Fasting, Religion, Creativity and Health

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I recently read a blog post on Scott Adams’ excellent Dilbert website.  Yes, that Dilbert.  The post is titled, Breakfast is Overrated. In the post, Adams states that he finds he has much more creativity and energy when he eats very little before noon.  He says when he finally eats his lunch, he usually needs to take a nap.

This mirrors exactly my experience.  When I wrote my novel, For Want of Knowledge , intentionally skipped breakfast, only drinking coffee until my daily word count was complete.  Even now I find that my desire to write at all diminishes when I eat.  I usually have to roll out a post before eating, and if I eat while writing a post, I many times will not finish.

I found a book online, called, The Hygienic System: Orthotrophy.  A portion of the book, chapter 24,  reads:

“Herodotus records that the invading hosts (over five millions) of the Persian general Xerxes, had to be fed by the conquered cities along their lines of march. He states as a fortunate circumstance the fact that the Persians, including even the Monarch and his courtiers, ate one meal a day.

The Jews from Moses until Jesus ate but one meal a day. They sometimes added a lunch of fruit. We recall reading once in the Hebrew scriptures these words (quoting from memory): “Woe unto the nation whose princes eat in the morning.” If this has any reference to dietetic practices it would indicate that the Jews were not addicted to what Dr. Dewey called the “vulgar habit” of eating breakfast. In the oriental world today extreme moderation, as compared to the American standard, is practiced.

Dr. Felix Oswald says that “during the zenith period of Grecian and Roman civilization monogamy was not as firmly established as the rule that a health-loving man should content himself with one meal a day, and never eat till he had leisure to digest, i.e., not till the day’s work was wholly done. For more than a thousand years the one meal plan was the established rule among the civilized nations inhabiting the coast-lands of the Mediterranean. The evening repast–call it supper or dinner–was a kind of domestic festival, the reward of the day’s toil, an enjoyment which rich and poor refrained from marring by premature gratifications of their appetites.”

Anecdotal of course, but in line with my experience.  I just watched my cat eat the food I gave him this morning.   Afterwards, he immediately went to sleep for an hour.  But it does make me wonder if prosperity has a terminal seed planted within it.  After reaching its peak, a society has access to lots of food.  People begin to eat more and more. Eventually a level of consumption is reached that outpaces the body’s need for nutrition and stunts energy and creativity.  The society begins to slow down, and other cultures who lag just a bit behind and don’t have as much begin to catch up.

The Romans apparently ate one big meal late in the day, and supplemented a couple of very small meals earlier.  The average Roman soldier was incredibly tough.  Few modern elite military forces could beat an average Roman soldier in marching.  A Roman soldier would march all day and then build a fortified encampment.  The average soldier probably weighed only 140 pounds.  Though his caloric intake had to be high, on the order of 5000-6000 calories a day, it’s unlikely he had the time or capacity to eat multiple meals in a day, aside from some bread or dates.  Yet he maintained a fantastic physical capability.

Also of interest are recent findings that very old practices, considered mystical and spiritual, actually have very measurable utilitarian value.  In America, the religious live the longest.  Who is likely to live the shortest life? The least religious women.  

Fasting is an ancient tradition, and chronicled throughout the Bible.  In the Bible fasting is done along with prayer, usually in preparation for a trying event, such as war or in times of grief.  Fasting has legitimate health benefits.  It seems to help in the fight against cancer, brain degeneration, and insulin resistance.  

I believe the ancients sensed things that we have proven through scientific study.  What we need a million dollar study to prove to us, the ancients endorsed simply because they saw it working.  While it’s true that ancient people did some things that are obviously wrong, many things they did were intuitive and profoundly effective.  In today’s world, many fall victim to the fallacy of Appeal to Novelty.  

Could it be that fasting grants “wisdom” ie, enhanced brain activity?  Maybe it’s something to fast on.

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One thought on “Fasting, Religion, Creativity and Health

    Joshua Letchford said:
    July 7, 2012 at 1:09 am

    The Spartans would march on an empty stomach because they believed that a hungry stomach kept the mind sharp.

    Apparently, digestion employs a lot of blood cells in distributing the nutrients, so if you are not digesting food, more blood can go to the brain enabling you to think better. It’s an issue of resource-allocation.

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