MANY OF us know the images of the Allied forces liberating prisoners from concentration camps in 1945. We are also no strangers to images of malnourished children in many African countries. The urge to feed and nourish a starving person is instinctive, yet there can be severe consequences when this is done too hastily.

There is a potentially fatal condition called refeeding syndrome, where sudden changes in body chemistry can trigger various causes of death. Basically, in response to starvation your body adapts by making changes to it’s chemistry in order to survive. When you start eating again, a wave of fluid and electrolyte shifts take place, increased insulin production being one of them. So it’s not that you can no longer digest food, but that your body needs time to readjust.

With the promise of a gradual easing of lockdown in many countries around the world, including here in South Africa, the question in my mind becomes “how do you break a fast?”

Many religions incorporate fasting in some form, be it giving up something for Lent, 24 hours of dry fast, or a full month of only eating before dawn and after sunset prayers. The type and duration of the fast differs, and so there are varying ways of breaking that fast.

The other way this happens is when you’ve had a tummy bug, or food poisoning, and at some point, when the worst is over, you also get to break a fast of sorts.

Why am I going on about this? Because we have been given some indication that in a few short days the hard lockdown will be slightly released, for most of the country at any rate. And it’s going to be really tempting to break the fast with a binge, or if you’re the unfortunate city that has to remain in hard lockdown, there may be no stopping the craving for sustenance.

However you do it, take it slow

My mother used to give us toast with Marmite, and cup of black tea to break an illness induced fast, and I use the same method after a religious fast these days. I know it’s better for the system to do it this way, though my mind is filled with visions of chocolate cake and a hearty pasta dish! However you choose to break a fast, the point is to take it slow, gradually reintroducing your body to food. And in the same way, I invite you to join me in giving some thought as to how you will reintegrate into a little more freedom of movement (we hope), perhaps a return to the workplace on some days, and the mental shifts required of us every week.

I hope that one part of it will be to savour every small morsel even if it is just choosing the mask you will wear. And for the children and teens who may soon be allowed to leave the boundaries of home now and then, I can only imagine the feeling of being part of the community again. Lockdown has been a catch-22 all along – prevent the spread of illness, yet sacrifice a basic human need for autonomy and the impact on mental health that goes along with it, not to mention the knock-on effect economically.

We are looking at being on rations for quite a long time going ahead, so let me leave you with this suggestion: life will not always be bitter, sometimes it will be sour, sweet or even tasteless. So just allow yourself to savour each moment and its taste. Even weak black tea and a piece of toast can taste like nectar!

Useful things

Cloth Masks It’s now a legal requirement in South Africa that you wear a cloth mask. You can support local business at the same and order yours by calling 071 491 5301 or 073 922 9499.

Legal Advice In case you get arrested for breaking curfew, HJW Attorneys is offering free legal advice on all matters related to the coronavirus. Email

Mindfulness Online The online version of Module 1 of the Practical Mindfulness program is available for free during lockdown. Use the coupon code LOCKDOWN when you check out.