(5 Minute Read)
Starving for a couple days can be a pretty miserable. I hate to admit that I'm already really skinny. Plus, gaining the weight back is a whole different challenge in itself. So why do it?
My friends will tell you that I'm illiterate when it comes to science. So, here are a few things my buddy Google told me:
For the body, fasting speeds up metabolism. It improves the immune system by regulating inflammation and slows cancer cell formation. It lowers bad cholesterol. It stimulates the release of growth hormones. It also resets some hormone levels and insulin resistance.
I barely know what these even mean, but I trust that it's some good stuff.
For the brain, fasting boosts the production of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived nuetrophic factor) which protects brain cells from age related cognitive decline. Sounds good to me!
For more info check out Tim Ferriss' podcast interview with Dr. Dom D'Agostino. Dr. Dom deadlifted 500 pounds for 10 repetitions after a 7 day fast! What a beast.
Or ask Google yourself.
A lot of ancient and modern religions use fasting as a spiritual practice. Growing up in church, it was common to hear about other people fasting.
Ancient followers of Stoic philosophy would "practice poverty" for a few days by:
- not showering
- not changing clothes
- only eating cheap food (like plain rice and beans) or not eating at all.
Stoics believed that by practicing poverty, they could tame their attachment to their fame or riches. They didn't want their identity to be consumed by their fame or riches and so they tested who they were without those conditions.
If you fear losing everything, practice living it.
My First Experiment
My first attempt was a one day fast back in the summer of 2007. It was encouraged by people at church to try it and so I did. It sucked. I gave up by the first night and had dinner with a side of headache.
In March of 2016 I did a three day juice fast. I drank coconut water, tea, and three fresh juices made up of fruits and vegetables. No solid food.
I didn't take a proper shit for a three days. It was so weird.
The highlight of that fast were my morning meditations. Ten minutes into a session felt similar to being days into a meditation retreat. It was truly sublime.
On the other hand, I also had random headaches and felt lightheaded at times. I experienced hunger like never before. But each day got easier.
The first meal I had after 3 days was steak paired with a glass of red wine and cheese. That was "Josh being a dumbass".
Overall, the three day juice fast gave me a greater appreciation for food and a small confidence boost knowing that I made it.
This Year in 2017
One of my goals this year is to fast for two days every month.
With some research, I learned a couple things that help:
- You can have a bit of coconut oil and still get all the benefits of fasting
- Putting a dash of salt and lemon in water replenishes electrolytes and eliminates headaches
Let the games begin.
On the first day I thought about food so much I slow cooked beef broth to enjoy after the fast. I put beef oxtail, carrots, celery, and onions in a crock pot and slow cooked it for about 20 hours. Every few hours when I got really hungry I would lift the cap and smell the broth. It was torture, but the anticipation was probably 80% of the fun. Is that a little neurotic?
Whenever the hunger seemed unbearable I tried asking myself, "Is this the condition I feared?" Those were profound moments. I actually felt like it wasn't that bad.
I felt strong. My morning meditations were deep. I had mental clarity and felt energetic throughout the day.
The toughest part was feeling so hungry I couldn't fall asleep the first night and on the second day my right ear plugged up for a couple hours. Strange.
I broke my fast a few hours early because a party-sized bag of Lays won me over. They were so damn good. The bone broth was delicious. I wanted to sip on it all day from a coffee cup.
My Fast Last Week
Last week I completed my first 48 hour fast! (I almost missed my mark in February)
It was the best one yet and was the overall experience was a lot more profound. For those two days, my personal well being and feelings of happiness were surprisingly high. Listening to my self talk throughout the day was also fascinating. I complained so much more than I'd like to admit.
I was more productive because of all the time saved from planning, prepping, cooking, and cleaning meals.
It was a humbling, challenging, and a massively sobering experience that's tough to explain through words. I highly recommend any healthy person try it once just to see what life is like under different circumstances.
For my next month, I'm going to try to go 48 hours without complaining about hunger at all. We'll see how it goes!
A Few Parting Thoughts
I hope this was post was anticlimactic enough to at least illicit some curiosity about fasting. If one person tries it, I would be very impressed.
I enabled comments on all my blog posts so I can interact with readers! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post of any other post!
My goal with this blog is to force me to write and learn to communicate better. Thanks for reading!