Almost 10 months to the day (I can’t believe it has been that long) and I decide to do another 36 hour fast (it is actually the month of Ramadan but I’m not participating on this occasion).
My fast went pretty much the same as last time with my last meal being on Friday evening, no food and only water throughout Saturday, until Sunday when I had lunch with my sister and nieces) although things have been different for me lately and since, compared to that fast back in July of 2018.
Firstly, a week ago I was on my way home from my cycling trip where I pedalled over 50 miles a day for 2.5 weeks on a bike loaded with camping gear. Since this was my second big trip of this nature I had taken on board things I had learned from the first about eating and recovery*. To that end I recovered quickly and I felt my body was in prime condition to handle a fast less that a week after my return.
*Mostly you have to pretty much recover after each day to be ready for the next but last time I struggled with switching back to normal eating and I suffered some issues.
I still had some fleeting hunger pangs on this Saturday of my fast, just like last time, but I went for my short morning run no bother. I had some sleepy moments during the day but keeping physically active (tidying the garden and strimming the lawn for example) helped keep the energy up. Sitting down and ‘stopping’, I knew, would make things difficult for myself, but I also managed to churn through some chapters in the book I’m reading, only a few times having to battle the desire to doze off in the sun (I don’t like napping, I feel it would only disrupt my bed time later).
This time, compared to last, I’m pretty sure I felt like I had more energy. I believe that changes in my diet since the previous fast have assisted with this, namely that I eat less carbohydrates, opting for eggs (for their healthy fats and proteins) instead of multiple doses of porridge/oatmeal. I was convinced I overdid the porridge on my Scotland trip in 2016 leaving me with what I deduced were symptoms of pre-type-2-diabetes; the cure? Cut down on the carbs. Switching to fats means the body chooses that for its fuel source and when you then fast and the body has to turn to its own fat reserves for its fuel source it is better able to do this. This is what I have learned and my experiences reflect this. Switching to a more ketogenic diet keeps me far more stable, energy and emotionally-wise, since I’m not subjecting myself to the peaks and crashes of insulin so much. Whenever I see children ‘bouncing off the walls’ or being troublesome, it makes me think they could benefit from less sugar and carbs.
The sun also helped me further, except for the desire to nap in it. When fasting it’s quite common to feel cold, or struggle to keep warm, therefore this fast, like my previous one, was done on a nice warm day (especially since being a slim lad I can get cold quickly when not moving about). I did turn up at my sister’s house apparently over-dressed though; she commented on me wearing trousers and a sweater on such a sunny day, but I was convinced that even though the sun was warm it was still chilly out. Then again the last time she saw me was a couple of weeks ago when I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt in Sheffield.
The fascinating thing about the previous fast, as I blogged about at that time, was anosmia and how my sense of smell had returned, or at least been heightened from its usual low and picky (no pun intended) state. Since that fast and those smelling experiences I remained mindful of the possible link between over-eating and my lack of sense of smell. I find it hard to observe how much I can actually smell on a daily basis since one needs a point of reference, some kind of marker or gauge to measure how much or what can be smelled from one day to the next. Overall I think I have thought more about whether I can smell well or not, or been made more aware when something does hit my nose.
Another thing I have learned about since that fast, with regards to anosmia, is the possibility of nasal polyps. I had never heard of this before until I got talking to someone about my lack of sense of smell; they suffered also and had been diagnosed and given treatment for nasal polyps. Their symptoms, a lack of sense of smell and a blocked nose, were familiar to me. Since then I have become aware that my nose often feels ‘blocked’ or more accurately, restricted, sometimes virtually completely, not through anything I could potentially blow out but just closed up. Causes could include asthma and/or hayfever, things I received treatment for up into my teens but am now keen to avoid; the person I was speaking to essentially used the same type of nasal spray I used to have prescribed to me for hayfever. Seeking to avoid medication I’ve wondered if something in my diet is ‘congesting’ my nose, such as a ‘slight’ intolerance to milk (something I considered last time) or gluten, or perhaps it’s an allergic reaction to dust or bedding in my bedroom (from feathers in the duvet to what I wash my bedding with perhaps) since it’s when I go to bed that I often notice how restricted my nose is.
Since I had likely improved my nose issue somewhat, just through being more mindful of actively smelling things, I didn’t have that same hit of smells as I experienced on that previous fast when I turned up at my sister’s house, but I’m pretty sure I enjoy the general smell of things in general; and I certainly enjoyed the smell (and taste) of the meal that broke my fast. Considering I hadn’t eaten for 36 hours I wasn’t in pangs of hunger when I cycled over to my sister’s house (I’d actually done another short jog that morning), and I consumed my meal steadily, mindfully, and joyfully.
This isn’t down to the fast alone. Since my trip away I’ve changed my eating habits somewhat. While I was travelling I had no TV/computer to sit in front of while I ate a meal, therefore my attention was with my own thoughts and on what I was eating. I have endeavoured to continue this by eating away from my computer where I would normally watch something on Youtube or Netflix. Sitting posture when eating probably also plays a part. I’m convinced that the double consumption (of media and food) means that the body is distracted and not fully engaged in the act of eating, leading to a lack of awareness that one has eaten, the sensations of eating and feeling full and satisfied, thus one keeps ‘consuming’ (media and food) until one feels satisfied – this might not happen when it should if one is not fully engaged. I can eat a lot before I feel full and I think I have a slight issue here that I need to keep working on. If not fully engaged in the act of eating then the whole process loses some effectiveness and efficiency (something I referred to in my previous post about ‘Post Ride Routines‘ (for cyclists and others). I’m not sure where the act of eating with others comes in since one could say that one is distracted in such situations, but then I’m usually eating alone; I think there is some benefit to eating socially that is of benefit to the process of eating, whereas TV is just consuming and not engaging. I often have dreams where I’m eating with others and I’m convinced the recurring dream is trying to teach me something – perhaps it’s simply this, that I need friends to eat with.
In the end it was interesting to compare one fast to another, especially since they were a year apart and considering how consuming less carbohydrates in general seemingly made a beneficial difference. As I considered last time, I like the idea of incorporating fasting into my life more often, such as repeating the exercise each week since it suits my routine, but with these things I find it hard to ignore my mood when the day comes round again! Watch this space.