One Person’s Journey to a Fasting Lifestyle: Week Three
In week three of the plan I lay out in the forthcoming Eat, Fast, Feast, fasters limit all of their food intake to four hours a day for at least three days during the week. (The days don’t have to be consecutive.) This is called the 20/4 routine, since you don’t eat for twenty consecutive hours of the day. (This includes sleep time of course.)
There’s still no attempt to eat less food during the day than you normally would. At this point, you’re just trying to get your body acclimated to going longer periods without food and using its fat-burning metabolism more effectively.
This third week happened to land on Thanksgiving week, so I expected it to be even harder for our volunteer faster.
Week three is when things start to get serious. Most people have never limited their food intake to a mere four hours during the day. How did it go for you?
This was certainly the most difficult week so far. I ended up doing the 20-hour fast 5 days this week (more on the other two days later). In the name of simplicity I’ve been relying on the same four or five meals for these first few weeks, so food fatigue has started to set in a bit. Going into next week, I plan to get more creative with the meals.
Do you think it would have been a lot harder if you’d tried to jump straight to week three, without the preparation of the first two weeks?
Absolutely. Pushing my first meal of the day back to 6pm during the first week or two would have felt nearly impossible.
Thanksgiving landed right in the middle of last week. How did you handle that? What did your week look like as a whole?
On the day of Thanksgiving I managed to maintain a 16-hour fast and have my first meal at 2pm. And in terms of diet I was able to stick pretty close to the plan by filling my plate mostly with turkey, avoiding the mashed potatoes, and allowing for a small serving of green bean casserole and gravy that kept me under my 50g carb limit.
In truth, the day before and after Thanksgiving were the hardest: Instead of having the typical distraction of work for most of the day I was at home with my family — and going back and forth across my fridge all day! The clock seemed to come to a standstill in the hours and minutes before 6pm.
Was there anything unexpected about the experience?
Any sweet tooth I might have had before beginning this process has been wiped out. I took the advice in your book and have been slowly working through a dark chocolate bar with 80% cacao on my mini-feast Sundays. The first Sunday it seemed way too bitter, but this past Sunday I found it downright enjoyable. And the dessert table at Thanksgiving was pretty much no temptation at all.
In week three, I write about the myth that fasting is bad for you, and about the ancient heresy of gnosticism, which denigrated the body. Fasting in contrast (or so I argue) is a discipline that helps unite body and soul. How are you experiencing this so far? Do you have a sense that fasting is actually good for you? Or, at the moment, does it just seem unpleasant?
Most immediately, I’ve noticed that the necessary intentionality with which I’ve approached food has bled into increased intentionally in other aspects of my day-to-day life. More and more, my thoughts about not eating lead quickly into reflection and prayer — for those who will go without food today by no choice of their own, for example.
This Sunday marked the beginning of the liturgical year and the first Sunday of Advent, which is all about preparing for the coming of our Lord at Christmas. As the fasting windows continue to increase in the coming weeks, I hope to envision each fasting cycle as a mini-Advent of preparation, with appreciation and anticipation for the meal to come.
And I’m down ten pounds!
Jay Richards, Ph.D., is the Executive Editor of The Stream, a Research Assistant Professor in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America, and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. Follow him on Twitter.