“Fasting is, first and foremost, an exercise for identifying and managing adversity in all its forms. With faith, in full conscience, fasting calls women and men to an extra degree of self-awareness.” – Tariq Ramadan
Before I get started, I am going to start this blog with an immediate disclaimer – I am not encouraging you to engage in a water fast, try this at your own discretion. To be honest, this whole process may not be what it seems and could just be another ‘fad’, but given I am open minded, I thought I would give it a crack.
This page is mainly centered around personal development, but I also touch a lot on wellbeing to. Something I had been learning about lately was ‘fasting.’
There are different types of fasts, and the purpose of this blog is to talk about my own experience as opposed to describe all types of fasts (especially given I am not a doctor). However, for your understanding, I engaged in a 70-hour water fast, which meant essentially, I went just short of three full days without food. During this time, I was drinking only water (as well as some Himalayan salt water which is said to be important during this process).
Let me just repeat that… 70 hours without food! As a man who loves his food, this is some serious going.
Again, I am not going to go into the details of the perceived benefits associated with this length of time fasting, nor is this your traditional form of ‘advice’ could we say, however, given we live in a generation of obesity and health diseases (I am not preaching as we will see later) perhaps alternative approaches should be considered more often. That said, I have attached an image taken from a fasting website which illustrates perceived benefits of fasting (take at you discretion).
Now I must also make you aware I had been engaging in short bouts of ‘intermittent fasting’ for the last few weeks. The most I had done in this stage was 24 hours, this meant that I was eating at 6pm on an evening, and then not eating again until 6pm the following evening. I was doing this two times a week. For the rest of the week, I was simply eating what I wanted. For me this is a great way at maintaining energy balance and keeping me at a healthy weight.
As I stated earlier, I am not preaching about health when I write this article. When it comes to health I make some positive choices and some poor choices. I exercise frequently (six times weekly), and I love exercise for the mental benefits more than anything else.
I would describe my eating habits as balanced, I rarely go many days mid-week without eating my recommended 5 a day. Me and my partner eat fairly well Monday to Friday, and our teas (dinner if you’re not northern) are often packed with vegetables. As well as this I often look to where I can get vitamins in through the day through nuts and fruit and snacks etc.
On the same hand, I also indulge in a lot of shite! I get at least one takeaway every weekend (sometimes two), and I have a massive sweet tooth. I also love my crisps and I can devour a large packet of Max strong crisps absolutely no bother. I love my food, to the point my partner gets embarrassed at my eating habits sometimes, some days whilst eating my tea, I am borderline orgasmic as I enjoy the food that much. I honestly fucking love food and its one of my favourite things in the world, so this was definitely going to be a challenge.
I also do not live a perfectly ‘clean’ life. I drink alcohol (much less than I used to) and I class myself as a ‘social smoker’ (formerly a full-time smoker, and still working on this – currently reading the Alan Carr easy way to quit smoking). So yeah, I am not preaching health advice when my life is far from perfect.
However, I had kept reading about fasting, I had watched a few documentaries and tried short bouts so I thought fuck it, I will have a go at something longer. If anything, I knew it was going to be another mental battle, and I have done some stupid challenges over the last few years so this was another one to face.
Here is how I found it.
Day one was actually a huge struggle, in my head I was thinking you have done your 24-hours before this will not be a challenge, but I was finding it more challenging than usual. “I am fucking starving” was running through my head at only dinner time (lunch time if you’re not northern), was I really going to get through this? To add to this, my partner was off work this day which made me want to go and enjoy a coffee with her (as we usually would) so I was struggling with this. Nevertheless, come six o clock I had battled through the day, and I had reached the 24-hour mark. I had a bath and relaxed and went to bed. Job done.
After good night’s sleep I would expect to wake up ravenous but strangely I was in no way shape of form feeling hungry. In fact, all hunger had gone. I wanted to start the day positively, so I went for a 5K run (It was not as quick as normal, but I managed – I later found out this isn’t a wise idea at all, but nevertheless I did it!) As the day went on, I wouldn’t describe myself as feeling hungry, but I was starting to pine for food, and I was especially pining for a coffee! (I drink decaf mainly so I wouldn’t describe it as a mental addiction, I just love the taste of a good coffee! and I was missing this). Nevertheless, I carried on throughout the day whilst also being at work and I generally felt ok. As I approached the evening, I was really starting to miss food now. In the evening I sat with my partner whilst she had her tea, she kept saying ‘sorry’ repeatedly, but I didn’t want her eating her tea on her own, so I pretty much just fucking tortured myself mentally. Nevertheless, day two was nearly done. Today was generally ok hunger wise, but I found myself just starting to think about food constantly. I would also describe myself as having a bit of ‘brain fog’, whereby my concentration levels were lowering and I was not thinking perfectly clear, nevertheless, it was not overly concerning.
The previous night I slept horrifically, I was tossing and turning and I felt brutal. I also noticed I was starting to smell bad, apparently, this is part of the detoxification process and I had not just forgotten to shower. I will be honest at this stage I was starting to struggle and there was part of me thinking, ‘just fucking wrap it in you idiot’. However, it was day three and I only needed to make it to the evening meal and I have hit the 70-hour mark (I could have done the 72 hours but the truth is I wanted to have tea with my partner). Today’s thoughts were just keep yourself hydrated and busy. The thought of eating was making my mouth salivate and I have never been so excited for a meal in my life.
As the day went on, I seemed to recuperate some mental clarity, I felt ok. I was also not hungry at all at this stage, which is the strangest thing I have found through this whole experience. The end was most definitely in sight.
Breaking the fast
Now I was like a kid at Christmas. I had gone almost three full days without food and I simply could not wait to have something to eat. Apparently, you need to break the fast gently so the first thing to do was to have a juice drink (I made a fresh orange juice drink, so it was packed with vitamins).
For tea, I was having veggie Fajitas (again it is recommended more of a soup or broth) but I wanted to taste some real food, so I was keeping my portion small. Tea was packed with everything from lentils, mushrooms, peppers, courgettes and more and I simply could not wait to get stuck in!
Spiritual enlightenment / A sense of gratitude
Exploring spirituality is something I have been doing a lot more recently, I am very much the person who thinks ‘deep.’ Why are we here, what is our purpose? I find the whole idea of human existence fascinating (my thoughts are often… how the fuck have we ended up here really? I find it insane and I believe there is so much we simply do not know. I am exploring my spiritual side much more and I regularly engage in books which explore human consciousness.
I am not religious, but I do believe there is more to this world than meets the eye. Fasting has long been part of religious traditions and is often linked to spirituality and this had been mentioned on several documentaries. For me personally, I never experienced anything majorly different within my thought processes, besides overcoming the ‘inner critic’ (‘stop doing this you fucking idiot’, ‘what are you playing at’ etc.) and the obvious mental challenges. One thing I did experience though is an overriding sense of gratitude. That first meal was incredible, better than any feeling I had experienced for a long time. I cannot describe how good it felt. I was simply sat smiling throughout. The biggest thing I have taken away from this is how lucky that I am to be able to have warm food every single day and night and access to food when I want. There is the old phrase “you do not know what you have until its gone” and my word did this ring true now. As stated, I am someone who loves his food and every day I say thank you to my partner if she makes me tea, and I always show gratitude for my food. I love it! However, this has simply made it excel. I cannot describe how good it felt to eat a meal again. It has made me realize it is something we to often take for granted. I will enjoy my food even more going forward.
“In anything, there has to be that moment of fasting, really, in order to enjoy the feast.” – Stephen Hough
A sense of achievement
I describe myself as a ‘not so perfect’ Personal Development coach. I have made a lot of positive changes over the last few years, but I still have my challenges (as I have listed here). The whole idea behind ‘Joe Bloggs’ is that I am an everyday guy, so I will never preach perfection and for me it’s all about simply trying to do better. This was another challenge which was set and achieved so I am proud of myself again for that. It took a lot of mental durability and again pushed me outside my comfort zone. It was tough! To some people it is just stupidity, but to me it was another character-building exercise. Whether the perceived benefits come with it or not I do not know, but it was another challenge mentally which I was able to overcome and I am sure I will grow from that.
“Periodic fasting can help clear up the mind and strengthen the body and the spirit.” – Ezra Taft Benson
I know that some people have fasted for longer, however, beyond the three-day stage it is said to be a place where you need to be medically supervised. I do not want to push my luck. This may be something I revisit again in future, but for now, it is another challenge set and complete. I will go back to enjoying my food for the foreseeable.
Have you ever in engaged in fasting before? Let me know in the comments..