This week I decided to extend my habit of not eating dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays to skipping food altogether (water only) on Tuesdays. This results in what is called a 36 hour fast – I eat a normal dinner on Monday and then don’t eat again until breakfast on Wednesday.
I’m not even sure why. It just feels like the right thing to do. All the available reasons are good reasons, so why wouldn’t I? Here are some of the reasons people do this:
- Fasting provides the digestive system – one of the most energy-consuming functions of the human body – a much needed rest. There are a lot of side benefits to this:
- You feel really light and at peace- I found myself unexpectedly smiling several times today. It’s hard to describe, but it feels great.
- Meditation is notably improved in a way that is, again, hard to describe.
- You sleep really well – at least I do. Some people report feeling too hungry to sleep, though I strongly suspect this would pass as the body adjusts to fasting regularly (and it does, rather quickly – trust me).
- Fasting allows the body to use its impressive built-in cleansing/detox system that otherwise never gets used unless we’re too sick to eat.
- Weight loss. I could stand to lose 20 pounds or so. If done regularly, intermittent fasting (combined with healthy diet and exercise) is a proven long-term weight management technique. Just skipping dinner twice per week, I’ve seen a slow but steady decline in weight.
- It’s liberating to experientially realize that hunger is just a feeling. It doesn’t mean we’re going to expire if we don’t eat. Ignoring hunger, at least for this period of time, is surprisingly easy and inconsequential. I worked a normal day today without any difficulty. I don’t feel any more tired or spacey, etc. than I ever do at this hour of the evening.
- The sometimes strong urge to eat during a fast is a great exercise in mindfulness, patience, and letting go.
- Multiple studies have shown a strong link between intermittent fasting and substantial life extension – as much as 30% in animals who fast intermittently vs animals that eat every day.
- You find yourself with some extra time and money on your hands. I went out for a walk in the woods today instead of eating lunch at my computer.
I haven’t found any scientific evidence for why it would be bad for you if you’re otherwise healthy. And so, any one of the reasons above are good enough for me. All of them together makes it a no-brainer.
The first time you skip a meal or three, you seriously wonder if you’re going to live. Not because you feel like you’re going to die, but because our culture has pounded the idea that we need 3 meals per day (with healthy snacks) into our collective conscious to the point where it’s a real ah-hah moment to realize it’s simply not true.
Turns out, the human body is built to thrive on intermittent periods of fasting. From my reading, 36 hours seems to be a sweet spot, and it feels right. It allows the body to slow down the digestive system enough to engage the detox system without going overboard. A much more occasional and long fast (say, 5-20+ days annually) can also reap tremendous health benefits if done properly, but I’m not there yet.
What amazes me when reading about fasting on various websites is the vehement opposition it seems to bring out in people who have never done it and who, judging by their comments, don’t know what they’re talking about. The very idea seems to be threatening to a lot of people – something I don’t understand.
Any way, I’m writing this with an empty belly, about to sit down for a very peaceful and quiet meditation. Care to join me?