Fitness

Master Cleanse: Reflecting On 10 Days Without Food

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Master cleanse forces of habit postMaster Cleanse: Reflecting On 10 Days Without Food | Forces of Habit

“Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instructions, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.

The merchant asks of Siddhartha: Very well and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?

I can think, I can wait, I can fast.

Is that all?

I think that is all.

And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?

It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him. But, as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it. Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.”

 ― Siddhartha

 

With satisfying hunger being one of the great physiological needs, it seems only obvious how attached we as a species are to what we eat. Deliberately depriving ourselves of food is a technique used all throughout history as a method of asceticism, so it is only natural for me to yearly remind myself of its importance by cultivating a space between me and the foods I eat. My aim is to manage my primal yearning for the sensual pleasures that can surround eating, and I have faith that I can accomplish this by not eating for 10 days and instead, commit myself to a stringent diet that provides enough nutrients and calories to functionally sustain myself.

Why do it?

Firstly, I find that anything undergone over a prolonged period of time tends to have extreme merits in not only fortifying resilience, but revealing what can’t hold up in the first place. Just as a long-distance race or a long-term meditation retreat reveal various weak points in my being, the fast has the opportunity to show me who I become under extended intervals of stress.

Additionally, I find food to be a pressure point for tension and anxiety in my life. If I am stressed, I eat. Not only that, I continue to eat until the uncomfortable feeling of fullness forces me to stop. It’s almost like I am trying to create new discomfort to replace the underlying emotional discomfort that was present. With that considered, sparing out the availability of food will bring me closer to those sensations I may be attempting to escape through the food.

A Note on Safety

While the cleanse is not been confirmed to be safe under the standards of modern western medicine, fasting has been found to have large benefits. Considering this as well as having completed the fast last year with positive results I have chosen to respectfully accept the dangers to reap the benefits of the resulting perspective the master cleanse gives me on my craving towards foods and stimulants.

The Process

For 10 days I will only intake a sufficient number of calories and nutrients to sustain a functional body. With a liquid diet only comprised of lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water I will forgo all other foods.

For more information on the specifics of the Master Cleanse, please see this resource.

Daily Journal

Day 1
We are out of the gates strong. After not preparing much the night before, I agree that I will still start today as planned. Pushing back the process didn’t seem like a sound idea seeing as we really would prepare by eating less today anyway. I head to the store to gather what seems like enough ingredients to get me by for a few days.
Day 2
I caught a cold from yesterday. I think the lack of coffee has also hit me. Oh, and laxatives do not seem to be working as advertised.
Day 3
Dreadfully challenging day, I felt very ill most of the day but was able to get out for a 2-mile run which perked me up substantially. After which the day was mostly bedridden.
Day 4
I work up late and fatigued. Did and workout and headed to work. The sleep last night was restless.
Day 5
Mental fog. I could not accomplish any tasks that required mental strain of the sorts. A lot of sleeping. I did, however, make an excellent iced version of the drink using a blender which was a nice mix-up. Except for after bedtime, I was once again restless and woke up several times in the night to use the bathroom.
Day 6
I woke up feeling better than the last few days but could not move much other than to make my drink. Later, I shifted to the same feelings that the last few days held.
Day 7
Many of the original sick feelings I was have subsided, to be replaced by a new set of different sick feelings. Much more throat irritation than normal. Sleep was substantially better last night as well.
Day 8
I woke up to run and after had two glasses. My confidence for finishing at this point is uncompromisable. My body has adapted to the diet though I have noticed large muscle atrophy. I have lost any excess weight on my body, and my face is substantially thinner.
Day 9
Woke up feeling the best I have thus far. But due to being short on ingredients, I am choosing to ration what I have left in maple syrup to last the final two days. Today also comprised of a lot of travel that had surprisingly large effects on the amount of energy I had left to expel. Sleep is getting better.
Day 10
I woke more excited for the end than ever. While my rations were low, my morale was high. Mentally I was unperturbed the entire day. So much so that I did more work than what I collectively was able to accomplish in the last ten days as It relates to more mentally tasking things I had aimed to accomplish.

Next Time

Better Portion management.

I constantly underfed myself. Instead of drinking a minimum of 6 drinks a day, I found myself barely scraping together 4. Part of the reason was poor resource management. Given the amount of the ingredients I had, I could only make so much without risking using up too much of what I had. In the future, it would behoove me to double the number of ingredients I acquire or else risk starving myself again.

Better Pre-preparation

I could have been better at intermittent fasting prior to starting the fast. As well as limiting caffeine and alcohol a few weeks before I began. Both of which made for harder days early on in the fast. With a bunch of disturbances attempting to find equilibrium within my body, it doesn’t make sense to add additional stress to the system in ways that could have been meditated or mitigated early on. The emergence of mental fog and bedriddenness may have been a result of the combination of contributing mispreparation efforts made on my behalf.

Overall Thoughts

I lost too much weight.

Starting Weight: 128 pounds
Ending Weight: 117 pounds

I lost of total of 11 pounds. For me, this was far too much weight to have lost and could have been supplemented by gathering a sufficient amount of supplies for a larger daily intake of glucose. Rather than burning my muscles and remaining body fat, a larger caloric intake would have substituted eating away at the energy available and stored in my body. I also could really tell what I had metabolically available to me. I understood that it was more finite than ever and I ought to take advantage of the highs and lows as I was able to sense them.

I was extremely sick.

Towards the beginning of the fast I grew very sick. But I was able to watch day by day as my body healed. I noticed how much better I felt and how much I didn’t need to rely on medicines to distract me from my healing. Don’t get me wrong. Modern medicine is a magical and practical tool for everyone including myself. However, when it comes to the use of things used to blind, blunt, or eliminate a sensation so I can tolerate a state, I much rather drudge through that state, observe it, and come out on the other side as I know and respect changes inevitability.

While placing a fair amount of stress on my body the fast has reminded me of the merits of deprivation. As I spoke on in my post on voluntary discomfort, intentionally taking things from myself prepares me for when those things are no longer available. So, if and when food in my life becomes spares for whatever reason, it is nothing I have not already done to myself.
In all I found the experience to be just as fruitful as the last year, and I look forward to continuing the ritual for the foreseeable future.

See my post on Voluntary Discomfort

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My First Marathon: What I Learned

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Force of habit marathon lessons

My First Marathon: What I Learned

I recently completed my first Marathon this past weekend. This being a sizeable accomplishment for me, I wanted to share how I prepared, my thoughts on the experience and what I would do differently next time.

You’ll find that intentional living is sprinkled all throughout my marathon experience. Whether it be the lack thereof that lead to a few missteps or the embodiment that facilitated the accomplishment, intentional living surely impacted the overall results.

Preparation

Preparation begins internally, and I had a lot of mental baggage surrounding the idea of long-distance running.

After being hospitalized my senior year XC season, I had developed trepidations about my abilities as a runner. I felt capped, limited by what by the results my body had given me. At the time I swore that distance running would never be my forte.

So, the first step was to regain confidence as a runner.

I chose to run the Charlottesville Marathon in Charlottesville, Virginia on April 6th at the beginning of the year, so that gave me about 4 months to train. I chose this race because it best fit the time I had in mind for sufficient training.

My informal training began in the years prior. I ran just a little every day to cultivate a running habit, but I still only extended distance haphazardly. For about 2 years I ran 1 mile every day. I only recently ramped up the mileage this year using the following training schedule.

I was to average about 25 miles per and gradually increase to over 30 until the final 2 weeks.

The weekly training schedule was as followed:


Monday: Consisted of interval-based training modules on the hill or track focused on speed.

Tuesday: Maintenance run. A day focused on recovery while taking into considering the mileage count for the week.

Wednesday: Tempo run at slightly faster than race pace (race pace being 8:25 min/mile).

Thursday: Cross Training or rest based on the mileage count for the week and my given psychological fitness. Cross training was comprised of insanity workout videos, swimming, and general cross-fit aerobic activities.

Friday: Maintenance run. To prepare for the up and coming long distance run and make up the difference between my mileage quota and actual miles ran.

Saturday: The Long run. Mostly run on a local trail that spans approximately 11 miles in length. The longer runs increased in length as training developed, moving from 9 to over 18 miles at close to race pace.

Sunday: Rest.


As mentioned before, I had a consistent running history so it wasn’t unorthodox to run such a schedule. In fact, this schedule meant I would actually be running less frequently—but more rigorously of course.

My training plan was foolproof, and as long as I kept to it I should theoretically be more than prepared for my race. But things do not always go according to plans, so I hit some roadblocks during my training I had overlooked:

Winter.

With the snow cover blocking most of the comfortable outside routes, my training schedule became patchy. I switched gears and began to focus on longer runs that emulated my race pace. Since I could not get out on the trail as often, these runs were settled in between larger rest periods—probably larger than necessary.

Race Day

Since we opted to take the commute the same day, we left at 2:30 AM to make the 5:45 AM check-in time.

Having arrived and checked in, I found a bathroom and did a light warm-up jog and stretch before the race.

With a goal of under 4 hours in mind, I opted to position myself near the 3:45 pace group. It was a pace that I knew would be a reasonable pace push for the rigor of the course, but well worth it after the first 13.1 miles.

Around mile two I found a lovely running partner who accompanied me for the next 17 or so miles at an 8:25-35 mile pace.

But complications arose.

Around the 18th mile marker, I had mistakenly followed a group of runner who all were running off the course guidelines. We had blindly followed one another thinking the one in front of us knew the direction we all ought to be going. Luckily the leader of the pack was a native to the city and had a GPS tracker watch, so he was able to not only put us back on the course but ensure that we all had run the appropriate mileage to still be on track to finish our marathon on pace thanks again mystery runner!

Around mile 23 things got hard.

My body had enough. My right quad grew tight, and I could no longer tolerate the pain so I opted to pause and stretch at the next hydration station.
Though soon enough the 3:45 pacer was passing me. So I stubbornly cut my stretch short to keep with the pacer. Picking up my pace dramatically, I immediately tighten up and another stop as I watched the pacer leave my sight.

At this point with the end of the race in sight, I changed up my breathing pattern and gave everything I had left to the end of the race finishing at 3:50:30.

I had succeeded in hitting in my goal time of under 4 hours.

What I did well

Running with a pace group

Choosing to run with a pace group created a sense of comfort and accountability. Which I found indispensably valuable during my race. Seeing others running my pace allowed me to focus more on how my body was feeling, and less on how far I have left or how fast I was going. In my experience, a comfortable pace for the first half of the race ought to be one that you can have a conversation with those around you.

Long runs during training

While much of my training fluxed as the winter season created obstacles for proper running conditions, I never failed to incorporate the long run into the week. I believe that being diligent about running longer miles greatly influenced my confidence and endurance. For example, after running my first 18 miles I had a better idea experientially what longer distance felt like. This made it possible to strategize the mental aspect of the race. If I know what my body feels like when patience runs thins, I can create mental heuristics, or mantras to help mitigate the adverse effects of the bodily exhaustion.

Not using any headphones

With the race weaving in and out of city districts and suburbia, this race required that runners not use headphone to hear traffic officials. While I had some reservations about this initially, it was a blessing in disguise.

I consistently framed running without podcasts as a waste of my time. If I was investing time into exercise it seemed only natural that I could boost the benefits obtained if I also listened to something motivational or educational. But I was hiding my introspective experience from myself to potentially drudge through increased mileage.

So instead I reframed distance running without headphones as I opportunity to refocus myself. If I somehow lacked the desire or attention to run longer distances without additional stimulation, then I was cultivating the wrong type of awareness through my intentions.

Not only this change how I approached longer runs, but it also forced me to focus more on my body during my runs.

What I would change for next time

Training for this particular race

Ultramarathon athlete Zach Bitter introduced me to the idea of context-specific training. If I was running a race in the forest, it would not make sense to only do track workouts. Considering this is was not a good idea to schedule all of my longest runs on a low variation elevation trail when my race was a quite diverse set of elevations throughout a cityscape. Thinking modularly, working my leg muscles did not mean make them suited for all terrains the leg muscles may endure. I worked my trail distance muscles, and not my pavement hills muscles.

Paying attention

Ultimately I did run the wrong way I one point. I am my not faulting anyone but myself for this mistake. My real fault in attention was not going the wrong way, it was giving my attention to the wrong things AFTER I made the mistake.

Here’s why: I distinctly remember how I felt when I was running towards the unknown; I felt like a loser. And it was this mental battle I created within myself that I contribute to the difficulties I experienced in the latter half of my race. I had used so much energy to motivate myself to keep going even if I was not going to finish my first marathon that when the situation resolved itself I had lost the confidence that I had in the first half of the race that was self-perpetuating my pace.

Stop if you need it

I ran myself into a Charlie horse and I trepidatiously hydrated all because of my desire to literally RUN a marathon. I pridefully defended myself the use of bathrooms and stretching breaks because of the ideas I had about what my marathon experience was supposed to be—I was supposed to run straight through. So instead I lost mental energy and time by having to fight the bathroom urges and hobble my running speed as I shook off the tightness in my legs.

Final Thoughts

Mentally this race proved to be a worthy opponent that highlighted phenomenologically how important ‘keeping my cool’ is to the quality of performance. Using fear, my implicit psychology guarded myself against permitting my body to reach states that could actualize the mentality that is required to run beyond my perceived capabilities.

I have overcome this, and the marathon externally exemplifies the internal work I have done to get this far in my running career. I hope to keep growing as a runner, it is my reminder that the world may overtime developmentally build up mental barriers from my experience that in turn feedback into my mindset. But the huge difference now is that I can in-turn take responsibility for the mind with which I create my world.

The overall sentiment of the race was that it was a fairly challenging course. I look forward to my next opportunity to run a marathon as I am sure this was the hilliest 26.2 miles of my life.