Fasting is the practice of not eating any food for an extended period of time. Once, every two weeks, I fast for 24 hours. During this time, I drink plenty of water (3-5 litres), as well as coffee with cream. But I don’t eat any solid food.
I do this in order to massively improve my health, success, spirituality, and joy. Nobody else seems to understand the immense benefits of fasting, so allow me to explain the 4 reasons I fast.
1. It’s insanely healthy.
The human body hasn’t evolved much in the last 50,000 years. We’re anatomically built for a different time; a time when food was scarce and bouts of famine were common. Our bodies are designed to handle extended periods of time without food – a fact that science is finally catching up to. (LINK to BBC’s Documentary Live, Fast, and Live Longer)
Fasting has always been an integral part of most major religions; a confirmation of how humanity’s collective wisdom recognizes the inherent physical benefits of fasting.
I don’t pretend to know the mechanics of how the body cleanses itself, but I definitely feel the effects and enjoy the benefits. During the fast, my body instinctively craves healthier foods. (When breaking fast, I usually prepare a fresh tuna salad sandwich, avocado and shredded carrots, accompanied by a protein smoothie and nuts.)
I feel like fasting has increased my metabolism – in fact, I’ve lost weight gained muscle mass since beginning fasting. Many bodybuilders have even begun intermittent fasting as a way to improve their gains. (LINK to Fasting Twins).
I also find it incredibly easy to say no to junk food, even near the end of my fast. Surprisingly, I enjoy watching others eat junk food – I feel content to enjoy their food vicariously through them.
An added bonus is that I feel mentally fresh and alert during the fast, and after breaking my fast, I sleep is much deeper.
2. It makes me more successful.
Most of what we eat, we eat because we’re conditioned to do so – not because we’re actually hungry. When I fast, I become acutely aware of my patterns of behaviour, both in eating, and in other areas of my life. It’s attune to throwing a proverbial “wrench in the gears” – it forces you to stop and think about what you’re doing.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a saying we all know – and it’s true. The absence of anything good makes us want it more – in economic terms: supply and demand. When I voluntarily deprive myself of something I love (food), I create a demand, to which I want to find a supply. This ‘wanting’ to find a supply is a powerful force of energy.
Just as the wings of a plane create negative force that ‘pulls’ the plane upward, so the hunger ‘pull’ me towards success.
By fasting, I harness these natural forces, and channel it towards reaching my goals in in business, art, politics, philosophy, philanthropy and personal relationships. I’m literally “hungry” to succeed. It’s as if I need to feed my heart, my mind and soul in lieu of feeding my physical body.
3. It puts me in touch with my spirituality.
In the classic book Siddhartha (by Herman Hesse), the young ascetic explains to the old merchant why he fasts. He tells him that since he is not reliant on food, he does not need to work for money (with which to buy the food). This makes him free of any master (be it physical hunger or a boss) to pursue only meaningful and righteous activities. Lack of neediness creates freedom.
In my own experience, the sustained feeling of hunger can be frightening. It literally feels like death – because it is. Starvation is the most basic way humans have ever died, and our bodies have evolved to recognize hunger as a death warning. When we purposefully stay with this feeling, we re-wire our brains to understand that we are in control, and that the hunger is only a feeling – not a sign of impending doom. It brings us to the edge of our comfort zone, but in a safe and controlled way.
Even though the chance of dying from a 24-hour fast is nought, the feeling of mortality that you experience is humbling. It makes you extremely appreciative of life, no matter what troubles you’re currently facing. It’s a raw and existential experience – one which twists your emotions and brings them to light in a more cohesive and objective way.
It’s incredibly beautiful.
4. I enjoy it!
I enjoy the process of fasting. I enjoy the mental alertness, the slight discomfort of hunger and the knowledge that I’m exercising (and increasing) my willpower.
I enjoy it the same way I enjoy getting new tattoos. The needle stings and the pain gets pretty intense, but for me, it’s a right of passage, and the process is as beautiful as the final markings.
During the fast, I feel happier. In fact, I literally ‘get high’. In order to cope with hunger, my body releases natural ‘happy hormones’ (dopamine and endorphins) to make up for the lack of food. It’s usually my favourite day of the week!
When I finally do break fast, I experience an overwhelming sense of awe and appreciation for my meal, no matter how simple or plain it may be. I feel like I can see a divine glimpse of intense, natural beauty that no one else can see. I sense the ephemeral Quality, as described in the mind-blowing book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig)
How To Fast
For anyone considering fasting, I would recommend starting small. It requires a small amount self discipline and will-power in the beginning. However, by starting small, fasting quickly turns into a habit that requires no will power at all.
I began by simply skipping breakfast. After 2-3 weeks of this, I skipped breakfast and delayed lunch by an hour. After 2-3 weeks of this, I skipped breakfast and delayed lunch by 3 hours. Then 5 hours. And so on, and so on.
Today, I usually go 24-26 hours, and I only fast every other week (I don’t want to overdue it). I imagine longer fasts could be beneficial (to a point), however, I haven’t bothered to push myself to that level yet.
People don’t understand why I fast – frankly, I don’t understand why others don’t! It’s an amazing journey that leaves you hungry for more, and satisfied in ways you didn’t think possible.