When we moved to the US, Radhika and I started to take meals only twice a day to save time. We tried it for a few days and then wondered as to why people say one should eat as often as possible. For some, a single day is a dopamine serenade. Breakfast, snack, lunch, tea+snacks, dinner, dessert, midnight snack!!! The world has been fed this falsehood that eating often is good for health. Imagine our pre-historic ancestors for a moment. It is hard to believe they had the luxury of evening 2 meals. For sure they turned out all ok. A year or so passed and then we wondered, what if we could stretch the idea and introduce something more drastic once a week. What if we had only one meal…. or…. what if we had no meals at all for an entire day? And thus we began to try a 36 hour fast every week.
We decided to start the fast on Monday night and break it on Wednesday morning. Tuesdays is just water and salts. Perhaps some lemon. But nothing else. The first one was brutal. I woke up in the night to pee and took my usual fast stride and realized just in time that I was losing my balance. We were dying to break our fast on Wednesday morning. And then came the loose motions in the afternoon. Obviously we were either not doing it right, or we had stretched too far too soon.
Coming from India, fasting is not an unheard of concept. Mostly done in the name of god, it is common for Indians to fast once in a week. Particularly, being Jains, Radhika’s family is quite accustomed to it. So after the first one, I did a little bit of reading. With the improved understanding, the next one was not that bad. Now, several weeks later, we are pros. Here’s what we learnt –
- Need to take sufficient salts with water. Lack of salts is the most common reason for a severe headache during fasting.
- Need to be active. It’s counter-intuitive, but a little bit of exercise perhaps kicks up the metabolic rate by starting to burn fat and hence keeps one energetic. The body needs to be told that there is no carbohydrates coming and it needs to start burning the fat.
- When we burn fat, it does not result into as much water as a by-product as does burning of carbohydrates. By definition, carbo-hydrates hydrate when they burn. Therefore, water in-take needs to be higher on fasting days.
- A little bit of baking soda with lemon helps to keep the acidity down as needed. Also, backing soda becomes salt in the stomach (sodium bi-carbonate plus hydrochloric acid in the stomach results into sodium chloride… which is nothing but common salt).
- Most importantly, the fast is broken gradually. First with just some Curds (Yogurt) in the morning and then solid food only by noon.
One strange observation I have had every time I fast for 36 hours – Body seems way more weak in the 24th hour than in the 36th hour. Infact, I can run a few miles without much sweat. Seems weird, but my hunch is that sleep has something to do with it. After the second night’s sleep, body has somehow learnt the new normal. Fat burning switch has perhaps turned fully on. Sleep continues to mystify me.
But why the heck are we doing it even? Not masochism for sure! Not for devotion either. There is plenty of research out there that proves the following –
- Reduces the risk of cancer
- Plenty of other health benefits including weight loss, better gut bacteria and so on…
But most importantly, I see it as a way of stopping dopamine seeking urges. It’s a means to slow down. When combined with meditation and a general distancing from other pleasure seeking activities, it helps to reset the dopamine baseline. I tend to appreciate simple pleasures of life much more after the fast. It is also like a marathon in many ways. The victory of mind over matter every Tuesday re-inforces the confidence that is much needed in running a hardware startup with your life partner and parenting 2 kids at the same time.
PS : For those who did not already notice, all the images used in this post are unreal. They are generated by stable diffusion. I love the freedom! Goodye gettyimages, adobestock and the likes.