Here are Lessons Learned from my recent fasting experience.
I feel great and confused after 7 days of fastign using the Buchinger Method. This method is a detox fasting. It is meant to heal and stimulate body and to declutter and reboot your mind. Weight loss is often a welcome byproduct but not the main focus. I had attended several guided and supervised Buchinger weeks and recommend to only try it on your own with such experience.
One day of much reduced food intake, which is usually recommended to be two days. Five days of not eating with a vegetable essence, herbal tea, a glas of Cowmilk-Kefir and water, water, water. Then one day of slowly eating again.
“All the fantasies about food (i.e. french fries) that had persistently occupied my mind during the fasting week, e v a p o r a t e d ones I started eating again. I ordered french fries yesterday after week-long daydreams and cravings. Then I only tasted a few and could not finish the portion – feeling first deeply saturated, then indifferent and then confused…”
This was the first time that I took time off to do the fasting and yes, it was an entirely new and refreshingly different journey. Doing it in Thailand allowed me to enjoy long walks, several meditations daily, yoga stretches with a view over rice paddies, scooter rides, visiting cafes for herbal tea and Kefir, sleep whenever I felt like it AND getting spa treatments that I did not know existed.
1. If you are on holiday you don’t have many of your usual daily routines and therefore are easier distracted and need a bit more self-motivation to get going.
2. You find yourself spending too much time daydreaming (online and offline) about all the things you will eat when the fast is over.
3. You find yourself sleepy, sluggish and tired. In particular during the second day your body will protest the reality of no sugar, no carbs, no nothing.
4. You might experience headaches or nausea in the beginning. As antidote, I introduced the Kefir following my nutritionist’s recommendation.
5. You can’t drink coffee. This is a real struggle for me as a barristonadie. Even more so when you are in a place with so many excellent coffee roasters around.
5. You have more time to spend on things of interest. You gain several hours in a day by not searching for, preparing and eating food.
4. Fasting is like a food consciousness reset button. It gives you a chance to plan meals from the inside, meaning with a regained clarity of what you actually want to eat.
4. You eat more mindfully after the fast. You will be more present with the food in front of you.
3. You start to glow from the inside. Genuine happiness sets in on day 3 or 4, once your body turned to burning fat to fuel your brain your synapses come together and dance.
2. Your mind and body become deeply relaxed. An embodied sense of ease kicks in.
2. You are surprisingly functional. Working efficiently on routine tasks and being able to concentrate while feeling more responsive and in control.
1. Your senses become sharp as a razor blade. I swear I could smell coffee 3km against the wind.
1. Your mind becomes creative and future oriented. My absolute No. 1 top upside without a fail. Within one day I had clarity about my near future business and personal plans and already broke it down into action items. Done!
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
After having fasted for the 6th time now, one major learning shows time and again:
All the fantasies about food (i.e. french fries) that had persistently occupied my mind during the fasting week, e v a p o r a t e d ones I started eating again. I ordered french fries yesterday after week-long daydreams and cravings. Then I only tasted a few and could not finish the portion – feeling first deeply saturated, then indifferent and then confused.
Makes you wonder what other fantasies we cultivate and embellish in our daydreams, that also might just evaporate and become entirely obsolete when we approach measures to turn them into reality?!
We’ve heard the wise saying, “good things come to those who wait”. Based on the Marshmallow Experiment, self control and delayed gratification is an important character building tool for success. This Stanford experiment performed in the late 1970’s, a few researchers brought some children together where they presented to each children a marshmallow.
They would ask the child if they waited 15 minutes, they would get another marshmallow at the end. Similar research has been done since then and the results have been similar if not the same. Those children that waited, had self discipline and a sense of delayed self gratification. The ratio in all of these researches were that 2 out of 3 children would eat the marshmallow right away. One out of three children would wait for the second one. After a decade later, the different group of researchers would go back to the same group of children and perform the same test and see where they were at in life. The group of children who waited were successful in life and still practiced self disciplined and delayed gratification. Whereas the ones who did not wait were not as successful.
Those children that waited, had self discipline and a sense of self gratification.
In the Columbia test, Dr. Joaquin takes note that the kids who were at the age of 4 years already understood delayed gratification. They smelled it, played with up for close to 14 minutes and then ate parts of the candy thus still failed the experiment. From all the research done past and present, if one prolongs an action or a decision, there is a better reward or outcome. One might say that by holding out for long term gain is an investment. Therefore by choosing to have self control or control oneself’s actions is the opposite of impulsive action. Impulsive actions or reactions is very often subjective with clouded judgement and result in more likely negative outcomes. Controlling your emotions requires self awareness and self discipline, a benefit and could save yourself unnecessary pain or creating additional problems for yourself or those you care about.
Each decision we make can affect someone positively or negatively whether you see it today or for a long term outcome. Looking for long lasting results will take some sacrifice, waiting 15 minutes or a few years possibly, but if it’s well worth it, the reward will be great. For those who failed in the Marshmallow experiment, I honestly believe that even they can succeed in life once they realise what it takes. One needs to be convinced and believe, that delayed gratification is well worth it. It doesn’t mean failure won’t exist but believe that a greater reward exists. It comes down to taking control of yourself and self awareness, realising those decisions could yield a better outcome.
Many people working in the services industries on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories are chronically or temporarily overwhelmed – yeah swamped – with work. Facing an avalanche of tasks, to dos and deadlines often leads to the belief, that working a bit harder for a while will calm the monster. What might seem like a short term solution for the occasional emergency or priority project can easily become a BAD HABIT and thereby end up becoming overtime by default. And with it might become a social norm or even worse company culture (“that’s the way we do it here”). In my years as a business manager people used to joke “Hey Seb, are you taking half day off?” when I left the WanChai office at 7pm after 10-12hrs of work. Looking back, I find that sad – not funny. We know that there is no increase in productivity. People just get used to the norm of “sticking around”. Time spent in the office becomes inflationary.
Popular and unhealthy Efficiency Myths
- The try-harder illusion
- Unrelenting (and silly) standards
- Doping (caffeine, sugar, supplements)
- Cutting back on sleep
Each of the above would be worth exploring in a separate feature. I will explain the first one here. Many of my clients in Central, Causeway Bay, Taikoo Place and Quarry Bay have fallen into the Try-Harder-Trap: People seem to believe that by just putting another hour in they will be able to solve their problems and to accomplish more. While occasionally doing so might help, doing so on a daily basis will just raise the bar and the effect vaporizes short after. I help clients identify when and where they fall into the try-harder-trap. In this trap you are trying more of the same of what you are already doing. Only harder. You put in an extra hour over lunch or in the morning. And then also after a while in the evening. And of course sometimes on the weekend. Then maybe every weekend. The dynamic resembles an addiction: more, more, more. Increased frequency and/or higher dosage. Same with email. Same with meals. Same with space: working not only in the office, but also at home, during the commute, on holiday, during a theatre performance, …
Albert Einstein said: Insanity is, when you are doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome.
You need to learn how to work smarter, not harder.
Judson Brewer MD, Ph.D. explains what happens to the brain when you meditate and why being present helps in so many ways!
Addiction – The Brain Disease. D. Carlson (2010).
Great book! Recommend it to clients.
It’s actually written for teenagers. Hence, hands on, concise and explicit:
“Addiction is dependency. It’s the fear that breeds pain, the fear of the loss of what we depend on, whether that’s a drug or a boyfriend or an achievement. This fear of loss, of not getting enough, then breeds anger. We get angry at who or what we depend on – the threat of loss can create great rage. …
Addiction is dependency, fear and anger.”
Moreover, Dale Carlson raises clear questions to ask yourself and make treatment very practical. Believe me, for many books I read, this is not the case.