As far as I’ve gone on this journey, I haven’t fundamentally changed. I feel backed against a wall. And I’m seeing some truths that hurt. I feel fat. I feel invisible. My knees ache. My ankles hurt. I’m turning 50. I’m setting the stage for the second half of my life and I don’t like what I see.
Starting A Three Day Fast
“You’ll fast for three days”.
I’ve run from hunger my whole life, and now I’m going to turn and face it. But does it really have to be for three full days?
I begin to bargain. “Two,” I say. “Two is good.”
“No,” he says, “three. Three is what you need to wrestle with issues deeper than the physical manifestation of hunger.”
“Like what?” I ask.
“Like how it feels to get off autopilot,” he says. “And how to identify real hunger instead of hunger out of habit.”
“This is the beginning of real change,” he tells me. “Transformation without some basic reconstruction of the habit patterns is unwise.”
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Kind of like remodeling a home that’s built on a crumbling foundation, I think — it may look great, but one day it will probably fall down.
Afraid of Hunger While Fasting
I’m afraid of my hunger, I tell him, afraid of how I’ll respond.
“Take your hunger on,” he says. “It will make you wide awake. Three days is short. If you get through this, you might crack your code, and your contract with food will change.
“The real work is to let whatever arises arise, and to do so without snuffing it out with food. And when you do,” he adds, “you’ll notice that things pass, and that maybe you’re not who you think you are.”
Fasting with Strained Vegetable Broth
He suggests that during my fast, I drink a strained vegetable broth. He tells me this is better for me than just water, because the vitamins and minerals in the broth will help keep me steady.
The day before I begin, I go to the market and buy heaps of beets, potatoes, carrots, string beans, celery, onions, garlic, and parsley. I get home, scrub and peel the root vegetables, and add the peels to a large stockpot filled with water. I wash and cut the string beans, chop the onion, take the top off an entire head of garlic, and throw all this into the pot along with a bunch of parsley. I bring the concoction to a boil, let it simmer for an hour, and then strain it. The beet peels have made the broth a beautiful light-claret color.
First Day of the Fast
It’s early morning. I heat up some broth and take it outside onto the deck. I take a sip. It’s a little watery, but I can still taste the innate sweetness of the carrots, onions, and beets.
As the morning moves on, my stomach starts to rumble. Over the next hour, it recedes, then returns, stronger this time. Then it recedes again, like a tide moving toward and away from the shore.
Lunchtime. I heat some broth and drink slowly, making it last as long as possible. The waves of hunger move in and out. I try to watch the sensations and let them go.
It’s now 4 p.m. Though the broth keeps me steady and grounded, I feel an internal lightness that is unfamiliar. When I was young, I ate more than I needed, hoping that my solidity would keep me grounded, tethered to the earth. Eventually, overeating became a habit. Though it long ago stopped serving me, it’s still a hard habit to break.
Fasting: Dealing with the Inner Rebel
I need to get out of the kitchen and away from food. I head to the garden. I’m not eating. I want some food. I’m not eating. I’m angry. Keep gardening. I want to eat. I can’t. Oh yeah? Says who? F&#% you.
It’s not even been a full day, and my inner rebel has already emerged. I know her well. (Who the hell are you to tell me what to eat?)
I want a distraction. I go into my office and start trolling Websites for shoes, until I realize I’m just trading one obsession for another. I pass on the shoes.
6 p.m. It’s time for what now passes for dinner. I heat my broth and return to the deck to drink it. I begin to fantasize about my first meal, still more than 48 hours away.
Enjoying the Fast or Suffering?
I go down to my library and notice an old volume of Nancy Drew on a shelf. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid. An hour passes and I’ve already read through most of the slight book.
I make some licorice tea and take it out to the deck. I’m hungry, but not yet suffering. Maybe some suffering is optional. Maybe there is a choice.
I get ready for bed. I do feel a rare lightness in my body, which makes me feel vulnerable. Tears lie close to the surface.
Transformation: Changing Eating Habits
I recently received a kind of deep-tissue bodywork known as Rolfing. While on the table, I asked Michael Salveson, the insightful man I see for this work, why it’s so hard to change eating habits.
“Change is not a matter of willpower,” he said. “It’s a matter of presence.” He told me to study hunger. “If you sit with it long enough, it often moves from your stomach to your heart. It’s a kind of longing.”
It is. I can feel it in my chest. I see a book of Rumi poems on my nightstand, reach over, and open it. My eyes fall upon the poem “The Seed Market”:
You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself . . .
As I drift off to sleep, I realize I’m not repenting by giving up food for three days; I’m honoring myself by letting what I’ve kept hidden under endless mounds of food finally see the light of day.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom
by Dayna Macy.
This article was reprinted with permission of the publisher, Hay House Inc. ©2011. www.hayhouse.com
About the Author
Dayna Macy’s essays have appeared in Self, Salon.com, Yoga Journal, and other publications, as well as several anthologies. For the last decade she has worked at Yoga Journal as communications director, and she is now also the managing editor for international editions. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband, the writer Scott Rosenberg, and their two sons. Website: www.daynamacy.com