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Fasting Therapy. An Age-old Practice that Purifies the Body and Soul

Lifestyle / -

Digiuno terapia
Mahatma Gandhi © Hulton Deutsch Collection/Corbis

By fasting we mean conscious abstinence from food for a certain period of time. There are many ways to fast: the dry fast (without liquid), the water fast (with water), the daytime fast of ancient monks and the annual fast typical of the Islamic Ramadan.

At the root of every fast, are theories and specific aims. There are those who seek to cleanse their body of toxins, or others, to free their soul of guilt and negative emotions.
Religious fasting
It is the path to purification, setting physical needs apart and encouraging repentance from sins. Most religions have periods of abstinence from food that bring the faithful closer to godliness. The Christian Lent, the Islamic Ramadan, the Jewish Yom Kippur and Hindu Ekadasi are all examples.
Dietary and therapeutic fasting
The dietary fast can be practiced on a regular basis by those who are healthy and want periodically to cleanse themselves autonomously of excess weight accumulated over time. The therapeutic fast can be undertaken by someone who is sick and uses fasting as a medical therapy. In this case, and as a precaution, a visit to a clinic is recommended under the guidance of a specialist who monitors the reactions of the body during the fasting period that can last about three weeks.
Political fasting
The Indian politician Mahatma Gandhi used fasting for the purification of the spirit, but also as a political means to achieve the independence of his country from Britain. At the beginning of the last century, the political movement of the British Suffragettes would also go on hunger strike for the recognition of civil rights for women. Used regularly, hunger strikes raised awareness and targeted public opinion in the Anglo-Saxon world, on issues that were at the heart of the movement, such as recognizing women's right to vote.
Ecological fasting
Jean-Claude Noyè, in his "The Big Book of Fasting" describes the relationship between the environment and fasting. In this case, fasting is not so much an abstention from food, but a calculated reduction of food that attempts to counteract consumerism. At its base is a philosophy of simplicity that seeks out a frugal lifestyle and the avoidance of waste. To eat less, to eat in small amounts and healthily reduces environmental impact and helps the Planet not to collapse.
How many practice fasting
According to the 2012 Eurispes Report in Italy, 19.2% of Italians occasionally follow a cleansing diet (74.8% never), but there is no mention specifically of fasting. There are no clear numbers to indicate how widespread fasting is in the world, except for the number of believers who regularly practice it within various religions.
The opinion of doctors
Several nutritionists, including Otto Buchinger, Francoise Wilhelmi de Toledo and Helmut Lützner have listed its positive effects. Fasting normalizes levels of sugar, insulin, and lipids in the blood and eliminates salt from the body. However, to date there are no studies to confirm such authoritative scientific findings. Even the oncologist Umberto Veronesi who co-wrote the book "The Fasting Diet," advises readers not to fast, even if the title would suggest the opposite, but rather to practice eating in a way that is balanced, varied and in small quantities.

April 1, 1755: On this Day, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Author of the Physiology of Taste, is Born

Culture / -

Brillat Savarin

A precursor of modern-day gastronomy, Brillat-Savarin was an early example of an intellectual who addressed the challenge of thinking about people, food, and society.

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) was a French politician, lawyer, and writer. A deputy at the National Constituent Assembly in 1789, he fled to Switzerland during the Reign of Terror. In 1796, Brillat-Savarin returned to France, and joined the general staff of the French army. During the Directory, he became a judge in the Court of Cassation.
He was, in the first instance, a gourmet, an enthusiast who described himself, and was described by his contemporaries as, someone who, better than anyone else, made exploration of the world of food one of the driving forces of his existence, without neglecting his work and his professional and personal responsibilities.
A writer on politics, economics, and jurisprudence, as well as fiction, he is remembered mainly for his book, Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, which is known in English as The Physiology of Taste. Published in 1825, this volume assured him popular success.

The physiology of taste and the new figure of the intellectual as gourmet
Brillat-Savarin lived through the French Revolution of 1789. It was said that the tumultuous events of that era did not even cause him a single case of indigestion. In his view, a gourmet was (as is) someone who knew how to take advantage of the delights of nature and can, thereby, turn the banal everyday need for nourishment into the art of eating well. His was not a cook-book, but a series of meditations on what we might call the “culture of the table”, covering topics such as taste, pleasure, digestion, and fasting, through to thirst and obesity.
While being a “divertissement”, the hedonist tone of The Physiology of Taste cannot conceal the fact that the topics covered are more than lively conversation round the dinner-table. Brillat-Savarin moves in a witty and agile fashion between philosophical, anthropological, medical, and scientific themes, alternating these with precepts regarding cooking.
He wrote:
Gastronomy … sustains us, from the cradle to the grave … increases the gratifications of love and the confidence of friendship … disarms hatred and offers us, in the short passage of our lives, the only pleasure which not being followed by fatigue makes us weary of all others.
Of all the senses with which we have been endowed by nature, taste is the one that, all things considered, procures us the most enjoyments.

1. Because the pleasure of eating is the only one, when moderately enjoyed, that is not followed, by fatigue.
2. It belongs to all eras, ages and ranks.
3. Because it necessarily returns once a day and may, without inconvenience, be twice or thrice repeated in the same day.
4. It mingles with all other pleasures, and even consoles us for their absence.
5. Because the impressions it receives are durable and dependant on, our will.

Brillat-Savarin’s heritage and relevance today
While Brillat-Savarin would, during convivial evenings with friends, read out excerpts from what became The Physiology of Taste, the volume was published anonymously. This was done to avoid the scandal that would ensue were it known that a judge of the Court of Cassation, the highest law court of the land, spent some of his time thinking about food and gastronomic frivolities.
Despite not putting his name to the volume, though, Brillat-Savarin was unable to keep his secret and the fame of the book, and its author soon emerged, in Paris and then in the rest of France. The book became a best-seller, achieving both public acclaim and some criticism. Balzac described it as an “olla podrida”, or peasant stew, because of its less-than-consistent structure.
Despite this, and despite – or because of – its nearly 200 years’ in existence, The Physiology of Taste maintains its charm, and relevance. Influencing many generations, it is considered a milestone of its genre. A corner-stone of bourgeois cuisine, thanks to reprints and translations into many languages, it has come to exert an extraordinary influence on the literature of cooking Europe-wide.

Visiting Expo Milano 2015 includes exploring the tastes, traditions, and food products of the many nations participating. In Pavilion Zero, meanwhile, visitors are invited to examine the history of humankind in relation to nature and food.

Tovma Khachatryan. All religions agree: the Planet is not our property. We have to take care of it

Culture / -

Armeno imm rif

These are the words of the Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Italy, interviewed during the inter-religious round table held in Milan on April 23 and focused on The Menu of Happiness and The Ethics of Food.

The Archimandrite Tovma Khachatryan is the Head of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Italy, Vicar General of the Pontifical Delegation of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Europe and Member of the congregation of the Holy See of Echmiadzin /Patriarchate of All Armenians.
In your religious beliefs, what is the definition of happiness and what kind of diet contributes to feeding it?
The three most important precepts of the Armenian Church are fasting, prayer and charity. The combination of these three rules leads to parsimony, and therefore savings which can be used to help our brothers and sisters in need, which is the best practical expression of prayer.
What significance does fasting have in your religion?
As in all Apostolic Churches, for the Armenian Apostolic Church – founded by the Apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew – the significance of fasting should probably be understood as detaching oneself from physical nourishment and sin in order to reach spiritual light and grace. It is interesting to note that the Armenian Church, on top of Lenten fasting and fasting every Wednesday and Friday, celebrates 12 major fasts preceding the celebrations of its major saints. With this, the fathers of our Church show us that if we wish to be worthy of, and to achieve, the state of grace which our Saints achieved, we must make sacrifices.
How is food represented, what are its most important characteristics, and what values is it connected with?
“I am the true bread”, Jesus said, showing us the true significance of Bread. Bread is the basic element of mankind’s nourishment: without bread there is no life. Our Lord, taking bread as an example, says that man cannot survive without bread. And in the same way, man cannot live truly without Him, without his teaching and his luminous guide. In my country, Armenia, bread is sacred, because it is sanctified by Our Lord’s associating it with his body: “Take it, eat it, this is my body.”
Do you have a story or a tradition or an anecdote regarding food?
It is connected with fasting in relationship to solidarity, charity and spiritual sharing, this is an interesting parable. During Lent, the poorest peasant in a village, decided to make a gift of a basket of fruit to the monks, thinking that they would have more need of the fruit than he. The monks decided to make a gift of this to a hermit who, unlike them, had no companions. And the hermit, seeing the basket of fruit, immediately thought that the poor peasant, who works so hard and earns so little, would have more need of the fruit than he.
Today’s agricultural systems for producing food threaten to severely damage the planet. How important is it for your religion that food be produced in an ethical manner or that it not be wasted?
You know, I think that all religions agree that this planet where we live is our home, but not our property. We are the administrators and custodians of this marvelous home: God has consigned it to us, for our own good.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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