The first 24 hours is always the hardest. That is the day of hunger pangs and annoying stomach growls. The bodies reaction to not being fueled regularly is compelling. If fasting is training in spiritual discipline, then our regular habits are training in consumption. It’s not unusual for me to workout before breakfast - it is actually one of the best times to exercise - so my body was not protesting at the gym. Noon, however, was a different story. Like a petulant child my body launched into an unreasonable tantrum as it demanded that to which it had become entitled. It really is as unreasonable as a toddler. Children scream and cry in an attempt to coerce a parent to relent and appease their hunger for a new toy. They tug on the heartstrings and, if not for a trained and mature mind, any parent would give in.
The body tugs on the gut strings in the same way. It only takes about six hours of fasting for your bodies stores of glucose to get low enough that small doses of stress hormones are released as well as neuropeptide Y - an amino acid that contributes to aggression and anxiety. In other words, you get ‘hangry.’ Yes, that’s nerd talk. But it’s helpful to realize that hunger is more than a mood. It’s a biological process where stuff is doing stuff in your body. That means it can be managed and even manipulated.
It’s generally reported that this stage passes after about 24 hours, and I find that to be consistent with my experience. I woke up today with no feelings of hunger whatsoever. Not even a habitual instinct to start making breakfast. It’s noon now as I write this, and there are no strong feelings of hunger or urge to eat. But that doesn’t mean I feel ‘normal.’ Not at all.
I call day two of the fast ‘Jedi Mode.’ Most often, my second day of fasting comes with a feeling of being in surprising control of myself. It’s become a bit more unsurprising to me at this point, but it used to astonish me how much of my day is consumed with food. Not just the eating, but the planning, prep, clean-up and inevitable sluggishness that immediately follows a meal. It doesn’t feel constrictive at all when I’m doing it. But when I’ve chosen not to do it it feels remarkably freeing. I find myself considering others sitting around me at Life Cafe ordering, waiting and wrangling children for a midday meal and think ‘look at everything I don’t have to do!’
But a real, physical shift begins today also. I can feel my body shifting from using glucose - the quick and easy fuel floating around in my system when not fasting - to the less readily available fat stores. It’s hard to explain what that feeling is, but essentially my body is mining itself. And, while I know there is nerd talk for the physiological phenomenon, it’s easier to describe it in terms of gas vs. diesel engines. Gas burns fast and easy, as evidenced by dropping a match into a bucket of the stuff. Don’t do that by the way. Typically, if you drop a match into a bucket of diesel it will go out before it ignites (typically! Do not do that either, btw). The reason is that diesel has a higher flash point than gasoline. It burns hotter and is able to produce more torque. And that’s the odd thing - I really do feel like I have more torque or ‘oomph’ on Jedi day. It seems like I can actually feel more of my deeper muscle fibers firing today. Physically and intellectually, day two is actually rather pleasant in some regards. I admit, however, I tend to be a little more low energy and slow down a little.
This shift from gas to diesel comes with a ‘I think I’m going to die’ window. Typically that happens for me near the end of the evening before bed. I’ve found that whiskey is the best treatment for that time. Although, since it only last two hours at most, it might be just a placebo effect.
When people ask me what day three is like my response is usually ‘that’s when you see Jesus.’ I’ll explain that more tomorrow if I continue the fast. It is my intent to do so, but day three is day three. Interesting things happen and sometimes I continue it and sometimes I don. Stay tuned!
I also thought it would be helpful and I’m sure some would be interested in the data so, if you’re wondering, I weighed out after my workout yesterday at 185.2 and weighed out today after a very similar workout at 180.6. Much of that is, of course, the lack of food literally sitting in my system. However, even if we were to estimate that at 3 pounds of stuff it’s a near two pound loss in 24 hours. That would be consistent with estimates of calories eliminated to drop corresponding pounds of fat. To be sure, weight loss isn’t a good enough reason on it’s own to go on an extended fast - but it’s a nice perk!