Books on fasting, suggest that if you’re going to do it for more than a few days, that you minimize all activities, both mental and physical.
They recommend fasting alone and away from all civilization. Fasting alone they say, allows the fast’s cleansing effects to work best.
They discourage work because they know how difficult concentration on any of it is while starving, when the body is truly deprived of food. They know that the individual will be more tempted to break the fast, once he sees how difficult interacting with others can be while intensely hungry, particularly when those others are eating snacks at their desks, inviting the faster to lunch, and so on. The serious faster it would seem, would be well-advised to conduct his fast by himself, in a secluded location.
Once in 1999, I conducted a water-fast for close to four days. That is, I ate nothing whatsoever, and only drank water. As the days accumulated without food, my hunger pains grow more and more pronounced. Eventually, nothing except eating was an acceptable activity. I got headaches, the room spun, alertness faltered, and keeping thoughts of the refrigerator away became nearly impossible, particularly on the last two days. Had I not been fasting alone, I’m sure that whoever was nearby would have attempted to talk me out of fasting, and as hungry as I felt by the third day, they probably would have succeeded. I probably would have been in a bad mood toward them, snapping and grumping, and I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to all that.
One may forget to eat for a short time, as many who completely indulge in their dream pursuits admit. But have you personally ever fasted? Have you ever set out to avoid eating for more than a day or two? It can be grueling. In fact, I was probably so grouchy and moody when I fasted, that I’m glad I lived in my own apartment. That way, I could fast alone. Fasting by myself was best for me.
So based on my own fasting experiences and how difficult it became to think about anything but food, I’d suggest that strong concentration only defers hunger for so long. Meditation cannot totally erase the ensuing hunger. Eventually, once the body is truly hungry, such as we find in Africa, nothing else matters but acquiring sustenance. Maslow was right. Thwart a man from satisfying his need for food, and before too long, all he’ll care about is getting it. This is one reason why Africa is so underdeveloped. The natives can’t have many social concerns while constantly so deeply hungry.
I lost several pounds in one fast. But the agony I suffered while fasting was not worth that to me. Indeed, there are many more comfortable and more safe ways to drop weight than fasting.
There may be advantages to fasting, although my physician strongly advised me against it. These days, I think she was right to be concerned, and will probably never try something like that again. But if I ever was going to conduct another water fast, though doing it alone might be dangerous, I’d nonetheless, still prefer to fast without any company. I’d prefer to fast alone.
- 2015-03-04: Tweaked content.
- 2012-08-16: Originally published.