Moving into a long fast is extremely intense, rewarding, and not without process. I sat down with my good friend Andre to find out about his 32-day long fast and how he made it through alive.
I am a rookie by all accounts when it comes to fasting. While 16:8 intermittent fasting has become the norm for me, I am still not fully acclimated to my weekly 24 hour fasts that I have recently added to my dietary regimen. I am enjoying the challenge of fasting but there is still a good amount of difficulty, especially after the 20th hour. I know that its all mental- but around that 20th hour my mind starts to race. The process of calming myself down – so I don’t break into a cold sweat in front of my co-workers and frantically start thrashing about the office in a zombie-like craze- has been very rewarding- honestly! I feel like a Zen master, while I know I am far from it. Ha! My immediate fasting goal is to get comfortable with 24 hours and eventually move to a 36 hour fast or perhaps add one more day of fasting into my schedule. I am not quite sure what is so exhilarating about the whole process. Perhaps it is because regular fasting is not something I ever thought I would have the willpower to do. I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food. When I was younger that manifested in undesirable eating habits and as I grew older I still never quite figured it out- or fully attempted to anyway. For a long time, I suppose my lack of action was due to my feeling that the battle with food was enduring as it was inevitable. Before I started the ketogenic diet I blamed myself as weak when I couldn’t resist the sugar cravings that I’d been enslaved to. At the time I didn’t realize my carbohydrate dependent diet, not my lack of will, was the true culprit. After eliminating carbs and adding fats it was easier for me to feel full longer- and this helped my fasts as my fasts helped my discipline to the low carb high-fat diet overall. Intermittent fasting, full day fasting, and the ketogenic diet have been a mutually beneficial combination for me. I have previously spoken about the myriad of health benefits I am reaping since adding caloric deprivation to my weekly routine. I have noticed that my skin has a more youthful glow- which is likely due to the boost in growth hormone brought upon by fasting. Overall I have also experienced more energy and focus on my fast days. When I fast at the office after I quiet my mind from the initial discomfort, I can settle into an ultra-focused place and get deep work done- because the thoughts, “when’s lunch?” “what’s for lunch?” (after lunch) “damn I need a nap” aren’t around to distract me. Not only that, but I have seen such a boost in my self-confidence from being able to set my mind to a goal and stick to it- I am addicted to that rush. That being said- I am still a newbie when it comes down to it- a baby in a game as ancient as pyramids and sacred Vedic texts. There is a slew of people who fast more than once a week – many who fast for 40 days (not just J.C.), even a guy in 1966 who fasted for 382 days!
When I started fasting seriously I remembered my good friend Andre had done a 32-day fast sometime last year. Andre is an extremely warm spirited artist who lives a little further down south than I do in South Florida’s Cutler Bay area. Of Jamaican and Haitian decent he was raised in the Cutler Bay Area where he is surrounded by lush trees, open fields, and farmlands as far as the eye can see. His tropical southern surrounding surroundings and Caribbean upbringing clearly influence his penchant for natural remedies and rasta-like sensibilities. We met a year ago at a fashion event in Wynwood and I was immediately struck by his eccentricity and openness. We’ve been friends ever since and though we don’t speak regularly when we do, it is not uncommon for us to chat from everything about fasting, spiritual and creative pursuits, to the state of social media and why feminist girls show their ass on Instagram. Andre and I vibe on a lot of levels. I knew when I started this blog that I would eventually tap him for insight.
A few months back we talked about his extended 32-day fast, but for some reason at the time, the magnitude of such an undertaking failed to resonate with me. I think I probably thought something along the lines of, “That’s cool- why would you do that? You’re nuts.” Now, as I had seriously read up on the practice, and was incorporating it into my daily routine like- I was intrigued and even awestruck. Fasting for a measly 24 hours takes so much out of me! I had to understand how he prepared for such a feat- and also what drove him to those depths? For me- fasting is not only a health practice- but a spiritual practice as well. That’s what makes the difficulty so bearable, for me, the spiritual rewards I reap- the closeness I feel to the all that is, is remarkably profound. I had the opportunity to chat with Andre recently and ask him more about what drove him to fast and how he prepared and sustained his wellbeing throughout the 32 days without food.
It should be noted, that what Andre did is very risky, and he is a little bit off-kilter, in the best way possible. Any normal person thinking about going for such a long period of time without food should definitely be supervised by a medical professional. Please do some research, and start small before incorporating long fasts, over 24 hours into your lifestyle- especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. Luckily Andre had a full bill of health up until the nasty fall that prompted his desire to attempt a long fast.
Me: What prompted you to start fasting?
Andre: My body felt off. I was bloated, tired, had brain fog plus I suffered an injury by slipping and hitting the back of my head against a steel chair. When that happened I hopped back up instantly just in shock and went to grab some ice for it luckily I had a decent amount of hair. I wasn’t affected by that trauma right away, a week later I went to the gym to do my normal workout and nearly collapsed. I went to urgent care did a CAT scan nothing even got an MRI nothing but what I kept telling the doctors was my nerves, equilibrium and emotions were out of wack I was constantly anxious. So I decided to fast 💨
What were your goals with the long fast?
The goal for me was to feel normal again. I wanted to clear my head, to fix the neurological damage that the accident caused and correct my emotional outburst/panic attacks.
Did you do any research before starting your fast?
Prior to fasting I read a lot of articles on detoxification and helping damage cells rejuvenate [autophagy]. I started watching youtube videos of a guy by the name of Dr. Robert Morse. I must’ve watched over a hundred videos of that guy and purchased a lot of his herbs to help🌿. Fasting was a process I felt was needed to escalate the healing. So I just went for it
What was the most difficult part of your fast?
The most difficult part of the fast was not having a support system. My family didn’t understand why I was fasting and didn’t think it was a good idea. When you fast, you become very vulnerable and the lack of emotional support system left me feeling exposed. I know my loved ones care about me dearly but they ‘t understand the concept of fasting a, and had no clue how bad the pain of the head injury was. There a few times after the accident I thought about taking my own life. The pressure in my head was so intense, that I was bedridden for weeks. Showers alone triggered panic attacks- and this was something I had to overcome on my own. Doctors didn’t see anything wrong- so they were of no help. I didn’t like their approach and I was desperate and scared so I went the only route I could find. I knew it was on me, only I could fix this and I didn’t care how long it took.
What was the easiest point in your fast?
The easiest part of the fast was when I got control back of my emotions and the anxiety/panic attacks started to fade. The initial bloating went away and I woke up one morning feeling like I was 14 years old again- no pain at all. The fast became more relevant when I saw that I could control my thoughts toward to food- hunger was nothing more than a feeling and I could control that feeling with my thoughts. This was also a great reminder of what hell is like! (ha)
Was breaking fast harder than you thought it would be?
Breaking the fast was harder than starting because of the temptation and craving. It could be deadly after a long fast if done incorrectly because you can completely shock the body. With my experience, I didn’t take my time as I should’ve. I got back into heavy foods and was overeating and drinking a lot even though it was vegan. So that’s something I learned the hard way. The next time I will definitely be more mindful when introducing food back into my body. It is recommended after a long fast to start with soups and liquids before jumping back into solid foods.
How would you recommend easing into a long fast?
A long fast shouldn’t be done if you don’t have experience or a pretty clean diet. Only in extreme cases, should you just jump into one without any prior preparation. For me, I worked myself into a vegan diet then a raw diet. Eventually, I would do a small 3-5 day fast then go back to a raw diet for a while. I cycled through that a few times until I felt I was ready to jump into a long fast.
What are some tips to help others prepare for a long fast?
- Do your research. I read up on fasting and its benefits and watched a ton of videos by Dr. Robert Morse. After I had exhausted all other medical options I relented to fasting. It was my last resort, and I was prepared with information and understanding before I started my journey.
- Pranayama is the practice of controlling ones breathe. Focus on your breathing. Learning how to take deep breathes will be key in working through the emotions that the fast will bring up.
- Go slow. Prepare your body before the fast by incorporating shorter fasts into your routine. Build up to it.
- Surround yourself with love. Remove stressors from your environment. Don’t hang out with people who make you uneasy. You will need to be as comfortable and at ease during this process.
- Create a support team. The emotional support from a solid team will not only make you accountable but be a shoulder to lean on when the fast gets underway. Make sure you have people that support your pursuit and who are informed of your actions and the possible consequences.
- Know where the nearest hospital is just in case of an emergency.
- If you start getting sick don’t stop your fast that’s a sign that things are loosening up.*
- Research healing crisis. A healing crisis, or healing reaction, is a temporary worsening of symptoms that occur when the body is going through the process of healing itself through the elimination of toxins.
- Self-love is key. Affirmation/ mantras/ meditation rooted in self-love and understanding are all very important tools that you will be able to use to guide the mind to relaxation during the process.
- Exercise should include light walking/Tai chi/ yoga (nothing strenuous) it will help to move and flush the body’s lymph system.
- Keep a clean environment. A cluttered space will make focus difficult, and you will need all the opportunities to cultivate focus that you can get.
- Put a filter in your shower, there are a lot of contaminants in municipal water. The purpose of your fast is to rid your inner and outer surroundings of toxins.
- Relax don’t overthink it.
*While Andre was able to make it to 32 days before breaking fast – it is imperative to listen to your body and also be under the proper supervision of a medical professional while attempting a longer fast. Pushing your body is one thing- but understanding physiological limits is another- breaking your own mental limit could result in your body severely faltering. It is always better to err on the side of caution and build up to it when undergoing radical behavioral modifications.
Big Thanks to Andre for being so forthcoming about his fasting journey. I am humbled by his experience and hope to use his tips for a successful long fast to inform my own experiments in calorie deprivation. Incidentally, he is also a really good artist- check out his latest song inspired by his long fast here:
Follow him on Instagram @amunbes