For many, Lent is an occasion to consciously abstain. Fasting is supposed to detoxify the body and help to achieve inner balance. How long does fasting last and what should you pay attention to?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday for believing Christians, during which they traditionally prepare for Easter and thus for the feast of Jesus’ resurrection. By giving up food or stimulants, they want to focus more on their relationship with God. For many people who are fasting now, however, other motives are in the foreground: they take a break to calm down and restore their mental balance. At the same time, fasting is said to cleanse the intestines, alleviate rheumatism, make the vessels more elastic, and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Waiver: time out for body and mind
The central idea is the conscious renunciation with which the fasting person interrupts his everyday life. Fasting is intended to stimulate the body’s self-healing powers and cleanse and regenerate it. The abstinence does not have to relate to food: the fasting person can, for example, also abstain from meat, sweets, alcohol, or cigarettes for a certain period of time, but also from television or the smartphone. Also important: Proper fasting includes plenty of exercise, relaxation, and drinking enough.
Therapeutic fasting according to Buchinger
A special form of fasting is therapeutic fasting, one of the oldest natural healing methods in the world. The fasting person does not eat any solid food for a certain period of time, which can be a few days or four weeks. Fasting is supposed to help the body “detoxify” itself and thus alleviate health problems and prevent chronic diseases. It has been proven that inflammatory processes in the body decrease during fasting, blood values improve and cholesterol levels drop. One of the best-known methods is the classic fasting cure according to Buchinger, which goes back to the German doctor and naturopath Otto Buchinger.
Fasting under medical supervision
In cooperation with a competent fasting doctor, the fasting person also learns to develop a new sense of responsibility for his body and to eat more healthily in the future. Those who do not want to fast on an outpatient basis can go to specialized clinics. Advantages there: The patient is constantly accompanied by a doctor, leaves his everyday life behind, and can concentrate entirely on himself. The stay in such a clinic lasts up to four weeks – including the time when patients get used to their normal diet again. People with chronic illnesses should only do fasting under medical supervision.
Exercise helps prevent muscle breakdown
Therapeutic fasting is not a zero diet: the food intake is only deliberately reduced below the required limit. The body continues to be supplied with plenty of fluids (water, tea, juice, broth), important vitamins, and minerals. The holistic concept goes far beyond a change in diet. The therapy also includes relaxation exercises and lots of exercises. Specialist clinics accompany the cure with activities such as hiking, cycling, and swimming. Exercise is especially important during the fast because the body rips protein from the muscles during the fast, causing muscles to break down.
Fasting and possible side effects
Fasting is also back in fashion as a method for losing weight, because it sharpens the perception of hunger, satiety, and appetite. Within the first three days, the body adapts and then lives off its reserves – fat is broken down. This can lead to unpleasant side effects such as headaches, low blood pressure, skin reactions, sleep disorders, or a bad mood. After this phase, many people who are fasting experience a high mood: the body releases various messenger substances and hormones and so-called fasting euphoria occurs.
Intermittent fasting: lose weight healthily without the yo-yo effect
However, fasting for several days is not particularly suitable for losing weight, but so-called interval fasting, in which you only fast for hours or days. Advantage: The metabolism remains unchanged, the body does not break down muscles, and the dreaded yo-yo effect does not occur. Because after crash diets, the old weight is usually quickly regained or even exceeded. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, also improves the body’s sugar and fat metabolism.
After fasting: what to eat on the build-up days?
At the end of the fasting period are the assembly days. They require special discipline because the fasting person should slowly start eating again. Ideally, the build-up days mark the transition to a change in diet and a new, healthier lifestyle. This includes a wholesome diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, mindful eating, and exercise. The German Society for Nutrition has published a guide on this.