Fasting refers to an act of deliberate abstinence from food. While for some it means total NO to FOOD from dawn to dusk (as Muslims do during the month of Ramadhan), to others it might refer to a permissibility of intake of water with some light snacks during the day. (As Hindus fast on festivals like Navaratri, Shivratri, Karwa Chauth) Fasting isn’t a new phenomena, the practice is in vogue since ancient times and is obliged upon by almost all the major religions of the world be it Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Jainism and so on. Catholics observe Lenten Fast (the 40 days before Easter Sunday), Good Friday Fast while in Anglicanism fasting is prescribed on saints’ feast days but lately the rules of fasting have been much more relaxed than what were before for the former and the latter.
But the question which comes to one’s mind is whether it serves any purpose apart from the religious injunction associated with fasting. Most importantly, women might be particularly interested in knowing the answers to the above question to know if fasting can help them maintain a healthy life style and a zero-size figure.
Health Implications of Fasting
Paracelsus, once said, “Fasting is the greatest remedy –the physician within.” So to get an insight into what this ‘physician’ does, one has to know what it actually does to the body. Here is the summary:
- The digestive system is put to rest for the brief period of fasting.
- It helps in cleansing and detoxification of the body as fasting helps in ‘house cleaning’ (the body), the unhandled toxins stored in tissues are dealt with. This is one of the great health benefits of fasting.
- It initiates body’s own healing process, with the result that any ailment may show improvement
- The supply of glucose in ones blood drops making the body to turn to glycogen(stored glucose) for energy. After glycogen is used up the body turns to its fat to burn it and release the required energy.
- 65% of body’s energy is directed to digestive organs after a heavy meal. Fasting frees up this energy for healing and recuperation.
So for those who fear that fasting might prove to be harmful for their health need to give a second thought over it! The above discussion holds equally true for both men and women. The metabolism of the body gets balanced during fasting and it proves to be a boon rather than a bane if the larger health prospectus is to be kept in mind.
Researchers have found out that fasting ‘promotes natural healing of many conditions’. It is a known fact now that fasting helps burn fat in one’s body which in turn helps prevent heart diseases. So remain content that diseases like adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hyperactivity would tend to stay away from people who have a habit of fasting occasionally. Moreover, it is also being debated upon that fasting might help cut cancer risk, a deadly disease on rise in the contemporary world.
Now for the teenage girls who off and on are faced with the problems of “acne”, here’s their beauty tip. A recent study has shown acne among one of the ‘conditions improved by fasting’. So for those young girls who have tried all sorts of medication and been fed up of all methods, fasting is a way to make your face shine and glow.
Women tend to be more prone to anxiety and depression in the times we live due to our metropolitan life style and the fast lives that all of us have chosen for ourselves. Fasting can help act as a medication/cure for women facing this problem. Agnes Barolo, a life coach inNew Yorksays, “I use very brief fasting with my patients to help them cope up with stress and depression. I start them with just a few hours so they learn to say no to food. It is the first step in taking control of their lives.”
Benefits of Fasting
The aim of fasting is cleansing, nourishing and rejuvenating. For the persons addicted to smoking alcohol or even drugs, fasting can do wonders! In the beginning it might be tougher for such people to adhere to their fast, but a habit of intermittent fasting can help them reduce their dependency on these substances. But don’t expect immediate results, stick to the formula, “Slow and steady wins the race” and enjoy the more positive changes that you see coming into your life with a healthy life style and an era of happiness that you experience deep within.
For those of you who have had not a healthy relationship with food, fasting will help develop one. It is especially for young girls who feel giddy as and when it comes to eat food but after fasting they love eating and would love to eat more. Moreover it also helps break ones habit of having become accustomed with junk food which has become a part and parcel of our diet, albeit known for its harmful effects.
Not to forget about the Emotional benefits that fasting carries with it. The emotional cleansing occurs when one feels more emotive perhaps during and after the fast. But this isn’t a negative side of it; it has a positive aspect to it as it is a boost to our mental health. Last but not the least, ‘Spiritual Fasting’, as it is called, helps one cement ones ties with the larger world at large, with the Ultimate Maker and with the fellow beings with whom we experience what being hungry means, thereby serving in its own way as a precursor to universal solidarity and humanity at large. Meditation or Yoga also becomes realistic during fasting as one is absolved of the worldly needs and have a moment to peep into our inner selves or in other words, it leads to ‘spiritual awareness’. As per the Kripalu Center of Holistic Health, fasting lends a feel of lightness and flexibility to the body which results in clear mind that is more creative in its outlook. Such a state of mind and body is more conducive to acquire intuitive powers that are essential for experiencing greater spiritual insights.
Problems of Fasting
However all said and done, there are some misnomers attached with fasting. While women generally might take fasting as a tool for weight loss; the reality is the other way round.
‘Most medical experts agree on one thing that: fasting isn’t a healthy weight loss tool’. Madelyn Fernstron, founder and Director of University of Pittsburg’s Medical Centre’sWeightLossManagementCentersays, “The appeal is that (fasting) is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss.”
It has also to be kept in mind that fasting doesn’t mean a prolonged period of fasting or what can be said to be ‘self-cannibalism’ as it could lead to feeling of weakness, muscle cramps and fainting spells. The mantra is to fast for a time period followed by a healthy diet. The following group of people shouldn’t fast:
- Pregnant women
- Nursing women
- Those suffering from severe anemia
- Those having medical problems
The benefits of fasting far outweigh its demerits. However, educating oneself of the pros and cons of fasting and talking to ones doctor prior to fasting could make you “healthy and wise”.