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Fasting is good, every now and then. It makes us appreciate taste and flavours.

Fri, 2 December, 2016

I’ve just finished Emma Donoghue’s novel called ‘The Wonder’. She’s the author of the bestselling and movie-converted ‘Room’: a story of abduction, abuse and a child’s perspective on the world as he knows it. ‘The Wonder’ is set in Ireland in mid-nineteenth century and tells a story of an eleven-year old girl who fasts for months but apparently thrives, sustained by ‘manna from heaven’.

Not a very fitting subject for a food blog it would seem but as all eating habits and oddities, fasting is fascinating - to me at least. Strangely, because I’m not usually that keen on various kinds of conscious deprivation. Celibacy is all wrong, it causes repressive behaviours in the least; just look at the structures on which the order of sexual abstinence is imposed. Teetotallers puzzle me as wine is gorgeous; but then I don’t drink any fizzy soft drinks, just because, so perhaps people who don’t touch alcohol do it ‘just because’? I wish. They usually turn out to be alkies, or fathered by ones.

But fasting is something else altogether: it’s not depriving yourself of one pleasure/happiness inducing element of a lifestyle for ever - because in that case the forever wouldn’t last long. It’s more like delayed gratification, be it for religious, weight loss or health reasons.

I have to be perfectly clear that my comments have nothing to do with anorexia which is a tragic condition of a sick mind in a sick body. I am talking purely about controlled fasting, carried out for one of the above reasons, with the emphasis on ‘healthy’ regarding the weight loss. I do sometimes flippantly repeat ‘never too rich or too skinny’ or that one about the a*** or the face, but I will shout very loudly at people who have lost the sense of proportion on how much fat becomes them (usually more than they think; that includes me too).

Back to (conscious, sensible, controlled) fasting: all for it. I find that quite a few religion-derived social or lifestyle commandments make an awful lot of sense and they’d undoubtedly been imposed with the view of benefitting human race, rather than punishing it. What are those benefits then?

One: you get to appreciate food more. On a small scale, admittedly, but surely the first square meal after a day of nothing-much-at-all will taste splendid. It’s the old story: plenty and often of your favourite thing soon stops it from being favourite. Absence makes the tastebuds fonder: remember when strawberries used to turn up only in early summer (no, of course you don’t - and if you do, you’ll shut up about it)? That was the unsurpassed taste, that was the inimitable flavour, so potent after the long strawberiless months.

Two: wellbeing. I am not out to mass-persuade people to fast but I for one feel good if I’m a little hungry; clear-headed (NOT dizzy) when I’ve not eaten much all day; happy about myself if I’ve fasted for a day. I think I’m not alone in feeling really down in the dumps when stuffed senseless with food; let alone trying to think. I know that to a lot of people going to bed hungry sounds like torture but have you tried? We either eat dinner shockingly late, from the nutrition not social point of view, or have it early, call it tea and look for a bite or two at 10 in the evening. I like to have my last morsel not later than seven, a piece of fruit notwithstanding, so I feel light and bright going to bed. Trust me - you sleep far better when not full and bloated.

Three: obviously, weight loss. But there is also the cleansing factor to point three. As much as I don’t believe in assorted mixtures which cost serious money and are supposed to ‘detox’ (we got liver, durr? It comes for free and does the detox on a daily basis all right with no help from odd gunks and brews), I believe in naturally, periodically cleansing the body off rich food, sugar, caffeine, spice and indulgence. It might all be in the head but it is after all the mind that drives the body.
Of course, of course - it’s hard when you spend the day in the office with the only bright spot being a pack of Maltesers. But here goes the next benefit of a moderate fast: being pre-programmed for no Maltesers on that day!

The 2:5 diet has died a natural death because its biggest flaw was in the 5: you can’t help bingeing when you’re allowed to. While if you set an occasional day, just one, as the day of fast - you’re more likely to succeed. I’m pretty certain your body and mind both will appreciate it.


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