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Fasting: It could be good for you. (Darn it!)

February 2, 2009 |  8:45 pm

Scale_3 Just when you thought that your sensible diet of oatmeal, carrot sticks and broiled chicken was the be-all and end-all of good living, the Health section had to go and publish a cover story about the possible benefits of fasting:

"Called intermittent fasting, this rather stark approach to weight control appears to be supported by science, not to mention various religious and cultural practices around the globe. The practice is a way to become more circumspect about food, its adherents say. But it also seems to yield the benefits of calorie restriction, which may ultimately reduce the risk of some diseases and even extend life."

The story also features a great quote from Dr. Marc Hellerstein, a professor of endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition at UC Berkeley, who studies fasting. He says, "There is something kind of magical about starvation."

Indeed! The last time I tried my hand (and tested my stomach) at fasting was in 2002 when I embraced a weird super-fad known as the Master Cleanse. A kind of ritualistic self-torture, the Master Cleanse requires adherents to drink little more than lemon-juice-spiked maple syrup and cayenne pepper. The results are unspeakable. I only did it for a couple of days, but I remember walking around in a sour, pepper-fueled haze and thinking how good my cat's food smelled.

I've had friends who have ridden the brutal Master Cleanse roller coaster for up to 15 days. They usually immediately take up smoking again.

I'm certain that this isn't the kind of fasting that the Health section had in mind. Next time I'll just sit in a corner for two days, drink water and read the latest version of "Our Bodies, Ourselves."

— Jessica Gelt