Commonly we say that the activities of an organism should be proportioned to its nutritive intake and, keeping this in mind, we should have no difficulty in understanding that with the shutting off of income of food, there should be some reduction of physical activity—although how much this reduction should be is not immediately determined.
On the whole, we adopt the position that the faster should rest—physically, sensorially, and mentally. Here we are thinking more of the needs of the sick than of the requirements of the fasting organism. It is the profoundly enervated individual who is in need of rest. The more he can relax and rest, the more rapid will be his recuperation and the more efficient will be the processes of repair that go on in his body.
The relatively healthy individual, who is much overweight and who is fasting to reduce weight is certainly not to be placed in the same class with the sick and weak man or woman, who is fasting for physiological rejuvenation.
This, I think, well illustrates a principle that I want to stress at this point: namely that any rule that we can lay down for the conduct of a fast is in the nature of a generality and must be adapted to the individual faster. To insist that all fasters adhere to the same rules to the same extent is to ignore all the various individual factors that render possible or necessary certain modifications of the fasting program that fit it to individual needs and conditions. We cannot deal with people as though they are exact replicas of each other and as though the condition of one is identical with the condition of another.
The primary purpose of rest is the conservation and recuperation of energy. I make no pretense of knowing what “life-energy” is nor its source. I think that a knowledge of this is not essential to the understanding of our subject. We are all well aware that sleep, which is the most complete form of rest (there being the fullest rest of mind and senses, as well as complete physical relaxation in sleep), is a period of recuperation and replenishment.
Rest and relaxation in a quiet place, with no worries or anxieties on the mind, but in the wakeful state, is almost equally a period of recuperation and replenishment. Rest and sleep are nature’s grand representative, recuperative and restorative processes; activity and excitement are grand representative processes of expenditure.
Rest does not mean a complete suspension of all of life’s activities, as in periods of suspended animation. Indeed, during sleep, certain of the body’s most essential activities are most actively carried on. When, in Life’s Great Law, Dr. Walter stated that the success of the work of the living organism is inversely proportioned to the degree of its activity, he had in mind only certain more obvious forms of activity.
The fact is that, the success of the work of the organism is directly proportioned to the degree of its activity in certain basic functions. Witness the processes of growth and repair that are carried on very actively during sleep. Whatever replenishment may mean, in the final analysis, it is a process that is carried on most rapidly during sleep. It may be correct to say that the anabolic activities (that is, the building up processes) of life are most efficient during this period.
I fully agree with Dr. Daniels when he says that “rest from physical exertion is necessary when fasting for any length of time,” but only if we limit this to the fasting sick individual. He says that “unless he is really ill the man of average vigor can go without food for twenty-four hours and continue his usual work, but if his condition is such that he should go without food for a longer time, he should rest absolutely.” Thus he also makes a distinction between the healthy and the sick individual. I again agree that “if he (the faster) has fever he should go to bed and remain (there) until the temperature is normal and digestion has returned.”
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When he again stresses the need for rest, saying, “the man who is not possessed of the average physical vigor should not miss more than one meal without discontinuing his usual work and resting,” he may overstate the case for rest while fasting. Missing two or three meals without going to bed and resting is not catastrophic in its effects upon the average chronic sufferer. True, it does not provide the benefits that the fast coupled with rest provides.
I do agree that “the idea that man should go without food for long periods of time and keep up his usual work, or indulge in walks across the country, and other athletic stunts, is all wrong.” In the early part of this century, when Dr. Daniels was writing, many fasting enthusiasts accomplished stunts requiring extraordinary exertions while fasting.
A little later, the marathon runner and man of vigor and endurance, George Hasler Johnson, attempted to walk from Chicago to New York while fasting. These feats of physical strength and endurance are of tremendous value as showing the resources and possibilities of the human organism and they provide us with a basis for confidence when we undergo a fast, but they have no place in any rational plan of caring for the sick man or woman.
Rest while fasting not only provides for comfort but it hastens the processes of recovery. It is important that we keep in mind that the sick man is enervated and that rest is the means of recuperation.