You don’t want to hear this — or do you?
It’s what a medical doctor named Jason Fung has found when it comes to fasting. And he has scientifically studied thousands of people in that regard.
This can be relevant between Christmas and New Year’s, as we seek to cleanse and counter overeating and feel less guilty not only with what we just consumed but with what we may indulge in on Friday.
Let 2021 be the year of discipline.
Wasn’t the Lord disciplined? Isn’t it the key to much happiness (along with losing weight)?
(All those cookies! All that glorious chocolate!)
It is also highly relevant at a time of pandemic.
Simply put, many medical conditions can be resolved, asserts Dr. Fung, by simply abstaining periodically from food, especially before or after a feast. With fasting he has seen (and documented) amazing results with diabetes, high blood pressure, skin disorders, stomach problems, heart disease, and even cancer. It builds immunity.
Unlike others, he backs it up with real medical evidence. It’s in a bestselling book called The Complete Guide to Fasting.
Easy? Not quite — fasting. But not nearly as difficult as many believe.
Why don’t we hear more about it — if the benefits are so encompassing?
It’s not something they teach at medical school, Fung explains. “Out of nine years spent in formal medical education,” he says, “I would estimate I had four hours of lectures on nutrition.”
Too many doctors want to rely solely on pharmaceuticals, when the natural way, he says, is the best way: not only eating in a health manner, but periodically giving the body a total break from calories and staying completely away from food for however long you can.
Some do it for 16-hour stretches (only eating during a five-hour “window” every day; this is called “intermittent fasting”), some go without foods (except perhaps for some chicken bone broth) for one or three days (it’s after that third day, he says, that the body rapidly begins using up the fat our bodies have stored), and some go for a week or longer. He discusses many cases in which folks have fasted for a solid month (drinking fluids such as water, coffee, or tea, however).
Fasting is both a health and spiritual powerhouse. And it doesn’t cost a dime. It’s the absence of something, not a food or technique we have to buy. He says that many people who are ill and even those over the age of eighty can fast (although they should consult a doctor if they have a serious condition).
Fung writes that while low-carb diets are great for losing pounds in the short-term, the weight comes roaring back in more than 99 percent of such cases. There are no “magic-bullet” diets, although some are better than others. The simplest and “hardest” method — outright abstention — is the best.
“The underlying cause of obesity turns out to be a hormonal, rather than a caloric, imbalance,” he writes. “Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. When we eat, insulin increases. Excessive insulin causes obesity, and excessive insulin causes insulin resistance, which is the disease known as type-two diabetes. Both the ketogenic diet (low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet) and intermittent fasting are excellent ways of reducing high insulin levels.”
Many have lost tremendous amounts of weight through various regimens of fasting, he says — in some cases a hundred or more pounds — by doing what our ancestors (who consumed meat and vegetables when they were available, and often went days without eating, like animals do) are known to have done.
One medical researcher quoted in the book makes the bold assertion that an annual seven-to-ten day water fast “could be useful in preventing cancer.”
That length of time may freak many poeple out — yet when they try, he and others in the book say, they find it easier than they imagined (or feared).
That doesn’t make it easy. Nothing worthwhile is. But did even Jesus not fast to prepare — and defend — Himself? Isn’t fasting a way many open the door to the miraculous? (With prayer and fasting, it was said at Medjugorje, we can “stop wars and even suspend the laws of nature”).
“The most obvious benefits of fasting are that it helps with weight loss and type-2 diabetes,” says Dr. Fung. “But there are many other benefits, including autophagy (a cellular cleansing process), lipolysis (fat-burning), anti-aging effects, and neurological benefits. In other words, fasting can benefit your brain and help your body stay younger.”
Abnormal or pre-cancerous cells are said to be pushed toward “apoptosis” — destruction — after fasting for three to five days. When the body is looking for fuel, it first burns off abnormal, errant cells.
It turns out that many don’t even feel hungry after a three-to-seven day fast or even longer ones, but report sensations of optimal well-being.
Do what you can.
The liver stores enough energy (in the form of glycogen) for about twenty-four hours, it turns out, and after that the body starts to break down stored body fat for energy.
Amazingly, if you think that’s impossible, Dr. Fung cites the case of a person who fasted for 382 days with only multi-vitamins and “no harmful effects on health. In fact, this man felt terrific during this entire period.”
Are there not mystics who have gone a lifetime consuming only the Eucharist?
We’re not all mystics, of course — and we certainly are not all ready for go without food for a year!
But a day or two or three, or at least sixteen hours at a stretch: isn’t that imminently doable (unless one is pregnant or there are real medical conditions that would be adversely affected)? As for what we do ingest, “the true secret to healthy eating is this: Just eat real food,” says the doctor. (Cheerios and doughnuts don’t grow in the ground, he points out!)
Avoid anything refined. Get rid of white sugar. Balance feasting with fasting.
When fasting reaches a certain point (usually more than three days or a week), it causes “tumor pressure,” believes one doctor he quotes (the body may start disassembling cancer) though, again, no one with a serious illness should set forth on such a path without consulting his or her doctor; and constant monitoring is important. “My blood pressure dropped from 142/92 to 128/83 in one month,” testifies one patient. “By September, it was 101/75 — without any medication.”
Among those who advocated fasting for health and healing? The renowned Greek thinker Plutarch; the “father” of medicine, Paracelsus; American Benjamin Franklin (“the best of all medicines is resting and fasting,” he said); and Mark Twain.
How natural is it?
A better question: how natural is the modern way of eating and diet?
There are myths about fasting that he persuasively argues against. It does not eat away at muscle, he says. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so if a person is carrying a hundred pounds of it, there are 350,00 calories to burn through! And when one persists, fasting can increase metabolism, further abetting weight loss.
“For most of human history,” says Dr. Fung, “large amounts of food were not readily accessible all throughout the day. Intermittent fasting was likely a regular part of human evolution, and it’s possible our bodies — and brains — have come to expect periods of food scarcity.”
So, is it crazy to fast? Or crazy not to?
Take it to prayer. Every body is different. The Holy Spirit will guide you if you ask Him sincerely.