During the last few weeks, the idea of fasting for a few days kept presenting itself to me. I saw ads for it on Instagram, YouTube recommended me videos about it, and I even heard people talking about it around me. I read about the mental, physical, and even spiritual benefits of an extended fast longer than 24 hours and decided I wanted to try it for two days.
I researched extensively to prepare myself: what would I feel? What would the effects be? How should I mitigate the risk?
The truth is that the human body is physically capable of going for long periods of time without eating. Our culture has conditioned us to eat several meals a day as the healthy norm, and yet many of us suffer from health complications like obesity and cancer. Apparently, not eating was one way to start reversing the process of both of these ailments.
People often cringe at the idea of not eating. "Won't you get hungry?" "What if you faint?" "I could never do that," the haters all said. But I looked up how elite athletes with high muscle composition would fast for the purposes of increased strength and performance. How could it be possible that people would not eat to perform better? I was mind-blown and had to experiment for myself. Couple that with the apparent health benefits of a cleanse and the fact that all spiritual leaders fast for humility and a stronger connection to faith, I was hooked and ready for the challenge. If they could do it, so could I.
I prepared mineral water with Himalayan pink salt and baking soda to not lose electrolytes during these two days of drinking only water and began the arduous and annoying struggle of not eating for two days.
What was immediately noticeable is how much of a dependency I had on food. Habitually, every few hours, I'd walk to the kitchen to satisfy myself. Sure, I was hungry, but my body wasn't deteriorating, I was simply acting on the knee-jerk reaction of constantly eating. However, the scientific studies I read stated that food is not immediately necessary in this way, it was just my mind going for the idea of food because that's what I've always done for my entire life.
I won't lie, it was pretty difficult. I kept myself busy with creative pursuits and reading books; the idea was that this time of struggle is used to cleanse and reset, and I chased after that goal. However, the first day was brutal. I found myself more irritable and hangrier and had to make the conscious effort to control myself.
That first night was the worst; I went to bed early to be able to start the next day "sooner" and not have to be awake thinking about food, but the slight increase in alertness from lack of food assured me I would not sleep that night. I could not stop thinking about avocados and steak. I was miserable.
The next day was hard but much easier than the first. I got up early to watch the sunrise, and I felt that although my body was hungry, I didn't feel the need to eat. I was clear-headed and focused, and I felt connected to my thoughts. When my roommate cooked in my house, the smell of food was different than ever; instead of smelling like a delicious, savory chicken sandwich, I smelled each of the ingredients individually and felt I could smell the preservatives in them. I smelled it objectively, without the bias of wanting to eat it. It didn't smell as good as it used to. One thing was for sure though, sitting still for too long without mental stimulation left me with nothing more than a miserable hunger.
I spent the day reading about fasting and spiritual growth, and it wasn't as bad as I thought, until the evening. Around 7 p.m., my legs started to ache, like growing pains. I'm an active gym goer and don't sit still for too long, and the lack of calories and low nutrients this time caused my legs to ache. I eagerly counted down the hours until the next morning when I could eat and break this fast.
That night I slept deeply and relaxed, although my body was in pain before I fell asleep. In the morning I went to the kitchen for a smoothie and eagerly -but slowly- broke my fast. I noticed my skin looked clearer, my thoughts were quick, and my eyes were sharp. I looked at myself in the mirror and loved what I saw.
I do not want to fast again for a while, at least another month, and I have a newfound appreciation for food. I feel like I want to eat everything all the time. Today is the day I broke the fast, and although I'm full, I'm not satisfied.
What I learned through these two struggling days was that by making myself uncomfortable, it humbled me and opened my mind to ideas that I had recently not cared to absorb. I also found that during this time it was exceedingly easy to find joy in every small thing, like reading a book or talking to my mom.
I see why people do extended fasts and can recommend the challenge of going some time without eating. Do your own research and decide how much time is right for you. Some people need to start with six hours while others can jump into 24 hours.
This experience was something I'll repeat, but for right now, I'm going to go eat, again.