All my life I have been brainwashed into thinking that skipping a meal especially breakfast will kill me. I’ll faint, I’ll start getting gastric problems, my body won’t function properly, I’ll lose muscle mass and on and on. This is what people always told me.And if you are Indian like me, never ever mention that you skipped a meal to your mom. You’re better off telling her you’re marrying a hooker cos you’ll get the same reaction. But we have been lied to. Fasting won’t kill us. If anything it might help us live longer.
I know most people will think it’s crazy to fast. I mean we are at a point where a single press on our phone can get us our favorite dish, a ride home or help some of us get laid. We have ventured so far into the abyss that something that our ancestors did almost daily basis is now such a foreign concept and so inconceivable to many of us. I won’t go into fasting science. But if you’re interested here are some actual smart people talking about it.
- Hunger: The first time I felt hungry was at my usual breakfast time. I won’t lie, I got a bit anxious. If I was this hungry for during breakfast time, how will I survive the whole day?(Initially, i planned for only a 24Hr fast). But taking my mind off of breakfast, the hunger subsided and funny enough it never returned.Turns out, this is because of a hormone called Ghrelin which causes you to feel hungry at the times you regularly eat and not when your body actually needs nutrition. But once the hormone subsides, you don’t feel hungry anymore. I broke my fast, not cos I was hungry but cos I had a social event I had agreed to previously that I could not back out of.
- Anxiousness: I felt anxious during my regular eating times. But those quickly went away. After the first 18 hours, i started to feel really uneasy. This was probably because I was in unchartered territory. I had never fasted this long.It might also be because of low insulin levels. I felt a slight headache coming on. It subsided in a few hours and a walk later.
- Psychological manipulation: My brain on several occasion tried to talk me out of my fast. There was a constant voice in my head that said it had been long enough and now it was time to eat something even though I felt no hunger whatsoever. This makes sense. Often times we eat not because we are hungry but because we think about the food and we start craving it. It’s your mind that wants it not your body. If you think of the last time, you binge ate something unhealthy, like a bag of chips or fries or a greasy burger, I’m sure you just ate it cos your brain craved it more than your stomach. In the case of my fast, I believe that was my brain playing tricks on me. Being in a situation that was unusual, my mind was going into survival mode even though my body was doing just fine.
- Time: I felt time slow down. I swear it was the weirdest feeling. I had a heightened sense of time. It felt like everything slowed down. And the day felt longer than usual. In a way it makes sense. Majority of our day is planned according to our eating time, patterns and behaviors. You know that nagging thought you have in the evening about what to have for dinner and you have a mental debate with yourself as to what you want to eat. All that mental effort takes time and energy. Fasting saves you from the dilemma, thus saving your mental energy and time. If you don’t have a channel to direct the excess energy, you might just end up sitting and pondering what is going on in your life. Lucky for me, I dived headfirst into work. And not having to think of lunch or dinner and not physically having to move to cook, clean and eat, was liberating. I now realize why 24Hrs is never enough. It’s because we spend the majority of it wasting it thinking about food.
- Freedom: I realized for the first time how much time and energy eating actually consumes. From grocery shopping to cooking, from thinking about what to cook and actually cooking, eating and cleaning. Not to mention eating rituals like dining with a friend or watching a movie while you eat. I had a set of routines that I would do during my dinner time and after. Cancelling dinner, in essence, freed up a few hours all together. I felt completely free. I could do anything without the constraints of lunch and dinner time.
- Productivity: This is an added effect of the previous point. Total freedom from constraints led to increased productivity and focus. Once the anxiousness subsided and I focused on work, I realized that the there were no distractions. I didn’t stop to think about lunch. I didn’t have to move from my desk. I realized a majority of my distractions in some way involved food. Taking that out of the equation, I felt compelled to just sit and work non stop. It was amazing. Not to mention the added focus. I couldn’t say that this was because I was using ketones for fuel because science suggests that in most probability, 2 days was not enough to put me into ketosis, but it might still be because of lessened distractions. But I found myself incredibly focused, stopping only when my eyes got tired and not when my brain thought I needed a sandwich.
- Strength: The first day I felt a bit sluggish. I guess I was still getting used to having no food in my system. And in the beginning, i thought I had to conserve my energy and not move too much. But I forced myself to go for a walk and quickly realized I felt 100% normal. It was all in my mind. I was moving like someone who just had a complimentary all you can eat breakfast at a 5-star hotel. And this went on even on day 2. In fact, on day 2, I even did a workout and felt great afterward (I have been experimenting with post workout starvation to increase stem cell production, but that’s another story).
- Sensitivity for food: The first day when I went to the kitchen I wanted to eat everything and anything that I saw. But that changed quickly. After 24 hours, I felt my whole body was empty. And clean (Psychologically). And from then on, every time I went to the kitchen I was overwhelmed by the junk food I saw and didn’t want to go near it. The last thing I wanted to do was introduce these junk food into my body especially after 24hrs of clearing all the food from my system. As time passed, i became more sensitive. I had no cravings, no desire to eat anything that was processed and not fresh. I started viewing food as either toxic or healthy, and unfortunately, most of the food I had in my kitchen was poisonous in my mind. I actually continued to fast a few hours more after the planned 48 Hrs just so I could go grocery shopping and ended my fast with some vegetable soup.
Next few days were actually remarkable. I realized my strength hadn’t gone down. I had no cravings for any sort of junk food or sugar. I have had a lot of gut issues lately, and the next few days I felt as though my body had rebooted and I never felt better. I wanted to eat nothing but the cleanest and healthiest of foods. I even couldn’t bear to eat curry. I think my mom’s heart just skipped another beat.
I know I made it sound like I never want to eat again but that’s not true. What we forget though, is to have a healthy balance. Just as we can’t fast forever, we can’t keep shoving toxins into our body 4 times a day and expect it to not fall sick.
“The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.”
My next plan to complete a 4-day water only fast and then eventually follow it up with a week-long fast.
PS: Please don’t try fasting without a doctor’s consent.