Fasting Versus Starving

Published on March 7th, 2016

These two experiences only share one thing in common: not eating. Beyond that, they are night and day different.

Fasting is an intentional act, usually embarked upon with the goal of deriving some benefit: cleansing one's physical body, strengthening one's mental resolve, or connecting with some higher spiritual forces as part of a meditative act. The person fasting generally has the privilege of being able to stop at any time, knowing that they can eat whenever they have had enough.

Starving is an unintentional act, usually caused by external circumstances in one's life that will leave a person without a stable source of food and nutrition. It's usually highly detrimental, resulting in malnourishment of the physical body, mental/emotional suffering as a result of the worrying of where one's next meal is, and/or spiritual crisis as one wonders why in a world of abundance do so many people have to make due with so little.

Too obvious? Here's where things get really interesting...

A person can be overweight and yet constantly complain of "starving", never able to fill a void that the consumption of food is trying to replace. Or skipping even a single meal (which can be an all too common experience for many people in this world) can be a significant challenge.

On the flip side, a person can homeless and yet experience a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation for every meal despite not knowing if it might be their last meal for some time. Having gone through the experience many times, they may have a greater appreciation and trust that all will be ok.

This is not to make light of the very real hardships surrounding the act of starvation. I'm not an asshole and I realize that this can be a traumatic situation. I also grew up in a socio-economic climate where I was blessed to have access to a free lunch at school and a mom that put her kids before herself to make sure that my two brothers and I never had to experience this first hand. However, I did want to illustrate how it's not just the external circumstances that shape our experiences. How we show up and the meanings that we attach to these circumstances can make a big impact. For another take on this theme (our environment = context and our response = filter), see my previous article titled reframe and filter.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.