What exactly is fasting?
Fasting involves either completely abstaining from solid food for a certain period of time, greatly reducing calorie intake, or cutting out specific foods. To compensate, the person must drink sufficiently to prevent dehydration. Depending on the method, fasting status is reached from a period of 16 hours minimum and up to 3 weeks.
Reviewing our behaviour
The reasons why people fast for religious reasons is to be able to contemplate, make sacrifices, purify the soul, or be closer to their god. Some abstain from stimulants such as alcohol, coffee or chocolate because it is good for their health. Others place a self-ban on consumption and purchasing, or leave their computer and television switched off. This frees up time and opens up opportunities for reviewing their behaviours, exchanging ideas with others, meditating or prayer.
Fasting is also often used to kick-start weight loss or as a reset button to rid the body of harmful substances.
Basic rules for fasting
Which type of fasting suits whom depends on various factors – including lifestyle, the goals to be achieved from fasting and also the person’s environment. The important thing is that the person is healthy. Anyone not yet experienced in fasting should seek professional guidance.
Therapeutic fasting according to Buchinger
Developed by the physician Dr Otto Buchinger (1878-1966), this type of fasting starts with a thorough intestinal cleansing followed by the consumption of liquids only. Minerals and vitamins are absorbed in the form of juices and vegetable broth, interspersed with either water or tea lightly sweetened with honey. This provides the body with an average of 200 – 300 kcal per day. In preparation for the fast and after breaking the fast, light food is eaten for two to three days. This form of fasting can last from 5 to 30 days in a therapeutic fasting clinic. Therapeutic fasting is supplemented with exercise, relaxation, therapy and nutritional counselling – as an introduction to a whole-food diet.
There are various forms of liquid fasting. Besides tea, whey or water fasting, there is also juice fasting. This enables the body to maintain a supply of minerals and vitamins, at least to a certain extent, by drinking fruit and vegetable juices. Liquid fasts that consist exclusively of water, tea or whey should not last longer than 1-3 days due to the resulting lack of nutrients and energy. Juice fasting, on the other hand, can last from one day to two weeks.
Fasting according to Mayr
This form of fasting, developed by the doctor Franz Xaver Mayr (1875-1965), features milk and bread rolls. The method consists of three stages: purifying the body by drinking plenty of fluids; cleansing the colon; and learning how to modify eating habits. For example, participants with hasty eating habits are taught to slow down with instructions on how to chew an old bread roll and then wash it down with milk. The fast lasts 3-4 weeks and should be carried out under expert supervision, for example in a spa clinic.
One of the most popular types of fasting is intermittent fasting. This method offers a choice between fixed fasting days or a food-free break each day. In the 5:2 method, the person eats as usual for 5 days a week and fasts on 2 days. In the 16:8 method, the person fasts for 16 hours overnight and eats within an 8-hour time window during the day.