How I Tried to Fast: My Struggle with Weak Will

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a weak will. Frequently, I set myself various resolutions and frequently I fail to fulfill them. Especially those that include a significant element of personal discomfort, such as taking a cold shower everyday or performing a three day cleansing fast every month. When I was 10 or 11, I managed not to eat anything for 24 hours as a part of some initiation ritual.  Since then, my will is in steep decline. When I was a teenager, I was actually jealous of anorectics that they manage to withstand hunger (not the best role models, though, I know….). After a visit of my Greek in-laws few weeks ago and ten days of extreme indulgence in delicious Greek food, my stomach started complaining. I decided that the time has come to give it a break and to prove that I am not a total wimp.

I usually make such plans when my stomach is full and I keep abandoning them as soon as it starts growling. This time, however, I decided to think it out a bit better. I need to develop a strategy that will help me resist temptation in moments of weakness. I have to learn how to, instead of an immediate reward (satisfaction of appetite, suppression of hunger), choose a secondary reward (a pleasant feeling that I made something good for my health). I’m not a slave of food, am I? I drop the initial idea to drink water solely for the period of three days (that would be probably a bit too much for a fasting beginner) and I select a more merciful alternative.

Fruit fasting is generally recommended for beginners and weaker characters. It might be not as effective as water fasting, but it is definitely somehow more survivable. The detoxification process starts slower and has milder side-effects. These may include fatigue, headache and muscle aches, even nausea can occur in some cases. Generally speaking, the healthier diet you had before fasting, the milder the side effects are going to be. But what is most important, the intense “craving” for food that cropped up in my case, can be at least partially suppressed. I make sure I stock up on apples, bananas and smoothies before the commencement of my three days of self torture.

My “last supper” before the fast is light and healthy: salmon with mashed potatoes and salad. If everything goes according to the plan, I will eat my next proper food on Saturday morning. To overcome moments of reduced determination (and according to previous experiments I conducted on myself I know these will come abundantly), I will practice yoga, meditate and write the blog (after all I don’t want to write about failure, do I? ;-)).

First day morning passes by smoothly. My stomach, still satisfied after ten days of “Greek Style” feasting, is silent and allows me to focus on my work. I manage to fight off first symptoms of early afternoon hunger and I feel absolutely fantastic.

Around four in the afternoon, the first crisis sneaks in. It demonstrates itself quite ingeniously. Suddenly, my mind is flooded with extraordinarily vivid and colorful images of nothing else but the Krispy Kream donuts. I can smell them; I can even feel their taste on my tongue. They are delicious, perfect, creamy and dangerously addictive. I feel like the dog of Mr. Pavlov, my saliva almost dripping from my mouth.

I manage to resist. Evening comes and the feeling of satisfaction with this primary success pushes the Krispy Kream visions away. The first day is over. Taking into account all the previous fiascos, this is already a great accomplishment.  All the uncomfortable feelings are gone and I’m going to sleep happy and relaxed, looking forward to the next morning when I will be another eight hours closer to the goal.

According to Ayurveda medicine, a 3-5 day fruit fast helps to improve functioning of the nervous system and supports memory. Most of the world’s religions prescribe periods of fasting during the year to deepen spiritual experience, to achieve peace and serenity. It’s a bit at odds with the strange modern belief that fat people are happier and calmer. In my case, the lack of calories works exactly as the fasting promoters predicted. Probably because I have just enough energy for what I need, it is impossible to make me disturbed or upset.  Strangely, somehow, I am totally at ease, nothing can shake my super-calm Nirvana-like state of mind….

Well, only until, such as the previous day, the afternoon intensive “craving” visions arrive. This time, instead of the Krispy Kream donuts, I am fantasizing about the full English breakfast (veggie-style of course). It takes all my will-power to fight the three-dimensional visions of tasty scrambled eggs, English beans, baked potatoes and crispy salad. Since the goal is already half-way achieved, I start planning out loud what am I going to eat on Saturday to celebrate my victory. My boyfriend is concerned about my past admiring anorectics and thinks I should not continue with my self-torture: “I think, you’d better eat something right now,” he suggests. “No way, it’s a matter of honor,” I say firmly while carefully watching his amazingly looking sandwich, my mouth full of saliva.

Third day morning, I wake up with an almost victorious feeling: last 24 hours left. But the worst pitfalls are awaiting me in the home straight. My boyfriend goes for an afternoon shift today and his deliciously smelling brunch initiates my incontrollable craving earlier than the previous days. I have never enjoyed the smell of food as intensely as after two days of starvation. It seems as if I’m trying to absorb through my nose what I can’t put into my mouth. Even though it is required to start eating slowly after fasting, my decision is clear: a full English veggie breakfast early Saturday afternoon will be the best way to break off my three-day escape from the realm food. It will also be a humble acknowledgment that I am, in fact, a slave of food, at least until the next fast. The final highlight of my celebration is going to be a delicious plate of my favorite spaghetti with cream and spinach. Elaborating my plans aloud, I survive the last day.

Frankly, even though mentally and physically I feel great, three days were quite enough for a beginner. On the other hand, it was certainly worth it. After three days of fasting, I have discovered completely new dimensions of taste. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time a full English breakfast tasted so good.

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