Sunday, January 13, 2008

The 24-Hour Fast

When I was perusing NPR's top 2007 stories, I came across a piece abour 24 hour fasting. Fasting is something that I've always found fascinating and mystical. Growing up as a catholic, even the brief fast before communion on Sundays seemed very cleansing to me. As an adult, I've been loathe to try it myself. I've made plenty of excuses, but when I saw it come up on NPR...well c'mon, it's NPR! According to the story, fasting for 24 hours retunes the body. It cleans out your pancreas and basically resets your insulin baseline. Other benefits mentioned included: reducing your taste for sugar, lowering blood pressure, and possibly reducing the risk of cancer. Some researchers say it may extend lifespan in general because it stresses cells in a way that basically gives them a workout. Still more research shows that "partial" (24 hour) fasts may be beneficial for the brain and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. This was the clincher for me. CADASIL, the genetic disease that is causing my father's stroke--the one that I have a 50% chance of having, it a disease that affects the brain and shares many characteristics of Parkinsons, and causes dementia. If I have it, I have it, there's no getting around it. All I can do is work at keeping my body and brain as healthy as possible, so that when the disease begings to progress, I'm at the best starting place I can be. So, I've committed to fasting 24 hours at least once a month this year, with hopes to move up to once a week.

I did a trial run today. Things have been busy and the family has been sick, so there hasn't been a good time. Today I am recovering from the nasty cold we've all had, but I just had a moment this morning where it seemed like I could try a mini-fast of sorts. I made it seven hours, and it wasn't too bad. I know this is going to sound corny or "out there", but I must admit, it felt very empowering to acknowledge my body's urges, and choose to deny them. There was something ascetic there that I hadn't taken into account. What's more, after a couple hours of actually feeling genuinely hungry, I began to think about how incredible it is that when I'm hungry I can just walk a few feet, grab some food, and satisfy my craving. I started thinking about how much is involved in getting my food to me (something I contemplate regularly, but it threw it into sharp perspective.) I thought about how many people in the world get by on a bowl of rice a day--if they're lucky. For me, fasting is a complete luxury. It's something I'm committed to doing though. Now I realize that it will also give me the chance to retune my mind as well as my body. I believe it will improve my long term physical, mental, and spiritual health. I plan to do my first complete fast this Friday, January 18th. No food, just plenty of water and thought. I'd love to have you join me.

For the original NPR story, visit


Matt said...

Fasting and controlling your food intake is very empowering. Good luck. I bet you'll enjoy it.

Zinn said...

I have embarked on my first 24 Hour fast today and plan to make it a weekly event every Sunday. I was doing research on fasting and it led me to your blog, which in turn led me to NPRs article. Thanks and Good luck!

Beamer said...

I decided to a 24 hour fast one day and I am doing it for 3 days in a week...Sun Tue and Friday! If you are determined its not a big deal.
I have to admit that I stay home and just do paper work etc during this fasting. I drink boiled water as soon as I get pangs of hunger and make it a point to watch a movie at night so as to take my mind off the food and it works wonders.

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such articles. I love to read blogs like this. By the way add some pics :)