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January 30th, 2020
I personally finished a 10 day fast this week. It breaks my previous record of 9 days which was accidentally set while very ill and somewhat stranded in the Himalayas. That experience showed me that it was possible to go without food for a very long time, and having an experience like that in the back or your mind is incredibly powerful when you eventually come across fasting and all the purported benefits. It’s much easier to think: I can do that.
Short fasts of 1-2 days are simply the worst. What most people don’t realize is that after these two days, the body calms down. Mental acuity goes way way up, and even strength improves significantly.
This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. No food is a sign to the body that the environment is sparse and it might be a while before the next meal. So the body sort of reorganizes what it’s doing and makes sure the brain is working as well as possible so that it can figure out what it needs to in order to get food, and it likewise makes sure that physical abilities are as tip top as possible so that the brain can use that body in whatever way it needs to manipulate the environment in order to get food. Whether that mean tracking an animal for several days, or coming up with an ingenious way to trap one.
It’s these benefits, the mental ones in particular that I personally have come to value the most.
That being said, there are untold health benefits. The genome starts functioning in a new way, and after a couple days of fasting, it starts a process called autophagy.
This word literally means “self” “eating”. But perhaps not in the way you think. The body starts combing itself for poorly made proteins and dysfunctional cells and rips them down to basic parts in order to rebuild things correctly, making things more efficient.
The best analogy is to think of owning a business. Let’s say you’ve got 100 employees, and suddenly there is a huge drop in revenue because of external market forces. You are forced to lay off 10% of your workforce in order to stay profitable. Now here’s the question:
Are you going to lay off your best 10%? Or are you going to think about who you could do without and lay off your worst 10%?
The answer is obvious and this is exactly how the body goes about it’s process of autophagy. Organs shrink and become more efficient as a result. Things quite literally start running better, because they have to.
Dr. David Sinclair has written an interesting book entitled “Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To.” It details a fascinating information theory of aging, but poignantly, at the very end, the one thing he singles out as the greatest predictor of a long and healthy lifespan is calorie restriction.
Fasting simply makes our bodies go longer and in better more able fashion.
Intermittent Fasting is quite the craze these days, but truth be told everyone who sleeps does some form of intermittent fasting because they’re simply unconscious for a good part of the day. This is why it’s called breakfast, you’re literally breaking the fast that you slept through.
Stop eating for a couple days, and after that initial period when the body is expecting it’s usual hit of food and whines when it doesn’t get it, you start to look at everyone else and bizarrely the whole world looks as though it’s addicted to food.
We are, frankly. As mentioned before, we’re programmed to eat as much as possible because our species has clearly experienced some bleak times. We have an addiction programmed into us for it.
One of the nice things about a long fast is that the near constant thought and desire for food melts off.
Normally while working, there’s always that thought of what am I going to have? And then of course it’s often a distraction. I’ll get something to eat before I start this project. It can be a constant distraction. But commit to a few days and after that initial day or two of hunger, the mind clears, the desire melts off and there’s honestly a great deal of freedom in that mental space.
One thing that is very important to have dialed in during any kind of multi-day fast is the regimen of water-soluble supplements, like potassium, calcium, salt and a few others. Without these things can become quite painful, and I speak from dumb experience. But with this dialed in, it’s far easier than most would imagine. All the fat soluble vitamins are actually stored in the liver and in a person’s fat.
The benefits at the end of the day are just too numerous to ignore. You save money, you get back a lot of time, your focus and strength improves, so combined with the extra time you get way more done than you normally would, oh and your essentially activating all of these latent super powers in the body that make it healthier and ultimately you live longer and better as a result. Is there anything else we can do that packs this many diverse benefits?
After fasting a few times and truly internalizing all of these benefits and how they all interact with one another, you begin to see that most eating is simply..