The Perks of Not Eating
I just came home from two weeks in the desert, four days of which were spent solo and fasting.
The emotional and spiritual benefits, which exceeded my hopes, won’t fit in a single article. But I was also surprised by a few simpler benefits I didn’t anticipate at all.
- Best detox ever. I’ve used elimination diets, but a week with no caffeine, white flour, or sugar other than dried fruit, followed by four days with nothing but water, has been much more effective—and healing. Just one example: I realized the evening after ending the fast that I was sitting cross-legged, which I’d stopped doing several year ago because of joint pain. I’m not young, but now everything hurts less. And only by going to nothing but water was I able to confirm a mild allergy to cinnamon tea that previous elimination diets have missed.
- New taste buds. Every bite since breaking my fast has been a revelation of flavor. (Perhaps the detox had a role?) The “wow” of each bite is so great that one or two is often enough to really satisfy me. I’m not sure this benefit will last, but it’s been worth fasting a few days by itself.
- Media blackout. The thought of even 24 hours away from a phone may be horrifying. Hint: This is a sign of addiction, with all the attendant harm. Being utterly unplugged from society for two weeks not only quenched my news outrage, “like” lust, and need to constantly connect, it dropped my desire for a political or a social media hit back to more reasonable levels.
- Mindful gratitude. Going without—whether food or a real bed—was tonic for my appreciation bone.
- More relaxed patience. Having spent days in the desert doing little but talking to lizards and watching the clouds, my tolerance for waiting and ability to simply “be” leaped. Even in the airport on the way home.
- Two-thirds of new habits. They say 21 days helps establish a habit. I’m on Day 15 of far more thoughtful eating, which was far easier to kick-start away from home. Now that I’m back, feeling better physically in multiple ways should help me resist caffeine and sugar going forward.
You probably can’t hop the next train to the desert, but you could skip a day’s meals or turn off your phone for the weekend. Try it. Like me, you may be amazed at the benefits to your body and heart.
Joni Sensel writes for Fortune 100 companies, young readers, and you. Read more of her work on Medium: