A friend introduced me to this article a while back, it really vibes with my intuition. Please take a read before contemplating a water fast.
*Please note* This is not a post intended to put you off Dr D's fasting retreat, not at all but simply to present another side of the fasting coin and inspire discussion.
Fasting: A Dangerous Game
The practice of forced fasting is one of the most common methods used to assert human control over the physical body, and to "force" health into existence. If someone is feeling ill at ease, or sick, or has a lowered energy level, the advice given by many professionals is to "fast one's way to health." This usually involves the cessation of all solid food, for some arbitrary amount of time, until the subject has supposedly reached a point at which it is "time to eat again."
The practice of fasting is founded in a fundamental inability to accept that true health requires the steady and consistent application of habits and practices that are not possible to adapt overnight. Denial of this fact has resulted in severe and often deadly Ramifications for hundreds of individuals. Many of these people still have absolutely no idea that their long fast is responsible for their subsequent health problems or disordered eating. In fact, fasting has probably caused more people to fail at reaching a state of balanced and stable eating and living than any other "hygienic" practice. It is accurate to go so far as to say that for most people and in most situations’, fasting is a dangerous and harmful practice.
How can it be that the image and idea of fasting has taken root so strongly in the alternative health movement, if it is so harmful? First of all, it should be clear by now that all sorts of bizarre and demented practices are looked upon as healthful, and yet we don't question for a moment the fact that they are misguided or downright fraudulent. From the Ritalin prescribed to hyperactive children to the Cacao recommended for struggling raw foodists, most health seekers know that even the most popular recommendations are not always wise or helpful. Fasting is no different.
The reason that fasting is believed to be so miraculous is that it results in dramatic, sudden, unmistakable physiological transformations. These are mistaken for being signs of intense healing, when in fact they are simply severe adaptations to the sudden absence of fuel. There is no physical reason for the human body to initiate healing simply because one decides that they will deny themselves food. The human body is always healing and always rejuvenating to the best of its ability, and it never desires a willful denial of nourishment unless it truly needs one. This point is key, for one of the most common advertising ploys for the practice of fasting is to point out proudly that "fasting is nature's healer" and that "all animals fast when sick."
First of all, fasting is not nature's healer, the body and it's life force are. And it is the body itself that makes it abundantly and undeniably clear that it desires food on a daily basis. It is an absolute myth that a sick animal will deliberately deny itself nourishment. Most sick animals struggle to continue finding enough food; in fact often the cause of their demise is their inability to continue to obtain the nourishment necessary to survive in the wild. There are very specific instances and situations in which the body demands that we cease eating, and they are each signaled by a very clear, completely unmistakable message from the body, telling us loudly and clearly to STOP EATING. When fasting is appropriate, it comes effortlessly and naturally, not through forced discipline and egotistical mind games.
This point cannot be over emphasized: the only appropriate time to fast is when eating feels like a forced, unnatural, repulsive action. It is at that time, and only at that time, that a fast is in order. There is so much talk about trusting the healing power of the body and its innate wisdom, and yet we are expected to believe that it is healthy and natural to completely override the signal to eat. It should be clear that this something does not add up in this equation. And anyone fasting is immediately reminded of this error within a day or two of initiating a fast, through the unmistakable warning sign of weakness and reduced capacity.
How could anything that results in severe, almost paralytic weakness be healthful? It's so counter-intuitive as to almost be laughable, if it weren't so tragic. Yet hundreds of patients around the world lie in fasting centers throughout the world believing that they can starve themselves into health. Sadly, most of them will only succeed in weakening their already depleted systems, and catapulting themselves into a nearly inescapable cycle of disordered eating, resulting in long-term damage and psychological turmoil.
So what of the hundreds of anecdotal tales of miraculous healing and reversal of disease? There is a simple explanation for the temporary positive results obtained on a fast. First and foremost, a fasting individual has completely eliminated all of the toxic foods and drugs that they were consuming on a daily basis. And of course it makes perfect sense that the elimination of poisonous substances results in the elimination of any symptoms caused by those poisons. Tragically, this is conflated in a bizarre fashion, and somehow the actual fast itself is given the credit for the healing, rather than the obvious reason that the cessation of poisons will always result in improvement.
The second reason that people often experience positive and profoundly altered emotional states of being is that they have temporarily eliminated the source of so much confusion and fear: their food. By starving themselves and denying themselves food, a person can pretend that they have no issues with food, temporarily hiding from the fact that they may have severe issues with maintaining and sustaining a healthful, balanced diet. Naturally, they feel a great sense of freedom and joy, believing that they have solved all of their problems and that they have found the answer to true health. Of course, if one fasts forever, one dies, so the choice eventually is to return to the exact same problems as before (or usually worsened) or to succumb to physical death through starvation.
The third reason that fasting seems to result in positive change is because almost every case of a disordered and sick body manifests in some way through a disrupted metabolism. Eating makes it abundantly clear just how sick the body actually is, because our organs and nutrient delivery systems are being made to do their jobs, and so it's very clear that they are in a poor state. When a sick person eats, they experience the body's difficulty with digestion, with metabolism, with elimination, and with energy transfer. When they suddenly cease the consumption of nutrition, they are in a position to pretend that "everything is all right." It's no different than a fancy car sitting broken in a driveway: everything looks great until you try to start it up. And no matter how long we leave it sitting there, it still won't start. It is no different for the faster: everything feels great when they aren't actually using their system in ways it was made for. But as soon as the fasting retreat is over and you return home and begin eating again, the same symptoms reappear, the car "still won't start." But it sure felt great to pretend it didn't need to start in the first place. Lying in a bed in a state of incapacitating weakness is no way to gauge improvements in health. Being up and about, active, alert, and striving to reach new goals is how health and wellness should be measured.
Of course, when the body is made to endure forced starvation, the rebound effect is profound. People who have eaten balanced diets for years may suddenly find themselves bingeing on hamburgers, fried chicken, and ice cream after a "healthful fast." There have been hundreds of cases in which individuals broke their fasts on meats, cakes, pies, tacos, pizza, or worse, simply because the mental and emotional strain was too great. Even if an individual succeeds in following "fasting protocol" and breaking their fast with light foods such as fruits or broth, often within a few days the body's demands for satiety result in bingeing on unhealthful, toxic foods. And usually, the ramifications last years, if not decades. The ripple effects of starvation profoundly influence the psyche on a deep level. The human body was not made to deny itself food, and the difficulty with which one undertakes a fast is the proof of this. Only through a forced, artificial, almost prison-like setting, is it even possible for most to succeed. And those who do succeed often pride themselves on their "discipline." But health doesn't come through discipline, it comes through a unity of mind, body, and nature, learning to listen to our appetite in ways that serve us. Denying that we have appetite will lead to denial of health, nutriment, and nurture.
Fasting is no different than any other "quick-fix" method of attaining health, including pill-popping or surgical intervention. Real health is accumulated through persistent application of specific health-supporting principles, and does not happen suddenly or dramatically. Learning to appreciate the slow and steady pace of a truly healthful rejuvenation process will allow one to enjoy health for a lifetime, rather than the pseudo health that one experiences during forced starvation. In our quick-fix society, it can be quite a challenge to accept that there is no place for drama or speed in a frugivore lifestyle and in the attainment of health. Fasting is an attempt to override nature by applying human judgment to the process of healing, attempting to force and control the pace and manner of the healing process.
Fasting is truly a dangerous game.
Article by Michelle Aslan