|"Table Setting" acrylic painting by Linda Lee Greene|
Yesterday, July 3, 2017, I opened my eyes to a glorious sun-filled summer morning, a day of unlimited potential, unlimited, among many other blessings, because I am free, because I have a nice home, a reliable automobile that takes me wherever I wish to go, a little cache of cash stashed away securely, and a refrigerator and kitchen cupboards filled with food. But then I lowered my feet to the floor beside my bed, and the thoughts that filled my head were anything but sunny and bright—gratitude did not shape my mood, but rather my old companions of regret, disillusionment, apathy, and shame ruled my mind. But yesterday morning didn’t feel the same as normal—it felt as if I had grown some backbone during the night that had propelled me across an important threshold that needed crossing, a threshold that has stopped me tirelessly for years. You see, my underlying obstacle in life is that I am far too over-weight, and because of it my self-worth suffers, my health suffers, my social life suffers, my talents suffer, and no doubt, the people in my life suffer because of it too, because negativity rubs off in myriad ways.
Yes, I have a thyroid condition that plays havoc with my metabolism, and a compromised digestive system that rebels reliably against certain “healthy” foods. But the brutal truth is that I use those situations as excuses to avoid trying too hard to control the condition of my physical body. Yesterday morning, as usual, I awoke craving my first cup of coffee, but also feeling like I had had just about enough of my weak, bigger-than-big-self, and with that feeling the command to “FAST” popped in my head. And fast I did, and it was simple, and it was easy. And best of all, it gave me a feeling that I have finally taken back control of this part of who I am.
“Why fasting?” many ask. For me, working gradually into any sort of self-improvement program never works. For instance, when I quit smoking 27 years ago, I quit cold-turkey. The day I quit, I purchased a carton of cigarettes, opened the carton, took out a pack of cigarettes, opened the pack, smoked a cigarette, and then threw the pack and all the other packs in the carton in the trash, and never smoked another cigarette again. I had tried easing off, got hypnotized, got acupressure and acupuncture, got my ear stapled, all in an effort to quit smoking, but quitting cold-turkey is the only thing that worked for me, permanently. At the moment I pitched 399 fresh cigarettes in the trash, my mind crossed the threshold it had been playing tag around for years, and I was finally free. Fasting feels to me like cold-turkey—it feels like seizing a sledge hammer in my hands and demolishing a theretofore impenetrable barrier of bad habits, and tossing away the rubbish that made up the barrier. Today, I am pretty sure I am in the same space I entered in 1990 when I quit smoking.
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock is aware of the health and social and financial benefits of being smoke-free. It turns out that fasting is good for us in many of the same ways. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting (abstaining from food and drink) can help people to lose weight, and can also lower cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, all of which are precursors to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and more. Fasting appears to “reboot” the immune system, to clear out old immune cells and to regenerate new ones, a process that protects against cell damage resulting in aging and even chemotherapy. A mere eight hours after ones last meal, fasting causes the body to dip into glucose stored in the liver and muscles to get energy, thereby a passive and easy way of burning calories. Another huge benefit is that fasting rids the body of stored toxins found in fat, and once removed, it begins releasing endorphins called “feel-good hormones,” which impact enormously on ones mental well-being and outlook. According to Dr. Valter Longo and colleagues from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, "The good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.”
It is recommended that persons guard against dehydration and heartburn during fasting by drinking a lot of fluids (water, juice, clear smoothies), and to relax into it and refuse to allow it to cause stress. Fasting can also lead to disruptions in sleep, and can cause headaches. Persons under the age of 18, or who are underweight, or who are recovering from surgery, or who are experiencing type 1 diabetes, or women who are pregnant, should not fast.
Linda Lee Greene’s latest novel CRADLE OF THE SERPENT is available on Amazon and other booksellers. Click goo.gl/i3UkAV for immediate access to it.