It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say I do not and have not (in my adult life) ever been able to control myself around food. It is my favorite thing. When I hear things like “Oh I better not, I already had a cookie today” out of other people’s mouths, my first reaction is to think “What? I have like 5 cookies. Every day.”
Then I started reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss. It’s a huge collection of life hacks from top performers in their field, beautifully arranged into a Cliffnotes version of the best parts of each interview he’s had with them. And in reading it, I got intrigued by the idea of fasting.
A few times a year, Tim Ferriss does a 3-day fast from Thursday night to Sunday night and he outlines how he does it. Apparently there’s a lot of data to support that fasting is preventative of cancer, great for killing free radicals and aging/longevity in general, and gives your immune system a fantastic boost. Here’s an article about that last claim: http://awarenessact.com/study-finds-that-fasting-for-72-hours-can-regenerate-the-entire-immune-system/
But it’s not like I believe everything I read and try anything that claims to be healthy. (Although I do believe a LOT of what Tim Ferriss practices, because he’s such a devout self-experimenter) I’m pretty happy with my weight so I wasn’t motivated to lose weight, and I find it really hard to alter my sugar-filled diet when it’s not showing up on my bod. What actually inspired me to do it, was wanting to know if I could. Could I do something so completely opposite of how I’ve behaved around food for the last decade? Also, I have been lucky enough to never really know physical pain or discomfort. Even though it wouldn’t be the same as my friend’s journey with chronic illness, I wanted some level of experience with discomfort so I could better empathize with people who live like that all the time. I find myself with the judgmental thoughts, “If you just had a better attitude about it, it would probably be way less crippling,” while recognizing that I’d never been in that place so I really couldn’t say a word about it.
I read the book on a Wednesday, realized that doing a 72-hour fast from Thursday night to Sunday night would suit my work and social schedule well, and decided if I waited another week to research and prepare and perfectly stock my shelves with the perfect health foods to reintroduce when I started eating again, I probably would lose interest by then. So I just committed and I did it.
6 years ago I biked across the country w/ a big group of people through an organization called Bike and Build. You’re supposed to train beforehand so your body can handle 60-70 miles a day on a bike, for about 6 days/week, for 10 weeks. I didn’t train. I remember telling myself, “My body isn’t ready for this, so I need to be extra mentally tough.” And I little-engine-that-coulded myself up every hill, and at the end of every ride, told myself, “that wasn’t so bad.” My memory of biking across the country now is that it was easy and anyone could do it. It wasn’t easy. But my brainwashing was powerful enough that it was.
That’s what I brought to this fast. I had lunch with my friend Sam on the first day, and I told Sam not to feel guilty eating in front of me, because I was committed and wouldn’t be tempted. I let myself actually go into a grocery store to buy MCT oil, which I was allowed to have 3-4 Tbsp of per day of the fast. It’s the only time I’ve ever gone in a grocery store, gone directly to the aisle of what I needed, and left without any wandering eyes. I carried water with me everywhere and peed more than I’ve ever peed before.
The second day I felt tired, and uninterested in exercising, so I let myself skip it. My roommate and biggest fan Jay, who always comes to my gigs and tips me in cookies, gave me 3. I put them on a shelf in my room (not even hidden away in a cupboard… I was cocky) and let myself look at them every day until the fast was over. One or two times I had the thought “If I ate one, no would know.” But I held true.
The third day I felt WEIRD. I felt unstable standing, preferred to sit, and felt like I was having an out of body experience. I didn’t really feel hungry anymore, and I felt what I guess was my first experience with brain fog. I was hoping my body would be in ketosis and I’d feel like Superman. I didn’t. I felt “tired drunk” and it didn’t help that I hadn’t been able to fall asleep for very long the night before, which I usually never have a problem with. I called my chiropractor brother, who has plenty of experience fasting, on the phone and told him how weird I felt. He told me, “You know there’s no magic that happens after 72 hours compared to 64. Listen to your body. Eat something.” In my mind he’s an expert, so it took something to hear the expert tell me to eat, and still say- no, I’m going to see this thing through.
I found it easier to manage when I was with other people and distracted. I even performed in this state and didn’t feel affected at all. At 7:30 pm, exactly 72 hours from my last bite on Thursday, I had already decided I was gonna eat whatever I wanted instead of my initial plan to then plunge into a ketogenic diet. I had 2 huge slices of pizza, 3 cookies, quiche, and an almond croissant. Likely not the best choices to bring my digestive system back from vacation, but it forgave me.
I didn’t feel like Superman during the fast, but it came after. I spend so much of my life in my comfort zone, when I really care about stepping out of it. So many people said to me while I was fasting, “I could never do that.” Which is probably what I would have said to someone I encountered doing the same thing… before I did it.
It was just an awesome reminder that you don’t have to be limited by what you think you are. If I could apply this lesson and discipline to all the music business stuff that I dread doing, I’d be unstoppable. Now I plan on doing this 72-hour fast at the beginning of every season change. Join me next time to welcome in summer, anybody? :)