Fasting and frugality in food

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Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Bunjers » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:37 am

There is a thread on Uposatha observance (viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2358&hilit=uposatha) and the one-sessioner's practice (viewtopic.php?f=31&t=3045&hilit=fasting) but I can't see a discussion on fasting. I am part of the FB Uposatha observance group, but have only properly kept the Uposatha once, because I have ended up eating after midday. Even so I think it would be helpful to start the one-sessioners practice and try a short fast.

I'd like to hear about anyone's experiences with fasting. Has anyone tried more extended periods, perhaps 3 days to a week or longer? I have seen some videos on youtube of people fasting. At one point I think it would be interesting to try a 3 day fast, because that seems achievable, safe and not too extreme!

I must admit that (like a lot of modern people!) I have a bit of an issue with attachment to food and greed. I am trying to combat this with mindful eating, and attempting to keep uposathas. The reason I'm attracted to these practices (of fasting and 'Vikalabhojana') is that I am trying to regain a healthier relationship with food. I want to find more time for dhamma practice and all the other important things in my life, instead of spending so much of my time cooking and eating.

Here is part of a desana by Ven. Maha Bua (which you can find here http://www.luangta.com/English/site/audio.php [15 of Aug. 1979] - 'Difference between Study and Practice') which I have transcribed. He talks wisely about what benefits fasting might have for someone inclined to it.

"When you fast, that is the time when you really concentrate and intensify your efforts in your practice. Your exertion is then far more strenuous than it would normally be. When one fasts or reduces the quantity one eats then this is the means of getting one's mindfulness or sati to become more nimble. For one who finds that fasting suits his character, then when he does it in his practice of bhavana he will become very quick and easy, much more so than when he eats regularly. But if one's character is not suited to this method then it is really detrimental because it will just cause one to become concerned or worried about food turning one's exertion into Sañña Aramana and one will not be exerting in the true sense. This is when one finds that fasting doesn't suit one's temperament.

For one who finds it suitable to his character then his body will become light, the citta will become quick, nimble and alert. When one strives in the way of samadhi one's mindfulness will be very good and one will not be disturbed by sleepiness. So one can really see that the cause of sleepiness is just from eating a lot of food. After one has fasted for two or three days then drowsiness will not bother one anymore. No matter how long one sits, one will sit erect like a post and if one establishes calm of the citta it will enter into it readily. There is nothing to bother one's heart. And then when one goes in the way of pañña it will flow very easily turning round and round and round. This is when it suits one's character.

Regardless of what level of citta bhavana or dhamma one is in, the means and techniques of practice, like fasting for instance, if it suits one's character, will always aid and promote one's progress. But if they do not suit one's character then they will always be contrary to, or going against one's practice of the Way."

Sorry if this post is way too long-winded, maybe I have introduced too many thoughts?
Anyway, thanks for reading would appreciate your thoughts :thanks: Peace :smile:
Gāravo ca nivāto ca, Santutthi ca kataññutā, Kālena dhammasavanam, Etam mangalamuttamam :anjali:
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby phil » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:46 am

Hi, I respect your attempts to reshape your attitudes and habits re food, the Buddha certainly points us in that direction. I would have assumed that 3 day fasts or longer would fall outside the middle way, didn't the Buddha come to understand that fasting was not the middle way? I might be wrong. In my case, I try to avoid consuming too many empty calories (i.e junk food) in line with the Buddha's teaching that food should be for the body's maintenance, not for the pleasure of the mouth or other reasons.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:01 am

Most of what you can find to read about fasting is anti-scientific trash. I did find one book once that looks at what __ medical literature__ has to say about fasting.

http://www.amazon.com/Fasting-Eating-He ... 031218719X

The medical doctor who wrote the book and who used to run a fasting clinic, would typically not give fasting to patients unless they were able to demonstrate to him that they ALREADY had a healthy relationship with food for a number of good reasons.

According to the author of the book, a fast that lasts only 3 days is still going to be in the range of the body cleaning itself out and dumping garbage into your blood stream, making you feel like crap. You wouldn't gorge yourself before meditation because that would do nothing but make it hard to focus. A 3 day fast is the same thing in reverse.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby mlswe » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:38 am

stayed away from solid food completely for 7-10 days each during the last three summers.
First time i felt awful and my excriment was kinda weird during the early fast but later in and afterwards it was amazing, it was like flying. Then i kept myself in fairly good shape so the detox shock wasnt that severe the other 2 times. during the fasts i have used vegetable juices, fruit juices, tea and vegetable stock in hot water.
i bridged the fasts with youghurt and salads, before and after returning to solid food.

whatever you do the important thing is to phase into it, like decreasing size of your portions and eating lighter food

and a general tip regading eating that helps me alot is to put down the cutlery until i have chewed and swallowed each mouthful
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Ben » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:46 am

Gotama abandoned fasting during his pre-enlightenment quest. It is an austerity that is not conducive to liberation. Within my own tradition, fasting is forbidden during retreats. If you want a healthier relationship to food then it can't be achieved by going from one extreme to another.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Feb 27, 2011 12:33 pm

Ben wrote:Gotama abandoned fasting during his pre-enlightenment quest. It is an austerity that is not conducive to liberation.

Even fasting should be practised in moderation.

Dhammadayāda Sutta

Now, monks, suppose that I had eaten, refused more food, had my fill, finished, had enough, had what I needed, and some alms-food was left over to be thrown away. Then two monks arrived hungry and weak, and I told them: ‘monks, I have eaten and have had all I needed, but there is this alms-food of mine left over to be thrown away. Eat it if you like; if you do not eat it then I shall throw it away where there is no greenery or drop it into water where there is no life.’ Then one monk thought: ‘the Blessed One has eaten and had what he needed, but there is this alms-food of the Blessed One left over to be thrown away; if we do not eat it the Blessed One will throw it away, but this has been said by the Blessed One: ‘monks, be my heirs in Dhamma, not my heirs in material things.’ Now this alms-food is one of the material things. Suppose that instead of eating this alms-food I pass the night and day hungry and weak.’

And instead of eating that alms-food he passed that night and day hungry and weak. Then the second monk thought: ‘the Blessed One has eaten and he has had all that he required, but there is this alms-food of the Blessed One left over to be thrown away. Suppose that I eat this alms-food and pass the night and day neither hungry nor weak.’ And after eating that alms-food he passed the night and day neither hungry nor weak. Now although that monk by eating that alms-food passed the night and day neither hungry nor weak, yet the first monk is more respected and commended by me. Why, because the will power that he has demonstrated shall contribute to the fewness of his wishes, contentment, effacement, easy support and arousal of energy. Therefore, monks, be my heirs in Dhamma, not my heirs in material things. Out of compassion for you I have thought: ‘how shall my disciples be my heirs in Dhamma, not my heirs in material things?’"
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:14 pm

Hello Bhante,

Interesting sutta. The first half is by the Buddha, who then departs, and the second half is by Ven. Sariputta.
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ta-e1.html

with metta and respect,
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:15 pm

I've found doing a short fast of three days or so worth doing, I feel lighter and less bloated afterwards, I'm not sure it helps my meditation any but I think it helps my ability to persevere and reduces attachment.

It's a good idea to take enemas as this flushes the toxins out faster and reduces the headaches etc that come from too many toxins released too quickly

I don't think eating 3 square meals a day every day is the middle way, remember monks only have 1 or 2. I don't think it's natural either, animals often go for periods without food so why can't modern man.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby ground » Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:53 am

In some sense attachment to fasting practice relates to wholesome and conducive eating like attachment to practice of jhana would relate to the 8fold path.

Kind regards
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby VeganLiz » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:16 am

An attachment to food, like you said, is very common.

Just a thought for you, I attempted to keep busy and try to think less about food...which resulted in me getting food on the go, less healthy foods. I think in this practice it's important to be mindful of what you're eating and ask your self how this food will better your body. I am not exactly the icon of health, in fact while I am in the healthy range of weight I'm very close to being over weight.

I have found that while fasting I get more emotional and more sleepy. After meditation I feel worn out. I suppose it is important to find out how much your body can take. I have done all vegetable fasts and I feel very grounded and content with that but it's still challenging. Juice fasts cause me to get a sugar rush. Water fasts are too hard for me. I wish I could do it. I've heard good things, so I'm sure I'm doing something wrong.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:42 am

SN 3.13:

Those who always dwell in mindfulness,
Observing measure in the food they eat,
Find that their discomfort grows the less.
Aging gently, life for them is long.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Annatar » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:45 am

Bunjers wrote:I have a bit of an issue with attachment to food and greed. I am trying to combat this with mindful eating, and attempting to keep uposathas... I am trying to regain a healthier relationship with food. I want to find more time for dhamma practice and all the other important things in my life, instead of spending so much of my time cooking and eating.


Sounds a fine and very balanced approach.

With metta,
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Aloka » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:47 pm

I have done a 3 day fast drinking only mineral water. To be honest I didn't really feel any different.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:48 am

daverupa wrote:SN 3.13:

Those who always dwell in mindfulness,
Observing measure in the food they eat,
Find that their discomfort grows the less.
Aging gently, life for them is long.

:goodpost:

All things in moderation, including food - and thinking about food!
:namaste:
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby ground » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:25 am

Aloka wrote:I have done a 3 day fast drinking only mineral water. To be honest I didn't really feel any different.


Perhaps you try additional 3 or 6 days? I mean if the aim is to feel different ...

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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby lovemygreys » Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:46 pm

I do intermittent fasting most of the week - about 16 hours a day (I basically just eat two meals between noon and 8pm). Not for religious reasons, that just seems to be the eating window that works best for me. I occasionally do a 24 hour fast, but not often. After exhausting the glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, you're basically running off of body fat for energy and many folks report better energy and clearer thinking/better ability to focus. I absolutely prefer to workout in a fasted state. I think how you feel during a fast kinda depends on what your non-fasting diet is like. When I'm carb-dependent, fasting is hard. When I eat low carb, it's pretty easy - up to about the 24 hour mark.

I probably wouldn't fast longer than 24 hours...I don't really see the point or benefit for me, personally. But, who knows....maybe I'll give a three day fast a try when my meditation practice is better. :meditate: Physiologically, we should be able to go 2-3 days without eating with no problems. That's why we store fat. Surviving short intervals w/o food and without decreased mental and physical function was an important evolutionary adaptation for humans, as well as being able to slow the metabolism for long term starvation/famine/fasts...some studies show that metabolic rate actually increases during short-term fasts (36-60hrs) and the increase of epinephrine and epinephrine sharpens mental function (link and link).

For me, obsessing about food and even over-eating certain foods can be a problem (there is definitely a monthly hormonal element to my food cravings). My husband recently offered to bring me home a couple donuts and I actually told him: "No, if I can't eat as many as I want then I don't want any." Um...yeah...that's a problem, IMO. I typically eat a very healthy, nutrient-dense diet, but occasionally go off the rails and find some reason to justify stuffing myself with pizza or donuts. Meh. So, moderation int both eating and in thinking about foods is something I'm working on currently....

Goofaholix wrote:It's a good idea to take enemas as this flushes the toxins out faster and reduces the headaches etc that come from too many toxins released too quickly


I have to disagree with this. There should be no reason to take an enema. Your body has plenty of mechanisms in place to constantly be removing toxins from your body...not just during a fast. Headaches don't come from too many toxins released to quickly (please explain the physiological mechanism for this if possible). Headaches from caffeine withdrawal, sure. Headaches from unstable blood sugar, possibly. Toxins, no. Not if your liver, kidneys and digestive tract are all intact and functioning. An enema will actually disrupt the normal bacterial flora of your GI tract.
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Bunjers » Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:04 pm

Thanks everyone :) and sorry for the delay in replying.

I thought I would try the water fast out, so the Sunday before last I didn't eat anything, but at midnight I ate some food. I think that shocked my system or something and left me susceptible to illness because I got a head cold (although possibly it didn't help trying to meditate on the roof, covered in blankets, with the cold winds whipping round me!) Lots of nose blowing and catarrh. It's wore off in a coupla days.

In the last week I have spent two (non-consecutive) days juice fasting with spinach and fruit smoothies. That made me feel very awake and alive and healthy, so the idea of a short, as in 3 day, green juice fast is something that quite appeals to me. I would not like to do longer because it's expensive and apparently side-effects can include "fainting, dizziness, low blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, weight loss, hunger, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney problems." (from http://altmedicine.about.com)

It's a confusing issue for me whether I would consider water fasts as part of the middle way. If I understand right, what Ven. Maha Bua was saying, to paraphrase, was, if you can take it then it might be a useful practice but if it just turns into another distraction, then it's not for you.
So I reckon it must be something to be handled with caution.

In any case, I think the most important thing is for me is to just eat healthily (I have been vegan for a while, but lately have slipped up on that and haven't been eating particularly well) and exercise, as simple as that! And also getting into a better sleeping pattern... which is difficult because I'm stuck in this staying up to 5am thing :|

Thanks for the quote daverupa, as an overfed Westerner I am in very much in the kind of position only a king (or high-caste) would have in the Buddha's time, having the problem of having too much food available to eat rather than not enough, which is sadly of course still a huge problem in the world! I have put the verse (gatha, is that the right Pali word?) on the fridge, it is a good reminder for me and my family :smile:

Jhana4, it's funny you mentioned 'Fasting & Eating for Health' by Joel Fuhrman. I read Fasting & Eating a few years back, and read 'Eat to Live' the other week. On pg. 185 of Fasting and Eating he says about not having overweight people fast, but first adopting healthy eating and lifestyle and then maybe fasting a little if they want to, to shed the last few stubborn pounds. He also says "a weekend fast every once in a while would give the body a brief internal rest and cleaning." (pg. 217) But his main message, as detailed in Eat to Live is a high-fruit & and high-greenery filled, nutrient packed diet. I will concentrate on good diet.

I am confused by the language of "detox." Detoxification is mentioned a lot in Fuhrman's book and in a lot of more alt. medicine literature. I have heard before that the whole detox thing is just a myth. As lovemygreys said, the body has many mechanisms for removing toxins. I've never heard a proper scientific explanation of detoxification, and why fasting might be necessary to make that happen, would be interesting to hear one.

Thanks again :anjali:
Gāravo ca nivāto ca, Santutthi ca kataññutā, Kālena dhammasavanam, Etam mangalamuttamam :anjali:
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby meindzai » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:02 pm

I used to water fast for 3-5 days at a time, which I found very renewing. Usually it got me back on track as far as healthy eating for a good long time afterwards. When I would start to drift some more I'd do it again. It definitely changes what your body craves.

Later I found that kind of fasting very difficult, but I did do the "lemonade cleanse" about 3 times, which is a 10 day cleanse. I really enjoyed the benefits of this as well, but at this point in my life I probably will not do it again as I'm living with a large family and it's harder to get away with this sort of thing.

As far as how they work, the only positive evidence is anecdotal. I can tell you it worked for me, but much of the language to describe it is fishy. I use the word "Detox" out of necessity but it's kind of a nonsense word, since it implies "toxins" in the body. But "toxins" is a heavily loaded word with a specific meaning. That's something like dioxin or asbestos. If those things were in your body you'd know it pretty quickly and a fast probably wouldn't help you.

I prefer to think of it merely as a purification and understand it intuitively like this. You have a dirty sponge. If you keep using it to clean it will stay dirty and/or get dirtier. If you run clean water through it for awhile, or some detergent, you will clean it out. That's all. No new age nonsense or anything like that.

The fasting the Buddha did was extreme and is nothing like the fasting that most people will practice now. The Buddha was able to touch his spine through the front of his body and his stomach through the back of his body. That's the kind of extreme behavior the Buddha warned against. 3 days of water fasting or 10 days of a cleanse is not anything close to this.

Fasting for me always promoted healthier eating afterwards, and it was easier than simply trying to change to eating healthy. There is some psychology to this and probably some physiology which I don't have the knowledge to explain. I just know that for me, sometimes it was easier just to "reboot" by doing a cleanse.

Not everybody has had this experience. I have known people who have done cleanses and fasts and came off of them by eating the most indulgent meal they were craving. This would then make them sick, and they would be left with a bad experience about the entire thing. I learned how much remarkably much energy my body had without eating and how little I really needed when I came off of it, the difference between hunger and cravings, and the effects that food had on my mind.

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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Bunjers » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:35 pm

:goodpost: :twothumbsup:
Gāravo ca nivāto ca, Santutthi ca kataññutā, Kālena dhammasavanam, Etam mangalamuttamam :anjali:
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Re: Fasting and frugality in food

Postby Traveler » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:17 am

....When I broke fast I ate semi-solid food way to fast and started bleeding, I recovered in 2 weeks.
The max I go today is 7 days but to fast and meditate while in this state, for me is a very powerful experenice.
I don't recommend anyone going this amount of time fasting it can be extremly dangerous if you have any health issues. Good Luck
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