Category Archives: Health

Fasting for fun and profit

007 Burger
A 007 burger from the Piz Gloria

In a minor departure from what we’ve looked at over the last few days, I’m going to be documenting here my attempt to go through a five day fast. There’s a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, as we all know public announcement of intent imbues such things with a far greater chance of success than would otherwise be the case – we don’t like to lose face, and that is a powerful motivator. The second is so that if you’re considering doing something similar then you can at least use my experience to help with that decision.

I’d like to get some basic stuff out of the way, let me state the case that “de-detoxifying” is a myth. If you are building up toxins as part of your day to day life, that probably means that your liver has failed. There’s a depressing amount of money made by convincing people that the food they ingest is bad somehow; and the miracle cure is this fairly low value cash crop… which just trebled in value due to some clever marketing. This link to the naturalistic fallacy, and this list of ingredients of a banana are offered as just how broken a model this is for how to treat your body.

With that in mind then, there are three reasons I want to fast this week. First, I want to lose some weight and kick-start a calorie-reduced diet (I’ve put on a lot of weight while taking Mertazapine, more on that next time). Secondly, I want to see if I experience any of the health benefits suggested by recent studies and articles (a sample here and here). Finally, I had a rather wonderful experience with an out of date cheese and tomato sandwich that I’d like to recreate.

A little back-story first. I’m a keen motorcyclist, and as happens to all keen motorcyclists at some point I spilled my bike onto the deck. All relatively low speed – around 40mph, and not usually the sort of thing one complains about. The only problem was the cuff on my jacket burst and I got a bundle of grass and gravel pressed into an four inch long and one inch deep wound on my elbow.

My Motorbike
A 1250 Bandit – bless ‘er

I was seen in hospital the same day, and discharged with a light dressing and some anti-biotics. Three days later I was back with a life-threatening sepsis – it turned out that a significant amount of material had been missed and not removed (indeed, at one point I was left alone with some steri-pods and tweezers to “carry on” – busy hospital!), and the sutures on the wound were far too tight to allow it to discharge. In all, a bit of a downer and I came within a day of losing the arm.

Back to the point, as a result of all this I was denied food for about five days – not that I cared at the time, I was far too busy being ill to give a damn. However, when my parents visited at the end of my nil-by-mouth regime they asked if there was anything I wanted. I wanted food.

After a brief foray to the cafeteria, it turned out that a single curled up and out of date cheese and tomato sandwich was all that was left. It radiated the kind of despair associated with late night petrol stations and the worst of railway food. It was the kind of sandwich that would normally make you think “No, actually I’ll wait until tea-time”. As I opened the packet, I realised that I could smell the juice of the tomato – and suddenly I was salivating and clutching at the thing as though it was a miracle made real.

I devoured that sandwich with as much pleasure as any meal as I can remember; all the flavours vivid and sharp, the feeling in my mouth and stomach so satisfying, and I can’t help feeling that all the times I pack my face with rather too much, I’m trying somehow to recapture that lost sensation of that single sandwich. There’s a allegory for consumerism in there somewhere, but I’m not going to signpost it or anything.

Recreating the wonderful experience of an out of date cheese and tomato sandwich.

So, that’s the reasoning then; here’s the log of day one of my fast – updated throughout the day:

07:00-09:00 All is well; actually woke in a great state this morning (more on that next week). No hunger pangs or similar, but then again I don’t usually eat breakfast, so it’s not unusual territory for my body yet.

10:00 First substitution of the day has taken place – water instead of tea. Water tastes ok, but it’s not got the oomph behind it that I associate with a nice cuppa. Other than that, business as normal.

11:00 Colleague is eating a sandwich across from me. First signs of jealousy – at first I thought I couldn’t smell it, then a couple of receptors fired and I realised I could smell the wonderful chicken, mayo and cucumber combination. Water still tastes ‘ok’. This is usually the time I have my first snack of the day.

11:17 Strawberries? Really?

11:29 I don’t like strawberries anyway.

12:00 First urge for cup of tea.

13:00 Now I’m actively skipping a meal. I don’t feel too bad for it; usually by this point I would have had five cups of tea, and I’ve not got a caffeine withdrawal headache yet. Probably not the time to think about that.

I have noticed that my sense of smell is slightly heightened, but so far I’m not making grabs for stranger’s food. So that’s positive.

14:00 Ah. Is that a tinge of hunger?

15:00 Yes, yes it is. I would normally stop whatever I was doing at this point to nip to the shop. Feel good that I haven’t, but am aware this is just the start…

16:00 Lightheaded? Really? I am this soft that I get lightheaded 17 hours after eating?

17:00 Urgh. Water.

20:00 There is pizza. I’m not having any of the pizza, and I am not quite at peace with this. I hope that the others eat all the pizza, so I don’t have the temptation later. What am I saying, of course I can leave it for Amber in the morning – I shall be strong!