Over the last few years, I've completed many 24-hour water fasts. I know some of you will have as well (and indeed fasted for longer periods) but it's also the case that many raw fooders have either not fasted for any period of time, or have tried 24 hours but not completed.
Hence my call for raw fooders around the world to join me on a 24-hour fast this Saturday 14th June.
As I'm writing solely on the basis of my own experience, and a little research, that is, as a lay person, I'm going to protect myself (and you) by saying that if you your diet is currently poor and/or you are ill, have any 'health condition', are pregnant, elderly, etc, please consult a health professional before embarking on any fast. However, for those who enjoy at least relatively good health, and especially those who are following a high or 100% raw food diet, a 24-hour fast should present no problems, and on the contrary will confer considerable benefits - both physical and psychological, and, as we know, the two are linked!
This is a true fast, that is, a fast as understood for the past few thousand years. Water only.
It's only 24 hours, so no big adjustments to lifestyle are necessary. Financial outlay nil.
BENEFITS OF FASTING
Even those of us who have been raw for a long time know only too well how it is still possible to abuse our bodies by piling in food beyond the call of appetite, and by mixing all sorts of foods that may well not be digestively compatible. We may be ingesting toxins through some non-organic food, and through the air we breathe, and may also have some inside us remaining from our pre-raw diets.
Fasting gives our bodies a rest from the process of digestion, and an opportunity to use the energy freed to do some house-cleaning.
Raw is very exciting! However, all the information, the amazing delicious new foods we're discovering, the tempting online goodies, trying to make sense of the conflicting information offered by the 'gurus', the debates on supplements, superfoods, the lure of gourmet raw food, can create a lot of 'mind-chatter'! And yes we can (just a bit, sometimes?) start to feel a tad overwhelmed... So, a 24-hour fast is an excellent psychological break from thinking about food, and a break from the constant oral gratification and titillation that has certainly been a feature of some of my days on raw.
The 24-hour water fast is a test of commitment, of self-discipline.
You will very likely feel more at ease with yourself after a 24-hour water fast. Charity (love) begins at home. Love yourself first, and you will be better-equipped to love others (I mean love as a verb - a 'doing' word). A fast is a great example of 'tough love' applied to oneself. It may seem 'a bit hard' in the short term, but brings long-term rewards and builds character. As a 100% raw fooder, I'll admit I'm not on a 'raw food high' all the time. Sometimes I have 'bad days', for example when I've been living very much at odds with nature - not getting enough fresh air or sunshine, or acting out of line with my 'higher self', allowing that ego of mine to get me wound up with situations, with people...or raw food binge-eating (it's possible - this is the woman who made a whole batch of cookies once 'for her family' and ate them all herself in a couple of hours). Completing a 24-hour water fast allows us to feel right with ourselves again, as we can feel rightly proud of having taken steps to make reparation, made a commitment, kept a promise and exercised self-discipline. In short, we've passed a test, and it is, albeit 24 hours only, certainly a test for any (relatively) affluent Westerner, as most people I know are not accustomed to depriving themselves of much!
Fasting is denial. It's the much-needed antidote to the 'I want it, so I'm entitled to have it! Now!' mind-set that has led to so much suffering in our culture.
Fasting has in the past been associated with penance and, yes, it is an act of contrition, for our sins - however you like to interpret that. Something I read said that one day's fasting for each year of our lives can wipe our bodies' slates clean. So, if anyone feels they have led a 100% perfect life, no need to fast! And for everyone else...
WILL FASTING HARM YOU?
A 24-hour water fast should be beneficial, not harmful. On any fast, the body runs first on its existing supply of blood sugar, then converts stored fat into sugar, and only when fat reserves are exhausted will it start munching on its own structure, ie protein. For most Westerners, it will take weeks, even months, for that to occur, and a fast of 24 hours should present no threat to protein reserves.
WHY THIS SATURDAY 14TH JUNE?
I've deliberately scheduled the 'join-in' fast for just a few days hence, as a longer notice period would run the risk of some who are interested forgetting about it and/or having too much time in which to find reasons not to do it.
I'm an expert on finding excuses not to fast - must have used most of them in the past, out of laziness, trying to avoid doing just a little work on myself, as that's what a fast is.
If you're thinking 'can't fast Saturday as I'm out in the evening', pull the fast forward a little, eg go Friday 8 pm to Saturday 8 pm.
An excuse I came up with relatively recently was that there was so much food in the fridge it would be wasted if I didn't eat it. So, if your fridge is packed right now, start running down supplies, so you can't use that one. BUT just before you start the fast, get in some of your very favourite fruit, as a reward for when the fast is over. A purchase, eg of some exotic fruit, that you might normally consider extravagant would be justified by the money you're saving on food on the fast day.
If you still eat a little cooked food, don't have a cooked food blow-out on the Friday, using the excuse that because you're fasting Saturday all your excesses will be covered. All it will mean is that that opportunity for your body to do some significant house-cleaning will be lost, as the fasting day will likely be taken up solely with undoing the effects of the day before, so net progress nil. Also, a poor diet the day before the fast will make the fast day that much harder, as some uncomfortable detox symptoms may be experienced, eg tiredness, flu-like symptoms. So, ideally, follow at least a high raw diet for 1-2 days prior to the fast. You can eat plenty, but just make sure it's all good stuff.
Water - four litres (eight pints) should be more than enough (in fact, I never drink anything like that much). If like most people you don't have a state-of-the-art ioniser or distillation system, use a filter jug or bottled water.
DURING THE FAST
Forewarned is forearmed.
Here are some hurdles that you might encounter on a 24-hour water fast, and my suggestions for overcoming them.
The feeling of an empty stomach
If you still eat cooked food, when your stomach has emptied its contents from the last meal, you will likely be subject to 'gnawing' sensations, caused by the acidity from the last cooked meal. Forget what you've been led to understand all your cooked life - this is not true hunger. Think of the gnawing as a little devil inside you. The gnawing will make you feel uncomfortable; it may even feel painful, and you will probably experience strong cravings for food. This little devil knows you are doing something very good for yourself, and it doesn't like it. It will do everything it can to make you lose your self-control and cave in. Resist.
If you are very high/100% raw, then the gnawing sensation will probably not be present. You will simply be experiencing the sensation of an empty stomach and you may or may not be used to this. But, even if you've been used to interpreting this as 'I'm hungry' and going to the fridge, you should have no difficulty in resisting that impulse as you are not prey to the gnawing that the cooked eater experiences.
In both cases, consider the sensation of the empty stomach with detachment. So your stomach is empty. That doesn't mean it 'needs' food. Just because it's empty doesn't mean it needs to be filled. The stomach is at rest. Visualise the food moving out of your stomach and around your small intestine (the wiggly tubes in the middle of your abdomen), where the body absorbs what it needs.
After that it will move into the large intestine (the thicker tubes around the outside), then into the colon, then the rectum, then out! At that point, your body will be free of the task of digesting food and can get onto the serious business of doing a little cleaning out, and perhaps a little repair here and there.
This is just one of the 50+ (100+?) reasons we eat when we're not actually hungry. If you're not working, get engrossed in something, eg a good book - or some forum discussion! Or perhaps spend some time making your outer environment more beautiful, to parallel your inner improvements.
Feeling weak, tired...
This could be illusory. We're so conditioned to feel that if we don't eat for - shock horror - a few hours we will feel weak. But do we really feel weak? During the fast, try entertaining the concept that, actually, you could have more strength and energy than normal as your body isn't having to cope with the usual digestive onslaught, and get stuck into a physical task - you might be surprised at your increased energy! And, if you really do feel tired, perhaps it's because your body is putting lots of energy into the internal house-cleaning. Rest, perhaps by lying down or having a long luxurious bath.
Having to prepare food for others
Most times I've fasted, I've had to prepare an evening meal for others. Be careful...it's SO easy to pop a sun-dried tomato into your mouth without thinking and blow 16 hours of self-discipline in a couple of seconds. Detach yourself psychologically from the food you're handling. Look at it, admire it, enjoy it by smelling even, but tell yourself 'mmm, that's lovely, but it isn't food for me right now.'
Temptations of the ego
A long-term raw fooder told me that he'd often fallen around two-thirds of the way through a 24-hour water fast. I know that point. Be careful - it's when the end point is in sight that you are most vulnerable from the machinations of that little ego-devil..it will persuade and flatter. It will say to you, 'Come on...you've done lots of good! You've done virtually a day now. Who needs to be a clock-watcher? You're far too sensible to need to be pedantic about this.' But - resist that. Recall that you did promise yourself 24 hours - no less. Our egos get up to all sorts of things, and they're so prone to repeating past self-destructive behaviour that, actually, they'll be working against our passing this test. But our Higher Self want us to succeed. Listen to that voice instead. Remind yourself that you're only doing 24 hours. By resisting temptation for just a few hours more, you'll have completed exactly what you set out to achieve.
I recommend not telling anyone else you are fasting (except other raw fooders who are joining in). Most of the time my family haven't known I've been fasting. When preparing food for them in the evening I've told them, 'I've eaten earlier', or 'I don't feel hungry right now.'
If you tell others, you run the risk of their derailing you, that is, affecting your motivation and resolve with their reactions,which may be due to defensiveness connected with their own diet, or well-intentioned, but misplaced, concern.
Also, if you tell others, you may be tempted to feel the suffering martyr, or even feel smug (neither of which are good feelings to have when you're fasting). So just fast, with no fuss - don't broadcast it.
If your diet is good, then it's unlikely that you'll experience any significant 'symptoms'. I sometimes have a mild headache, and my reading has suggested that this could be due to toxins leaving my system (blood vessels in the head contracting to protect the brain as the toxins leave), so could be the non-organic fruit I eat occasionally, too much sea salt perhaps, and perhaps just breathing the air...embrace that headache!
BREAKING THE FAST
If at the end of your 24-hour fast you then eat in a way that is not healthful (eg you have a standard cooked meal or you binge-eat raw food, chucking all sorts of digestively incompatible things into your body in a mad frenzy - as you might have guessed, I've been there) you run the risk of reversing all the good work accomplished in the previous 24 hours. I suggest breaking your fast with a juice, and/or a salad made from green leaves and fruit (including non-sweet, like cucumber and tomato).
A 24-hour water fast may not be as exciting as a detox in Thailand, or a 90-day Juice Feast, both of which are excellent in so many ways, but need a bit of life re-arrangement and/or £££s/$$$s. But a 24-hour water fast, as a one-off, occasional,or once-weekly event, is relatively easy for everyone to fit into their lives.
I hope you can join me at RawforLife this Saturday 14th June, and, if it's the 'first time' for you and you complete successfully, or indeed if you are reading this article at any point after 14th June, and you complete a first 24-hour water fast, do let me know. And if you're an experienced faster, do please join us.