Over the past couple of years, I have run into a few people who have lost a significant amount of weight. They didn’t appear to be morbidly obese but did have a pretty typical American overweight body type. I asked both individuals, “I notice you’ve lost a significant amount of weight…is everything okay? Is your health alright?” Both times they smiled at me and said “My health is actually better than it has been in a long time. I feel great.”
Their “secret” you wonder? Fasting. Intermittent fasting to be exact. Now this article isn’t a promotion of a weight loss program and anytime you do something that effects your physical health you should do so with professional advice. Intermittent fasting is a simple program where you eat for an 8 hour window during the day (say 10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and refrain from food the other 16 hours. Other schedules might include one or two days a week where you refrain from food for an entire 24 hour period once or twice a week. Seem extreme? It’s not. It’s the virtue of temperance.
Fasting isn’t just something we are called to do in Lent. It’s a discipline for the soul that we should carry with ourselves throughout our lives. And fasting done well leads to joy, health, strength and virtue … not self-harm. St. Augustine says “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity.”
As we all know, food isn’t the only over indulgence that we have in our society. Technology is the fastest growing addiction that we have. It is leading to decreased attention spans, de-personalization of others, altered sleep patterns, breakdown of communication skills, not to mention people causing car accidents or literally falling to their deaths from cliffs as they attempt the perfect selfie or walk distractedly off a path.
Intermittent fasting from technology is something that we all (myself included) could benefit from. Have you ever looked at how often you open your smartphone throughout the day? And notice that we actually talk about “binging” when it comes to television series or streaming services. A 2018 study showed that Americans spent an average of 11 hours a day looking at a screen. 11 hours! If you sleep for 8 hours, that only leaves 5 waking hours away from a screen. And just to keep the stats going, 11 hours is close to half a day, which means Americans are getting close to spending half of their lives looking at a screen. What a waste!
What if we took the first step and “only” allowed ourselves 8 hours a day in screen time? That includes phones, television and computer time. Or what if you took the next step and had one or two “non-technology” days a week? What else could you do that would feed your soul? What sort of transformation would others notice after a year went by?
Don’t be surprised if you start to see more restaurants, venues, homes or even neighborhoods start to pop up that limit the use of technology. It can be a great tool when used well, but many of our souls are starting to look a little worse for the wear, and you don’t even have to believe in God to see it.
So turn off the noise. Go for a walk. Have a real conversation with someone, read a book or go fishing. Your heart, mind and soul with thank you, and soon others will too. Perhaps you will stand out in a crowd because people think that you look less stressed, fatigued and unhappy. The secret won’t be in a bottle, it could be as simple as walking away from the things that don’t truly nourish us and carving out time for those that do.
Which reminds me, as I sit at my computer and write this, it’s a beautiful day outside. I think I’ll go enjoy it.