Article #1: Breaking a Fast by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
In his personal account of his fast of thirty-one days which he underwent in the Carnegie Institute in 1913, Prof. Levanzin says: “I have put under experiment nearly all the systems for breaking a fast. The how is as dangerous as the when. To mine I have added the experience of my wife, my daughters and of many of my friends. After a mature and long meditated study of physiological principles tested by practical methods, I think that I have arrived at the right solution. I had the intention of giving my system a thorough test during the breaking of this last fast, but I could not do it as I had to follow unwillingly somebody else’s inflexible will.”
The professor states his case when he states that the how of breaking a fast is as dangerous as the when. Breaking a last is very easily and simply done and there need be no danger associated with the process. A few simple rules need to be observed in all cases and the need for these is in proportion to the length of the fast and the general state of the faster. Many fasters have harmed themselves, and in a few cases have ended their lives by eating too much or by eating unsuitable foods and food mixtures.
Prof. Levanzin says, “Dr. Goodall, who was in charge of me during the fast from the medical point of view, insisted on having my fast broken on ‘clam broth’ and ‘beef tea!!!’ And because I told him that these would kill me he and Dr. Benedict gave up and put all the responsibility on my shoulders. I took it and broke the fast successfully without any inconvenience although it was afterward spoiled at the hospital.”
It is not likely that clam broth and beef tea would have killed the professor, although, from where I sit, neither of these two slops is suitable human food under any circumstance of life. For death to have resulted from breaking his fast on clam broth and beef tea, he would have had to consume them in inordinately large quantities. Without proper supervision in breaking a fast, the individual may eat too much or too often or he may eat unsuitable food and bring harm upon himself.
In considering the inappropriateness of some foods and food mixtures for breaking a fast Upton Sinclair wrote, “Since leaving the Macfadden Healthatorium, I have at various times had occasion to fast, and have tried other articles of food upon which to break the fast. While I was down in Alabama, I took a twelve-day fast, and at the end I was tempted by a delicious large Japanese persimmon, which had been eyeing me from the pantry shelf during the whole twelve days. I ate that persimmon—and I mention that it was thoroughly ripe; in spite of which fact it doubled me up with the most alarming cramp—and in consequence I do not recommend persimmons for fasters. I know a friend who had a similar experience from the juice of an orange; but he was a man with whom acid fruit has always disagreed. I know another man who broke his fast on Hamburg steak; and this also is not recommended. I have another friend who fasted a week and broke the fast with rice and soft boiled eggs, and this friend also got no benefit to speak of from the experience, although the foods agreed with her perfectly and she had no temptation to overeat. This is about what I should have expected, as my own experience has led me to believe that the worst food that people eat are those highly concentrated pasty things which are deficient in natural salts and contain no waste to keep the intestines active. A person can eat food like eggs and rice for weeks and never have a movement of the bowels. I know it, because I have done it; and I can give myself as durable a headache by that means as other men can get with a hamper of champagne.”
Macfadden broke fasts with fruit juices and followed this with the milk diet. This diet was very popular as the milk was taken every half hour during the day and fully satisfied the keen sense of hunger that follows a fast and provided for a rapid gain in weight. Macfadden says he has seen gains of three pounds a day and records he has seen instances of gain of twenty-five pounds in a week following a fast by means of the milk diet. My own observations of and experiences with the milk diet coincide with his. I have seen gains of three pounds a day and ten pounds a week. I saw one man gain twenty pounds in one week. The milk diet was not discontinued because of a loss of popularity, but because the dairy industry made it increasingly difficult to obtain raw milk, and because it was found impossible to obtain the same desirable results with pasteurized milk.
The weight gained on the milk diet was in large measure due to overloading the body with fluid, as shown by the puffiness of the face, feet, and ankles and the speed with which it was lost when the milk diet was discontinued. The milk diet overworked the heart, the digestive system, and the kidneys, and increased blood pressure. It was not an ideal diet with which to follow a fast.
In my recent book, Fasting for Renewal of Life, I have emphasized the fact that fasting animals in wild nature break their fast upon whatever food the season and locality afford. They do not have the advantage of electric machines to express the juice from foods, but eat their food whole. Man may do the same. A fast may be broken on any wholesome food that is available. Greater caution is required with some foods than with others. The chief requirement is simplicity and a small quantity at a time. If fed in great quantity or too often, the most suitable food may give trouble. Individual articles of food that may give no trouble in the great majority of cases, may give trouble in an occasional case. I have never broken a fast with persimmons but I doubt that most people would suffer cramps, as described by Sinclair, were we to break their fast with persimmons. The case is different with pineapple. This fruit frequently takes the skin off the lips and tongue of the eater. While I have never broken a fast with pineapple, I have fed pineapple two and three days after breaking a fast, and find it frequently causes distress in the stomach in addition to peeling the lips and tongue. Such experiences bring up the question: Is pineapple a suitable food for man?
Prof. Levanzin says: “I break my fast on acids and carbohydrates followed immediately by protein food. The ease and rapidity with which tissues are rebuilt, without any untoward accidents, is really astounding.”
He gives no details about his technique of breaking a fast and we cannot do more than suggest that perhaps his plan of breaking fasts was not ideal. If he mixed the acids and carbohydrates together or if he mixed the carbohydrates and protein, his post-fasting feeding program could have been greatly improved.
It has been contended by many, the fast should be broken upon the food craved by the faster. The faster is likely to crave the foods he was in the habit of eating before he underwent the fast or he may crave some item of food that he sees or sees a picture of while the fast is in progression. The craving may be psychologically rather than physiologically conditioned. It will be better to break the fast upon some simple food the wholesomeness of which is undoubted, such as an orange, or a tomato, or a peach, or a plum, or a small piece of watermelon.
- 1. The Great Day
- 2. Easing Into A Varied Diet
- 3. Symptoms After The Fast
- 4. Transition To Rational Living
- 5. Drugs And Other Poisons
- 6. Take It Easy!
- 7. Fasting Does Not Make The Body Disease-Proof
- 8. Compounding The Benefits Of The Fast
- 9. New Habits Must Be Formed
- 10. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Breaking the Fast By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #2: Fasting Not a Cure By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #3: Breaking a Fast By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #4: When to Break the Fast