Long before I ever heard about the fasting trend that is spreading, particularly in the high-technology industry in Silicon Valley, I had started my own fasting practice.
I have been fasting for five years, every day from the moment I wake up (from the moment I go to bed, which is rarely after midnight) until six o’clock in the evening. I do not eat or drink anything at all until the alarm on my phone goes off at 6 p.m.
The idea came to me in the summer of 2012 as Ramadan was coming to an end. I have been fasting Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar which advances 11 days every year on the Gregorian calendar) as a Muslim since I was a boy. Before Ramadan of 2012 started I was feeling heavy and bloated so I decided that, this Ramadan, I will fast as I believe fasting should be, not as most Muslims I know fast.
Let me explain. Most Muslims do fast during Ramadan. They abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset. Yet many (I could say most) of them, and I was included, eat more during their month of fasting than they do during any other month of the year. After the sun sets, we seem to take revenge for the hours we fasted in both quantity and quality of food consumed, and fat and sugar etc. In 2012, I decided that when breaking my fast I will only eat what is enough to sustain me and not indulge between sundown and dawn as I usually did in years past.
Within a few short days, I felt much better, lighter and more energetic. My mind became sharper and it was easier to focus. I also started losing the extra weight I did not need, without much effort.
When the month came to an end, I decided that I will continue to fast, not as a religious practice, but more as a disciplined lifestyle. I set my own rules as the days went by. I will abstain from all food and drink from the moment I wake up until the clock strikes six in the evening and only allow myself to moderately eat and drink from 6 p.m. until the time I go to bed. In the evening, I will eat one main meal and can snack a bit, but moderately. I also decided to abstain from anything that contains or imitates caffeine.
I had spent my life eating much more than I needed which only had negative effects on me.
A few months into my new lifestyle I informed my doctor and asked that he perform more than standard checkups and tests to make sure that my health is not negatively affected. He did and found that all continued to be fine.
As I grew lighter, I also became more active. I have been walking and cycling much more than I used to, before 2012. I can say that it was, and continues to be, a very positive experience and, the cherry on the top of the pie, is that the food is much more enjoyable at 6 p.m., no matter what I eat. I haven’t broken this fast more than a handful of days over the past 1,800 days and all for medical reasons (mostly the schedule of antibiotics).
There is a question I am often asked when I tell people about they way I am living now, “Do you think this can work for everyone?” I really don’t know. What I always knew about myself is that I drunk much less fluids than most people I knew, so not drinking is not that much of a challenge for me. I also have always been a disciplined and welcome a challenge. This also probably helps.
The other factor is that I find it easier to discipline myself in black and white, rather than in greys, meaning that it is easier for me not to eat for a long period than to eat moderately throughout the day. So, when it comes to “everyone,” I think each should find their own way. Lifestyles in general, I believe, are healthier if they are personal experiences rather than “social trends.”
I read about and listened interviews with the Silicon Valley workers who do 36 or 60-hour fasts once a week and they credit their fasts for the mental clarity and the higher productivity they experience during their fast, both are observations I agree with and confirm that they also apply to my 18-hour (average) daily fast.
They fast Monday and Tuesday or Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, of every week, but there may be other variations that different people are trying here and there. I personally prefer a daily practice over a weekly one, yet I am also open to trying other variants. For example, when attending a Buddhist retreat, I only ate between 6 p.m. and noon. That is similar in many ways to my regular fast but, for me, spending the hours of the day expecting a good meal is easier than spending most of it after having my last one.
One last, but important, observation I have after five years of fasting is that I had spent my life eating much more than I needed which only had negative effects on me. I think this applies to the vast majority of those living in the Western world also at the expense of the rest of humanity who cannot find enough to eat.
I cannot be certain that I will continue to fast the same way I am now for the rest of my life, but surely hope that I will never revert to consuming more food than my body needs, for as long as I live.
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Author: Ehab Lotayef