As an Indian national, surely, you will not only have observed some form of fast at some point, but also known someone within your close circle who did the same. Religious fasts are ritualistic acts which have existed for centuries now. As a country, we take our fasts quite seriously. The West is in fact only recently catching up to the idea of ‘fasting’ and creating juice cleanses, 5 hour fasts called ‘Fast 5’, half a day fasts etc. as a means to ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ the body. Fasting is quite the trend off late. So what’s the verdict then? Is fasting good for your body? Should you fast as a diabetic patient? Read on for clarity.

Just to get some basics out of the way, fasting is when you willingly abstain from certain foods, drinks or both for a stipulated time period of the day or several days. Reasons could be religious or personal or a combination of the two. However, it is important to remember that giving up food and beverage is an act which symbolizes something greater. The ritual of fasting is a form which has a deeper essence.

For instance, in Christianity, the idea of Lent is to cultivate self-discipline by giving up an unhealthy behavior-this could range from overeating to smoking to excess television viewing. In Hinduism, fasts during Navratras are observed as a means to, amongst other things, inculcate virtues like stoicism and build willpower and inner strength. In Islam, fasts are observed during Ramadan to build empathy towards those who have little to eat and drink every day. All faiths point us to the common virtues of charity, generosity, good-will, self-discipline, abstinence and self-control and what better way to build these than through a medium as powerful as food itself?

Even if you’re a cynic and a non-believer of religious rituals, fasting does have some legitimate psychological and physiological benefits to boast for:

  1. One day or a few hours without all food or specific foods is enough to make you realize just how much our lives revolve around food

  2. Fasts focus on eating lighter meals as a means to allow your digestive tract some downtime. With our massive Sunday brunches and wedding buffets and endless rounds of appetizers and drinks, the stomach rarely gets any downtime unless we schedule it deliberately via a fast

  3. Perhaps you know this already but giving up alcohol for any amount of time will only do you good (yes darling, red wine included)

But fasting also has some possible downsides:

  1. Acidity

  2. Dehydration (especially if you observe dry fasts)

  3. Migraine or hunger induced headaches

  4. Low blood sugar (cause of concern especially if you’re a diabetic)

Should you not fast if you’re diabetic then?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a very black and white answer to this question. Consult your doctor who could help you with the precisions and guidelines on this. However, broadly, as a diabetic, what’s important for you is to avoid any grand deviations in your blood sugar levels. Bearing this in mind, we have designed sample meal plans for Lent, Navratri and Ramadan. Please note that there are broad guidelines/principles based on which we have listed specific foods. The listed food items are not set in stone and could be swapped or replaced with other items which share a similar nutrient profile.

Too often, we see clients/patients fast and then feast/binge/overeat once the fast is completed. This would cause huge disturbances and fluctuations in your blood sugar and it would make your poor pancreases work overtime to release enough insulin to cover all the glucose just sitting in your bloodstream. Work on avoiding these scenarios via these 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Focus on eating slowly

Step 2: Chew the meal contents thoroughly as opposed to gulping (yes, we know you’re starving but please make an effort)

Step 3: Eat a decent, not ginormous, amount at one go

Aren’t you looking forward to these fast-friendly foods? Haven’t they already made the upcoming rituals a lot less dreary and more fun?!

For more comprehensive meal plans and to have specific queries resolved, do touch base with us