A Lot of Profit from a Little Exercise

At the close of last month’s e-Teaching titled Lord, Please Bless This Poison, I promised that this month I would reveal a simple exercise for weight loss that requires very little effort and only requires seconds each day. So I’m going to keep good on my promise.

The secret to effortless weight loss is obviously something that interests many of us, judging from the numerous articles in supermarket magazines with titles such as, “Lose Ten Pounds in Ten Days…by Eating Twice as Much!” In the United States, the weight-loss industry is huge. In the quest to slim down, Americans annually spend $60 billion on diets and weight-loss programs.

For those readers who are apt to find fault with me for not writing on a more “spiritual” topic, I ask for your patience, because I’m not only going to show how spiritual this subject is, but I’m also going to prove that it is thoroughly biblical.

The Wisdom of My Father

It was my earthly father who first introduced me to what has become my secret weight-loss exercise. His version actually didn’t work perfectly for me, so I had to refine it a little.

He named his exercise “Push Aways.” They could only be done at certain times of the day—when one was seated at a meal table. Timing was crucial. The key was to “push away” from the table before one ate too much, and to do it consistently, meal after meal!

The genius in my dad’s Push Away Exercise is that it stopped weight from going on before it had to be worked off. If you have a problem, for example, with owning too many shoes, the most obvious solution is to stop buying shoes every day. Regarding body weight, you don’t have to lose what you don’t first gain. Push Aways are based on that wisdom. And Push Aways, if done soon enough at meals, not only prevent weight gain, but can result in weight loss, just like any other exercise.

When you think about it, you begin to realize why Push Aways are so far superior to any other exercise. They only require seconds, they don’t require any special equipment, and they’re not strenuous. You don’t build up sweat, so you don’t have to shower afterwards.

If you attempt to lose weight by means of any other exercise, you’ll find those exercises to be markedly more involved and difficult. To burn just 100 calories by walking, for example, you need to briskly walk about one mile. So working off just a pound of body fat (equivalent to about 3,500 calories) requires walking 35 miles! Yet one well-timed Push Away, for example, just seconds before dessert, can have the equivalent calorie-burning benefit of walking four or more miles! So the truth stands: One is much more likely to lose weight at the dinner table than at the gym!

Why Push Aways Didn’t Work Perfectly for Me

The only flaw regarding Push Aways, and the ultimate reason they didn’t work perfectly for me, is because I struggled with the timing. I generally waited too long into meals before pushing away. (Usually right after dessert!)

So I worked on refining Push Aways. I needed an exercise that was even easier. One that didn’t require me to push away from the table when I wanted to continue eating what was set before me.

Finally, I discovered the perfect exercise. Like Push Aways, the exercise I discovered only requires seconds, and it won’t cause you to sweat. It actually doesn’t require nearly as much self-control as Push Aways. It is healthy for you in other ways besides preventing weight gain and causing weight loss. It even has spiritual benefits. Finally, it is rooted in Scripture.

I’ve named this perfect exercise, “Stay Aways.”

The Bible refers to my exercise as fasting. There are more than 70 references to it in Scripture.

Fasting is something that every Christian should periodically do, and not just between dinner and breakfast (a word which, incidentally, literally means to “break your fast”). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to His followers, “When you fast” (Matt. 6:17), not “If you fast.” Since Jesus told His disciples to teach their disciples to obey everything He commanded them (Matt. 28:20), Jesus’ words regarding fasting are obviously relevant to all believers.

Of course, Jesus didn’t endorse fasting for the weight-loss benefits, but for the spiritual benefits. But that is one the beauties of fasting. Weight loss can be just a side benefit of something that offers other benefits that are even more valuable. Still, you can fast just to lose weight. If you do, however, you’ll automatically also enjoy the health benefits. And since cutting out a meal or meals will save you time and money, you’ll have the option to use that extra time to pray or study Scripture, and you’ll have the option to use the money you save to lay up treasure in heaven. Those are the biblical reasons for fasting (see Is. 58:1-11).

The First Time You Fast

Keep in mind that fasting does not necessarily require going without food for days. One fasts when one skips a single meal. Intermittent fasting has recently started to become a popular means of dieting in the U.K. (and now spreading to the U.S.). Those who are promoting it advocate skipping breakfast and lunch two days each week. It is simply a way to cut calories, and it results in weight loss as long as one doesn’t gorge when one does eat meals.

Those who have never previously fasted often complain of headaches or other discomforts when they first skip a meal or two. Those symptoms are actually an indication of the need to fast, as they are signs that one’s body, relieved of the burden of digestion, has begun to work on detoxification, cleansing and healing.

And physical healing is definitely a real benefit of fasting. In one of the books that I recommended last month, Fasting and Eating for Health, the author, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, cites scores of examples of patients with chronic illnesses who found no cure in conventional medicine but who were healed through fasting.

If you are suffering from migraine headaches, hypoglycemia, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, angina, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, any of the many autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus, uterine fibroid tumors, benign ovarian or breast tumors, nasal polyps, lipomas, acne, eczema, tinnitus, vertigo, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, cervical dysplasia, chronic neck or back pain, polymyalgia rheumatica, hypothyroidism, or even anxiety or depression, I suggest that you read Dr. Fuhrman’s book. Fasting is also a great way to rid oneself of an addiction to nicotine.

Withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, are common early in a fast for those who consume significant amounts of caffeine. Of course, you can relieve yourself of withdrawal and other unpleasant symptoms just by resuming eating, but you’ll put an end to the detoxification and healing. It may help to remind yourself that a heroine addict can relieve himself of withdrawal symptoms by injecting heroine again. Most fasters discover that their unpleasant symptoms resolve themselves after a little time passes. Just hang in there. Even the symptoms of debilitating fatigue and foul breath (an indication of detoxification) decrease as a fast progresses.

Although it is often thought by those who have never fasted that they will die without food, the truth is, the average person can safely go without food for weeks. Most fasters discover that any feelings of hunger are gone after a day or two, and that each day of fasting after the first few becomes progressively easier.

One’s sense of smell becomes significantly more sensitive during fasting, so that the slightest aroma of food is detected. So fasting is easier if you don’t subject yourself to such aromas, particularly the smell of food that is being cooked.

Of course, fasters should drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and assist the detoxification process. The strong oder of fasters’ urine is one more indication of the body cleansing itself.

If you have never fasted before, it is wise to start with just a one-day fast. You will find that the more often you fast, the easier it will become.

Fasting often changes one’s taste desires. What may have tasted good prior to a fast may not taste good afterwards. After a fast of moderate length, you may well find that simple, natural and healthy foods are more desirable to you than highly-processed junk foods. Eating such foods may even make you feel ill. Returning to a poor diet after a fast makes fasting for health a waste of time.

Fasts should be broken carefully and gradually, beginning with easily-digetable food, such as a small quantity of fruit. The longer the fast, the more gradual the breaking of the fast should be.

The Essence of Following Jesus

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

If self-denial is the essence of following Jesus—as His own words above seem to indicate—then the lives of believers ought to be characterized by self-denial. I’m afraid that many of us who practice self-denial in some areas of our lives, such as sacrificing for the sake of the “least of these,” or resisting worldly temptation, or being devoted to prayer, don’t show much evidence of self-denial regarding our eating habits. In fact, our eating habits often reveal more self-indulgence than self-discipline. Stay Aways are a means to help change that!

Next month I hope to write a little more about the benefits of nutrient-packed foods and fasting. As always, I appreciate your feedback and read it all. — David

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7b-8).