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Fasting, dieting and starving; is the value the same?
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Health News of Saturday, 6 August 2016

Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

Fasting, dieting and starving; is the value the same?

One question that always gets me thinking days after I have attempted to answer it is: Is fasting beneficial to our health? Does fasting play a role in a healthy lifestyle? There is really no right or wrong answer.
We seem to have different ways of describing situations; when you willingly skip meals and pray we normally say you are fasting yet when the same person skips meals because of a lack of means to acquire food, we change the terminology to starving. Then if food is accessible yet you choose to avoid it and not support your quest with prayer some people may choose to refer to that as dieting. Whichever way you may look at it there is a lot of common ground in all three situations and currently the sensible healthy eating pattern we have been accustomed to is under threat. I should say there is still a lot of controversy in the air and I expect this article to attract some criticism.
For those of you who have no idea what hunger feels like and keep confusing thirst with hunger, fasting may help you distinguish between the two and hopefully help you control your eating pattern. As we age many of us grudgingly cut down on the quantity and content of the food we eat and the commonest reason is that some diseases have suddenly reared their ugly heads into our exciting “living to eat’ lives.
We eat for weird reasons; food to comfort us when we are sad and more food when we are happy. We spend hours on end planning on what to eat and where to eat and sometimes who to eat with. About two decades ago having fun had nothing to do with eating and drinking yet now food and drinks determine our mood just like in a city I know that never sleeps.
Isn’t it amazing that the Bible seems to be years ahead of science in some respects; over 2000 odd years ago Jesus Christ was actively fasting. That was probably a cue to us mere humans that to deal with certain demonic attacks we have to fast and pray. The demons may even include unhealthy foods. For centuries the scriptures have taught us that denying the needs and cravings of the human body is a spiritual exercise that demonstrates self-control. This helps us to focus our attention to hear better from God and communicate with him. I agree though that sometimes the hunger pangs can be so painful that you will hear nothing even if God drummed directly into your ears. We should also bear in mind that denying the body of what it craves for is the essence of fasting and could be other needs apart from food; abstaining from watching TV, Gossip, Sports, Sex etc. Abstaining from food has however remained the prime mode of Fasting.
Should everyone fast by denying themselves of food? I do not think so and for anyone on medication who plans to fast I advise you to consult with a healthcare professional.
Intermittent fasting is one of the trends in fitness that is gaining popularity and it simply refers to restricting the amount of food one eats for a given period, followed by a period of normal eating. Intermittent fasting has been used as a fat-loss tactic for a while now. The options available are many and include alternate (every other day) day fasting, fasting every seven days or the now dominant 16-8 method where one spends 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating normally. In 16-8 option one could start with midnight to 6am to 2pm 8 hours) being your eating period so one can have a good breakfast and lunch then abstain from food till 6am the following day. I prefer this way to skipping breakfast. Remember this kind of “fasting” is not for a lifetime, so it’s necessary to revert to normal after a period of time.
Intermittent fasting has been known to increase insulin sensitivity hence we tolerate carbohydrates better. It’s also been credited with lowering body fat levels and blood pressure but what if the one attempting this method is on a blood pressure medication taken twice a day. A major setback of intermittent fasting is the fact that it excludes breakfast most of the time. You may agree with me that skipping breakfast has many downsides including depressing our memory and concentration and also totally messing up our food-choice discipline in the course of the day.
Fasting after all may not be a bad idea since we give our over burdened digestive system a little rest thus intermittent fasts may improve digestion and give us healthy bowels. Talking about fasting increasing our metabolism may be linked to longevity; the less you eat, the longer you live?
Intermittent Fasting may have the added benefit of improving our eating pattern. If your work schedule makes it difficult to eat properly then picking suitable times to eat before work then fast or abstain from meals at the high-volume work hours may play a positive role.
Well you may have heard that fasting may even improve brain function sometimes and may protect the brain from some changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Our immune systems may even benefit from intermittent fasting since it reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body and starves off cancer cell formation.
Giving the body a break from working to digest the tonnes of food we dump in it means it can focus its regenerative energies on other systems and quite often a clear skin devoid of acne is a result.
To conclude I say sensible Intermittent Fasting may benefit many people but this is no license to take extreme positions. Moderation is key and as much as possible set your schedule so you can eat breakfast. If you are ill or need to be on medication requiring food then do the right thing and avoid fasting BUT all those on long term medication should speak to their doctors before they attempt fasting; we need you alive. While you reap the physical/health benefits of intermittently abstaining from food, why don’t you take a more holistic approach and prayer? You will be laughing all the way to great health and hopefully increase your chances of making it to Heaven!!


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials/St. Andrews Clinic

*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week – “I say this with much caution; almost all fats have their benefits apart from trans fats. Trans fats were developed to extend the shelf life of pastries, crackers and biscuits etc. Let us strive to avoid or limit trans fats”

• Men’s Fitness Workout Manual – 2014
• www.lifehack.org
• The Holy Bible
• Pastor Harry Agyemang

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