This week’s curiosity box is a special edition. In addition to topics that got me curious, this blog aims to raise awareness for St Catherine’s Hospice, a non-profit I will be supporting through fundraising fast. 

The questions that got me curious are,

1 – What does fasting do to your body?

2 – What is the history of cynicism?

1 – What does fasting do to your body?

My sisters still compare me to a character from 101 Dalmatians. The little plump puppy that keeps saying, “I am hungry, mother, I really am”. People in my workplace know that I sometimes eat two lunches. Two!

Mealtime is a holy time for me. And when it goes past it, I get hangry.

Every cell in our body is a constant work to ensure we function. The circadian system, controlled by the hypothalamus, ensures that activities within our bodies occur at an appropriate frequency, digestion being one of them. This circadian system is like our internal artificial intelligence algorithm that can prepare our bodies for predictable events, such as eating. So naturally, the body releases insulin. Insulin here is a hormone that helps cells uptake glucose from the blood for it to function.

Our brain, approx 0.2% of the body weight, consumes 20 to 25% of the energy we generate. The energy currency of our body is ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate). With an exchange of ATP, our bodies can generate all the energy we need for the systems to work. 

The average blood sugar range is 60 to 150 mg/dL. With insulin released, blood sugar levels drop. If we do not recharge the blood sugar levels by eating, the body goes into survival mode. Cortisol, epinephrine, and Neuropeptide Y are some of the hormones that get released. Combining these effects on your body with the release of these hormones makes you irritable (even aggressive) and stressed. In a word, this situation is called becoming hangry.

So how do humans, especially Muslims, fast from 3:30 am to 9 pm during Ramadan?

The first thing the body goes is tap into the energy reserves your muscles have. This is called glycogen. For extra information, it is glycogen that helps you go on marathons or pump iron. But of course, this is a reserve and a tank that can go dry pretty soon. After mealtimes, the glycogen reserves go empty in approximately 10 hours. 

Only after this does the body begins burning down the extra fat in your body.

The term that describes this process is called Gluconeogenesis. Gluco – glucose / Neo – new / Genesis – creation. Using fat primarily, the body begins breaking it down through a series of steps to create glucose. ATP is used in this process and generated in the end once the cells consume the newly created glucose. Only when Gluconeogenesis happens does, the body begin to burn fat, and people begin to lose those extra layers of flab. 

Naturally, this is a process that cant occur in command. Various diets and many schools of thought claim that it helps them lose weight. But the underlying science is exact and extensive research shows that no one method of fasting is more effective than the other. Healthy meals, a good amount of physical exercise, and occasional fasting would do the work you need. 

The fundraiser

This Monday, I am participating in a fundraising fast. I am joining my colleagues in a Ramadan style fast. No meal or water from 3:30 am to 9:02 pm. The reasons for the fast is to become more mindful, be grateful for the blessings I got, and support St Catherine’s Hospice. 

I am grateful for all the blessings I have; A healthy body, loving family and friends, and the freedom to be an individual. In today’s situation, seeing how India is struggling, I am grateful for being able to breathe and not worry about having to frantically find an Oxygen cylinder. 

The fast is also to become more empathetic to those who don’t have some of the luxuries I have been given. Geopolitical issues and covid have left millions in a constant state of emotional turmoil. But humanity shows its better form despite such situations. There is an equal proportion of people who have taken it upon them to support people through difficult times. 

St Catherine’s Hospice being one of them, has set itself the mission of making this world a better place. They provide the much-needed support and care for people suffering from a terminal illness. They train specialist nurses who then, in turn, support others. The organisation I work for has chosen this charity to support this month. You can read more through this link.

2 – What is the history of cynicism?

Elections, both here and in India, have been a topic of conversation with friends and family. An argument that came up in every group was, “well, this party is no holy angel compared to the other party”. It felt like people are selecting between the lesser of the two evils when it comes to casting votes. I stopped right there and asked myself, “Why are you being so cynical?”,

The thought process turned out to be helpful because I found a topic to write about for this week’s curiosity box. If you look up the meaning for cynicism, this is what will pop up first. 

An inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism.

But the second meaning is a school of ancient Greek philosophers, the Cynics.

Many schools of thought and philosophy seem to stem from Socrates and his followers. The story of cynicism begins with one such follower, Diogenes. The turning point in history was when the city banned Diogenes and stripped him of all his material belongings. He wholeheartedly embraced and was vocal about his new life. He mocked others in the city who, in his view, were bound by materialist requirements and societal norms. 

People were obviously annoyed by him and found his mockery to be pure noise and began comparing it to a dog’s bark (in a derogatory way). The reference to dogs was to Diogenes and to his followers. For the next 900 years, people addressed this group as dog philosophers.

The term used for this was kynikoi which later became cynic. 

But the meaning changed. 

Right up to 2nd CE. Lucian, a satirist, used the word cynic to mock the individuals who preached but never followed Diogenes’ principles. He saw these individuals as self-interested individuals. Later historians took account of this term and assumed the term cynic refers to those self-loathing people. 

The rest is history. 

Cynicism as a philosophy was a way to question the status quo. In today’s world, you can consider the hippies’ movement closely related to the Diogenes’ movement. The concept of questioning the need to conform to social norms or challenge the status quo has appeared in many movies—the need to think like Diogenes is coming again.

From a philosophy point of view, I think one needs to be a cynic. It is good to question and challenge the status quo.

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1 Comment

  1. Good thought for fasting…
    Interesting article

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