Food for thought

Three-day fast

There are less savory aspects to “cleanses.”

There are less savory aspects to “cleanses.”

A week or so ago, my girlfriend, Joy, and I were making Memorial Day plans. First, we were thinking about traveling out of town, but due to some unforeseen bills, I was too broke to travel. Then the discussion moved to parties and barbecues, and I had a sudden vision of unhealthful eating, cigarette smoke and hangovers. “Why don’t we do a three-day fast and cleanse, instead?” I suggested. “It’ll be great. Every major religion has a fasting aspect to it, so I can write a Filet of Soul.” Joy was game.

Just off the top of my head, I’ll remind readers of Islam’s fasting during Ramadan, Judaism’s fasting during Yom Kippur, and Catholicism’s fasting and abstention from meat, particularly during Lent—I could fill this column with examples. Instead of getting hammered, we’d spend the long weekend concentrating on our health, working out, hiking and gardening.

Well, here we are, Sunday morning, and I think I’ve gained some insight into the whole fasting thing.

Plug in “Master Cleanse” to your browser, and you’ll see the fast I had in mind when I suggested the idea. My buddy Mike Sion did it a few months ago. But I have blood sugar issues, so doing a fast based on 1,000 calories a day of organic maple syrup seemed like slow suicide. So I decided to do a protein powder fast limited to about 1,100 calories. Joy did her own research and came up with a fruit-and-vegetable-juice-based fast, about the same number of calories. By the way, there are less savory aspects to a “cleanse” that I won’t discuss. Suffice it to say, while the whole concept of “cleanse” is kind of New Age-y, I don’t think any of the major religions include it in their discipline.

My fast consisted of two scoops of protein powder in water at 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and one scoop every two-and-a-half hours in between. I took my regular fiber supplement and vitamins in the morning. I drank as much water as I could stand.

From here on out are observations and conjecture.

To begin, I never felt “spiritual,” like you’d feel during an overtly religious experience like a meditation, church service or hike through the mountains. However, I absolutely can see how this sort of discipline could lead religious practitioners into thoughts of god and appreciation for the bounty we enjoy. By the way, according to internet sources, the world’s average caloric intake a day ranges from 2,100 calories for poor countries to 3,700 for rich countries. My average daily intake is more like 3,200 calories.

I never felt “hungry.” Conversely, I constantly wanted to eat. I’m not sure I can adequately explain the difference, but hunger kind of comes from the gut, an ache and emptiness. “Wanting to eat” is in my head. And I’m fairly adept at ignoring the little voices. Walking through Barnes & Noble and seeing recipe books or smelling the food samples at Costco focused my mind on food in ways I’ve never imagined.

I was constantly in a bad, sarcastic, quick-tempered mood. I didn’t feel sexy at all. We ran into some friends who fast fairly routinely for secular (or New Age-y) reasons, and they described a feeling of “bliss” that they achieved on the fifth day. I didn’t get there.

I worked out on my regular schedule of cardio and lifting weights, but never lost strength. I don’t understand the physical mechanics of this.

My sinuses constantly ran. I don’t know what this means, but the second day, there was like a little “pop,” and my nose ran freely from there on out. It makes me wonder if I’m slightly allergic to something I regularly eat to that makes me form mucus.

I made it 84 hours before I broke my fast with a steak and egg breakfast.