Breaking the Fast Today

Learn more about how to ease back into the delicate art of eating.
In a Nutshell :-)

Breaking the fast is as important as the fast itself. The digestive organs have been at rest and should be introduced to food in a graduated manner. The refeeding should generally be about half the time as the fasting period and a minimum of three to five days for best results. Continue to drink juice and eat only raw fruits and vegetables until you achieve regular eliminations. The timing should be adjusted according to length of fast, individual capacities, and personal health objectives.

The main rules for breaking the fast are:

  1. Do not overeat!
  2. You should eat your food slowly and chew it extremely well.
  3. Take several days of gradual transition to the normal diet.
1. The Great Day

I learned that a man emerging from a long fast should not be in a hurry to regain lost strength and should also put a curb on his appetite. More caution and perhaps more restraint are necessary in breaking a fast than in keeping it.

—Mahatma Gandhi

When the Great Day arrives, there may be a tendency to feel that the battle has been won, the struggle is over, the problem has been solved. From now on it’s “enjoy, enjoy!” Both the fasting supervisor and the faster, with a great sense of relief that the waiting and the denial is at an end, want to get the faster back to the routine and joy of living as soon as possible. And what’s the best way to do that? Why we must put some flesh on that scrawny body—we must feed and nourish him back to his normal size and strength. He’s been denied long enough. Now we can make it all up to him!

Whoa! The end of the fast is only the beginning of the transition to normal living.


1.1 The Return of Natural Hunger

If the fast is continued to the return of natural hunger, certain signs will be manifested. The coated tongue usually clears, the mouth tastes fresh and clean, the foul breath disappears. A sense of rejuvenation and well-being are experienced. The desire (or actual craving) for food becomes compelling—and there is a real sense of hunger, which is a mouth-and-throat sensation.

True hunger is not an uncomfortable feeling, but one is conscious of an urgent, but pleasant longing for food. The abdominal sensations, or all-gone feeling, that we usually attribute to hunger, are caused by irritation. Most people have never experienced true hunger. It is possible that one may not experience true hunger at any time during the fast.

Sometimes the tongue does not clear completely, but the indications of the return of natural hunger are visible to the fasting supervisor and the fast must be broken—or starvation will begin.

It is said that the best time to break a fast is when nature gives these signals of the return of true hunger. It is impossible to know in advance just when this will occur. The fast must never be prolonged beyond this point.

2. Easing Into A Varied Diet

Some people can be eased into a varied diet sooner than others—the fasting supervisor makes this decision, based on how the individual reacts. Most people are able to take only very small quantities of food for several days, and they should be given no more than they can comfortably handle. They are usually satisfied with small quantities of food at the outset, and, in truth, only small quantities are required.

The reason the faster is unable to take larger amounts is because the stomach has contracted during the fast. Some fasting supervisors serve four small meals daily for a week or more, to enable the individual to regain weight and strength somewhat faster: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a small evening fruit snack.

Dr. Shelton says that by the end of the first week, the faster should be able to take normal amounts of food.


2.1 Overeating After the Fast

Some people soon demand large quantities of food to compensate for previous restrictions. Those who have a tendency to overeat after the first few days of eating should, of course, be restrained. Constant overeating will again distend the stomach, after which the person does not feel satisfied unless he eats to fill the distended stomach. Those who are allowed to eat too much may find that the overeating may delay the restoration of the body’s normal ability to digest the food comfortably.

Most people have no digestive problems after a fast (if the fast is broken prudently)—some do have them, even if they have not been conscious of digestive problems in the past. Dr. Vetrano says that most people come for a fast with a slight inflammation of the digestive tract, whether or not they know it. Such people are well on the road to making themselves sick all over again, if they are allowed to overeat in the initial period following the termination of the fast.

Charles W. Johnson, Jr. (Fasting, Longevity and Immortality) says that if a “monster of appetite” is turned loose after the fast, it becomes very difficult to control, resulting in a loss of much of the fasting benefit, as well as the probability of significant harm. Listening to the appestat at this time may misguide you.

Those who are very thin and slow to gain weight should ignore their weight. Gaining strength and restoring efficiency of body function is much more important. They should not overeat and try to eat fattening foods. They should be satisfied and accept the gradual weight gain that will surely come at the proper time. Even if one is gaining only a pound a week, that is twenty-six pounds in six months. In any event, the weight will stabilize in time.

Dr. Shelton says, “After a fast of considerable length, there is a period of several days, lasting up to two weeks, during which the individual feels hungry most of the time. If not carefully guided, he is almost sure to overeat. If he will control his eating until this initial period of hunger has passed, he will settle down to a more normal appetite and the danger of overeating will pass.

“Uncontrolled, he may eat so much during this period that he loses much that he gained in the fast. One important advantage of fasting in an institution is that control continues until the normal eating level is stabilized. In such an institution the patient’s diet is carefully supervised; he is not permitted to overeat. At home, he must be a more self-disciplined man than the average if he is to avoid overeating.”

Dr. Shelton also says, “The animal breaks his fast on whatever food is available at the time he resumes eating. On the whole, animals seem to be better controlled than man. They are not inclined to glut themselves when they break a fast, but may take but a small portion of food in doing so. A dog that has fasted for nearly a month, for example, may take but a few sips of milk at a time and may refuse all flesh for the first four to six days, after he resumes eating. If man’s intuition was still as reliable a guide to eating as is that of the animal, I doubt that we would need to supervise the breaking of a fast.” If possible, one should try to stay at the fasting retreat long enough to gain enough weight to look “presentable”, to family and friends, if one is very thin. If not possible, it’ is best not to worry about it. The family and friends will gradually observe the new bloom of health as the months go by.

Many people who had been chronically underweight before, the fast experience such an improvement in assimilation after the fast that they achieve a more normal weight by the lime the weight stabilizes. This is due to the increased ability of the cells to take up and appropriate nutrients, which always results from fasting. Weight gain is often less effective after sickness, because of damages from toxins and drugs.

Upton Sinclair, in The Fasting Cure, maintains that after a fast we “bounce” back to our “ideal” weight, sometimes less and sometimes more than the prefasting weight. Upton Sinclair changed himself, after several fasts, from a very thin “ectomorph” to an athletic “mesomorph.”

On the other hand, people whose target is weight loss may be significantly benefited by fasting. Dr. Edgar S. Gordon of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, says that people who gain weight easily probably have a low metabolic rate. They convert glucose to fat much too rapidly and don’t produce enough available energy. Dr. Gordon’s experiments with animals suggest that a fast may “break the metabolic block,” producing subtle endocrine changes that make food assimilation more efficient. A report in Lancet, a British medical journal, supports the view that hormonal changes brought about by fasting may continue to promote weight loss even after eating is resumed.

This does not consistently happen in all cases of obesity, but it is an important potential benefit of fasting for weight loss. Of course, nothing in the world will keep weight off if the individual resumes gluttonous eating habits.

Fasting does lead to a new awareness of the difference between hunger and appetite, and reeducates the taste buds. If the faster can be helped over the initial critical period, he can achieve an alteration in his eating habits. Many people come off the fast with a passion for fresh fruits and vegetables. A 1976 British Medical Journal report says almost all fasting patients “admit to a radical change in previous eating habits.”

Although a fast does, for the most part, put appetite into alignment with the body’s real needs, Dr. Allan Cott says (Fasting As a Way of Life, p. 25), “The wise person eases into a sensible refeeding program. Easy does it if you want to continue feeling wonderful. … In effect, the body is reeducated by a fast. It ‘unlearns’ habits of overeating and ‘polluting.’ It is ‘born again.’ It inclines toward a natural state. It wants only as much food as is required for maintenance. It prefers the kinds of food that are natural to the taste and harmonious to the digestive system.” He cautions that you should adhere to a careful refeeding schedule for the same number of days you fasted. If you do this, “the likelihood is that, when you return to a regular eating pattern, you will be eating more selectively and austerely, which is all to the good.”

Alter about two weeks, or perhaps a little longer, the feeling of being hungry all the time tends to disappear, if the “monster of appetite” has been kept under control.


2.2 Permanent Control of the Eating Program

Dr. Cott says that after fasting, there is a much better chance for permanent control of the eating program than after any diet. He says, “The system now wants to reject food in excess of the needs of the body. You should now be able to gain a new perspective on food and a new relationship to food that can keep you from overeating or from eating undesirable foods. Fasting and a sensible refeeding program have led to this desideratum.”

Dr. Cott also says, “After a long fast the palate is restored to pristine purity. It prefers the taste of foods that are simple and whole and natural. It tends to reject processed and fragmented foods, as well as alcohol and tobacco.”

Dr. Shelton says that if fasting is being used for the alleviation of a chronic disease—even if the patient has undergone only a short fast (less than fourteen days)—it is usually desirable to utilize an eliminating diet for a period of time after the termination of the fast, perhaps for as long as a few weeks. An eliminating diet is a diet low in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, which causes the cells to use stored reserves to meet their requirements. During such a diet, the body can eliminate toxic matters and accumulated wastes, but never as well as during a fast. Obviously, an eliminating diet would not be recommended if the person had previously fasted to completion.


2.3 Eat All-Raw Food As Long As Possible

When the individual progresses to a varied diet, a variety of uncooked foods may be eaten. Even if the person intends to return to the use of some cooked food, this should be postponed as long as possible.

Careful management of the food program should continue for at least two to three weeks after breaking the fast. The fragile situation in the body is only gradually eliminated, as the digestive system slowly returns to its normal efficiency.

Some extremely debilitated or anxious individuals are impatient with their slow and gradual regaining of strength and weight, and find it extremely difficult to stay on all-raw food. In such cases, it might be advisable to allow small amounts of cooked food, at the evening meal only.

But it is really much better to eat moderately of good, whole, raw food, and efforts should be made to allay the misgivings of the post-fasting individual. Adaptations are being made, and will be accelerated by the higher quality of the whole raw food.

During this period, it is extremely beneficial to stay on the all-raw-food diet, if at all possible. The longer the all-raw-food diet is maintained, the better start the person will have. One should refrain from polluting the relatively clean bloodstream with the pathogenic debris of cooked food indefinitely, if possible.

After the fast, the body needs whole, raw food, and will not welcome cooked food, in which all of the enzymes have been destroyed, along with many of the vitamins and minerals. In addition, the amino acids and fats have been changed and made less digestible and sometimes toxic, and the balance of nature has been altered.

An optimal diet of whole, unprocessed foods is especially important for the first, few weeks (or even months) after the fast, when the body is regaining normal weight, and new protoplasm is being built.

The body chemistry is basically determined by the foods that are eaten, though other factors, (exercise, sunshine, fresh air, etc.) have some influence. While the causes of disease include chemical, bacterial, mechanical, and mental factors, chemistry dominates the efficiency of the physiological functions of the organism, other factors being secondary to the chemical condition of the body.

The complex chemical balance of all food nutrients is altered by heating, and it has consistently been demonstrated that superior tissue, and superior health, result from a diet of uncooked food.

Remember that the nutrients available in raw food exceed those in cooked food by several hundred percent, and after a prolonged fast, this is a critical time to decide— with what quality of tissue will you replace the tissue you have discarded?

The faster and the fasting supervisor should make this decision cooperatively, always with the thought in mind that the faster has already made a tremendous investment, which can be either safeguarded or threatened by the post-fasting food program.


2.4 Protein Needs After the Fast

After a prolonged fast, a slightly greater amount of protein than usual may be necessary, if not in excess of the digestive capabilities of the body. Immediately after a prolonged fast, the body cannot handle a large quantity of protein foods.

Concentrated proteins are more difficult to digest than other foods, because they are the most complex of all the food elements, and their breakdown and utilization are most complicated. The body can utilize only a limited amount of protein in the immediate post-fasting period.

Dr. Shelton says, “Nothing is to be gained by overfeeding following a fast. The hurry to gain weight and strength causes many to demand excess quantities of protein, thinking that protein is utilized in direct proportion to the amount eaten. In The Nutrition of Man (1907) Professor Russell H. Chittenden of Yale University, detailing his experiments covering the establishment and maintenance of nitrogen balance at many levels of nitrogen intake tells us: ‘The fasting man having lost largely of his store of protein can replace the latter only slowly, even though he eats abundantly of protein food. … The human body does not readily store up protein and this is true no matter how greatly the tissues are in need of replenishment. Overfeeding with protein does not lead to corresponding results, owing primarily to the peculiar physiological properties of protein; its general stimulating effect on metabolism, the tendency of the body to establish nitrogenous equilibrium at different levels, and the fact emphasized by van Noorden that flesh deposition is primarily a function of the specific energy of developing cells. … It is generally considered as a settled fact, that in man it is impossible to accomplish any large permanent storing or deposition of flesh by overfeeding. Similarly, it is understood that the muscular strength of man cannot be greatly increased by an excessive intake of food. … We may call attention to the well-known fact that in feeding animals for food, while fat may be laid on in large amounts, flesh cannot be so increased by overfeeding.”

Shelton continues, “It is obvious that there is nothing to be gained by the excessive intake of protein, following a fast. The body can make use of only so much protein in the post-fasting period, and must excrete all unused protein. … Nitrogen retention is increased both by mineral and by carbohydrate intake and it is more important that the diet contain adequate quantities of these than that it contain an excess of protein.”


2.5 An Interesting Phenomenon

An interesting and probably significant observation made by Charles W. Johnson, Jr. in Fasting, Longevity and Immortality, page 26, pertains to a fact (which I have often observed) that, subsequent to a fast, more weight may be gained than can be accounted for or justified by the amount of food that had been eaten. It is usually maintained that it takes three thousand accumulated calories to gain or lose a pound, and I have observed that this is far from a consistent result, either when fasting or eating.

Johnson says, “My notes show that I broke my forty-day fast on March 28, 1964, but four days before, on the thirty-sixth day of fasting, I put in a hard day’s work getting the garden ready for planting. From March 22 to 28 my weight stayed at 135-136 pounds. This brings up what may be the most important mystery of fasting.

“We can calculate the energy that is needed to keep our heart, breathing mechanism, and brain functioning. Adding in a little for minimal physical activity, we can conclude that a moderately inactive faster should lose almost a pound of weight per day. That is, in the absence of food to burn for energy, the body must burn, or catabolize, almost a pound per day of its own weight to ‘keep going.’ During most of a fast this is a typical weight loss figure.

“Nevertheless, here I was, near the end of a forty-day fast, feeling more energetic than earlier in the fast, doing more physical work, and losing no weight! Impossible, of course, and I foolishly ignored the fact—the absence of weight loss—assuming it to be the result of faulty measurement or observation. (How often we scientists miss something important of this sort simply because we know it is impossible and therefore refuse to notice it.) Subsequently, however, I read that others had noted the same phenomenon, and in some cases with great concentration.

“There appears to be a clear-cut violation of a sacred law of physics here—the law of mass-energy conservation. Some mysterious source of energy is supplying its energy for our body’s use.”

Johnson says that after his forty-day fast, he realized that he was not eating and drinking enough to justify his weight gain. “The violation of mass-energy conservation, manifest in the last days of the fast by lack of weight loss, was continuing now that I was eating. It was now taking the form of greater weight gain than my food and water intake could justify … surely important research remains to be done here.”

Dr. Cott says, “Once you resume eating, some weight gain naturally occurs. The body retains fluid, which translates into weight because of the sodium content in food. For a time after any fast, this will be more weight than is metabolically balanced for the amount of calories being consumed.”

This may be a partial explanation for the phenomenon observed by Johnson (and others), but does not by any means completely account for the inconsistencies in weight loss and weight gain and their relationship, to the calories consumed.


2.6 Beware of Cooked Food and Other Compromises

For those who do eventually return to a varied diet which includes cooked food—be on your guard! Compromise may follow compromise and you may find yourself back on the same destructive path that led to your problem which necessitated the prolonged fast.

A return to your old habits may negate all you have done and start you back on the downward path. This is the time to reinforce your decision to persevere in Hygienic living, and experience even greater health improvement in the years to come.

It may be as much as a year before you consolidate your gains and evolve into the health and strength you envisioned when you undertook your fast. But it will surely come to pass if you continue to study Natural Hygiene and live in accord with your natural requirements.

Those who do use some cooked food must be ever wary of going too far. Once you cross over from nature’s most perfect foods (raw and unchanged), it is all too easy to make this exception and that—desserts, processed foods, etc.

If you will be eating some cooked foods, wait as long as possible after the fast to start, and then:

  1. Reserve at least some days for all-raw food.
  2. Never eat cooked food more than once in a day, as part of a meal starting with a large raw salad.
  3. Be certain that your overall diet includes no more than 20% of food that is not whole and raw—preferably no more than 10%.
  4. Be very strict with yourself—at least during the first year after a prolonged fast. If some of your symptoms return, be sure to immediately “back up” and keep as close to an all-raw-food diet as you can possibly manage.
3. Symptoms After The Fast

Sometimes fleeting symptoms will occur or recur for a short period after breaking a prolonged fast. Some people experience mild sore throats, canker sores in the mouth, edema (usually slightly swollen ankles). Sometimes there is a mild recurrence of the original problem—or a very temporary painful episode.

These usually are manifestations of the organism’s efforts to affect necessary adjustments during the period of transition from the fasting state to the necessity for processing renewed food supplies.

No palliation of such symptoms should be attempted, and it is not necessary (nor advisable) to start fasting again at this time. Get a lot of rest, and continue eating carefully, preferably all-raw food, and these symptoms will gradually recede.

4. Transition To Rational Living

Usually the transitional period is not really difficult—most of the time there are no real problems.

The first bowel movements may be normal and easy—they are usually very dark and malodorous, gradually changing to a normal color and losing the foul odor. If you experience some difficulty, don’t strain or worry—tell your fasting supervisor, who will help you.

After you resume eating, your bowel movements will probably be quite soft, but will gradually progress to the normal consistency.

After a few meals, the faster begins to feel better, and may experience a sense of euphoria. S/he is so happy to have successfully culminated the fast—so happy to be enjoying the pleasures of food again. There may be delusions of returned strength and well-being, and the desire to do something foolish, like indulging in strenuous activity. But, actually, the dizziness and weakness retreat only gradually. One must come back slowly. The body will appreciate being allowed time to gradually adapt to the new situation.

Johnson says that the miraculous power of the fast produces “unquenchable exuberance” and enthusiasm for life, especially for a period immediately after breaking the fast. He says, “The gourmet does not know the true feeling of tantalized taste buds until he has broken a fast of at least several days on any simple food.” All fasters and all fasting supervisors will agree with Johnson’s eloquent expressions of the euphoria experienced after the fast.

If one has not fasted to completion, the tongue will gradually clear—it usually takes several days (sometimes longer) to eliminate the coated tongue and bad taste.

Dr. Shelton says, “Bed rest should be continued through the first week of eating and activity begun very gradually. It is common for the faster to want to become active as soon as he resumes eating. This is unwise. He is not so strong and he does not have the endurance he thinks he has. Some fasters want to take long walks as soon as eating is resumed. Such activity is often indulged in to the extent that it retards recuperation and causes the individual’s weight to stand still. One must take it easy for a few days before becoming normally active.”

As vigor gradually returns, one should begin—cautiously at first—taking short walks, and some easy exercises. It is very important to gradually build up the capabilities for vigorous exercise, in accordance with the condition of the body, as this will assist restoration of the normal digestive ability.

The ability to process and assimilate food will be greatly enhanced following a fast and its proper termination, and after an initial period of adjustment. Resting after each meal will also greatly enhance digestion, weight gain, and renewed vigor.

5. Drugs And Other Poisons

Very important! It must be remembered that drugs and other poisons are a greater threat after the body has been cleansed by a fast, because the “calluses” are gone. The tolerance level has been lowered—the body no longer tolerates toxins and will react strongly for their elimination.

When the individual was tolerating toxins, he (or she) was developing disease and gradually killing himself. A lower tolerance level is a tremendous step forward, but it leaves one more vulnerable. So it is important to stay out of hospitals and stay away from drugs and all other toxic materials. Avoid smokers, carbon monoxide fumes, and polluted air to the greatest extent possible.

It is, of course, not necessary or advisable to use food supplements after the fast, nor at any time. After the fast, it is even more important not to burden the cleansed body with such questionable substances. The body is apt to react violently to their use and, even if it does not, the organism is subjected to the necessity for breaking down these substances, attempting to utilize whatever nutrients are present, and eliminating the excesses and waste products. The resultant stress and expenditure of energy is often more than can possibly be obtained from the pills.

It is true that, following a fast, there is an urgent, an imperative, need for proteins, minerals, and vitamins—not from pills or powders, but from whole natural fruits and vegetables and from raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. These contain all of the nutrients, in the best and most available form.

After the fast, one should learn to live in such a manner that the low tolerance level will be retained. Toleration of toxins interferes with the normal functioning of the body, inevitably leading to the first stage of toxemia (enervation, lack of sufficient nerve energy) which is followed later by disease and death of tissues.

6. Fasting Does Not Make The Body Disease Proof

The fast is but the first step in combating disease and must be followed by correct living. People who have suffered from chronic degenerative ailments should never make the mistake of trying to keep one foot on each side of the fence that divides the conventional and Hygienic rationale. After the prolonged fast, they should never regress to conventional eating patterns or return to the “prevention syndrome” of health management, lest their problems return.

It is difficult to imagine that anyone who has experienced the wonders of a prolonged fast could ever be persuaded to turn away from Natural Hygiene, for such a mistake could be serious, perhaps disastrous.

The principles of Natural Hygiene and the use of fasting are grounded in the study of cause and effect. Remove the causes of ill health by Hygienic living and the effect will be improved health. Remove the accumulated effects of previous irrational living (by fasting), and the body will tend toward healing and rejuvenation.

Fasting does not insure the body against disease. It is true that some symptoms and manifestations of disease disappear during the fast and do not return. But there are some diseases that have a tendency to return swiftly after the fast if the faster returns to the old habits which caused the disease. Much depends on the type, extent, and gravity of the degeneration, and on the strength and vitality of the individual.

During the first weeks or months—perhaps even during the first year or two after a prolonged fast, the mode of living and eating may be critical in the preservation of the health improvement which has been achieved.

7. New Habits Must Be Formed

Fasting is a means of promoting health by eliminating the disease-causing conditions—by cleansing the body of accumulated toxins and allowing it to heal itself.

Perverted appetites can be normalized by fasting, but new habits must be formed to supersede and overcome any pressures to return to the appetites that produced the disease.

The period immediately following the fast is the best time to form and maintain the habits that will give one the feeling of having been born again.

Dr. Shelton says, “The true remedy for all impairments of health is a complete correction of the way of life. When enervating habits are discontinued, the sick will begin to get well, and, once having recovered, to stay well unless the enervating habits are returned to.”

The prolonged fast for the elimination of toxemia is but the initial preparation for a program for the restoration of good health. Health evolves out of correct living. The fast begins the reversal of the processes of disease, so that the self-healing powers of the organism may initiate the health-restoration processes.

But the most important factor in the progress toward optimal health is making the necessary changes in the habits of living. Unless the change to correct living is made after the fast, there can be no permanent good health.

Never forget—Natural Hygiene is a way of life. Fasting is not a modality to be employed to correct uncomfortable symptoms, after which one may return to the mode of life that produced the disease.

Hygienic living, especially if complemented by the use of regular, short fasting periods, as an instrument of health maintenance is the best assurance and insurance for good health and longer life.