The Accidental Fast – Breaking Fast and Final Thoughts

This is Part 4 of 4 of my Accidental Fast series.

Breaking Fast

Breaking fast: My tiny meal on Day 3.

The morning of Day 3, I felt much better than the morning before: no nausea or hot/cold flashes. The first meal I got to eat was breakfast (how appropriate…break fast). The evening before, I had planned all the goodies I would consume: bagels with cream cheese, raisin bread, butter bread, and coffee! However, my stomach felt sensitive, so I had a small cup of coffee with non-dairy creamer, some pineapple slices we had dehydrated, and a slice of multi-grain bread with a dab of butter. With my stomach shrunk, this meal filled me!

Kevin congratulated me sincerely, telling me how proud he was of me and that he knew I could complete it without quitting. ❤

Eating felt great, but swallowing was weird. But I felt more energetic almost immediately and had no problems getting to work (nearly) on time and making it through the day.

Final Thoughts

I hated yet enjoyed the fast. Though I didn’t use my extra time wisely, I had a lot more of it available when I didn’t have to prep, eat, and clean up after dinner or go to the gym. However, my energy was so low that I didn’t feel like I had the strength to do anything useful.

Is it something I would do again? Yes. There are so many scientific articles that detail the positive effects (for one’s mind and body) of fasting. When it does not have to digest food, the body flushes and repairs itself in some pretty amazing ways. In fact, some studies have shown that fasting while undergoing chemotherapy can actually reduce the growth of cancer. So, ideally, I’d like to do this once a month—a short, 2-day fast—but maybe next time I’ll do it with Kevin so that neither of us has to fall prey to the delicious smells of the other cooking dinner.

Hunger has a new meaning now. As I write this, I feel myself becoming hungry. My breakfast was 3 hours ago, and usually I would describe myself as starving around this time of day, the time I normally consume my midday snack. Now, however, the hunger feels like an old, much milder cousin of the hunger I experienced during the fast. Most people in America never get to experience being hungry, because they don’t have to. Thanks to factory farming and consumerism, most of us never have to travel far to find whatever food we could possibly desire to shove into our mouths. We don’t have to plan or think or scramble. But I think hunger is something worth experiencing, especially if you are at all interested in testing the strength of your mind.

But, as Jonathan Safran Foer explains in Eating Animals, eating has always been a communal activity tied to tradition and culture. It’s difficult to break those ties, not only to our traditions but to our cravings. I grew up eating meat-heavy meals followed by dessert. In fact, as I child, I saw dinner as merely a means to an end: cookies. It has taken me a long time to change my eating habits, to reach for an apple instead of a cookie and to replace meat with meat substitutes.

Of course, the rest of my family still eats like we did during my childhood. My dad refuses to substitute ground beef for turkey, let alone tofu. He turns his nose up before even considering the health benefits and taste. On a survey Kevin filled out for my bachelorette party, my sister asked him what food we eat when we “splurge.” Kevin wrote Oreos. It’s true: we only buy them when they’re on sale as a treat for ourselves. My sister and mother found this hilarious because it’s something they stock their shelves with all the time.

Most people seem to find the idea of a fast (or even drastically changing their diets) appalling and/or unfeasible. While it certainly felt that way, my fast boosted my confidence: I was able to use my mind to control my body and this primal, intuitive need for food! How awesome is that?

The biggest drawback for me was my inability to not focus on food, especially on the second evening. That’s something I really need to work on next time. Also, being that hungry made me pine for foods I only recently swore to never eat again. I craved a greasy Zaxby’s chicken sandwich and a McDonald’s cheeseburger (things I didn’t eat even before I stopped eating animals), so that was frustrating. Hopefully, with repetition and more training, I will be able to completely detach from these thoughts.

Oh, and unlike Kevin, I had zero sharts.


The Accidental Fast – Day 2

This is Part 3 of 4 of my Accidental Fast series.

I woke up thirsty several times in the night, but made myself go back to bed. This was a huge mistake. When I awoke for good, my pee was the wrong color (dark yellow), indicating dehydration. I was very, very nauseous, and I was freezing yet also very hot. I had read that nausea and flu-like symptoms are common in the first few days of fasting as your body begins removing toxins, but I knew that vomiting was a bad sign—a sign that the fast needed to be broken.

Luckily, I did not barf. Instead, I got myself a fizzy water and curled up on the couch, allowing myself to rest and rehydrate. Kevin was very encouraging, making sure I felt okay but also telling me not to be a puss and that I would be fine. He’s so sweet. (I find tough love more encouraging than coddling.)

I drank my bottle of water slowly and put myself back to bed. I just did not have the energy to get up and get ready for work. I slept for another hour and then headed to work.

Based on Kevin’s account, I expected Day 2 to be a lot easier than Day 1. As far as hunger, it was; the gnawing feeling that had plagued my cheeks and stomach the day before had vanished. In its place, however, was nausea, neck and back pain, a runny nose, and negative thoughts.

“I need to eat,” I kept telling myself, but in reality, I did not. I had not been fasting long enough for my body to enter starvation mode; all I needed was water and time.

Breakfast, Day 2: One cup of green tea and water, water, water!

At work, I drank a cup of green tea and felt my body oscillate between feelings of nausea and clarity. During the nausea, I would put my head down, close my eyes, and breathe deep, taking a yogic breath and imagining it healing me of my feelings of sickness. (It worked.)

Of course, it’s easy to say “I don’t feel hungry anymore,” but that doesn’t paint you the whole picture. Sure, my stomach didn’t crave food, but my mind did. I kept allowing myself to focus on what I would eat on when I broke my fast. I had planned to leave work at noon that day, meaning I could have whatever I wanted for lunch…pizza, Panera, Pokey sticks, Jason’s Deli’s salad bar. Admittedly, I even craved the things I’d swore to never eat again: land animals.

I think one of the most important goals of fasting is to train your thoughts not to focus on the hunger or the food and to find new avenues for contemplation and self-discovery. Unfortunately, this is very difficult, especially on a short fast, and especially for this noob’s first fast.

I spent the evening of Day 2 torturing myself by peeling and slicing fruit to be dehydrated and doing the dishes. After that, having expended all of my energy, I was back in bed with my book, dogs, and fizzy water. I read for 20 minutes before allowing myself to indulge in thinking about food again (bad me). Feeling defeated, I thought back to something a friend of mine, who is experienced with fasting, posted to his Facebook wall (he too had just completed a 20-day fast):

When your conscious mind gives you justifications to not follow through, just recognize it and detach from it.

So I tried detaching and fell asleep.

Unlike Day 1, I knew I would wake up throughout the night needing water, so I kept some by my bed. Indeed, I awoke several times throughout the night feeling nauseous and dry-mouthed. The fizzy water seemed to really help with the nausea.

Some thoughts I had today:

  • How amazing is pizza? Like, truly amazing. The sauce and the dough and the cheese and the cheese and the cheese…mmmmm.
  • Wow, there’s a place called Cowfish at CityWalk (where Kevin and I are going this weekend) that serves humanely raised burgers and sushi, two of my favorite things. Juicy burger, yummmm.
  • Raisin bread, raisin bread, raisin bread.

Yeah, I was definitely not as thoughtful as yesterday…

The Accidental Fast – Day 1

This is Part 2 of 4 of my Accidental Fast series.

It was easy to skip my mid-day snack, but as my tummy began to rumble for lunch, I felt my mind panicking. What if I can’t physically fast for two days? What if my body can’t handle it? Worse, what if my mind can’t handle it? What if I’m weaker than I thought? What will I do for my hour-long lunch break???

These thoughts led me to feel lightheaded, like I needed to eat right away. But then I reminded myself: Carly, it’s been 3 hours since you ate. Nobody dies after not eating for 3 hours.

This is not impossible.

Day 1 was a beautiful day, and my office has some beautiful views, so I spent my lunch hour camped out at the top of the stadium, meditating, napping, and listening to the bells of Century Tower.

By 4:00, though, I became enraged. Why the hell am I doing this? There is no real point aside from proving to myself that I can do something, but there are many other, less hunger-inducing ways to do that. I want to eat. I want to eat. I want to eat!

By 5:00, I had mellowed out, but my frustration returned again around 6:30, when Kevin prepared his dinner:  a mix of caramelized onions, peppers, kale, and vegetarian beef tips. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cuddle with Dobby, but I pushed myself to go to the library, Publix, and my friend’s birthday event at a local bar.

At the bar, I ordered a water, and perhaps because water was the only thing I had consumed that day, I could easily taste the different between water sources. The water I drank at work all day came from Culligan and tasted clean and fresh. The water at the bar was obviously from the tap and tasted stale and old. Normally, I can’t distinguish tastes of water; this night I could, but I gulped down the nasty bar water anyway.

When we got home, around 9:00, instead of playing video games for an hour, I took a long shower and curled up in the bed with my dogs and a new book (The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman). By 9:30,  we were all sleeping.

Some thoughts I had today:

  • When the bodies and minds (I mean this literally, as in animals, and figuratively, as in processed foods) of the food we eat are artificial, are full of chemicals, and have suffered, why do we expect a different result for ourselves when we eat it? Why don’t we care more about our food?
  • What we choose to eat is rarely an authentic choice. The thought or restaurant that occupies the most real estate on the landscape of our minds is what we choose to eat. Nearly every day, I receive emails from restaurants vying for my attention and my dollar. Normally, I just delete and don’t think about them. But today they had such an impact. Why should I allow a marketing team to dictate what I put in my body?
  • Our downfall as humans is emotions, and we use those emotions to choose what we eat. We had a bad day, so we splurge on rich food. We are in a rush, so we opt for fast food. We are happy, so we eat cake. But which state of being is coupled with healthy eating?
  • When we don’t eat, we don’t need things like napkins and we don’t create as much waste. In addition to destroying the environment by supporting corporations that mass-produce our food (which in turn divorces us from the fact that we too are animals), we destroy the environment by insisting on things that make us even less animal-like, like plates, napkins, utensils, etc. We have forgotten—perhaps purposely, perhaps unintentionally—that humans are animals too. This forgetting is so extreme that it does not bother us to destroy other animals and the environment because we see ourselves as separate. We have given ourselves a false other-ness and, in turn, a sense of entitlement and ownership for the other living things around us.

(Watch out…I’ll be a Jedi master in no time.)

The Accidental Fast – Background

This is Part 1 of 4 of my Accidental Fast series.

A few weeks ago, as I stumbled out the door on my way to catch the bus to work, I noticed that Kevin had left a fried egg on the stove, an English muffin in the toaster, and a mug of coffee by the door (i.e., the contents of his usual breakfast). I giggled (typical Kevin) and then felt sorry for him, knowing he would be sitting at work with an empty stomach.

When I texted him about it, he told me he had forgotten his breakfast and had decided to fast for two days.

For Kevin, this meant subsisting on only water and one cup of green tea per day for 48 hours. (If you know Kevin and his capacity for ingestion, this is laughable.) For me, it meant having to make my own dinner (i.e., throw cereal in a bowl).

Kevin handled his fast with grace and rigidity. He was less energetic and went to bed early, but he didn’t waiver, even when I tempted him with freshly baked Panera bread. (OK, so I ate out the night he didn’t cook! I’m guilty.) And he had a quiet peacefulness about him; he was less feisty and I won all the arguments.

When he broke his fast at dinner on the second evening, he made the most delicious tempeh I’ve ever had. He cooked it in soy sauce and onion dressing, then served it on a toasted yeast roll with caramelized onions and peppers and a Greek-ish yogurt sauce (can you tell I’m writing this whilst fasting?). It was amazing. The fast did wonders for his culinary creativity.

But it also was great for his ego (as if he needed help with that). Kevin thought he had mastered his existence. He walked around with his head a little higher, flaunting this new-found enlightenment that he had gained from only two days of fasting. I’ve never seen him more proud of himself.

While Kevin’s fast was certainly inspiring, it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do. I love to eat. I eat five to six times a day, and I use that fuel to keep myself in moderate shape. Denying my body the food it loves never seemed like an option.

Fast (pun definitely intended) forward to two weeks later. I was supposed to have a lunch meeting, for which lunch would be provided, so I did not pack anything. But then the meeting was cancelled, leaving me lunch-less. As I was complaining about this to Kevin, he suggested his signature two-day fast. We chatted about how to do it and what to imbibe, and then I asked him, “So when you felt hungry, you just ate water?” To which Kevin replied:

No. I consumed the cosmic energy of the universe.

Cosmic energy, part of a balanced fast. Yum.

(I think he was kidding, but I also think he was partly serious…)

At first, I really, really did not want to fast, and I came up with plenty of excuses as to why right now was not a good time: I had three boring meetings to get through (and no one can do that on an empty stomach); I ride the bus so being hungry will be unsafe because I have to walk a lot (and sometimes run); I’m supposed to go out for drinks with friends tonight; we are in the middle of some construction on our house and have things to do.

But then my first fasting revelation hit me: there is never a “right time.” There is always “life” to get through. Like with most honorable pursuits, you have to consciously make a way, even when it seems impossible.

So I decided to try it.

The only experience I had with fasting up to this point was the I’m-too-depressed-to-eat fast I completed after every breakup, where I ate my feelings instead of food and, without fail, lost about 10 pounds. Usually, my mother or a friend would force me to eat, but the lack of appetite meant I only nibbled at food, but I still ate, technically.

Kevin left me with one more bit of advice:

Just watch out for sharts.

Fantastic. Good thing I wore black pants on Day 1.