It is no longer news that on Monday, 6th of January, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, imposed a 50 day fasting period for members of the church. The spiritual exercise, he explained, could alternatively be done “dry” for a period of 21 days.
This simply means that while one is permitted to drink water during the 50 days of fast, water is not an option during the alternative 21 days of fast. Over time, we hear of the spiritual significance of this exercise, but what we rarely hear is the safety implications of depriving the body of food for such an extended period of time.
Healthline, an online health magazine, insists that water fasting could “have health benefits”. For example, they state that water fasting may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and stimulate autophagy–a process that helps your body break down and recycle old parts of your cells.
However, the same source warned that this type of fasting must only last 24–72 hours. They reckon that anything beyond that time-frame must be done under “medical supervision”. For older adults, pregnant women, children and persons suffering from gout, types 1 and 2 diabetes and eating disorders, the need for medical supervision during this exercise is even more essential.
The question which pops up is this: for the ‘redeemers’ embarking on the 50 days fasting, how many will actually do so under medical guidance?
Healthline also posited that persons who have never embarked on these fast need 3-4 days to condition your body in preparation. This helps them better prepared for the rigour of the fast, but then again, how many observe this?
Post- fast, they reckon is even more critical, as many don’t realize that after completing this exercise, it is hazardous to eat a heavy meal like Garri and soup or yam porridge. Then again, we have had countless cases of persons who have been hospitalized immediately after the fast period simply because they delved into a sumptuous meal of pounded yam or another heavy diet.
Some popularly hold the belief that fasting cleanses the body of harmful substances that could cause many ailments such as obesity, headaches and fatigue. But Dr. Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, a director of nutrition for WebMD, asserts that there is no scientific evidence that you need to fast to “cleanse” your body or remove toxins.
Another area the nutritionists’ addresses is the belief that fast helps in weight loss. Zelman points out that when one suddenly reduces his/her consumption of calories; you lose weight quite alright, but it also comes along with its accompanying health problems, such as muscle loss. Since your body goes into conservation mode during fast, burning calories becomes slower and this gives a false perception of weight loss.
A very important fact Zelman state is that what is lost during fast is water weight and not fat. In fact, after fast all the fat returns to its rightful place when food consumption resumes! Whereas, the muscles lost during fast can only be gotten back in the gym. How many hit the gym in the periods following fast? Very few do and this further drives home this scholar’s point.
Ultimately, many studies and scholars alike dispute the purpose of fast. Many instead argue that a healthy diet plan is far better than fast.
The thing to note is that many who embark on this fast do so for spiritual purposes, but it is very vital that one does not get so consumed in one’s spiritual quest that one forgets the potential health hazards to the body.