Not Eating For 7 Days: What I Learned About Fear
If you know me, you know I sometimes do "stupid" things. One such "stupid" thing was not eating for an entire week. Let me tell you about what I learned.
(Note: totally unrelated picture, but a picture of me eating, so it works. Right?)
First off, I'm not here to convince you of the merits of a diet. I'm not here to tell you what to eat. While yes, I know a fuck ton about food, the body, and nutrition, I'll refrain from getting on any soap box to lecture. This is about something more than food and nutrition. This is about who I am as a person and how I grew.
I've completed a multitude of 1 and 3 day fasts, and I've even sprinkled in a few 5 day fasts. However, I'd never completed the mythical week-long hiatus from food.
So that's just what I set out to do: not have a bite to eat for 7 complete days.
I fast for a variety of reasons. The first is to help me stay in ketosis. But after a 1 or 3 day fast, there isn't much benefit to this. And regardless, I'm not here to talk nutrition, I'm here to talk growth. So I digress.
The longer fasts, like 5 days and 7 days aren't so much about nutrition as they are about the challenge. They're about overcoming some unknown in life. They're about trying something new. They're about doing the impossible.
For the better part of my 30 years on this Earth, I've constantly been told that I'm supposed to eat three square meals a day. I should follow the [now outdated] food pyramid, eat plenty of snacks, and always be grazing. Never skip a meal.
With such ideas, I became like everyone else. I developed an implicit fear around food. I feared that if I didn't have enough food or eat at the right times, I might fall over dead. Skipping a meal was a death sentence.
I held fear about the absence of food.
This fear, as with any fear we might have, held a degree of control over me. Like a little demon, following me around. It affected the way I thought and acted.
When fear lives in our lives, it controls us. We live in a way to avoid it. We shift our thoughts and actions.
Any fear that has a foothold in our lives has control of our lives.
And let's say this: certain things in life merit fear. Yet more often than not, our fears are poorly founded or are blown out of proportion. The fear around food is especially this way!
So here's where we're at. Fear that lives inside of us controls us. Fear around food controls us. Personally, I don't want any fear to control me. I want to control myself. So I must rid myself of the fear. The next logical question is: where do we go from here?
The only way I can rid myself of a fear is to step into what it is that I fear the most. No amount of thought, rationality or deliberation will ever release a fear.
If I want to release a fear, I have to live with the fear.
This idea of releasing fear isn't a new one. It's been around for thousands of years. Take for instance the words of Seneca:
Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?'
What is it that we fear so much? Does hunger make us afraid? Does poverty make us afraid?
I began a fast to conquer a fear. The fear of hunger has been hardwired into my existence. I set out to conquer that demon in my life by abstaining from food for a whole week.
I allowed myself water, tea, coffee, salt and a multivitamin. Not a thing more than that!
Here is what happened. Days 1-2 were slightly challenging as my body adapted to starvation. Days 3-5 were simple. I kid you not, they were hardly a challenge. On top of that, I had a level of mental clarity I've seldom experienced in life. I was sharp as a knife. Days 6-7 were a challenge. I slowed down both mentally and physically: it was almost like I was wading through water or at a high elevation.
After 7 days, I broke my fast with a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup. Let me tell you, nothing has tasted so good as that soup!!
In all that, here are the two things I learned:
1. How it feels to not have food for 7 days. Both physically and mentally, I understand what not eating for a week feels like.
Sure, it's great to know the physical and mental effects of fasting. But the true learning was in what fasting taught me about myself. I learned:
2. My fear of hunger was not nearly so well founded as I thought. Yes, a week without food was a challenge. And yes, I don't think I'd go out of my way to do it again. However, it truly wasn't that bad. I may not relish it, but I'd 100% be able to do it again, I have zero doubts.
I used to plan my life around food. I used to believe that I HAD to eat. I used to be controlled by this need. Skipping a meal, let alone skipping a day's worth of food was impossible. It was a mountain too large to climb.
Not eating was something I could never do until I did it. And now, looking back from the other side, I know that I've freed myself from the fear of hunger, from the confines of food, and from something that used to direct so much of my time and attention.
Hunger is no longer a fear in my life. I've liberated myself from the fear. I've liberated myself from its control.
That right there made it all worth it.
I leaned into that which scared me. I discovered it wasn't nearly so scary as I'd thought. I now know I have risen above that fear.
And I can't wait to lean into my next fear. To climb the next mountain. To again discover that what I fear isn't worthy of near so much fear as I've placed on it.
I hold the power to abolish fear from my life. I hold the power to take back control of my life.
That right there is what I learned. And that right there is one hell of a lesson!!
P.S. One little plug: fasting is fucking great for the body and mind. If you want to learn more on the topic, ask me for a book/podcast recommendation. I've got some for you!