"God, it's only Wednesday? I'm going to pull my f'ing hair out..." I could hear my mind loudly ranting at me around lunch time on Hump Day of the week I decided to try my hand at the Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet.
It had been a long trek in my health by that point with lots of little crumbs leading me to the decision that what I need to do was not doing something. Bothered by a list of ubiquitous, generalized digestive concerns over the last 2 years - skin issues, bloating, gas, even my mood suffering - I was starting to lose my mind because there was just no clear answer to what the hell was going on.
By every measurement, I thought to myself, I should be a healthy person. What gives? I've been meticulous about my nutrition, taking dozens of pills per day, exercising as a professional athlete regularly, living an active lifestyle and avoiding smoking, drinking and so on.
"Why me?" I kept asking.
Through a series of serendipitous events, life thankfully lead me to some answers - even if it meant dragging me by the hand like a screaming, complaining child to where I needed to go. I initially came across a podcast by the author of The Longevity Diet and creator of the Prolon FMD (linked above), Dr. Valter Longo, where he unpacked the power of fasting as a tool to incorporate into our health routine and how it can be done safely and intelligently through periodic 5 day fasts (the Prolon kit) as well as intermittent fasting where you eat all of your calories within a 12 hour window, allowing the digestive system to regenerate.
By that point I had spent thousands of dollars and hours trying to get to the bottom of my collection of generalized symptoms with very little answers. I had found through a food intolerance test that dairy was no longer my friend, so I took it out and noticed some good results with the skin issues I was having. But, the bloating, gas and mood stuff kept nagging at me. Something was still missing. When I heard Dr. Longo's podcast, I figured I had nothing to lose so I went and got myself a Prolon kit and dived into my first ever, consciously chosen period of withdrawal for 5 days.
It was brutal, but it opened a door to an amazing world that I had been missing in my approach to my health and that was the world of space, patience, waiting and fasting.
In my recent podcast episode, "The Power of Fasting," I talk about this experience as well as why fasting is an important tool in our arsenal to develop appreciation and sensitivity. As I'd also recently come out with a book on Gratitude, The Gratitude Map, one of the main habits I had outlined was fasting and its impact on our ability to be grateful.
Gratitude is the key to enjoying life and one of the most important components of maintaining a grateful state is the ability to use our senses.
Your senses make you "efficient" at life - that is, they allow you to extract massive pleasure from very little. That's what they're designed for, actually. To experience a vibrant, amazing life in all of its sensual glory. Sensual in this case doesn't necessarily mean sexual but rather physically in the sense of your 5 senses. The senses are the gateways to reality and, unfortunately, in our modern consumption-driven lifestyle, one obstacle of being grateful and fulfilled or present is that senses become habituated or de-sensitized to what is in front of us.
We become inefficient at what life has, needing and craving much more to get very little in return.
This is a problem because, say, for your health you will need much more food, taste, calories, flavor (sugar, salt, etc.) to obtain pleasure and reward which, as we all know, will lead to graver problems down the road. As a planet and global community, this type of lifestyle is not sustainable in the long-term without appreciation because it is inefficient at using resources. The planet, too, is an organism and, just like you and I can get diabetes, heart attack or stroke from eating McDonald's all day every day, so too can this giant organism suffer an injury from our collective choices and values.
Fasting solves these issues, though, because it creates something very necessary: space.
Through fasting, we allow the senses and appetite to recover and thereby regain our ability to appreciate, tolerate pain and discomfort, delay gratification and, most importantly, heal.
Heal the body, heal the mind, heal the spirit.
In the episode, I also talk about fasting as more than just a food thing. You can fast from information, sex, money, people - just about anything that is a "too much" in your life, thereby bringing the healing power of space to the equation.
You could say that what "makes the music" are the notes and sounds, but that's the obvious part. There is a non-obvious component to what makes the music and that's the space between the notes. This is what determines their length, the timing, the rhythm and so on. In the same way that music needs "nothing" (or space) to be music, so too does health of any kind need space to function optimally.
What do you need to go on a fast from? Are you feeling sluggish, overworked, desensitized in different areas of your life? Rather than finding a new strategy or something you need to "do" to fix the problem, I recommend looking into what you can "not do" to create space and let the magic of your body, mind and spirit that's inherently there go to work to do the fixing for you.
These were some of my lessons from the Power of Fasting among many others detailed in Episode 130. Remember that one pillar to living a fulfilled and grateful life is the ability to be sensitive, to use your senses and to extract extraordinary from the ordinary right in front of you. What's the difference? Just a little "extra" - in this case, a little extra awareness and attention that can go a long way.
How do we cultivate these skills? Through the time-honored, beautiful practice of fasting.