Fast

It’s my first Saturday off all year. I’ve gone “home” for Easter – not New Zealand as that’s too far, but to my English home, my aunt’s in the Cotswolds.

Yesterday I broke my Lenten fast.  I gave up crisps.  I always feel guilty about eating crisps because the packet is one of the only things that can’t go in the recycling bin, and they’re not exactly healthy, are they?  But over the past couple of weeks I’ve been suffering from the lack of salt in my diet, getting cramp and possibly low blood pressure as well.  I’m one of those people who craves salt and maybe with good reason.  I’ll have to find a way to get more salt in my diet.

Giving up crisps was an interesting exercise in self-deprivation.  I was hoping it might break my Pavlovian response to the snack trolley bell at work, but I still want to jump out of my seat and run for the trolley the second I hear it.

It was not my first experiment in fasting this year.  I observed the traditional dry month in January – Burns night excepted.  My love of white spirit infused with juniper and other selected botanicals is well-documented so it was a challenge (actually my new gravatar is from a fun evening behind the bar at the newish City of London Distillery, which I didn’t have time to blog but I also recommend). I don’t think it’s a challenge I met head-on – it was easy enough to drink water when I was out for dinner but I avoided bars and after-work drinks.

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I also had a go at the 5:2 fast.  This was popularised last year by Michael Mosley’s BBC documentary Eat, Fast, and Live Longer.  For those who haven’t heard of it, the idea is you fast two days out of seven.  It’s not a total fast though; you eat 500 calories (600 for men) a day, preferably in one meal because it’s the gap between meals that contributes a whole host of health benefits.  I only had a couple of goes at it but I learned a lot:

1. I will not perish if I do not eat straight away. I can even manage not to be completely irritable with those around me.

2. It completely resets your appetite, so that even on the other five days, when I could eat what I liked, I didn’t feel hungry enough for a total blowout.

It did really change my appetite and although I did 5:2 lite, only fasting one day a week and only doing it a few times, I noticed the difference. There was also a bit of inadvertent fasting caused by not having enough time for lunch or being too tired to bother with dinner; it’s been a busy year.  I’ve had to stop because one way or another I lost 4kg and any more would be too much.  I already need to find a good tailor to take all of my clothes in.

All of this fasting has got me thinking.  I’m not religious but I think some of the world’s religions have got it right when it comes to fasting.  They all have periods of feasting and fasting which coincide quite well with the natural rhythms of life – for example Lent always falls around the Hungry Gap, when food is scarce anyway.  In modern times we tend to ignore these rhythms as food is available all the time and everywhere.  It’s a non-stop feast.  When food and drink are everywhere, it’s difficult to constantly deny yourself.  I actually think we are more suited to a cycle of fasting and feasting as in times gone by.  That sounds a bit like yo-yo dieting but that’s not what I mean.  I mean setting aside times of restraint but also times to indulge, guilt-free.  What do you think?  The Easter bunny is on his way!