A little hunger is a good thing
The first post of the New Year. Happy 2017. Today we discuss hunger.
I spent the morning walking around San Francisco today. It is December 22, 2016 and a cold morning in the Bay area. As I walked around there were coffee shops, pastry shops, Starbucks, and all sorts of other delicious looking places. I was hungry but only slightly as I ate breakfast earlier. I also was in the mood for a coffee, but once again had already had breakfast.
As I walked around thinking of all of these places with their nicely displayed pastries, I could not help but think that a little hunger is good. Now I am not talking about the plight of the poor in both this city, this country, and this world. That is a different (and important) topic and one not covered here. I am talking about hunger, both literal and figurative, that stems from a decision to not instantly gratify our needs and desires.
Hunger is defined per Wikipedia as “a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs.” This is true but this morning I had eaten and yet still felt hungry. This is not because I am malnourished or deprived of food but likely due to a lack of conditioning. I saw food and my body decided it wanted to eat it, thus triggering a sensation of hunger. This is true beyond food.
In our current consumer heavy culture, we often are hungry for things, possessions, and material wealth. Society has trained us to be hungry for these items. For example, let’s say I have a functioning iPhone 6. I have had it for 2 years and can check emails, make calls, etc. Then the iPhone 7 comes out. I do not need the iPhone 7. My current phone is fine. I see the iPhone 7 in its cool packaging, neat commercials, latest camera, and my mind/body wants it,thus triggering a sensation of hunger (this time figuratively). If I am weak, then I will succumb to my body’s desires and buy the phone even though I don’t need it or really even want it. So how can we strengthen our minds and bodies?
Through fasting. Fasting is defined as a willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. I propose that fasting from food occasionally throughout the year can provide the mental toughness and self-control needed to avoid eating everything in sight and buying all of the consumer products that we do not need. This will lead to a healthier, happier, and simpler life. I have fasted in the past but it has been 14 years since I have fasted for anything other then a medical test. Fasting for the sake of fasting has disappeared from my life despite some of the potential benefits. I am hoping to change this in the new year.
So what are some of the benefits of fasting from food?
· Fasting may help alleviate some symptoms of depression.
· Fasting may cause white blood cells (part of the immune system) to break down, leading to the production of new ones.
· Spiritual well being- many religions including Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam (actually most religions) incorporate fasting as part of the practice.
· Non-violent resistance- fasting has often been a way for individuals with no other physical or political power to protest and in some cases enact change (think Mohandas Gandhi).
How to fast:
There are many ways to fast but determine some things first.
· How long will you fast? Sunrise to sunset? 24 hours? Just from morning until dinner? There is no wrong way to do this. The key is to determine what time period and stick with it. By creating a pre-set limit, we can train our mind and bodies to be resilient in the face of hunger.
· What will you abstain from? Abstain from all food and liquids? How about just a food fast and drink water if you want? Some may decide to skip lunch or abstain from their favorite drink (coffee?) for the day. Whatever is decided, however simple or intense, the key is to purposefully deprive the body of a desired product (in this case food) to build resilience.
· My plan: I am planning on skipping breakfast and lunch the first Monday of each month in 2017. I drink water as staying hydrated is important.
I hope and believe that through a fast, we become stronger in our abilities to refrain from material possessions. A little bit of discomfort may lead to a stronger resolve. Then hopefully the next time we walk by the pastry shop the muffins and coffee will not be so tempting. The new iPhone or the fancy vacation will not entice us. We will be content with our current standard of living and avoid the pitfalls of consumer America.
So what do you think? Do you think there is a benefit to fasting?