If you were expecting an article about how to run faster, you’re out of luck. Go for a run. If you were expecting an article about The Fast and the Furious, well, stick around. At the very least, I’m going to make some (by some I mean as many as humanly possible) F&F puns. If you don’t like the sound of that, you’re out of luck. Go for a run… in the rain- because puns are great. If, on the other hand, you somehow guessed that this was the beginning of a series about fasting- damn, you’re good. Give yourself a pat on the back, you majestic beast, you.
(Technically, this is a continuation of my In the Desert series, so if you haven’t read that, do so, it will give you an idea of what to expect. I would also recommend reading my recent 10 Day Challenge article, because I’m going to be building on that here.)
The 10 Day Challenge (How to Build your Willpower the Easy Way)
Without further ado, let’s get down to it. As I write this, it is Friday, March 23, 2018, and in two days I will be beginning a water fast of an unknown length of time. ‘Water fast’ here means that I will only be drinking water and taking some iodized sea salt in the morning as an electrolyte. In 2016, I did a 40 day water fast, and until recently I have not managed to maintain a fast for more than four days. (The four day fast failed because I happened to go on a tour of the Coors brewery in Golden, CO- and I’m sure you can guess where that went wrong.)
Now, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. If you have never fasted and are unfamiliar with the practice, you’re probably asking a number of questions right now.
“How can you go 40+ days without eating?”
-The body burns fat by converting it into ketones.
“Don’t you get hungry?”
-After the first three days (or earlier, using my method,) hunger disappears.
“How do you have the energy to do anything?”
-Ketones are actually a vastly superior fuel source, and they make you feel amazing and super energetic all the time.
“I could never fast, I’d be too hungry.”
-If I was hungry the whole time, I definitely wouldn’t do it. It’s really not that hard, once you get started.
“(Insert question here)?”
-Comment on this post and I will be more than happy answer any questions you may have about fasting.
I also highly recommend that you read this series, it’s the primary resource I used for both fasts:
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and nothing I am writing here should be construed as professional advice, a prescription, or in any way should you try anything here because I told you to do it, nor should you attempt to blame me or implicate me in any way for anything you choose to do as a result of this series out of your own free will. You are responsible for your own actions- don’t drag me into that shit. Consult a medical professional to see if fasting is right for you- or don’t, still your problem and not mine.
Okay, with that out of the way, I’ll explain my method for getting ready for a fast.
To prepare for this fast, I first started with 10 days of total sobriety– no alcohol or caffeine. Yes, to some of you that probably sounds much harder than the fast itself, I get that. However, it really isn’t too bad. The reasoning behind this is because caffeine is an appetite suppressant, but as it wears off, it actually increases your appetite to higher than normal. If we’re going to be getting ready to not eat, we have to eliminate sources of possible binges. That brings us to alcohol, which is probably the third best source of binges, after holidays and grandmothers.
The importance of doing this for 10 days is in the fact that it establishes the ten day schedule and a method of building up your willpower. From the start, you’re already exercising the willpower muscle by using restraint towards anything that isn’t food or water. This is important, because during a fast, you obviously can’t have anything that isn’t water- and no, even though your favorite beer is mostly water, it doesn’t count. Now, there is an exception here for tea and black coffee (they have 0 calories and will not break your fast,) but I personally find that to be cheating. If you want to, go for it, but I don’t do it and don’t recommend it.
Now, once we’ve managed to get the first 10 days out of the way, we’re going to start intermittent fasting (IF.) IF is actually really good for you in itself, but in this instance, we’re going to use progressive levels of IF to continue building your willpower.
I’ll add a 10 day segment here for those of you who want an easier progression: skip one meal a day (assuming you eat three,) for 10 days. Now, I don’t use this 10 day challenge as part of my method, but it can definitely make it easier if you’ve never done anything like this before. Breakfast is the easiest to skip, by the way, but dinner is the most beneficial to skip. Up to you.
The next 10 day segment is “Sunup to Sundown (SUSD,)” which means you can only eat an early breakfast and a late dinner. This is important, because it will teach you to avoid food and food thoughts during the bulk of your day, and it’s easy because you know you have a meal to look forward to at the end of the day. This is similar to the fasting used in most religions, although here you will absolutely be drinking lots of water throughout the day. If you feel hunger, drink water. Make that a Pavlovian circuit in your brain- hunger=drink water. It is very important that you get in the habit of drinking water all the time, because a large part of the water your body receives is from food. Without food, you have to drink quite a bit more to stay hydrated. Again, drink tons of water.
Here’s another intermediary step you can add if you feel the need: 10 days of dinner only. As with the earlier step, I don’t include this, but it may help you if you’re having trouble with your willpower or are feeling nervous. When you’re doing these 10 day progressions, after two or three, you’ll start feeling extra confident and accomplished- and rightfully so. Because of that, it’s actually nowhere near as hard as you think, because you have the momentum behind you, pushing you from goal to goal. However, if you need to take it slower, definitely do so.
The next 10 day I do after the SUSD fast is every other day fasting. This means that I’m doing a fasting day, then a day of SUSD. The idea here is that you’re teaching yourself to skip dinner, which is arguably the hardest meal to miss. However, the key here is to remember that as soon as you go to bed, you’ll be able to wake up and eat a big breakfast. That thought is the secret to getting over it, and by the time you’ve hit two or three of the full fasting days, you’ll be ready for more.
Now we move to two days of fasting, then one day of SUSD, then another two days of fasting, and so on. Normally, I actually do this for the second half of my third 10 day cycle, but you can make this a whole 10 day if you feel the need. This is the last step for one important reason- day three is the hardest. The third day of fasting is your body’s last cry for glucose and glycogen (blood sugar and stored sugar, respectively,) and as such, you’ll feel the most hunger here. Because of this, there’s no point in doing it more than once, you’ll just be making yourself miserable.
10 Day 0: Sobriety
10 Day I: Skip One Meal*
10 Day II: Sunup to Sundown (SUSD)
10 Day III: Dinner Only*
10 Day IV: Fast Day, SUSD Day
10 Day V: Fast Two Days, SUSD One Day*
*The starred 10 Day Challenges are the extra steps to make it easier for beginners.
Now, we have reached the final goal: a 10 Day Fast. If you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on a little secret- if you can make it past three days, you can fast for as long as your body has fat to convert into ketones. Now, this is where I have to put the serious disclaimer:
If you’re doing a long fast, consider medical supervision.
Fasting is not inherently dangerous unless you have a pre-existing medical or dietary condition that involves taking medication or otherwise. If you have ANY doubt about what that statement covers, talk to your doctor. If you think you’re fine, still talk to your doctor, and if you don’t and something bad happens, don’t blame me for your decisions.
If at any point you feel sick, unwell, or otherwise, STOP FASTING. If you’ve been fasting for a while, do so with watered-down fruit juice or other watery fruit. I broke my 40 day fast with apple juice and watermelon, and it was absolutely the best tasting thing I ever experienced in my life. (That’s why I think coffee and tea are cheating, by the way.)
Now, when you’re doing a fast longer than a few days, you need to be taking some sort of electrolyte, i.e. sodium, potassium, or calcium. The “easiest” of these to ingest is salt, although drinking saltwater sucks and you’re just going to have to deal with it. It tastes marginally better if it’s warm, but only so much. I normally do a small spoonful in a small glass of hot but not scalding water, first thing in the morning.
By the time this gets posted on the site, I should be a few days into my fast. I’ll be adding another chapter around the same time next week, so stick around! Let’s see how far I can go.
Read part two here: FasterSelf II: Keto-kyo Drift