Feasting & Fasting In The Mediterranean Diet

The Idea Behind Cheat Days and Fasting Days

Some of the most overlooked aspects of the Mediterranean Diet is the prevalence of feasting and fasting days dispersed throughout the calendar. There are many rich and decadent foods in the Mediterranean; however, they are reserved for celebrations and special occasions based on strict sets of rules. Unfortunately in America we have taken these feasting meals and made them everyday foods – look at the Americanized versions of Italian food or all the rich French and Italian desserts.

Fasting

Fasting 101In the Mediterranean lavish feast days are compensated for with fasting days and abstinence days of simple plain basically vegetarian eating. Take for example the 12 Day Christmas Season, 12 days of lavish and decadent eating, that was preceded by the 4 weeks of Lent. That’s just one example, all through the year are numerous feast and fasting days that complement and balance each other out. Some amazing research on this was done by the National Institute of Health here, here and here. Essentially the studies found significant health benefits connected to the religious fasting practices of Christians in the Mediterranean. The benefits were across the board including significant improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, fat burning, obesity, cardiovascular, etc… These studies have led to even more research and a rise to numerous fasting systems such as Intermittent Fasting, The 5:2 Diet, Mini-Fasting, etc…

Intermittent Fasting

I won’t drown you in science jargon and the countless studies I’ve reviewed but here a few key things to know:

  • Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight
  • Intermittent Fasting Can Increase Metabolism & Fat Burning
  • Intermittent Fasting Can Detox & Cleanse The Body
  • Intermittent Fasting Can Decrease Insulin Production and Increase Insulin Sensitivity
  • Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Tone & Build Muscle When You Workout While Fasting.

FastingYou can check out some of the science here, here, here, and a great write up here. Suffice it to say there are many benefits to Intermittent Fasting and it is a factor in the Mediterranean Diet. When you stop and think about it, it really does make a lot of sense. Throughout the history of the Mediterranean the people have lived through countless cycles of feast and famine and even going further for all of human history we have had constant cycles of feast and famine. Our human bodies are perfectly designed to thrive in these environments, evolution has selected for these very characteristics for survival; not just survival but also to thrive in these environments. In fact it’s not until the modern era in the last half of the 20th Century when the Western World entered into a permanent state of feasting with a nonstop over abundant supply of cheap calories have our bodies broken down and we’ve been plagued by obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other chronic diseases that are nearly nonexistent in the traditional Mediterranean world.

So How Does Intermittent Fasting Work

There are basically 2 main ways to do this:

  • 16 Hour Fast
    • Fasting from dinner the night before until lunch the following day.
    • Typically only “liquids” eaten during “fasting period”
    • This is a typical Mediterranean day where breakfast is nothing more than a coffee with cream
    • This is the easiest to maintain because the first few hours are after a main meal, then the next 8 are spent sleeping so the only “hard” part is the first few hours in the morning. Keeping yourself busy and active during this time is key. After a week or so the body adapts and you won’t start really getting hungry until just before lunch
  • 24 Hour Fast
    • Fasting Period of Dinner to Dinner
    • Typically a small snack (roughly 300 calories) is eaten during the fasting period
    • More rare version, typically for specific religious days and done only 1 day at a time
    • This is the hardest to maintain and should not be done more than once a week. Still the first few hours are after a major meal, then followed by sleep time. The hardest part is the afternoon leading up to dinner, that’s where the snack comes in to really help. Basically this is skipping breakfast, a small lunch and a good dinner.

Throughout the Fasting Periods in either case you want to drink healthy beverages like tea and true natural juices and lots and lots of water for detoxification and cleansing.
The typical Fasting and Abstinence periods in the Mediterranean are Lent (the 40 days before Easter), Vigil of Pentecost (49 days after Easter), Vigil of Assumption of Mary (14 August), Advent (the 4 weeks before Christmas) and Wednesdays and Fridays of typical weeks.

Feasting

FeastingNow here’s a topic near and dear to my heart and I don’t think needs too much explanation, it’s always easier to feast than it is to fast. There isn’t anything wrong with feasting in and of itself, the problem lies when it loses the social rules associated with it, like what has happened in America. In the Mediterranean feasting is for:

  • Specific Special Occasions
  • Rare Treat
  • Free To Eat What You Want
  • Eat Treats That Are “Worth it”
  • Indulge In High Quality Treats
  • Eat Until 90% Full, Don’t Stuff Yourself Sick

In the traditional Mediterranean Lifestyle feast days would occur at special celebrations in the Church calendar like Easter & the Christmas Season, the feast day of the patron saint of your village, of saints you have a personal devotion towards, birthdays, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries and on Sundays. It was the Sunday feast day tradition that led to old time traditions like Sunday Supper, Sunday Brunch, Sunday Lunch, etc… That we still have some semblance of here in America.

My Personal Feast And Fast Schedule

After lots of research and deep thought I’ve come up with my own personal set of feast days and fasting days I will use to guide my calendar.

FASTING

Mediterranean Diet Always
FitBit and Lose It Dietary Tracking
24 Hour Fast Period = No Main Meals, “Snack” of 300-400 calories allowed; not meat (Friday)
16 Hour Fast Period = Only Liquid

WEEKLY

  • 24 Hour Fast Wednesday & Friday
    • (Dinner to Dinner)
  • No Wine On Fridays

ANNUAL

  • Lent (40 Days)
    • No meat on Fri
    • No Wine During the Week
    • Simple Lunches
    • Salad/Seafood/Vegetarian Dish at Restaurants Except Sunday
    • 16 Hour Fast (Dinner to Lunch)
      • Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur & Sat
    • 24 Hour Fast
      • Friday (Dinner to Dinner)
  • Advent (4 Weeks)
    • Salad/Seafood/Vegetarian Dish at Restaurants Except Sunday
    • Simple Lunches
    • 16 Hour Fast (Dinner to Lunch)
      • Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur & Sat
    • 24 Hour Fast
      • Friday (Thur Dinner to Fri Dinner)
  • Vigil of the Assumption of Mary (14 August)
    • Eat Simply All Day
    • 24 Hour Fast (If Weekday)
    • No Wine
  • Vigil of Pentecost (Varies 49 Days After Easter)
    • Eat Simply All Day
    • 24 Hour Fast (If Weekday)
    • No Wine
  • Saint Francis (4 October)
    • Eat Simply All Day
    • 24 Hour Fast (If Weekday)
    • No Wine

FEASTING

Mediterranean Diet Always
Planned and High Quality Worthwhile Indulgences.

WEEKLY

  • Feast Day – Saturday Dinner to Sunday Supper

ANNUAL

  • Mom’s Birthday (5 February)
  • Saint Valentine (14 February)
  • Carnevale: Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tues Before Lent (Varies – Approx. 50 days before Easter)
  • Saint Joseph (19 March)
  • Memorial of My Dad (11 April)
  • Easter (Varies)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (Varies, 1 Week After Easter)
  • Pentecost Sunday (Varies, 50 Days After Easter)
  • Saint Peter (29 June)
  • Wedding Anniversary (25 July)
  • Saint Ignatius (31 July)
  • Saint Dominic (8 August)
  • San Lorenzo (10 August)
  • Assumption of Mary (15 August)
  • Wife’s Birthday (1 September)
  • Friend’s Birthday (29 September)
  • Feast of the Guardian Angels (2 October)
  • Columbus Day (12 October)
  • Saint Jude (28 October)
  • My Birthday (1 November)
  • Thanksgiving (4th Thur in November)
  • Saint Nicholas (6 December)
  • La Virgin De Guadalupe (12 December)
  • Las Posadas Dinner (Closest Weekend to 16 December)
  • Christmas (24 December – 6 January)

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