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Dont Eat Challenge (5 DAY EDITION)

Friday June 30, 2023

Earlier this year I read Nassim Taleb’s book “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder”. One of the most important things that gain from disorder is - believe it or not - human beings. Our bodies are designed not just to endure stress, but to gain from it, and hunger is no exception. Modern people believe that fasting is extreme and dangerous. Even skipping breakfast is unhealthy. If you skip lunch too, you’re certainly wasting away - probably anorexic. But historically, not eating was just part of life. The traditional Catholic calendar includes obligatory fasts every Friday of lent and a week of mini-lent in each of the four seasons. The new discovery of “intermittent fasting” is how a man from 1400 would eat without even thinking. And for most of history, food scarcity was still a thing. The modern era is the first time since humans left the garden that people have not, either for genuine lack or for cultural practices, experienced periods of food deprivation.

After reading Taleb’s anecdotes about the benefits of fasting (and that certain Orthodox calendars include over 200 days of fasting) I decided to up my lenten practice this year. I fasted every day (OMAD) and did a 36 hour and 48 hour fast for the first time in my life. I ended with a full three day fast for Triduum - breaking after the Easter Vigil. When I broke fast at the end of the third day I wasn’t even hungry. I had to wonder - if I’m not hungry after three days with no food… how long will it take before I am?

As much as I want to just go all out and see where I fall, I have responsibilities and I don’t think others should have to suffer if I really knock myself out. After about a month of bulking, I’ve reached a weight that I think can sustain a longer fast without interfering with work too much. My plan for now is just five days. I’m excited to see what its like on the other side of three days. At this point I feel I’m still flying in the dark and every extended fast I do gives me a lot of insight into how my body will react. Hopefully I get enough data to be comfortable going up to seven or ten days in the future.

Day 1

I ate keto-friendly yesterday so the transition into fasting would be easier. I’ve done enough 24 hour fasts at this point that I don’t even think about it anymore. It is exciting to go to bed without dinner though, knowing that I’ll wake up in a real fast.

Day 2

Woke up with a mild hangover from dehydration. Drinking a glass of water cleared it up pretty quick. I drank a good 2.5 liters on day 1 so I was suprised to be as dehydrated as I was. I diluted my salt water a little bit (down to 1tsp/liter) to see if that helped. 1tsp ended up being too little salt and I was feeling weak at the end of the work day.

This is the first time I’ve gone to work with more than 12 hrs. I don’t think anyone can tell, which is a good sign. Upped my salt concentration to 2tsp/liter for the night to try to recover some electrolytes.

Day 3

I felt a little tired waking up but nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly no hangover like yesterday. I drank some more of my 2tsp/liter water and discovered that’s too much salt. The safe zone between feeling terrible and bathroom emergency seems to be pretty small. I lowered my concentration down to roughly 1 1/3 tsp/liter. That level seems to be safe but still keeps my muscles alive.

My hands were a little shaky when I first got to work but once I started moving it cleared up. I was afraid of fasting at work for a long time but its turned out to be no problem. Hopefully the next two days are smooth sailing. Tomorrow morning will be a new personal record.

Day 4

The day went pretty similar to yesterday. A little weakness in the morning but cleared up around 10 am. My head was a little foggy after lunch but I’d been neglecting my water. I can tell that I’m not operating at 100% but the “hunger” is no worse than day one. I am starting to have a very strong desire to eat though. I caught a whiff of an empty pizza box while taking out the trash and really thought “Hmm, I could eat that”.

Theres about a day and a half left as of writing. I can’t imagine there’ll be any surprises but who knows. I’m in uncharted territory as of this morning. I’m going to up my salt water concentration to 1 1/2 tsp/liter tonight and see what happens.

Day 5

I was very tired this morning but not shaky at all like the last two days. I upped my salt to 1 1/2 tsp/liter and that turned out to be too much. I guess I’ll stick to ~1 1/3 from now on.

Today was the hardest day so far. I am still only experiencing very minor physical hunger, but the cravings are very real - especially walking past the lunch room and smelling someones fried chicken. When I started, I was the heaviest I’ve been in my entire life at 142 pounds. I’m now down to 136, which is a low-normal for me and pretty lean. The excess fat I put on over the last month is entirely gone so I think I’m on the brink of eating into my muscle. The way I felt today reminded me of my 24 hour Lenten fasts. At that point, as now, I really didn’t have much weight to lose. I remember getting home and just thinking “THANK GOD I CAN EAT SOMETHING”. It was never a physical hunger, like carb cravings, but a burning desire to eat anything nutritious.

I saw a video a couple years ago of a crowd of starving people killing a cow with a rock. When you look at it from your computer screen with a fridge full of food, it’s pretty savage. But sitting here on a Friday night, my last over meal 100 hours ago, I can say that I (and everyone reading this) am just like them. I’ve got food in my fridge prepped to break my fast tomorrow. But if I didn’t, if I had no idea when my next meal was, the idea of killing an animal with my bare hands is completely sensible. And I’m only at day 5. If I were on day 30 and 20 pounds underweight “sanity” would cease to have any meaning.

Thank God for food. When I say Grace tomorrow I will mean it.

Tags: lifestyle