Fasting is willing abstinence or restriction from certain or all food, drink or both for a defined period. The person can opt for no food at all, a fruit diet, or a spartan meal a day specially when the fast is for a long period of time. The options rest with the individual. The object is to live by the resolution, observe the fast and control the food intake. It is believed that when food intake is controlled the mind and body feel better. Self-confidence grows. The person becomes more efficient.
Food is considered as a big weakness for man and control over eating is difficult. In the Yajur Veda it is said: “Mankind develops the ability for progressive living through fasts… From this faith and devotion grow…”
People in general have developed the habit of eating at all times, be it at home or outside in the market. Make a visit to a food court at any time of the day you will find people relishing the fried gateaux piment, bajia, dholl puri, noddles, briyani, burgers, etc., and many a doctor has talked about how unhealthy this type of food is if taken on a regular basis. It is akin to gnawing your own grave.
There has always been a mechanism, societal or religious, to check on the food intake. Our distant forefathers, the hunter-gatherers, consumed a range of foods that Nature provided. Periods of food abundance alternated with seasonal periods of low food availability, meaning that there was a sort of involuntary fasting time and again. In the modern world we go by our religious belief and fast on specific days or follow a dieting plan to abstain from food in certain ways. The purpose of fasting is not to starve oneself. It is self-control to check on the amount and type of food we consume.
The body still needs fuel while fasting and it starts using fat stores for energy, instead of making and storing it. Harvard researcher Amy Walker has found that during fasts enzymes functions are altered and cholesterol synthesis is inhibited. This inevitably lowers cholesterol levels to some extent. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology by Dr Benjamin Horne and colleagues found that fasting plays a role in lowering cardiovascular disease risk. Linda Page, a naturopathic doctor and author of the book ‘Detoxification’, describes fasting as “a way you can jump-start your body for a more active life, a healthier life. It is effective in lowering blood pressure, lipid and cholesterol levels, may cleanse the body.”
Fasting in the context of Navaratri or for dieting purpose is beneficial for our health and overall well-being.
- Published in print edition on 16 October 2015