If you’ve already been in the situation I’m about to describe, then you’ll probably identify with me. If you haven’t, I implore you to try it out as an objective experiment.
Believe me, the facial expressions you get in return are worth it alone. I’ve been doing it for the past month as a vox pop.
Here’s what you do.
In the middle of a face-to-face conversation with a friend, as he/she ends a point on their last subject, casually say, as if out of nowhere: “You know, I’ve been thinking of doing a detox. I’m going to clean out my body.”
Your friend will then reply: “Oh yeah? What kind of detox? Like an enema?”
You then say: “No, not an enema. I’ve decided I’m going to fast.”
At this point your friend will likely look confused, and will pause for a moment while they think of the appropriate response – one that will convey the fact that they’ve heard you correctly but don’t want to sound rude.
“…Yeah, like not eating.”
Here they might raise and eyebrow. But keep observing their face as you deliver the punchline.
“I’m going to abstain from food for 30 days. I’m only going to have water for the whole time.”
Now your friend is very likely freaked out. They’re face has frozen. Their body’s gone stiff. Their eyes might flicker a couple of times, but the small ‘O’ of their mouth clearly indicates the level of bewilderment. What your friend is now thinking (but not voicing) is something along the lines of:
This guy’s freaking nuts. What’s got into him? He’s going to starve himself. I better say something.
The silent judgement has been delivered. Invariably, it’s then followed by genuine concern.
“Why do you want to do that? It’s bad for your health. You might die. Why do you want to deprive yourself of food? You want to starve?”
Here you should stop and tell your friend you’re only joking – that you just wanted to see what he or she would say. Or, if you really know what you’re talking about, you might want to continue a lively discussion.
Fasting Becomes a Victim
What the above demonstration serves to illustrate is the lack of knowledge about fasting in our contemporary world. It’s unheard of for anyone in the West to – shock horror! – miss one meal in the day, let alone go for more than a couple of days on just water.
I find it terribly ironic, given that fasting is an ancient practice. Time, it seems, has withered it and our busy lives, combined with a habit of eating even when we’re full, have almost erased it from history.
Here’s an extreme example of how alien the idea of fasting is to some people today:
What’s now happened is that the voices of the few fasters left in the world have been drowned out by the constant noise of food and drug adverts. You only have to watch documentaries like Food, Inc and The World According to Monsanto to realise how our dependence on food (and overconsumption of food) has led others to take advantage of the situation for their own gain and to the detriment of others.
Water Fasting Is Not a Viable Alternative
That’s all coupled to the increasingly unreliable advice of today’s doctors. Doctors whose qualifications are more than ever based solely on modern medicine that’s taught in medical school, limiting the scope of their work and potential to cure.
But hey, who am I to judge all that old stuff. We all know it’s just outdated quasi-witchcraft. We have labs, computers and men in white coats now to do our medicine.
Interesting how we’ve become so dependant on those tablets, syrups and injections. We have a pill for everything. Some won’t even refuse to leave their doctor’s surgery without being prescribed one – even if they have no need for it.
I find it hard not to draw a parallel between the pill-panacea mentality of today and Medieval England, when no matter what ailments you had, bloodletting was the cure. He’d stick a handful of them to your body in the belief that having something suck the blood out of you is the same as sucking the disease out of you.
A scene at a doctor’s surgery in…
The Middle Ages
“Got a cold? Oh, don’t worry about it old chap, I’ll just get the leeches.”
“What’s that you say? You’ve got a headache and you’re vomiting blood in the morning? Not a problem, I’ll stick a few leeches on you.”
“HIV, is it? Nothing the leeches won’t sort out.”
“Flu? Here’s a pill.”
“Dizziness? Here’s a pill. Take seven now and 23 later.”
“Gastric problems? Oh you’ll only need a couple of those Pandeviamendorphineseums.”
I won’t become superior and claim that doctors in the Middle Ages were clueless. They acted on the knowledge they had at the time. But I sense studies of leeches were flawed then, and the long term and side-effects of pills are underestimated now.
No, fasting isn’t a cure-all either. Yet the potential rewards (and incredibly few drawbacks) are so extensive it’d be foolish not to consider it.
The results of having so few vocal proponents of fasting in the world is general hostility towards the concept. And why your friend is likely to give you that lour expression.
Turning the Tables Around
If you’ve tried fasting and have become familiar with its magic, don’t be put off by others. Firstly, many are catching onto the idea of water fasting and dry fasting for health and longevity. And secondly, there always has to be a leader in every movement; the one that stands out of the crowd and sticks to his/her principles and ideas.
Derek Sivers puts it beautifully succinctly in this presentation:
Remember that there are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.
Which of the above do you want to be? The one that fasts and regenerates your body, the one that idly watches others fast, or the one who speaks to their friend post-fast and wonders how the hell he/she has lost so much weight and has such a positive vibe.
I can only speak from experience. I’ve tried water fasting and dry fasting, and continue to do so for 24 or more hours on a weekly basis. I physically feel a difference the next day.
The vitality and positive mental changes that come from fasting are purely experiential. It’s why I’d encourage anyone to try it.
And, if it’s your friend or a random bigoted forum user you come across online who refuses to believe fasting isn’t starving, perhaps you can suggest they try taking a pill in the morning and sticking a leech on the arm in the evening. See if that makes them feel better.