Why I did it
Just for the experience. I love playing around with my body chemistry and other circumstances and seeing how changing very specific variables can have a greater or lesser impact on my mood and consciousness.
Almost all religions and thus cultural traditions practice fasting in one way or another, and while I wouldn’t say that on its own this fact proves anything, I would say that global culture, which has taken a different, disdainful stance when it comes to the periodic abstention from food (and the only Gods in which it believes are the scientific method and the credit card) has a less balanced relationship with health than any culture that came before. To illustrate, more people die from eating too much than from not eating enough — and that’s in a world where billions are ravaged by malnourishment.
I wanted to see if there was something in these old traditions and whether there was something we have been missing in our decadent, bloated, food-obsessed culture that worships boundless debauchery in the same breath as Instagrammable “clean eating”, rejecting fasting out of hand because “it doesn’t make scientific sense” within the materialist framework.
So there was an extra spiritual variable in my desire to explore myself: would not eating make me feel differently on a spiritual level? Would it clean the antennae of my consciousness and make me more aware of myself and my surroundings, more grateful and less prone to self-sabotaging, destructive or egoic thoughts? It sounded like a truly valuable spiritual tool.
Apparently (link to Joe Rogan w/ Rhonda Patrick video) the health benefits of fasting are huge. Contrary to the beliefs of most people (and even popular medicine), anecdotal evidence and studies show that it is in fact a healthy and way more natural habit than stuffing our face with meals and snacks all-day long. When the body is starved of nutrients, it starts breaking down its own cells, but the first ones to go are the least used or necessary ones — inactive, dead or even cancerous cells are first eliminated and given as food to the rest of the body — a process called autophagy. After 48-72 hours of fasting in most people, the body also starts burning more fat to meet its daily requirements in calories, and toxins stored in the fats are released and excreted. This process also teaches the body to more readily look for energy in its fat tissues than elsewhere, a process called ketosis (and the basis of the ketogenic, or “keto”, diet). Most amazing of all, it seems that fasting is linked to increased longevity, at least in mice (which, in my opinion, is not enough evidence, but it’s the “industry standard”).
In short, by fasting you can prevent cancer, lose weight, reset your immune system, get rid of toxins and even live longer, and all that by doing nothing. Amazing, right?
The perfect excuse made its appearance when Marilena, my girlfriend, also had to go on a restricted diet for a couple of days. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to support her, thus killing two birds with one stone — or in its vegan version, downing two drones with one command!
How I did it
My last meal was a small bowl of apricots with dried wheat sprouts and coconut milk on Friday morning before going to a morning yoga class. Nothing intentional about it; it was just a combination of things that could be combined and that were sitting in the fridge.
I did not consume any calories for 72 hours.
I drank water, green tea (which kind of went against my no alcohol/no caffeine “fast” I’m doing this month, but this is another topic for another day!), as well as some “mountain tea” (sideritis or ironwort). I also put salt in some of my water, up to a about a teaspoon per day, to recover electrolytes.
Ι was quite active during this time. I did not refrain from walking around a lot during those days, and I even went to the gym on Saturday (around hour 30) and did a workout with less than half the weights I usually select on the equipment.
My first meal was a pea protein (~30g) shake and a small piece of dark chocolate I ate on Monday morning, followed by some cashew nuts and almonds a few hours later. I started eating normally again around 6 hours after that, although my stomach felt significantly smaller.
What I learned
I lost around 3 kilos which only became obvious a couple of days after the fast was over, when my body felt it was safe again to fully release the liquids and solids it had stored (to put it politely). I expect to gain it back very soon, which is good, since I do not want to lose weight.
90% of the time I wasn’t even hungry. My stomach just shut down after about 12-16 hours without food, and as I was getting closer to completing the 72 hours, smells got to me more, but eating had somehow become less inviting. It was as if the high strangeness of the very concept of eating (nourishing oneself by ingesting and assimilating mixtures of parts of the dead bodies of other living organisms) suddenly became apparent after a lifetime of never giving it a single thought.
I got massive insomnia the last two nights, barely sleeping more than 3 hours each.
Most of the time I felt weak but alert. The sensation it felt closest to was the tingling you get after not having slept a whole night.
Indeed, I felt like the days contained more hours. Eating, cooking, digesting, defecating and everything related to food takes up a good chunk of time every day we seldom pay any attention to. I suddenly found myself having more time than I knew what to do with. I didn’t always have the mental clarity to actually do something very creative with it (I’m in the middle of market research for buying a new laptop, so I spent most of it obsessively reading reviews, comparing models etc), but I would definitely recommend doing this fast over a few days that are otherwise busier than usual, something which would also keep you occupied and away from thoughts and/or social interactions involving food.
After hour 36, during the second night, I started getting leg cramps and pain and I felt like walking was difficult. This could also be linked with me having gone to the gym a couple of hours prior, but apparently it is something normal that happens due to vitamin and especially mineral deficiency. Lack of these minerals can also cause mental fog and inability to concentrate properly, which is important if you’re planning to do some work while fasting. It’s a good idea to take magnesium/calcium supplements as well as the sodium (salt) I mentioned earlier (which I didn’t do).
After eating some thick salt, the pain slowly subsided and that helped me sleep a little bit. Some people recommend ‘stocking up’ on sodium before beginning the fast to avoid issues like this.
With the above in mind, next time I’ll try drinking ΞΥΝΟ ΝΕΡΟ or some other kind of mineral water (instead of normal tap water) which contains these minerals in quantities large enough that 4L of the stuff every day should make a difference. Anyway, I far prefer mineral water to normal water and I’m one of those people who loves the bubbles.
All in all, the experience was very satisfying and after a couple nights worth of good sleep I don’t feel weak anymore. In fact I feel great. It’s too early to say I feel healthier than ever, but I’m grateful I made this choice.
This was my first real foray into the world of fasting, and now I’m discovering there are also different types.
There’s the one where you limit calorie intake to 500 two days per week.
There’s one where you fast 24 hours every week.
Some people do this 72-hour fast several times per year, or even once per month.
But what I’m experimenting with now as a follow-up to my 72-hour fast is intermittent fasting: only allowing yourself to eat within an 8-hour window during each day. This appears to be a healthy lifestyle choice and I’d like to look into it more.
Here’s a couple more videos to get you started.
Don’t be scared to try this out: you and your body are made of stronger stuff than you think!