I am not a complete stranger to fasting, but we’re certainly not dear friends. Some attempts have been successful and I’ll feel light on my feet and sharp in my mind, and some attempts leave me with an overwhelming sense of failure, as when sabotaged by a single, simple french fry. A liver cleanse years ago ended a friendship and left me with an inexplicable desire for a juice combination of cayenne, garlic, grapefruit pulp and clove that at random makes me both cringe and crave, simultaneously. It was an overall horrible experience; yet, here I go, knocking on the fasting door and expecting someone new and wonderful to answer.
I’m not certain there are any benefits to cleansing or fasting. Sure, it can help drop some weight, but there are other ways to do that, fun ways, gratifying ways, mostly the moving around kind of ways. Pregnant with my first child I gained sixty pounds. SIXTY! I nearly broke two-hundred on the scale. When a heartless nurse forced me to stand on one when I was in said weighty state, the laughter that barked from behind me was from that of my husband, who, oddly, found it hilarious. In fact, he laughed for a long time after that moment, spontaneous eruptions doubling him over and making his face contort and his eyes fill with tears. I practiced ignoring him, but that only encouraged him. And so for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy he would heartlessly prod the wound, amusement belying his serious expression, Let’s hop on the scale and see who’s heavier. And then he would explode into obnoxious guffaws, howling and hyperventilating. No thank you, asshole, my uniform response, quickly overshadowed by more paroxysms of tittering.
There is so much joy to be found in food and I am not at all ashamed to admit to being a foodie. Shopping, chopping, experimenting, researching, cooking and preparing and the rituals of it all can be an exhilarating and intoxicating concert. Add the social aspects of entertaining and dining and you have the icing on the cake. In fact, the thought of food as a mere vehicle for survival and nutrients sounds boring, animalistic, and awful; there may be wisdom in such simplicity, but I assure you there is no joy. We mercurial types need to find delight wherever and whenever we can lest we quickly become despondent.
A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend whom I hardly recognized. He looked familiar, like a cousin, or a younger brother, but not enough like himself for me to run up and give him a big hug. As I blatantly stared, he walked right up to me and asked if everything was all right. The voice was the same, but the pronounced cheekbones were throwing me off and his jacket dripped off of his shrunken shoulders, Salvador Dali-esque. Sensing the disorientation, he explained his drastic change and revealed his secret: fasting two days a week, every week. I need that! I yelled to myself convincingly. I’ll not have to choke down kale purees and yucky juices! I won’t have to prepare twelve mini-meals a day preventing me from leaving the house for fear I’ll miss one and then be forced to inhale a bag of potato chips to punish my forgetfulness! Lastly, I’ll be able to function normally, knowing that I can do anything for a day. One day at a time. Piece of cake. Endless possibilities.
But, alas, I cannot fast, not for a day, and certainly not for two. I don’t like it. I feel terrible. I grow anxious. Sure, I get hungry, but it’s more than that, it’s a deep fear that some irreversible change will occur, unexplained, unexpected and undesirable. Like a spell that cannot be undone. Maybe I’ll lose all my creative energy and develop an intense desire to be an accountant. Maybe I’ll lose my insecurities and with them my sense of humor and the world will turn dark and gray. Maybe I’ll start reading auras and change all of my friends based on which color of the rainbow they glow the most. Maybe I’ll not like my children, and they won’t like me, or my newly defined cheekbones and skinny jeans. Maybe I’ll look in the mirror and not recognize myself, I’ll look familiar, but strange, as with my old friend on the sidewalk.
If I became a habitual faster, and suddenly waifish and zen-like, maybe I’d lose the energy and drive to do all of the things in which I find so much joy. My voice could change to a skinny girl voice, high and screechy, and nobody would recognize me. It’s not impossible. There could be life changes here that I’m simply not prepared to deal with should they come to pass. I’m by no means perfect, but I don’t think I want to be a boney, short-haired accountant who speaks softly while peacefully discussing care of houseplants in her cubicle wearing a housedress and sensible flats. I wouldn’t even like me. Where does one go from there? It’s just not worth it.
You may be thinking I am over-thinking this whole fasting business. Perhaps I am, but it’s in my nature to do that, something else the new me might not be interested in. You may be gathering evidence from experts who have proven the millions of benefits to fasting and how they far outweigh the negatives. But experts are wrong all of the time. They refute one another constantly while never, ever admitting they are ever wrong. And yet the risk-taker in me wants to give it another try. Discussing the dangers is cuing my interest…
I’m starting the perilous journey into the unknown, yet again, one day at a time. Back in the fast lane, for a day, at least.