Reflections on a 5-day fast

It is definitely a weird feeling to go five days without eating when you’re constantly surrounded by food. From last Saturday morning to Thursday morning, the only calories I ingested were coconut oil (a total of six teaspoons in five days, stirred into black coffee sprinkled with cinnamon) and red wine (a total of three 5-oz servings over five days).

I did not experience any feelings of nirvana or experience any life-changing visions. I can’t even say I had the huge uptick in productivity many people report when they erase all food-related tasks from their lives, because with a family of six I still had to spend about the same amount of time shopping, cooking and washing dishes.

Still, the most surprising thing was that it was just not that hard, once you get past the first day or two of nagging complaints from your stomach. I never felt faint or on the verge of collapse, though I did not attempt to run during this fast. For the most part, I was able to walk around and live my life, pushing the mower around the yard and so forth, without other people having an inkling of what I was up to unless I told them.

The biggest takeaway from this experience is that I definitely feel more at peace with my body now. Instead of worrying that I need to feed it constantly – that sense of near-panic I’ve felt my whole life whenever I thought I felt hungry – I now know I can trust my body to tap its reserve energy stores if I don’t shovel anything down the pipe the instant my stomach is empty.

Here are some other observations from this experience:

* I felt a definite sense of calm as my metabolism slowed down. Instead of feeling like I was perpetually in the “down and ready” defensive position from my shortstop days, I could just watch the flow of the day develop and concentrate only on what I was doing right then, without constantly mentally reviewing my master to-do list to remind myself how much I wasn’t getting done right at that moment.

*It felt exceptionally rewarding to imagine my body decluttering itself while I was doing the same thing in our house, scanning for stuff we no longer need to put in a garage sale.

*I did have occasional moments of self-doubt weirdness, where even though I’d done quite a bit of reading preparing for this project, I’d still find myself thinking things like, “What is that in my mouth — a piece of tooth? What if my teeth start falling out?” (It turned out to be a bit of cinnamon and coconut oil from an earlier cup of coffee.)

*Speaking of coffee, this was a real eye-opener in terms of developing an awareness of my over-consumption in that department. At first I didn’t adjust my coffee intake at all. But without food, it didn’t take long for this to make me feel really jittery. A couple of times I felt like my heart was racing even though I wasn’t really doing anything. After that I cut way back on coffee, and even now, several days later, I’m still drinking less than usual.

*My drink of choice during this fast was lemon water with a sprinkle of salt, to make sure my electrolytes weren’t all getting flushed out of my body. The occasional Powerade Zero tasted heavenly.

*Day 5 was definitely the best. I drank hardly any coffee and felt exceptionally calm and clear-headed. I also noticed how much stomach had shrunk when I tried to drink a 32-ounce Powerade Zero and found I only wanted a little bit of it at a time. (Whereas I can usually guzzle one fairly quickly.)

*Though I was not able to cut the food-production process out of my life, it certainly was liberating to not be distracted by thoughts of food after the first day or two.

I broke my running fast on Saturday, going for an easy 3-mile run-walk with a friend who’s eight months pregnant. As I told her, I’m definitely glad to have had this experience. I come away from this feeling like I have a better appreciation for food, yet not feeling as obsessed by it. I’m sure that will fade over time, so I wouldn’t mind doing this once a year or so, to give my mind as well as my body a chance to reset.

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2 Responses to Reflections on a 5-day fast

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Impressive Tisch…. I doubt I could gut that out. I can’t even wrap my melon around it. In fact, I don’t know if I could stand the pummeling from the committee!

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