On A Longer Fast

As I mentioned in my Lenten 2015 post, I kicked things off with a 48 hour fast, my longest one yet. I had previously done a 24 and a 36 hour fast but most of the studies out there point to the minimum necessary as 48 hours (and the stem cell regeneration stuff is saying at least 72). My last meal pre-fast was Tuesday night at around 9:30 after Master Naturalist class. Before starting, I did a little research on longer fasts and as with anything on the Internet, advice was conflicting at best. This site seemed the most informative but also made it sound like fasting bestowed super human powers on you. In my previous 36 hour fast, I did not turn into Superman but after day 1, I did notice an increased ability to focus up until about the time I ate. I don’t think this was observer bias since I wasn’t aware of the possible benefits.

For this fast, day 1 was definitely the hardest though nothing terrible. I had my first temporary hunger pains around noon on Wednesday. In my limited experience, these are almost always minor and can be mitigated with coffee and substantial water. The more difficult hunger happens for me around 20-24 hours. In the article linked above, the author says this is your body trying to stay in homeostasis. This makes a lot of sense in our modern world where for most of us (at least the ones reading my blog), hunger is a very abstract concept. Our bodies are used to eating every 6 hours and when we miss a couple of cycles, minor panic sets in at a nutritional level. But in the grand scheme of things, long term homeostasis without any stress to the system results in frailty. Think about sitting on your couch for a week. Your body doesn’t like that. There is some evidence that exposure to cold brings the body out of homeostasis and increases metabolism. A regular feeding cycle conditions your body to never feel hunger and therefore never activate important mechanisms like attacking free radicals which happens during fasts. What I did to make the 20 hour hunger pains easier was drink more water and imagine my body destroying cancer causing free radical cells. Obviously this is likely a stretch but it helped with will power.

On day 2, I found it much easier to ignore being on a fast. I was never actually hungry in a physical sense. What I did encounter was my brain trying to convince me to stuff something in my mouth. Again, I think this was as much habit/homeostasis as anything. We have a cat that if you don’t feed her every 6 hours, she turns into a meowing kitchen timer. The thing is, she’s probably 3 pounds overweight and could go 4 days without food just fine. That’s what I thought about my brain on day 2. Of course, it didn’t help that someone brought fresh fruit and donut holes for breakfast to work along with a working lunch that would have included free sandwiches if I had partaken. Temptations aside, the real struggle was just making the realization that my hunger seemed to be largely psychological mental panic and not true “I may die” hunger.

Midday, I started taking half a teaspoon of glutamine in my water every 4 hours or so. This came on the recommendation of the site linked above. I’m not sure if it helped but I’ll definitely use it more consistently on future fasts, especially since I have 8 ounces of the stuff. He suggests daily use and I’ve heard other people talk about amino acid usage during intermittent fasting. I’ll probably play around with it and report back.

My goal was a 48 hour fast but I was kind of hoping to make it 60 hours into Friday morning. However, eventually the mental hunger panic won out at the 47 hour mark. I ate pretty healthy starting out with an orange and then lean turkey. Having a little more experience with fasting helps avoid going crazy coming off of it. Not to mention, most sources say to go easy coming off longer fasts.

In the end, I didn’t achieve Super powers. However, I did notice that getting out of bed this morning with only 6.5 hours of sleep was pretty easy. One of the supposed benefits of fasting is less sleep is necessary though that’s entirely anecdotal. I don’t have anything measurable at this point. I’m 45 days into a 90 day reset hoping to vastly improve my lipid panels so that will be the first measurable moment. The proof will be in the pudding. Now I want pudding.

Lent 2015

I don’t have a lot of traditions but Lent seems to be a consistent one that I uphold. For me it’s a journey of both sacrifice and growth. I give something up to experience the sacrifice inherent to the original Lent and I try to find something creative to do each day as a way of growing. Last year, I chose to write a blog post every day. That wasn’t only a growth goal, it turned out to be quite a sacrifice as it takes a lot of dedication and time to write even a banal few paragraphs. Towards the end, I resorted several times to haikus or complaints about how hard it is to write every day. I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of the goal.

This year, we have a family Lenten sacrifice. We have struggled some over the last year or so with financial issues from a “we’re in a new relationship and there are some things to hammer out” view, from a “we’re spending too much money on bowel movements and hangovers” view and not to mention from a “we had a really awesome wedding in Savannah” view. Some of these were conscious choices we made. I wouldn’t trade the wedding for anything. Others were habit, the habit of just pulling out a card. Paying for some average food and a couple of drinks with a card is painless. Paying for average food and a few drinks with a $50 bill isn’t so painless. If you read any of the mainstream “no-debt” resources, almost all of them advocate paying with cash to make you aware of your spending, painfully aware in some cases. From this awesome post at Get Rich Slowly

  • Paying in cash forces you to consider the real purchase price – No matter what you’re buying, the fact that you’re paying in cash turns it into an entirely different experience. That’s because you have no choice but to consider how much money you’re paying overall, and not just what you’ll have to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • Paying in cash might help you spend less – When you force yourself to pay in cash, big ticket items start to lose their appeal. Try walking into a dealership with the intention of paying $15,000 or $20,000 for a newer car. All of a sudden, the prospect of keeping your old paid-off junker becomes an incredibly attractive option. Am I wrong?
  • Paying in cash keeps you out of debt – The best thing about refusing to finance things is that it keeps you out of debt in the first place. We all know what a slippery slope that can be. There are so many benefits to being debt-free, including the option to save more of your income, less stress, and of course, the feeling of not really being beholden to anyone. It’s a freeing feeling, and it’s one that I will never, ever surrender without a fight.

Dave Ramsey says much the same thing. The powers that be tricked us when when they gave us all credit and debit cards and taught us that we could afford anything. Anytime something is easier, it should immediately arouse suspicion especially when it comes to spending money. So we’re embarking on a Lenten journey of paying cash for everything outside of bills and auto fuel. I’m toying with shutting down even the bills and sending in actual checks like people in the Stone Ages did (no offense, Mom). The upside of all of this is that come April 1st, we won’t have to listen to the sucking sound of a $1000 or more black hole coming from the bank account as our credit cards swallow money.

For a positive family Lenten challenge, we’re going to spend one night a week dedicated to just us. We’ll have dinner and then play a game or read a common book. The goal is for it to be interactive, to avoid the passivity of the computer or the TV. I’ve been wanting to learn Go for a long time so if we just trade off every week between that and Rummikub, maybe I’ll only get my tail kicked every other week.

On a personal side, I’m going to repeat last year’s sacrifice of sugar. I started this year with some new personal record blood work (where the personal record is cholesterol through the roof). I have some personal ideas about carbohydrate intake and cholesterol that are, umm, not mainstream. Last year, I had my LDL levels down to 164 which is pretty good for me. In January, they were back up to 245. Obviously, that’s a heart attack waiting to happen according to the mainstream medical media. I’m pretty sure it’s a result of 4 months of eating like I was getting married and next to zero exercise. That 164 value came in May last year when I was eating well, had just come off of giving up sugar for Lent and was exercising a reasonable amount. I don’t think that’s a fluke. To really kick things off with a bang, I’m going to do my longest fast ever, 48 hours. There is a wealth of information out there in support of regular and intermittent fasting as a healthy practice. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (food intake only between 12 and 8ish) for a couple of weeks. But the health benefits of a 48 hour fast are hard to ignore so I’d like to start integrating that into my eating. So starting today, until Thursday night, it’s water and coffee and tea only.

On the growth side, I’m going to think about it some today but I’m leaning towards something similar to last year as well when I wrote every day. If I did that, I’d expand it out to “write, draw or play the saxophone/piano” every day. On the upside, I miss those right brain creative type things. On the down side, I have some goals for 2015 that would likely suffer because there are only so many hours in the day. Things like Spanish and reading would go to the backburner. I have ways to mitigate this because I have a 2 hour train ride each day. But writing more personal code or exercising would be harder and harder to fit in. So that’s going to be a mediation for today to try and identify what I really want to focus on and what’s important.

Fasting Resources for those so inclined: