With the wind outside howling, it’s clear that fall is on it’s way. The end of summer also means that Ramadan is upon us. To simplify something I know very little about, Ramadan is the Islamic month of abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual relations. This time of fasting is meant to be a focus on purification, humility, patience and spirituality. From sunrise to sunset, which in the summer months is often longer than 12 hours, self-restraint is paramount.
About a month ago, I wrote about the health benefits of fasting – there are many – but as Ramadan reminds us, fasting can also be a very spiritual exercise. There is something very purifying for the soul in abstinence. When you let yourself move past the initial hunger pains, you move into a new state where the senses are almost heightened. You can smell a pizza box from across the subway car. You feel alert, not heavy or sluggish. You’re left with a lot more time to ponder all sorts of new things as you desperately try to avoid thinking about food. And if nothing else, it makes the first meal after a fast, whatever it may be, absolutely amazing.
I have wavered with my fasting commitment over the past month – it just wasn’t a pleasant experience that I was keen to repeat – but I’ve recently stumbled upon a pattern that works well for me. While I like Brad Pilon’s suggestion of a 24-hour fast once a week in theory. it’s just not conducive to the lifestyle I lead (hot yoga + fasting = fainting… not a good combo!) But after a few missed fasts, I remembered a story from Dan Buenttner’s Blue Zones about an older gentleman from the Seventh Day Adventists Buettner studied in Loma Linda, California. He was about 104, a practicing cardiologist who would rather build his own fence than pay someone to do it, a vegan, and a regular faster. However, he practiced caloric restriction not through abstaining from food for long stretches of time, but by having two meals every day – day in and day out, just two. The first, larger meal was around 10am – a brunch of sorts – and the other around 4pm. The two meals provided sufficient calories to give him ample energy for his busy day, and yet kept his total caloric intake for the day at a level that afforded him all of the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting.
Since remembering this story, I have tried this fasting method twice and the experience has been entirely more pleasurable than the 24-hour fasts which left me cranky, weak, and most of all, unbelievably hungry. But two meals in a day, a couple of times a week… well, that’s just magic. 🙂
Hope you’re enjoying this last long weekend of the summer!