Fasting has been a weight-loss fad for a long time probably. One will do anything to lose weight that has been ill-gained, it seems. Resorting to the age-old practice of fasting is no exception. In the past, fasting was a means of not just physical cleansing but more of spiritual cleansing. During a fast, one would spend time studying scriptures and doing more introspection. In today’s world, it is a way of getting the pounds off and making way for the next binge eat!

Anyway, there are a lot of benefits of fasting and there is a process to the method. Hindus would fast every 15 days, on the day of Ekadashi, which is the eleventh day of every lunar cycle. The fast would be a waterless fast from sunrise of the day to the sunrise of the next. This is still a widely followed tradition among traditional Hindus. For those who cannot be fasting the entire day due to health reasons, it was a modified diet of fruits and milk. Fasting is definitely cleansing. The lack of food for the intestines to process would not only rest them, but the body due to its need for nutrients will dip into the body reserves i.e., fat to convert them to energy needed. This is a great way to burn off fat – this is obvious. But when the goal is weight reduction itself, the practice is unsustainable as you cannot fast for a day and them ‘make up’ for it by eating indiscriminately. However, if you take the opportunity to notice what goes on inside the body during a fast, it will increase your awareness of how the body functions and what it actually needs. I definitely felt a lot more of the energy flowing inside me at the end of a 24 hour no-water, no-food fast. Notice, I didn’t see ‘a lot more energy’, but ‘a lot more of the energy’. When the goal is to make sure you rest the internal organs inside the body, you would have taken a totally different approach in sustaining the practice. Once you develop a reverence for your body and start treating it as a temple, like the age-old sayings say, you will start thinking deeply about what you put into that sacred place.

There are many ways of fasting. Before you try any of these, be aware of all the risks and your personal physical condition.

1) No food absolutely: This can be pretty dramatic on your physical being and you can’t carry it on for too long. The lack of water also makes it difficult for the body to eliminate the toxins that it converts from stored fat and releases to the blood.
2) Water fast: One only consumes water. I have read people going for 21 days on water fast. Apparently after the 2 day, you overcome the hunger pangs and get used to the slower metabolic state.
3) Juice fast: One drinks vegetable or fruit juices. This is less effective when it comes to reducing weight. A 10 day water fast is as effective as a 20 day juice fast. Juices provide much of the calories that the body needs and hence conversion of body fat is much lesser.
4) Intermittent (5:2) fast: Here one eats normally for 5 days and goes on a juice fast for 2 days.

As I mentioned above, all fasts with the aim to shed excess weight has not turned out totally successful over the long run. Instead make fasting a regular part of your life style. Following fasting on certain days of the month, such as Ekadashi, is one such approach. Turn your attention during such time inwards as opposed to say, watching TV, and sprinting through the fast.

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