As soon as I heard the word ‘fasting’ my thoughts were: no.
I need to eat!!
But the Daniel fast – or at least, the version my girlfriend was trying – actually allows you to eat as much as you want – but restricts you to a limited subset of allowed food.
(NB: we have since learned that to have the maximum benefit, you should also restrict the calorie intake).
The Daniel fast goes way back to bible. Now, I’m not religious, and have no interest in the diet from that side of things; but the original concept of man not being excessive and eating reasonably sits well with me.
There’s lots of evidence to prove that eating less, rather than overeating, leads to better healthy and a longer life span. Experiments were carried out on monkeys for twenty years. One group were able to eat as much food as they liked, whilst another was restricted to eating 30 percent less. The monkeys that ate more were three times more likely to suffer from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Half of those monkeys died in the twenty year period, whereas only 20 percent of the restricted diet monkeys died. Research also showed shrinkage in certain brain areas of the over eating group.
(NB: Other research has disputed this outcome… but that always seems to be the case with research, they often contradict… the question is which to trust?)
My girlfriend wasn’t intending to do this diet long term. She’d read something very interesting about short term fasting, in that it enables the human body and immune system to do a kind of ‘reset’ and repair itself.
Ever again the skeptic, I ummed and ahhed and wanted more evidence.
Yes, my Windows Operating System gets its knickers in a twist and a reboot will sort it out, but does the human body work in the same way?
Research has apparently shown that performing a Daniel fast – or similar style fast – has helped to cure or improve numerous skin
and health conditions in a number of people eating excessively. The reasons are due to the way our diets have changed in the last 100 years – we’re just not eating naturally anymore. I quote:
“Contemporary civilization is associated with enormous changes in almost all areas of life, including in the field of human nutrition. Natural Foods lost their biological value being replaced by processed food; refining deprived food of precious fiber, several vitamins and micronutrients, while subjecting foods to high temperatures led to the destruction of enzymes and changes in the spatial structure of proteins. The consequence of food processing was the emergence, on the unprecedented scale, of a number of chronic “civilization” diseases of a degenerative character, such as -inflammation of atherosclerosis, and cancer. And yet 100 years ago, when food was natural, the main cause of death was infectious diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis, and not – as it is today – heart attacks and cancer.
It is known that a man as a biological creature has remained unchanged over the centuries; the cells still have the same needs in
terms of nutrients, as thousands of years ago. If a departure from nature was the cause of civilization diseases, then natural foods based on vegetables and fruits could be an example of causal treatment of these diseases.”
(from Ewa Dabrowska, long-time employee of the Medical Academy in Gdansk)
My girlfriend suffers from some skin problems and also has a problem with the membrane in her nose breaking, and she was interested to give the fast a go.
The original diet has been around for more than 2000 years so it couldn’t be all that bad!
There are more extreme versions of the Daniel Fast, but she decided it was worth trying a particular method for 6 days, which I will describe.
She could eat only fruit and vegetables, but only low sugar fruit such as grapefruits, lemon, and apples, and only low Glycemic Indexes (GI) vegetables (see my posts on the “Montignac diet” for more information on GI levels: Montignac Diet: Part 1 and Montignac Diet: Part 2) – so potatoes were out.
No legumes – i.e. lentils or beans.
No rice or bread – GI levels too high.
No meat or fish.
No milk – no dairy at all, so no yoghurt, butter.
Crikey, that’s stricter than a fully vegan diet.
How could she cope eating and drinking with such restrictions for 6 days??
I couldn’t do that!
But I did… well, for 4 days. But more on that later…
So what the hell can you eat?
A great substitute for a morning cuppa was half a lemon freshly squeezed into hot water.
An hour or so later, for breakfast, a bowl of chopped tomatoes and onions. A dash of salt and pepper is allowed.
For lunch, steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
For dinner, she made a variation of the Polish dish ‘lecho‘, that was basically a ratatouille – i.e. a stew of onions, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines with a bit of chilli powder and other herbs.
Drinks of water, or lemon hot/cold water, or herbal tea (not black tea with fruit flavours but actual herb tea – we had a lovely apple flavoured one with also happened to be a natural dieting aid, handy) were allowed.
At the end of the first day, she felt exhausted. On this diet you are taking in significantly less calories than the body normally needs and a side effect can be lack of energy.
But she hadn’t been hungry. She’d made a huge batch of lecho which she could ‘snack’ on, and the cherry tomatoes we’ve discovered at a local fruit and veg shop are just amazing; they taste so fresh and juicy, almost as good as the ones I’ve eaten fresh in Mediterranean climates, so she was quite happy to keep eating those.
She was also able to snack on apples, carrots (raw) and fermented cabbage (think German sauerkraut). We’d also bought a juicer recently (see the posts Juicing: Part 1 and Juicing: Part 2) and we were making delicious tomato and carrot, or apple, carrot and basil juices.
The second day she got the first headache.
These can be side effects of the diet, and another reason I didn’t fancy trying it.
But they only last an hour or so (bear in mind you’re not allowed to take any pills or supplements!) and then pass. At the end of the second day she was even more shattered, and to be honest, looked pretty bad.
My skepticism grew.
However, by the third day, apart from a small headache in the evening, she was fine. She also reported that the skin in her nostril had practically healed – it normally took weeks before it healed after cracking. Was the ‘reboot repair’ working already?
It wasn’t even supposed to work that quickly, so she was even skeptical herself – but nonetheless happy!
Her skin on her back though wasn’t looking good, but she wasn’t worried. One of the side effects is that the condition can get
worse before getting better.
The last 3 days of the fast proceeded smoothly. Her stomach had become accustomed to the diet and she was needing to eat less,
wasn’t feeling hungry, having any more headaches or feeling tired. She lost some weight and felt good.
Her nose had healed!
And her skin on her back was much better.
One thing to note at this stage: this is not a practical diet.
Depending on your work/love/family/social life, this can be very inconvenient.
There’s practically nothing you can eat if you’re eating out.
If you’re at work all day and have limited kitchen facilities you’re in a mess. If you’re tired and have headaches in the afternoon it’s not ideal when you’re at work, and potentially dangerous if you have a long commute.
If you have children and they’re eating a typical diet it’s hard not to finish off their leftovers or have a lick of their ice cream. Again, if you have a headache and no energy in the afternoon and have a young child demanding attention, forget it!
If you are single and out every few nights with friends or on dates, it can be hard not eating out and not drinking alcohol.
My girlfriend was in the early stages of her new business and although she had taken plenty of future bookings, was pretty much
free for at least a week, so it was a good time for her to do the diet.
After her good results and the fact that I was currently not working either (I had some work lined up but not for a few weeks) I figured that I would give it a go for 3 days. Her lecho had been damn tasty and I was quite happy to eat that, and I’d been drinking too much wine recently and a detox would do me no harm.
I will shortly post how I got on.
For further reading, try The Daniel Fast: Feed your soul, strengthen your spirit, and renew your body.
I just want to point out again that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I’m a computer scientist! So this is just my take on things and it’s worked well for us. When dieting you should always seek professional help if in doubt.