Master 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I work up late and fatigued. Did and workout and headed to work. The sleep last night was restless.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.