Health And Wellness

5 Rare Life Hacks I've Gleaned From Fasting For 36 Hours Every Week

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My mom has been doing 36-hour fasts for as long as I can remember. She does it for religious purposes. 

As I’ve been watching her do this for years, these fasts seemed pretty normal to me. So I did them, too. I started as a teenager and have continued the practice in my adult life as well.

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More recently, I’ve decided to make them a regular part of my life and do one 36-hour fast every week. Now, fasts are nothing new for me. However, I realize that many of my readers may not know what it’s like to not eat anything for 36 hours straight.

So that’s what I’m going to share today.

Here are five rare life hacks I've gleaned from fasting for 36 hours every week:

1. It boosts my self-esteem

Our minds seek comfort. And we live in an age of abundance of comfort. You can get the most delicious food ordered right to your doorstep. You can accompany it with any movie you like on Netflix. And you can have a nice comfortable time.

However, this comfort doesn’t necessarily feel good. It feels easy — yes. But it doesn’t feel good. Why? Because when you get comfortable is when you lose a battle in your head.

We’re all at war. Not on a field. But in our minds.

There’s this one side that wants you to work hard. Achieve things. Learn. Be the best version of yourself. And there’s this other side — who wants to sit on his butt and eat fat and sugar. The side that seeks comfort above all else.

Both are at war. And every decision you have to take is a micro-battle you’re fighting. Are you going to do something? Or are you going to give in to comfort?

That’s why while comfort is easy, it doesn’t feel good in your head. Primarily because losing that micro-battle in your head chips away at your self-esteem.

Fasting is the opposite of comfort. It’s voluntary suffering. And hence, it’s a decision that helps me win a battle against my calorie-seeking mind. Consequently, it boosts my self-esteem. Because nothing is more satisfying than winning a battle against your mind.

If I fast for a day — and then do nothing else productive the entire day, I still feel like a winner at night. That’s how powerful the self-esteem boost is. In reality, though, I’m paradoxically more productive on the days I fast — I’ll share why next.

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2. I experience incredible mental clarity the entire day

You’d think on a day they don’t eat anything, one would be too tired to do anything productive. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, I’m able to do my best and most work on the days I fast.

And this article itself is exhibit A.

I fasted today. Woke up and wrote an article. Then went to the hospital and did a 12-hour shift. And here I am, knocking out another article at 10:37 PM. (Full disclosure: I did sneak in a 30-minute nap during my shift)

For context, it’s usually impossible for me to write an article during this hour. I’m too drained. Too tired to think. But today, I feel pretty great. And it’s not a coincidence that I’m able to think well on the day I fasted. The fast is the reason for my mental clarity.

You see, when you eat something, blood has to move from parts of your body (including your brain) to your gastrointestinal system. That’s why you feel the need to nap post-lunch. And it’s also the reason that eating reduces your mental clarity.

And hence, fasting enables you to think well. That isn’t to say that you should stop eating food altogether. Just that every once in a while, a fast might be helpful.

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3. I realize the power of non-negotiable decisions

On a normal day, I get many urges to eat sh*tty delicious food even when I’m trying to eat clean. But on the day of a fast (when I’m logically supposed to be even more hungry), I don’t get any.

It’s crazy. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. Until it does.

You see, when I used to tell myself that I’ll try to eat clean today, I leave room for negotiation. And then, my comfort-seeking mind (the evilest negotiator we all have to deal with all our lives) presents its arguments.

“Oh! That Pizza looks cheesy. Taste it. Just one bite. It won’t hurt.”

If I refuse to give up, the arguments get even stronger.

“You’ve been working out the entire week and you ate pretty clean. You deserve a slice of pizza.”

Because there’s room for negotiation, there will be a negotiation. And on the whole, you’ll lose many more negotiations than you’ll win because your comfort-seeking mind is just that powerful.

However, on the day of a fast, I get no urges. Because when I make a decision to do a fast, unintentionally I convey that it’s non-negotiable. And when I do that, my comfort-seeking mind doesn’t negotiate because it knows that there’s nothing to gain here.

I’ve experienced this so many times — and every time it teaches me the importance of non-negotiable decisions. It teaches me — if you’re going to take a decision, make it non-negotiable. Don’t try to do something. Your mind won’t let you. Just decide what to do — with no room for negotiation. And your mind will leave you alone.

This takes practice. But once you learn how to make non-negotiable decisions, you’ll be deadly.

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4. I realize the power of the mind over the body

On the day of a fast, not only do my urges go away, but my body’s physiology actually changes. Don’t believe me? Hear me out.

On a normal day, if for some reason I don’t get to eat my lunch on time, my stomach starts growling. My stomach releases acid. And it feels uncomfortable to the point that I have to seek food. Nothing else stays a priority.

But on a fast day? Nothing of this sort happens. My stomach doesn’t growl. And not much acid is released. (Some acid is released. And it’s a tiny bit uncomfortable but it’s ridiculously low compared to the acid released on a normal day when I don’t eat on time.)

That’s pretty incredible, right?

And this too doesn’t make sense. Until it does.

When you expect food, your body releases saliva. Acid. And makes your stomach muscles work. Hence on a non-fast day, all of this happens when the clock says lunch. However, on a fast day, you’re not expecting food. And hence, none of this happens.

My stomach’s completely quiet even when the clock says 2 o’clock. And it remains quiet the entire day ahead.

This has taught me the power of your mind. It can actually change your physiology. It’s taught me — on a very experiential level — the power of mind over body. And it helps me exploit that power in other areas of life as well.

5. I feel detoxified

Let me tell you something. There’s no better feeling than pooping after a 36-hour fast. It clears your entire f***ing digestive system. There’s no food left in your body.

Every week, I feel entirely detoxified after doing a fast. It’s like a reboot for my body. It feels amazing.

It’s a feeling I wouldn’t give up on even the most delicious Pizza in the heart of Italy.

All that said, I do feel a little low on energy on the day of a fast. So I don’t do any major workouts when I’m on a 36-hour fast. If I’m craving some physical exercise, I’ll do some yoga. But that’s it. And if I’m feeling too low on energy, I’ll take a quick 20-minute nap and I feel good as new.

On the whole, fasting has improved my life a lot. I listed the reasons above. But you can’t really understand the benefits until and unless you do one yourself.

If you’re new to fasting, you don’t have to start out with a 36-hour fast straight away. You can start by skipping breakfast. Advance to skipping breakfast and lunch — a 24-hour fast. And then after you’re comfortable with those, you might try a 36-hour fast.

That’s where I’d draw the line.

Whatever duration you feel is appropriate, I highly recommend trying out fasting. The benefits are just too good to ignore.

Disclaimer: This article is just me sharing my experience of fasting. Please don’t consider this as medical advice. Don’t try fasting if you have any eating disorders or metabolic conditions. Consult your doctor before trying anything new.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.