If you clicked on this blog, you fall into one of two groups of people. The first group is shaking their head in confusion, bewildered as to why anybody would willingly go without food for two entire days. The second group is nodding their head in agreement, having done similar fasts themselves and understanding where this blog is going. I’m writing for that first group – give me a few minutes of your time to explain why I’m not crazy and how a fast could benefit you too.
Disclaimer: this blog is intended for entertainment and informational purposes only – it is not medical advice.
Last year, I wrote a blog about why I take cold showers, and the rationale for fasting is somewhat similar. Similar to the practice of taking cold showers, fasting holds numerous physiologic health benefits. However, that’s not what this blog is about and if you’d like to read more about how fasting affects the body, check out this article (and associated research).
Now we can get to the good stuff that I’m guessing most of you don’t understand (yet).
This was the first time that I fasted for greater than 32 hours and to make a long story short, after the initial wave of hunger came and went, I felt incredible. There is this physical lightness and mental clarity that comes along with fasting and it’s hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself. To top it off, following the 48 hour fast, I slept so well.
Fasting is a lot like life.
Fasting is hard and that’s the main reason that I do it. In addition to the myriad of health benefits, fasting is challenging and at times, uncomfortable. It’s a devoted, intentional and dedicated act of choosing discomfort in the presence of temptation (aka food). It’s a practice of committing to a process and seeing it through.
For me, fasting is about stepping out of your comfort zone with the understanding that over time, the act of pushing yourself to do hard things becomes a habit and those habits translates over to all aspect of life. In the same way that the physical body adapts to purposeful and intentional physical stresses [e.g. lifting weights], the mind adapts to the purposeful and intentional stresses that are placed upon it [e.g. fasting, cold showers, etc].
With enough repetition, hard becomes easier and uncomfortable becomes tolerable.
Fasting can be a metaphor for everything in life that is uncomfortable; every challenge, every obstacle, and every struggle. Like cold showers, fasting can serve as a palpable (physical) reminder that choosing discomfort in the pursuit of something bigger creates resilience. That repeated decision to choose what is hard fosters willpower, discipline and mental toughness that carries over to everything else in life. It hardwires us to handle challenges with grace, attack obstacles without hesitation, find the beauty that lies in the battle and the strength that lies in each struggle. It creates a mindset unlike any other and if done with enough frequency, it’s a mindset that can change your life.
Fasting works because how you handle the little things [managing hunger] is how you handle the big things [anything else]. It’s one (of many) avenue to actively pursue the hard road and intentionally seek discomfort to find the next best version of yourself. It’s about putting yourself in the middle of the struggle on purpose because that is where strength comes from. It’s about taking something away (food) so that you can find something else (clarity). It’s about learning more about who you are when things aren’t easy and building strategies to stay the course. It’s about building awareness of where body ends and where you begin. At it’s core, the act of fasting is about commitment, endurance, resilience and so much more. I would recommend that you consider what a fast would look like for you, and then use your resources and personal circumstances to make the best decision for you (again, I this is not advice).
Go win this week.
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT