November 26, 2011

Reflections on a Thanksgiving Fast

My Thanksgiving fast has come and gone.  It was a 24 hour, water-only fast that revealed some very interesting perspectives for me.

Living your values is far more fulfilling than the food on your plate.  

This was the most powerful thought that continued to resonate for me throughout the day.  I have to note that I was with family, none of whom were fasting.  I helped with cooking and food preparation of the full Thanksgiving meal.  I played with my kids and took walks.  Interestingly, even sitting down with the family as they ate some 20 hours into my fast, I was not particularly hungry nor did I have a strong desire to eat.

However, I am no superhero.  By end of the fast, I experienced bouts of weakness, nausea and the inability to focus.  While my hunger did not grow stronger, my body sent me other strong signals that it was time to eat.  Oddly, Thanksgiving dinner was not at all appetizing.  What my body craved was sugar, in as pure a form as I could find.  I pushed aside all the potatoes, gravy, greens, cranberries, and stuffing and started in on dessert.  Two and a half helpings later of apple cobbler with brown sugar sprinkled over the top and my craving stopped and I started feeling better.

For those who are less fortunate and experience extreme hunger daily, it is no wonder why one would choose foods that:

1.  Are high in sugar.
2.  Are cheap.
3.  Are available everywhere.              

Many of the body's organs run on glucose, a simple sugar.  My craving was not a "I have a taste for..." craving.  It was a primal, "get sugar in your body now!" craving.

Take the issue of food insecurity and add to it the toxic food environment we have created around us and it is no secret that hunger and obesity go hand-in-hand.  Where people are hungry, what is available everywhere for very little money is junk food.

So what do we do about this?  We must grow and support a new food system from the ground up so that those who are hungry get the real food they need before the life-sustaining cravings begin.

Gandhi said of fasting, "What the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner."  I believe this is true.  I also believe that if our outer eyes do not see the human condition around us, there can be no amount of introspection that will reveal our true self.  We will only find what is self-like.  Self-ish.

True realization of self can only come through action; through service to others.  We are all connected in the interwoven fabric of existence.  Participate.  Donate your time.  Donate your money.  Open your eyes both outward and inward as an active participant in making the world a hunger-free, health-full and regret-less place.

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