I journaled each night throughout the whole experience. Below is an account of how it went down. The ups, the downs, all of it.
Day 1. Sunday.
A full day without food is no easy task, but I’ve done it many times before, so I felt my meat suit and mind were ready for the challenge.
Tips I tried to follow for higher chance of success aka not breaking the fast.
– Being awake is the enemy, you cannot break your fast while you sleep. So while I hate “wasting a day”, get to bed as early as possible.
– Stay busy. Idle time means thinking. The mind will be the enemy and start to think of food and why you’re a piece of shit =)
– Conserve energy. We can’t afford to waste any on thoughts that don’t help the cause. Also, no exercising (this will be tough).
– Drink at least 3 glasses of water more than I usually do.
I spent the whole day outside, reading and journaling. It was an easy, beautiful day.
Day 2. “I’m distracted”
The morning was fantastic and quiet. Work didn’t start until 2pm, so the whole morning was at a nice slow pace. My phone and computer were locked away in my closet and I “mentally” blocked them off.
I realized quickly how quiet it was. Without my phone or computer, that meant no music. Music is my homie, so it would be tough to go without her. It’s pretty amazing how when you remove something from your life (music, food, technology, relationships) you instantly understand how important (or not important) they are. This is one beautiful aspect of a fast or cleanse.
I sat down to read a book, because I like reading books. It’s what smart people do.
Anyway, this particular book was kicking my ass. Each time I’d try and read it in the past I would get distracted and couldn’t make a dent. This was particularly frustrating because I borrowed this book from a friend and was dragging my feet. The content was important, yet I couldn’t get through it.
So what happened when I removed food and technology?
150 pages down, son!
Before I looked up, “Oh boy” I thought, “I’m distracted.”
Here’s the deal, my ego wants me to believe I’m not distracted by social media, or my phone or anything like that.
I’m “the guy” who doesn’t use a phone in other people’s company, and doesn’t have social media apps for god sakes, there is no way the phone has control of me…
Well book experience quickly called bullshit on that idea. I realized right then and there that I was constantly distracted by things like cooking food, the thought of someone texting me, etc. These distractions were real, I was a slave to them and they were slowing me down or diverting me from the progress I was looking for in my life. Thoughts, revelations and realizations were plentiful almost each hour of the week. It can be intense to look yourself in the mirror, ask real questions and get real answers. Some are good, some are scary and sad. But this is where truth and growth come from.
That said, I was curious what else I would learn about myself and my habits from this fast.
***QUICK FAST REVIEW***
The human body produces a hormone called Ghrelin (the hunger hormone), which is a signal from your stomach to your brain that you’re hungry. We experience the release of this hormone each day when our stomach is empty.
There are many walls to climb over while fasting. The feeling of being hungry is the toughest initial wall for us to climb. Evolutionarily, we are wired to eat. And, if you’re reading this, you have food at our fingertips at all times, adding fuel to the addiction.
In the first 48 hours of a fast, Ghrelin levels rise. However, after that, Ghrelin is no longer released. You no longer “feel” hungry, which is fantastic for those looking to fast.
However the mental battle is just beginning.
Day 3. “No Compromise”
I woke up Tuesday relieved to find I was not hungry. Like a pilot, I checked performed a quick systems scan and was excited to find I had great energy to start my day.
While I didn’t have my phone or computer to distract me, I looked forward to work. I knew that would be a healthy distraction and hopefully I wouldn’t think of food too often.
No one at work knew I was doing a fast, so I didn’t have to talk about it either. I was cruising through the day.
I was also peeing, a lot. I found drinking water at all times throughout the day helped with energy and also kept me feeling full.
Crystal clear pee I’d like to add, every 30 minutes or so. I was hydrated baby!
Work flew by and I was flowing into the evening, that was, until my commute fucked everything up.
Commutes (an hour) usually consisted off phone calls, podcasts, audiobooks or music. Without my phone, I was left in silence. Usually that would be fine, in fact, I’m pretty damn good at being alone with my thoughts. But things were different this time around.
***MORE FAST STUFF***
Once you are deep into a fast, your body reacts in two ways:
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
aka: Rest and Digest
Activates to aid your immune system to fight inflammation, aid in healthy cell development and destroy unhealthy cells and flush out toxins. Your body goes “Ahhh” and starts to heal itself.
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
aka: Fight or Flight
Activates due to the stress your body goes through with food for energy. It is a defense tactic to ensure you survive, raising your heart beat, looking for energy wherever it can find it and tapping into your deepest mind to drive you to eat. Your body sounds the alarms and will do whatever it can to “trick” you into eating, for fear of death if no food comes soon.
Two incredibly intricate systems, battling each other, and your body and mind are the playground.
While your body goes to work, it now becomes the battle of the mind.
The night was burning, and I was all alone, walking under street lamps toward my home. I might have looked peaceful on the outside, but a war was brewing in my mind.
It was like a manifestation of the nervous system battle. One side of the mind was frantic, wanting desperately to eat and end the suffering. The other side was calm, resilient and strong against all forms of deception and self-sabotage. The ego even got involved.
Thoughts of breaking the fast became louder and had stronger arguments. I’d think about how much mental stress this was causing me.
“This is miserable, just eat food and this all goes away. No one cares you are doing this. Who are you trying to impress? You’ve already achieved the health benefits, enough is enough. You’re a fucking idiot and going to pass out, just eat food and give up. You did good enough, just quit now.”
With no distraction from my phone, I was walking fast and trying to stay calm.
“No compromise” became my mantra in the face of each passing thought. I came to realize on that walk that each thought that popped up, was simply a compromise my mind would bring to the table like a negotiation. My intention was to go 5 days without food, it would take a mountain of mental fortitude to not give in. It’s so fucking easy to compromise. We do it all the time. It’s the very reason we don’t achieve our goals or hit our intentions.
Anxious as ever, once home, I jumped in bed with hope of refuge in the form of sleep.
A quiet mind never arrived, as my body was still in a state of flight, resulting in a rapid heartbeat once I was horizontal and under the sheets. It felt like I just ran 10 miles. I’d pass out for an hour or so and then wake up. This repeated until my alarm went off.
Day 4. “It sounds like this was worth while”
Up to this point I’d had learned a lot about my habits, some good and some I wanted to change. I got to witness my impulses up close. I was building the mental fortitude by refusing to compromise or break. I fell in love with food, all because I hadn’t had it in 4 days. But in spite of all the promise and insight, I started day 4 ready to pop and break. It was simply too much to handle.
Just get through work, and we’ll see how you feel afterward, I thought.
I walked through the doors of Onnit (where I work) and all hell broke lose. At least it did in my mind.
Word spread overnight that I was doing a 5 day fast. A slight detail I hoped to keep quiet amongst employees. After all, I work at a health and wellness company, so while fasting is not uncommon, 5 long days, is.
Immediately upon walking through the door I was bombarded with questions and curiosities about the fast. One such curiosity, “Wow, how is the fast going so far?”
“Actually, the truth is, it fucking sucks. I was not expecting it to be this rough. The fast isn’t that bad, but it’s the mental stress is making it one of the worst weeks of my life,” I replied.
My coworkers smile, quickly faded. Not the answer she was hoping for, I guess.
My coworkers were sympathetic and for the most part let me go in peace.
However, I was on high edge, so when a few coworkers decided to lecture me that I wasn’t doing the fast “correct” because I ingested electrolytes, I almost blew up. Deep breath, deep breath. Breath work was essential to calm all systems and get through tough situations. A good lesson, fast or not.
I was starting to feel weak toward the end of my shit, but luckily it ended at 2pm.
My buddy Dave asked me for a haircut (a side-hustle of mine). He got a kick out of this, because without a phone, we couldn’t communicate times or a place to meet. All communication had to be done in person or by written note. We joked around about how crazy this felt, though we both relished this type of living. No phones, ah the beauty and wonder…
I agreed to the haircut request, mostly because I was afraid of having a full day of thoughts to myself. I knew I’d break the fast if I was alone. Company sounded fantastic. Giving Dave a haircut didn’t solve all my problems but it would at least buy me a few hours before bed.
I slowly climbed into his car, but not before getting a face full of sunshine, as if it would be my last.
I was certainly less social than normal throughout the week. No food meant low energy, no phone meant no call or text. All communication was to be done in person and with intention. So talking to Dave on that ride home and during the haircut was therapeutic. For the first time all week, I was starting to articulate the peaks and valleys of the fast. Dave heard all about how much it sucked but also how much I loved learning about myself, holding me accountable and the gratitude and appreciation for things I had been without for only 4 days.
As I finishing up the haircut, Dave pulled out a CBD/THC vape pen. Tempted as I was, I first declined, not wanting to break the fast for anything, even this. However, after some slight convincing by Dave, I grabbed the pen.
Holding it in front of me, I laughing at the two options presented in my mind:
Option 1) I get high and it helps lower the anxiety of the fast and calms me down
Option 2) I get high, get the munchies and all progress ends as I destroy a burrito.
“Fuck it, I hope it’s option 1.” I took a hit.
Slightly high (but calm), the two of us talked in my living room for a while longer. After packing up to leave, he walked to the door and lofted up his closing words, which lingered in the air along with the smoke. “To be honest brother, I know you said this week has sucked, but from everything you’ve told me, it seems like it has been worthwhile.” And then, along my sanity as the week progressed, he was gone.
His words truly hung in my apartment for a few minutes. As I replayed them, I felt my perspective on the whole week flip. No doubt this was one of the worst weeks of my life, I was miserable. However, through the pain and misery I was learning an incredible amount. My body was healing itself. I was reading, writing, meditating, getting sunshine and breathing. I set a new record for myself with 4 days of fasting at that point.
I was in love with food. Ecstatic to know my life was no less fulfilling without a phone or computer. I needed this.
I still had a few hours to kill before bed and was worried about the munchies coming on, so I decided to go for a light bike ride. The lack of movement and exercise all week was tough to bear, so I felt some fresh air and a little cycling would be fine.
Austin is full of hills.
My light ride, was not so light. I was peddling ferociously trying to get up the goddamn hills scattered throughout my neighborhood. The sun was gone and the stars were out to play.
As I set my sights on the final hill before relief, I felt something happen deep inside me. An incredible burst of energy, trickling through my veins, my muscles and into my brain. It felt like I was running on coal and suddenly switched to clean energy. Riding up the hill, faster and faster, I started to sweat. Was I having a hear attack? It was possible, but more likely I transitioned into Ketosis.
I was now burning fat instead of carbs and my body responded with a burst of energy. It was like being Clark Kent and once I ripped my suit off, I was Superman. The hill no longer seemed an obstacle, so I peddled harder and harder.
My breath was now becoming synchronized and rapid. Through the nose, oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. Faster and faster, I peddled.
On empty body, running on fat-cell fuel, high from the pen and breathing rapidly, I finally summited the hill. Not incredibly impressive, I felt my own great achievement on top the hill as I overlooked Austin. The whole week I busted my ass up that hill, battered and bruised by the fast and the mental struggle that took place. Finally, I made it to the top. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Simultaneously with that sigh, the streetlights grew brighter. I could hear the trees sway, as if they were next to my ear. An intense feeling of euphoria suddenly ran through my veins like Neo entering the Matrix for the first time. I started to cry, but my mouth was busted open with a glorious smile. What was happening? More ketosis??? Am I dying???
I stopped to catch my breath and make sense of this blissful state I found myself in. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I looked around feeling connected to the silhouette of the trees that surrounded me. I couldn’t stop crying and smiling. A feeling of immense love and gratitude flushed my whole body.
I realized I had reach a non-ordinary state of consciousness, a psychedelic state.
I pondered: The week leading to this moment was hell. It was an extremely hard path and one of the toughest experiences of my whole life. There was almost no pleasure and almost all pain. I was in my head and filled with anxiety and self-doubt. But something was consistent. My drive. The mantra “no compromises” was a direct result of the discipline I had set in myself.
It might be tempting to eliminate conceivable hardships. But I believe that will leave you weak, and incapable of facing the tough challenges that are inevitably ahead. This week proved that beauty and growth are on the other side of fear and struggle. I felt like a butterfly.
Now, as this butterfly sat atop his bike, overlooking Austin, all I could think about was how beautiful life was. I could feel it. Pure love and admiration for the fact that I could go through such pain and feel such majesty on the other side. In a crude sense, it was pure magic.
I was an hours away from giving up. I was miserable. Sure, I’d feel better because I rid my body of food and toxins for 4 days, but it didn’t really seem all that worth it. I viewed my mind as the enemy all week. However, in that altered state, I realized I had broken through and was utilizing the mind instead of banishing it. My brain was literally being rewired. Mental fortitude pushed me through the threshold of pain and what I thought I was capable of. I now sat on the other side of that line.
Pure love is all I felt.
First, let me say, I did complete the challenge. I went 5 days without food. However, on the night I hit that psychedelic state, I broke one rule. I busted out my computer so I could write down what I was feeling, my pen and paper were too slow.
I didn’t go into a 5 day fast with a ton of expectations. So it was certainly surprising to achieve a psychedelic state and feel wholehearted lust for life after just 96 days without food. If that’s all it takes, I think that we need to start rethinking the tools in which we search for meaning and happiness. Fasting helped me achieve that state, think about that.
Removing the phone and computer, without a doubt, made the week exceptionally harder. The mind is the enemy during a fast like that, and distractions can be very helpful.
While removing those distractions made the week much more difficult to endure, the experience would not have brought me so many insights into my daily habits and values.
The fast really taught me how we’re all slaves to impulses. Food, sex/masturbation, social media. They all derive from a feeling of scarcity. Fortunately, these feelings are not real, and once you learn to accept this reality, you can be free from it.
My experience was personal, but not at all my own. It’s a blessing and a curse to know that you can get through the hard times, often with magic on the other side. It doesn’t make going through those hard times, any easier knowing that, however, if you trust the process and the Universe, you can make magic happen.
*5 days without food is extremely intense and should only be done with medical supervision and with a lot of planning. Please do not follow my path verbatim, I would not recommend that to anyone.
If you want to learn more about fasting and the health benefits, check this out.