore. However, I have only receive one spiritual revelation from the fast today—I can’t walk into a grocery store right now without wanting to gorge on potato chips and steal cookies from cute little kids in the aisles. That’s why you should buy your fasting ingredients ahead of time!
As claimed by most fasting websites, the feeling of hunger begins to subside after two days. I am still cranky, but I had hot water with lemon and honey that seemed to calm down that irritability. It’s crucial to have something other water if you’re going to keep blood sugar from crashing.
Physically, I do feel that my thighs are thinner, which I notice because my favorite jeans fit better. However, my stomach is still a bit bloated. Is this because my body is storing as much fat and water and possible, in response to seemingly facing starvation? This is one of the reasons why anorexia and other eating disorders are so disturbing—aside from the psychological tragedies that can lead to those disorders, fasting truly confuses the body and puts it in a sort of survival mode. When does the body burn fat to find energy, and when does it store fat and water to survive? I will explore these ideas tomorrow.
Fasting is clearly borderline ridiculous for weight loss. I feel a constant lack of energy, and I do not feel any healthier. I feel better when I have a protein bar or cheese. Clearly, I am not a good candidate for anorexia, since I couldn’t help but glare at my family members this weekend for watching the Food Network!
Different cultures around the globe have found religious reasons for fasting. Beliefnet.com provides an outstanding chart depicting why cultures have fasted and explaining the associated religious goals. The chart can be found here, and covers a vast array of religions: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2001/02/Fasting-Chart.aspx. However, almost all faiths share the conviction that fasting will cleanse your mind, bringing you closer to God or to a spiritual power.
Yesterday was the anniversary of a difficult life event I went through, and I can say that I behaved much differently on this day than I ever have in the past. The fast made me acutely aware of where I spent my energy, and—for once—I didn’t have enough energy to dwell on the past. I also reflected on how incredibly important it is to take care of myself. Some of you may find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle during hectic work hours and family responsibilities. All you have to do is remember to be kind to yourself. If you feel tired, then sit down—it’s that simple.
Do I feel closer to God? I’m not sure yet. However, I can say with utter certainty that my mind is at rest, which is a relief. I am also aware of the fact that I have a lot more time on my hands when I am not snacking during a movie. I’m not giving up my movies, though—that would be cruel and unusual punishment!
When I lived in Nicaragua for my thesis research, I found I was incredibly grateful for the many varieties of food available to me upon returning to the U.S. Fasting has reminded me of this feeling. Today, I had lettuce without dressing. I thought that would be disgusting, but I was just grateful that I could finally take a little break and eat something. I tasted the lettuce leaves and noticed their bright colors. Perhaps this type of gratefulness benefits the person fasting for a religious purpose. Since many people are constantly surrounded by plenty of food, many tend to forget how lucky they are.
My stomach bloating also decreased after I consumed a very small amount of food. WebMD points out that bloating is often caused by overeating, but clearly the cause is different here. So, what’s going on? The 5:2 Fast Diet is a UK trend that combines regular eating habits for five days per week with two days of fasting. Their version of fasting is a day during which women consume 500 calories and under, while men consume 600. Many people have had success with the 5:2 diet, but most experienced bloating. According to the numerous comments in the 5:2 forum, bloating subsided by week two or three. Most people thought it was due to intestinal trouble (i.e. constipation) and fixed this issue by consuming more fiber. Since my fast lasts for five days straight, I believe there are certain things that make a fast more efficient for weight loss. I will examine this tomorrow.
In the meantime, I have a continued ability to feel effortlessly separate from conflict and worry. I also cannot seem to stop cleaning, which is contrary to my usual personality! Cleaning is really just about taking care of my living space. This fast certainly continues to remind me how easy it is to take care of myself when I just spare five minutes here and there.
This is perhaps the most surprising and challenging day of the fast. I do not want it to end, because I see the clarity of mind that it has provided. I could not exercise due to the lack of energy, but this lack of energy really shows you where you should spend your time—and with whom. For example, if there are family conflicts, then it’s worth considering avoiding them. Personally, I tend to take on the role of the peacekeeper. I never realized how exhausting this role has been, and that these conflicts tend to sort themselves out without my help.
How do you spend your energy? Do you take care of yourself? These are the type of questions that easily arise during and after a fast.
Recommendations for fasting
- Drink continuously throughout the day
- Hydrate with mineral water, maple water, almond milk, V8, chicken broth, and other things that keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Eat if you feel any stomach pains, but keep portions extremely small and healthy. Include protein.
- Remember that after the first two days, your feelings of hunger will likely decrease.
- Never do a 5 day fast with the sole aim of weight loss. Only take part in a fast when you’re seeking psychological or spiritual benefits.
- Consult a physician before beginning any type of fast.
5:2 5 day fast. Bloated Forum. https://thefastdiet.co.uk/forums/topic/bloated/
All About Fasting. Using Fasting for Weight Loss. http://www.allaboutfasting.com/fasting-for-weight-loss.html
BeliefNet. Faiths and Prayer. Fasting Chart. http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2001/02/Fasting-Chart.aspx
Jaret, Peter. WebMD. Bloating 101: Why You Feel Bloated. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/diarrhea-10/bloated-bloating.