There’s a new diet in town, have you heard of it? It’s the 5:2 diet plan. If you haven’t heard of it yet, the concept is very simple. Basically, you calorie-restrict for two days of the week, or have two “fasting” days. There are a few variations of the diet. For the most part, on the fasting days you will eat fewer than 500 calories. Often on the non-fasting days, you can eat whatever you like, unrestricted.
My on-going fascination with fasting
I have been interested in fasting for a very long time. On and off, I have fasted in many ways: from fasting a single meal, to embarking on my longest ever fast – 5 days – or around 110 hours with no food, only herbal tea and water with the occasional spoon of honey if I felt weak.
I was first introduced to fasting by a friend of mine, who once fasted for 18 days in a row. Yes, it’s very possible. Here is some more information on what I did and how it worked.
Fasting as a spiritual practice
There are many religions that practise fasting. In fact – pretty much all the mainstream ones do. Christians fast, Jews fast, Muslims fast and Hindus and Buddhists fast. People fast at Easter, Ramadan, Uposatha, Yom Kippur, just to name a few holy days.
Fasting is often done as a way of giving things up in order to gain something else. Through fasting, we raise our awareness above our humanly, mortal needs and lift ourselves closer to spirit.
“We fast primarily because we have found out that through fasting we can outstrip the laws of evolution and find the human pathway of transmutation.”
That quote is from one of my favourite writers, Julia Seton from Regeneration Through Fasting. She is a spiritual writer from the 1920s and her book is totally spooky and cool. Back in the day you had to specially order it from your local esoteric bookstore. Now you can just buy it on Amazon.
If you are thinking of doing the 5:2 diet – get the book. Read this post about Julia Seton’s fasting technique here.
So will fasting work for you?
I really am in two minds about fasting now. Fasting is not good for people with weight issues – and by that, I mean people with a strained relationship with food. If you have body issues, issues with food, if you restrict too much – then you should steer clear of fasting.
Although I have never had an eating disorder, like most women I have at times veered very closely to “disordered eating”. There was a time in my life when I was overweight and this made me miserable.
I used to think that fasting would help me lose weight – in my experience, this did not happen. Sure, you lose weight temporarily and for a short while you feel in control of your consumption, but if you don’t fast for the right reasons, you will not heal, your body will not repair and you will yo-yo right back to where you were.
Eating in moderation
I found an old diary where I was constantly fasting. I would cease eating for 48 hours for example, then I would diarise eating twice as much the next day. This no longer is a problem for me. I no longer fast, as I don’t think I had a healthy enough relationship with food to gain the effectiveness of what I was trying to achieve.
Now, I focus on eating three meals a day. I really never skip them. I eat moderately and I listen to my body’s cues. This has been the only way I have learned to control my weight. Portia di Rossi reported the same thing in her book Unbearable Lightness. Read my review here.
Who will fasting work for?
Many people are not in touch with their bodies, and most of us overfeed ourselves. Really, we can survive on much less food than we think we need to. If you have a healthy relationship with food and have not had an eating disorder in the past, then experimenting with fasting is probably OK for you.
A note on these pre-paid, pre-packaged juice fasts
What a waste of time and money in my opinion! Have you heard of these? Here’s one where they will deliver 3 days of juice to you for the bargain price of $AU225. Anyone who would pay that must have rocks in their head. You are not buying juice – you are buying a false pipe dream. Note how they have packages for brides – what a miserable way to lead up to the happiest day of your life!
So – what are the 5 types of people who should avoid fasting?
People who have had issues with food restrictions and anorexic thoughts and actions
Anyone who has suffered from bulimia or ED NOS
Anyone who regularly binge-eats or who has binge eaten regularly in the past
People looking for long term weight loss as opposed to a quick fix
People with jobs where they operate heavy machinery or those looking after small children
A final thought on whether you should fast
A good fast to try if you would like to do so for spiritual reasons is to fast your last meal of the day. Stop eating after lunch and recommence the next day at breakfast. Use this time to reflect on the other parts of your being – the non-mortal parts. This should only be done if it won’t drive you mentally crazy. The 5 types of people listed here would not do well with this. If you fall into one of those categories – focus on healing your relationship with food and your body.
Good luck on your journey.
I have also co-written a book on how to naturally curb your appetite called Therapeutic Hunger: Weight Management. It’s full of breathing exercises and other tips to help you heal your relationship with food and get on with your life.