Walking on an empty stomach for a week: the Vercors to the brittany coast, from the Pyrenees to the island of Ré, the courses of fasting and hiking are in full swing. Born in Germany in the 1970s, the movement was introduced in France in 1990 by Gertrud and Gisbert Bölling, two former professors of sport masters in the art of belt-tightening. Their centre, located in the Drôme provençale offers courses of one week combining diet and hiking.

The day was divided between sessions of stretching, lectures on dietetics and a hike of a few hours, cut off long breaks. For any pittance, herbal tea, and fruit juice in the morning, and a vegetable broth in the evening, according to the regime established by the German doctor Otto Buchinger, the initiator of the therapeutic fasting in the 1920s. “This is to eliminate the toxins that are stored in the body year-round. According to the principle of autophagy, it eats its own reserves. The body does the cleaning,” says Gisbert Bölling. “It combines the fast at the market so as to counteract all of these diseases of civilization that come from our too great inactivity. We need to move all the time and eat from time to time, and not the reverse”.

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Despite their austerity program, internships have rapidly attracted followers in the early 2000s. “In the Face of the influx of demand, we have organised a training of fasting and hiking, the result of which dozens of other centers have opened,” says Gisbert Bölling. Today, there are a hundred of the organizers of the internship fasting and hiking in France. Approximately 75 of which are affiliated to the French-speaking Federation of Fasting and Walking (FFJR), created by the must have Bölling. “To be certified, you must complete a stringent specifications, which includes training in naturopathy, a certificate of fitness for the trek, a first aid certificate”, lists Gisbert Bölling.

The offer is multiple and varied. In the Vercors, la Pensée Sauvage combines fasting, hiking, and yoga or qi qong, while ensuring a “follow-up naturopathic”, not to mention a few services well-being: reflexology, shiatsu, care ayurvedic. All from 1400€. The centre has even relocated in the Bordeaux region, in Corsica or Ibiza. In the Ariège, On Other Paths offers courses to less than 400€ with a session of kundalini yoga every morning, then fruit and vegetable juices, walking, care (massage), conference and workshop. Way of Health promises a detox chic in the framework of a former cistercian monastery among the lavender of provence. In Paciflor, it complements the courses of yoga in Fréhel, and sprinkle of spirituality of Taizé…

Fast and nice

In 2011, the broadcast on Arte for the documentary “fasting, a new therapy?”, signed Thierry de Lestrade and Sylvie Gilman, awakens the interest of the public for the practice of fasting and hiking. Philipe, director, has been the trigger in front of his tv.

“I am left with the idea of making a retreat in the mountains while walking. This was a real discovery! Certainly you wake up, it feels vasouilleux and weak, sometimes with the mouth pasty. But after an hour of walking, the body works perfectly. We realise that we can walk for a long time (up to 7 hours for my part, with 600 meters of altitude) without eating anything for days, and it’s no problem. Rid of the meals, the days are longer, the mind works with vivacity. At the end of a week, one has the impression of having made a cure of youth. It has the smooth skin, the hair in full form, and a few kilos less: 6 for me, one per day. I’ve gone back to three after that, but I’m less sick than before and in much better shape, with the impression of having cleaned the machine. I even stopped smoking during the internship, without any difficulty”.

The bodies of fasting and hiking to repeat the question of whether the benefits of their detox treatment: elimination of toxins, cell renewal, recharge energies. Fast relieve rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain and migraine headaches. Conventional medicine has hardly yet recognize the virtues. “The cost of physical requested during a hike are incompatible with the practice of fasting. There are risks of hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, not to mention the syndrome of renutrition inappropriate: once the fast is broken, all the nutrients go hard in the blood, which can cause cardiac events,” recalls Catherine Kabani.

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And the doctor of the French Federation of Hiking (RSFF)… not to be confused with the FFJR, continued: “There is talk of releasing the toxins that are stored in our fat, but to do this, they go back in the blood before settling in the liver and the kidneys. These bodies find themselves with an influx of unnatural toxins to eliminate. Let’s not forget that fasting for 5 days leads to a decrease in body fat, but also muscle, which induces a risk of falling”.

Info or detox?

Catherine Kabani is based on a report by the Inserm of 2014, which concludes to the absence of the effectiveness of fasting as a practice to be therapeutic: “No clinical data are based on trials with methodological rigorous may not support today the merits of this track, which thus remains for the moment largely theoretical”. Inserm recognizes, however, that “fasting is a practice that is complex to assess, especially as it refers to other dimensions as the only dimension therapeutics, and is often associated with a philosophy of life”.

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The lessons taught in the centres of fasting and hiking often go beyond the simple field of dietetics. During his week in the Baronies provencal, Philippe is amused by the small side of the guru of his teacher of his / her internship. “Are bathed in an atmosphere good child, but very much oriented in favour of alternative medicine, organic, with a certain rejection of the modern world”, he admits. “But at the bottom, they have reason, because not a day passes without discovering that one is poisoned by feeding or surdosant our taken drugs.”

In 2009, the centre Fasting and Hiking Gisbert Bölling has been in the sights of the Miviludes, the mission of fight against sects. A witch-hunt, according to him. “The contrast with Germany is striking since these methods so heavily criticized in France are taught here at the college of medicine and reimbursed by insurance. In addition, we do not fasting is a therapeutic or curative, but only the fasting diet’. And the man to quote Yannick Noah, a fervent follower of the fast, the media coverage of doctor Frédéric Saldmann, which ensures today the promotion of, or work on the autophagy of the Nobel prize for medicine in 2016, the Japanese Yoshinori Ohsumi.

“The therapeutic benefits of fasting are health claims, such as what one reads everywhere on the milk, gluten etc,” insists Catherine Kabani. “As long as it is to purify the mind or to focus on oneself, fasting can fulfill its role. But 100% of the people who come back from a week of vacation feel very well, this is not what we, in fact, a therapeutic repaid.”

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