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7 day fast

Part of the annual Smart Drug Smarts Water Fast Week, I’ll be spending the next seven days with no food and no coffee (unless it gets unbearable, the  I can have a cup of black Joe). Just water.

I’ll be chronicling the experience as part of a Nightly journal, updating it below:

Day One 

Very Tolerable. I visited my parents for dinner water and realized how much food improves human interaction. A shared meal is a relationship ritual, a pleasant medium to help build bonds and spend quality time. If nothing else, you talk about the food. Could humans have civilization without lunch or dinner?

I’ll be writing this post very stream-of-consciousness, trying to capture the unedited state of my brain.

Day Two 

Today was rough. Fortunately the hunger was manageable. Instead my brain was in a haze. I was spacing out throughout the day, trouble focusing, and my short-term memory was shot. I’m sure the lack of caffeine didn’t help either. Felt like I was performing at 30% efficiency.

Went for a long walk during my “lunch” break. It took a lot of will power not to just sit down somewhere and rest. I realized that this fast is a good practice for serious illness. If I get really sick, will I have the Will to fight the illness, get out of bed, exercise, and get back to living life? You never really know with things like that, but this is certainly good exercise for it.

Day Three

So much easier than day two. My liver was probably using the last of its glucose stores on day two, finally switching to ketosis around the end of the day. With Ketones feeding my energy-starved brain, I was ready to attack the day with full force.

I felt so much better. Sharp, focused. I had one pretty big bout of hunger around 12:30, but a cup of boiled water helped quell that. Otherwise I was my happy, focused self today.

I’m getting a lot of slack from people for doing this. Here are my three reasons:

  1. Immense health benefits. There is a growing body of research arguing that cancer is a metabolic disease. Meaning, what we eat, especially refined/processed sugars, feed the cancer cells. On the other hand, a fast and deep Ketotonic purge those mutated cells. In addition, fasting improves insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system, detoxifies the system (by burning toxic fat stores sitting in the system from years of unhealthy eating).
  2. Endurance. If I can put my body through really hard tests, then I’m much better prepared to handle challenges when life throws them at me. “Hard choices, hard life, easy choices, easy life.”
  3. Gratitude and humility. I want to explore my relationship with food. I want to appreciate it more. I want to appreciate what people suffering from famine and illness are experiencing. This is a humbling experience, reminding me of my mortality, putting me back in touch with my humanity.

Day Four

Felt extraordinary for the first half of the day, then when that lunchtime hunger kicked in, things started to go downhill. The hunger was manageable, but tough.

Walking back from work, a deep sadness was added to the hunger. I can’t eat for another three days. The first four days were tough enough, considering the latter three, it’s a daunting proposition.

But I have a soft bed waiting for me at the end of the day.

I signed up for this as an endurance test, and I’m getting exactly what I asked for.

Day Five 

Much, much easier than yesterday. Funny how the odd days of this fast seem to go way smoother than even. Let’s hope that trend ends tomorrow.

I met a friend for coffee water before work. Being in a food place, I could smell the wonderful aroma of meat and eggs frying on a stove. One wiff and that smell brought me right back to my childhood, my dad frying up meat and leftovers with eggs for breakfast.

And I realized that food is nostalgia. It’s the memories formed around the meals we eat and the people we eat them with.

My grandfather isn’t alive anymore, but when I smelled a cup of coffee the other day, it brought me right back to my grandparents apartment. Me at ten years old, sitting in the kitchen, my grandpa making me a sandwich while the smell of his coffee percolating on the stove permeates through the apartment. A magical moment, brought back by a starved constitution smelling a familiar scent.

Food is more than fuel. It’s our evolutionary imperative, it’s the foundation of our civilization.

Day Six

Why am I doing this to myself? An ever-present hunger versus a stubborn drive to fight it to the last minute. Day-after-day telling my body, “nope, sorry, no food today.”

Felt pretty crappy for the first half of the day. Some time in that period I realized, not many people choose to go without food for six days. If the richness of life is measured by unique experience, this is one of the most unique experiences a person can have. Your whole body changes, chemically, neurologically. You build resilience and rugged willpower. You start to look at the world from a completely different perspective. I’ll carry this experience for the rest of my life, likely to spend weeks mining it for insights about myself and the world around me.

As the fast nears its end, I will say that it has SUCKED. But like many of the most gratifying things about life, the struggle is what makes them so rewarding.

One more day.

Day Seven

Holy hell, I made it. I write this with a full and happy belly, looking back at a week of surreal experiences and a brutal test of will.

I can’t believe I starved myself for seven days.

But I’m happy I did.

Hopefully it helped purge some of the weak and mutated cells in my body. Hopefully it helped with all the health things described above. Even if it didn’t, I don’t regret doing it.

Oddly enough, when I woke up on my seventh day, it felt like the first day. I had 100% of my energy, brain function, and even wound up doing an extra long gym session (turns out your body naturally releases huge amounts of Human Growth Hormone when starving for more than three days, so theoretically working out in those conditions should yield amazing muscle growth).

Since it was the tech Sabbath, I had a lot of time to read and reflect today.

I thought about my obsession with food. For years I had a fear of missing a meal – that I would atrophy and lose muscle if I didn’t do 4+ meals a day. That breakfast was sacred. So sacred, that I used to wake up at 4 AM so that I could fit two breakfasts in before work. And a grumbling tummy meant snack time. Give your body what it wants, right?

In the process of this forced starvation, I thought a lot about our anatomic resilience, and the misalignment of body signals with the modern world. Our primitive ancestors would have to forage, hunt and struggle for food. In a world where a meal was not guaranteed, hunger was a signal to start looking. Going for days without food was likely standard procedure.

Fast-forward a few thousand years, and we live in a time of abundance, but the same hunger instincts remain. And as the quality of our foods has diminished, the primal brain continues to make the same demands. “I need energy, quick!” it says, and we helplessly oblige by grabbing whatever sugary whatsit is on hand. Soda, cereal, candy bars – anything to quell that monkey brain.

With that instinct and poor dietary options, the obesity and inflammation epidemic plaguing the western world should come as no surprise.

For one week, I flipped a switch and said no to the ape in my head. For one week I suffered a little, but learned a lot. Next time that belly growls and my instinct demands for a Twinkie, I’ll know that I have the will power to say no. If I could go seven days without a meal, I could skip a snack here and there.

The stats:

Body weight dropped from 184 to 170 lbs. Probably mostly water weight, so I expect to regain most of that.

Resting heart rate dropped from about 65 to 54. I wonder if this was to preserve energy, or if the body is just under less stress when not constantly digesting?

Insulin dropped as low as 64, and I’m surprised it didn’t go lower.

Body temperature dropped as low as 96.5, which happens in Keto.

I estimate my body fat dropped from about 13% to sub-10%.

And finally a pic just before the re-feed:

Thanks for reading!

Also published on Medium.

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