For a long time, fasting has been used for its dietetic and therapeutic virtues. A diet of several days would indeed allow to regenerate the body, to purify the skin or to improve its well-being. Provided that a few rules are respected. Review of the benefits of culinary asceticism and advice from Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo, a specialist in fasting and author of The Art of Fasting.
Hippocrates (460-375 B.C.) is said to have said that “one should be moderate in everything, breathe clean air, exercise every day (…) and cure one’s small ailments by fasting rather than by resorting to medicines”. Nearly 2500 years later, and even if some doctors contest its usefulness, therapeutic fasting continues to seduce. Since the 19th century, it has been the subject of numerous experiments aimed at proving its preventive and therapeutic effects. Since 1980, in Russia, it has been part of a public health policy. Some clinics even offer therapeutic fasting stays. This is the case of the Buchinger Clinic in Überlingen, in the southwest of Germany.
But Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo (1), director of the clinic, warns. Fasting is not an express diet and cannot be reduced to stopping eating for several days: “One does not decide to fast overnight. The approach must be thought through and, above all, accompanied by medical advice. Fasting must be planned, practiced without stress, punctuated by breaks, physical activities, reading. “
Practiced seriously, fasting provides benefits that the body quickly feels. Here is an overview.
A new skin :
Stress, fatigue, unbalanced diet: the excesses are reflected on the skin by the appearance of pimples, dark circles, a dull complexion, excess sebum … By fasting, “the intestinal flora is at rest, it is no longer in contact with toxic food and rebalances itself. The production of sebum is thus reduced, the impurities disappear, the skin regenerates and becomes smoother”, specifies Doctor Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo. However, the doctor warns: “If the fast is too long, it can deepen the wrinkles. “The regeneration of the body also benefits the hair, which is strengthened and easier to style. As for the teeth, they gain in whiteness.
- The digestive system at rest :
The digestive system is often abused by an unbalanced or overly rich diet and takes a vacation thanks to fasting: “The liver and intestinal walls are regenerated, the pancreas and stomach are put to rest and the intestinal flora is rebalanced,” explains the professional. By promoting the elimination of all toxins from the body, fasting becomes a real detox.
- Weight loss :
Although it should not be considered as a diet, fasting does lead to weight loss. “When we consume more calories than our body needs, the excess is stored as fat. During fasting, the body draws directly from these reserves and burns calories,” explains Dr. Wilhelmi de Toledo.
- Fight against cardiovascular diseases :
This is a direct consequence of weight loss. “Excesses increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. When we fast, our insulin and sugar levels decrease, stored fats are mobilized, and excess reserves are emptied. “Without forgetting that a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis contributes to good cardiovascular health.
- Serenity and peace of mind :
This is surprising, to say the least. Especially since we tend to be aggressive when we are hungry! But after two or three days of fasting, the feeling of hunger disappears. “We are no longer in the classic cycle “I’m hungry, I eat, I’m full”. We enter a state of contentment and we feel serenity”, explains Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo. The expert reminds us that this great cleaning of the mind can only take place if certain rules are respected: “A fast requires availability to pace the days with readings, walks or meditation. “
The advice of Dr. Wilhelmi de Toledo:
Plan your fasting period and prepare yourself mentally :
There is no point in declaring a week-long fast overnight. Say to yourself “I have one week” and choose a place far from stress and external aggressions to follow your fast. It is not advisable to work at the same time.
Be accompanied :
It is best to fast in a specialized clinic to benefit from medical supervision. If you are fasting alone, inform your doctor, a doctor familiar with the practice or follow a manual.
Plan the fast and progress gradually :
Start by cleansing the digestive system with an enema or purge. Throughout the day, drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water. Drink different beverages throughout the day: a quart of fruit juice at lunch, a quart of vegetable broth at dinner. After lunch, take a break. Then occupy your afternoon with physical activity. A one and a half hour walk or bike ride, for example. Always act according to your fitness level. Activities should be enjoyable. You can also meditate or read.
Control the return to eating :
It should always be gradual. If the fast lasts a week or more, the resumption of eating should be spread out over four or five days. The stomach being smaller, the desire to eat will be greater than our digestive capacities. If we eat too much, the resumption will be brutal and will lead to vomiting. The most important thing is to eat slowly and chew each food well.