Vort

Long fasting: My first three experiences

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A couple of years back, I wrote my thoughts on what I called "long fasting". I decided to start experimenting with it this year, and it has resulted in some insights and thoughts that I decided might be profitable to share with this forum.

I'm eager to avoid the hypocrisy condemned by the Lord in Matthew 6:16:

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

I'm mostly anonymous here, so I'm comfortable talking about these experiences. In that anonymous sense, I thought I'd jot down some notes about such fasts on this thread.

(Note: Those who disagree with the entire premise or otherwise just don't like this topic are of course welcome to voice that viewpoint. I would ask that, after voicing disapproval, those folks don't continue bothering to read the thread. I think it would be better for all parties if those who dislike the topic just ignore it.)

To begin, I want no one mistaking my meaning. Here are a few up-front disclaimers that I feel compelled to include:

First, the leaders of the kingdom of God, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have told us what constitutes a "fast": 24 hours without food or water, comprising two consecutive skipped meals (if you live on a three-meal-per-day schedule). This is what we might call the canonical fast; I prefer to use the term ecclesiastical or church fast. If you want to "fast" as the modern prophets have urged us to do, this is what they mean. As far as I know, this is all they mean.

Second, I am not an expert of any sort in fasting. What I'm doing in this thread is sharing my experiences and insights. That is all. I'm not a guru, I'm not particularly knowledgeable about these things, and I'm not qualified to give expert advice.

Third, I am not saying that a long fast is to be used instead of an ecclesiastical fast, that it replaces or is better than an ecclesiastical fast. That is manifestly not my place; such a pronouncement would come through the ordained leadership of the Restored Church, or on a personal level through the Holy Ghost, and certainly not from some guy on the internet.

Fourth, I am not encouraging anyone to try long fasting. I have seen some effects, perhaps beneficial, in my still-nascent efforts. These are meant to be shared and received anecdotally. If you are in good health and think that long fasting might be interesting to try, I would not discourage you from doing so. But please do not mistake this for encouragement. It is not.

Fifth, I do believe that there is a relatively small segment of the population who ought not try long fasting, for fear it could damage their health or the health of those depending on them.

  • The largest of these groups might be pregnant women and nursing mothers. Not only are they themselves vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, but their babies, whether pre- or post-natal, might be adversely affected by their mothers' lack.
  • A second group that ought to exert caution in this area is those with Type I diabetes, for what I assume are obvious reasons. This goes for anyone else with blood imbalances or highly restricted dietary concerns.
  • Thirdly, if you suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, doing an extended fast seems to me tremendously unwise. If you were my son or daughter, I would urge (read: beg) you not to try this.
  • The last group I would explicitly list is those in very frail health.

If anyone in any of the above-named groups wanted to try long fasting, I would urge them to do so only under the care and guidance of a physician. (And given the US physicians' reflexively conservative approach to literally anything and everything having to do with health management, I doubt there are two dozen physicians in the entire country that would agree to overseeing a long fast in any patient, much less someone in the above-mentioned groups. But enough of my grousing.)

Sixth, just FYI, long fasting does not include abstaining from water. To repeat: Long fasting does not include abstaining from water. If you want to fold a church fast into a long fast, then you would abstain from water during that "church fast" period. Otherwise, those who are long fasting should take special care to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.

Seventh and last, if anyone actually wants to experiment with long fasting, I would encourage him or her to study and ponder Mosiah 4:27. We should not foolishly overextend ourselves. If you have never done a long fast before, then for heaven's sake, don't decide to quit eating for two weeks! Use some common sense.

If any of this sounds interesting, I invite you to read this thread and participate to the extent you want to. I'll be adding posts as I go. I originally intended to include everything in one post, but that would make such a monster post that I think it's better to break it up into individual parts.

FINAL DISCLAIMER: I'm very busy at work, and I can't spend all day Sunday typing up this thread, so it might take me days or weeks to write about my experiences. If no one cares, then I won't bother, but I'm guessing at least a few people will want to hear me, if out of nothing else than sheer curiosity.

Edited by Vort

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WHY LONG FASTING?

Why my interest in fasting, and specifically in long fasting? Primarily because of scriptures such as Matthew 6:16 quoted above, and many others in all the standard works, but especially in the Book of Mormon and also the Doctrine and Covenants. These scriptures that have long piqued my interest include:

New Testament

Book of Mormon

Doctrine and Covenants

Interestingly, many of these scriptures clearly imply (to me) multiday fasts, e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:5 (taken in context with the preceding two verses), Matthew 15:32, Mosiah 27:23, Alma 5:46, obviously Matthew 4:2, Acts 9:8-9, Alma 8:26 (and 10:7),  and Alma 17:3 and 9.

Throughout history, our ancestors have commonly skipped eating for a day or two. It was part of life. Sometimes there's no food. I wonder if a modern 24-hour fast would even have been considered a "real" fast in Christ's time. Surely when Christ spoke of the hypocrites disfiguring their faces to advertise their fasting, he wasn't talking about someone who skipped lunch and dinner the previous day. I mean seriously, that would be absurd. People would not admire such a person, they would just think he was a drama queen.

Another source that had a sizable effect on me was Upton Sinclair's work The Fasting Cure. Now, I'm no great Upton Sinclair man. I have admiration for many of his efforts; he strikes me as an early 20th-century Ralph Nader. Bully for him in exposing the seething evils of our society. But on a political and perhaps even a personal level, I doubt I would have connected well with him. Nevertheless, he was a very smart and observant guy, and what he writes is worth at least considering. And Upton Sinclair thought that extended fasting was good for him. He used terms like "cleansing", not so different from fad diet promoters today. But Sinclair certainly was not looking just to make a buck. Anyway, his personal experiences had an effect on me that encouraged me to think about such a fast.

And think about it I did, for years. The fact is, I did little toward such fasting but think about it, until the very end of 2020.

(FTR, Sinclair held many beliefs about diet and body chemistry that were common in his time. He believed fasting could cure a host of maladies such as infectious diseases and cancer. He specifically advised against long fasting for experimental purposes. He wrote that only sick people ought to fast, never healthy individuals. His fasts were commonly coupled with enemas, and he held other strange (to me) ideas about fasting and how it relates to everything in life. Obviously, I disagree with him on all these topics and many others. I list Sinclair as an inspiration primarily for his minute descriptions of the personal effects of fasting. So for the record, I do not believe that fasting can cure halitosis, or baldness, or a propensity to develop hangnails.)

I have been taught and firmly believe that there is great spiritual power in fasting. As one who needs great spiritual power in his life, I am attracted to this idea. My efforts in fasting have historically not been impressive. Part of that reason may be that I don't have a good physical foundation for fasting. If I'm challenged by a 24-hour fast, am I ready to receive the spiritual benefits and insights that fasting might offer? I think probably not. Maybe if I can do a five- or seven- or ten-day fast, my body will be better conditioned to allow me to receive insights and perhaps revelation during a normal fast. That's my theory, anyway.

Edited by Vort

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I did some long fasts on my mission.  48, 72, & an 84 hour fast without food or water.  After the 2nd day your arent even hungry anymore, just weak.  It certainly makes you closer to the spirit.  And on the 84 hour fast my companion & I had the opportunity to give a blessing on a gentleman with an illness.  Never felt the spirit stronger in my life.  

Currently, I'm overweight and the wife has imposed a strict Ketone diet.  

The human body can endure much.  God was not messing around when He made man.

Check out the book Unbroken. 

What's even crazier is that the pregnant women in concentration camps gave birth to healthy babies.  

Edited by mikbone

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I have only ever done “long fasting” as a health benefit. I actually had dedicated daily fasting and occasional long fast with minimal exercise and I lost 15 lbs in a few months. It felt great.

That being said, I never considered I could use this sort of fast as a spiritual fast. I always assumed a spiritual fast included abstaining from water as well.

I really appreciate these insights.

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Current update:

I broke my latest fast, which I started a week ago Sunday evening, yesterday afternoon with the family and missionaries for Fast Sunday.  As I'll eventually get around to writing, the fast went very well on a physical level, and also on a spiritual level. I was pretty happy with it.

This morning at around 2:30, I awoke with a very achy stomach. The pain became excruciating, to the point that I got up and stood in (sat in, laid in) the shower for some time. I stayed up doing various things because it was much too painful to sleep, but I finally went back to bed around five and slept for two or three hours with a heating pad on my upper abdomen. The fact that this unprecedented stomach ache occurred immediately after breaking my first-ever nearly seven-day fast made me doubt it was mere coincidence.

I didn't go to a doctor, but my wife Googled around and arrived at the conclusion that extended fasting can cause stomach ulcers. Especially when the body is stimulated by the aroma of food (I always sit for dinner with my family when fasting), the stomach will often produce caustic gastric juices that can eat a hole in your stomach lining. At least that's the claim. I'm not convinced it's a common thing, but it makes sense.

I drank half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in a small glass of water, and my wife gave me some kind of medication. As I type this, I feel okay, not perfect but nothing like last night. For my next fast, I think I'll be drinking a half-teaspoon or so of sodium bicarbonate in water every hour or two. I definitely don't want to give up continuing to try extended fasting, but I'm not nearly as excited about peptic ulcers. So we'll see. I assume my body will adapt to long fasts the way it eventually adapted to 24-hour fasts.

 

Edited by Vort

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

I have only ever done “long fasting” as a health benefit. I actually had dedicated daily fasting and occasional long fast with minimal exercise and I lost 15 lbs in a few months. It felt great.

There is nothing that makes the weight just fall off of you like not eating for days at a time.

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

I actually had dedicated daily fasting and occasional long fast with minimal exercise and I lost 15 lbs in a few months. It felt great.

If you want to get strong, exercise. If you want to lose weight, eat less. When I hear people talk about a hamburger in terms of the ten miles they have to run to work it off, I shake my head.

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I have not gone as hard core as some describe here.  But I've done intermittent fasting for a week at a time.

Eat one meal.  Wait 24 hours.  Eat another meal...  After a few days, I notice that my stomach is atrophying.  So, it takes less food to fill my stomach.

I find that I'm able to concentrate a lot better.  I work more efficiently.  My mood is better. I'm more alert.

After about a week of my stomach getting smaller and smaller, I tend to get too tired and it starts having a negative affect.  So, eat normally for a couple of weeks. Then I start the cycle over again.

For me it was basically a method of dieting, rather than for spiritual rejuvenation.  But that side of it has manifested itself as a side effect.

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FIRST LONG FAST

DAY 0: THURSDAY NEW YEAR'S EVE 2020

I had been thinking since November, maybe earlier, that the new year provided me with a great excuse to try a long fast. So on December 31, I let my lovely bride know of the insanity I was about to embrace and joined my family in eating cookies and popcorn and drinking ginger ale & sherbet. I stopped eating at around 11:30 pm, and went to bed about  two hours later, when the festivities had subsided. At 1:15 am, I weighed myself to get a baseline: 100.4 kg (221.3 lbs). This was the first time in my life that I had ever weighed myself and found the number in triple digits. Ugh. Too much ice cream punch.

My plan was simply to fast until I didn't feel like fasting any more. No goals of how many days, no strategizing, no preparing myself to be deprived just so that I could "score" a bigger number. This was not a competition, and this was certainly not about setting records or impressing anyone; only my wife and a brother knew, and eventually my children because, you know, Daddy wasn't eating anything at dinner for days at a time.

DAY 1: FRIDAY 1 JANUARY 2021

Paying close attention to my reactions. This seemed very much like any other normal Fast Sunday-type fast. Since I wasn't thirsty (I often don't get thirsty when I don't eat), I just went ahead and did a "full" fast of both food and water. I did drink some water just before going to bed. At 11:40 pm, I weighed 98.3 kg (216.7 lbs), more than two kg (almost five pounds) down from my starting weight. (If you believe my scale is that accurate. Which you shouldn't.)

Physical: No major problems

Spiritual: Nothing

DAY 2: SATURDAY 2 JANUARY 2021

Second day of fasting, but I'm drinking water. It wasn't a bad day. True, my stomach kept informing me that it was empty and wanted to eat. But honestly, it was more like a craving for food, the way you might get a craving for your favorite candy bar or sugary cereal. It was not exactly unpleasant, mostly just irritatingly distracting. Did some work around the house, and wasn't too tired. I stopped drinking water in the early afternoon for Fast Sunday the next day. At 11:15 pm, I weighed 97 kg (213.8 lbs), and had now fasted longer than I ever had before in my life.

Physical: No major problems

Spiritual: Nothing

DAY 3: SUNDAY 3 JANUARY 2021

Fast Sunday. I had been looking forward to Sunday to sort of test out if my fast was having any discernible spiritual effect. I was frankly disappointed that I was no more inspired than usual; if anything, I felt less inspired. But I decided that my fast (overall, not for Sunday specifically) was being done essentially for selfish, non-spiritual purposes, so my intent was probably not what the Savior would have for a fast. Not sure how to repent of that, since I openly acknowledged going into this that it was an experiment and a way to determine if I could build some physical fortitude for fasting. That may not be meek and humble, but it's not prideful, and it is sincere. "Hunger" (not real hunger, which most of us have probably never experienced, but more like my stomach complaining that it's empty) always present and intruding into my experiences and thoughts. I found myself focusing to a large degree on food. Weird. Took a two-hour nap after Church. Started drinking water again after Church. At 11:30 pm I weighed 95.3 kg (210.1 lbs), a full ten pounds lighter than I had been three nights previously.

Physical: Hunger and fatigue, nothing bad

Spiritual: Nothing

DAY 4: MONDAY 4 JANUARY 2021

Back to work, which of course is still home. I was more distractible than usual, which is pretty bad. I think I accomplished somewhat less than usual, but the quality of my work was okay. Bothered all the time by my stomach's insistence on telling me it's empty and on my brain's insistence on fantasizing about food. This is surely a matter of exposure and self-discipline. Anyway, the day went well enough, but I was getting impatient and felt tired. I took a two-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon (when my eastern seaboard work mates were mostly off work), and that helped. Feeling not exactly weak, but drained all the time. Going up and down the two short flights of stairs between my office upstairs and our living and kitchen area downstairs was becoming a slow process. At 7:30 I weighed 94.3 kg (207.9 lbs). Went to bed shortly thereafter.

Physical: Hunger, fatigue, and thinking about food a lot

Spiritual: Nothing

DAY 5: TUESDAY 5 JANUARY 2021

I was not reaching my physical limit to endure the fast, but I was seriously considering whether it was worth continuing. My focus on my hoped-for outcomes and my determination to do this not just once or twice, but many times until I found if there was anything to learn, was being overshadowed by my getting tired of having to put up with the physical and psychological inconveniences. I confess I was disappointed in the utter lack of spirituality that accompanied my efforts. Things went fine, just more of the same from Monday. I think I probably took a nap this day, too. By evening, I knew I was going to break my fast soon. I was weak, tired, somewhat light-headed, achy, and I had had it with putting up with the incessant complaining of my GI tract. I had to decide whether to eat before bedtime or break my fast at breakfast, deciding on the latter. I went to bed very late. It was a quarter past midnight (so technically Wednesday) when I weighed myself before bed: 93.3 kg (205.7 lbs).

Physical: Going downhill

Spiritual: Nothing

DAY 6: WEDNESDAY 6 JANUARY 2021

I slept very, very badly. At 5:00 am, I finally got up and decided to break my fast with a small bowl of Cream of Wheat and a small glass of orange juice at 5:15 am. I then went and worked for a while, and ended up back in bed, where I slept until 10.

Physical: Drained but feeling okay after breaking my fast

Spiritual: Nothing

Total fast time: Fasting time: 125 hours 30 minutes ± 15 minutes (5 days, 5.5 hours ± 15 minutes)

AFTERMATH

My physical condition returned to normal after about a day. My weight rose over the next week, very herky-jerky, up and down, averaging about a pound and a half gain per day. One of the things I had wanted to try was to keep my same (bad) eating habits and diet, and see if the fast itself would change either or both of those things. It did not. By the end of the month I was again in the high 90 kg range, close to where I had started.

CONCLUSION AND RETROSPECTIVE

I decided in March that I had been dehydrated for basically the entire fasting period in my first (January) fast. As I said, I tend not to get thirsty when I'm fasting. In this case, I think that worked against me. I didn't pee much, and when I did it was always very dark. I'll bet that 20-25% of my weight loss was just water weight, even though I was drinking water almost the whole time. I think that dehydration greatly increased my discomfort. Lesson learned: When doing an extended fast, STAY HYDRATED.

Also, after about Day 2, no poop! I have to say, that was actually kind of nice.

I did what I had set out to do. In that sense, it was a successful fast. And I do consider it successful; I basically accomplished what I wanted to do, and while I did not experience all that I had hoped I would, I at least got a sort of physical baseline for how my body reacts to an extended multiday fast. I'm not overly spiritual by nature, and my spiritual experiences (which do indeed happen) tend to come only after long periods of effort or patient waiting.

Edited by Vort

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Sort of a different thing, but my cardiac rehab program pushed not just an ultra-lowfat diet, but also pushed various ways of changing the mindset towards food.  One session, we tried the reflective eating, where we point all our senses into noticing only the act of eating, nothing else.  The feel of the spoon, the sensations of the food in the mouth, the act of chewing and swallowing, all that.  It was an interesting experience, and I found the whole course did take on a spiritual aspect.  

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3 hours ago, Vort said:

There is nothing that makes the weight just fall off of you like not eating for days at a time.

To specify, I would eat the same amount that I normally do, just all of it in a 6 hour period. I did a longer fast once every two weeks 

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Update:

By about the time that I wrote the "current update" yesterday, the stomach pain had ceased and hasn't returned since. That's no ulcer, certainly. I probably jumped the gun on my post and overreacted. Tell you what, that was a nasty stomach pain, whatever it was. But everything appears to be fine now.

I will probably still drink a little bicarbonate with water next time I do a long fast, though, just to be safe.

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SECOND LONG FAST

DAY 0: TUESDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2021

As before, my plan was simply to fast until I didn't feel like fasting any more. No specific goals, just seeing how my body, mind, and spirit would react to the fast.

Overall, this fast was similar to January's, though the physical effects were less pronounced. I didn't really perceive a great spiritual high or increased sensitivity or anything like that at any point. It's worth noting that the fact that I didn't perceive any such thing does not mean that such a thing didn't occur, just that I didn't see it.

I began fasting at around 9 pm on Tuesday, plus or minus a half hour. As before, I was fasting from everything except water. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I can see I was dehydrated starting probably Day 2. I recognized this after my recent (March) fast, so I will try to implement a better water-drinking regimen whenever I try this again.

I don't actually recall much worth telling you about this fast, because it was largely the same as January's. So I'll mostly be listing my weight each day. I apparently forgot to weigh myself Tuesday evening, or else I didn't record it. My weight at 8:45 am Wednesday morning, when I remembered I needed to weigh myself, was 98.1 kg (216.3 lbs).

DAY 1: WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY 2021

I don't recall anything of particular interest the first day. At 9:30 that evening, I weighed 97.2 kg (214.3 lbs).

DAY 2: THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2021

Starting to feel the normal second-day cravings, but not bad. I ended the day with a 10 pm weight of 95.3 kg (210.1 lbs). (The fact that I was four pounds down from the previous day indicates that I must have been dehydrated. I bet that was the case.)

Effects: Nothing in particular

DAY 3: FRIDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2021

11 pm weight was 94.3 kg (207.9 lbs).

Effects: A little weakness (not really the right word). Nothing substantial. Starting to think about food a lot.

DAY 4: SATURDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2021

Fast Saturday. At this point, I felt my body begin to adjust to fasting a little bit. The preoccupation with food came back, but was ignorable. The overall sensation could be perceived as uncomfortable, but you could choose to perceive it as being aware and relaxed. It could actually be quite pleasant if you got used to it.

9 pm weight was 92.8 kg (204.6 lbs).

Effects: Just what's described above.

DAY 5: SUNDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2021

Fast Sunday. The missionaries came over for our Sunday brunch, which I don't think I had known beforehand. I had intended to keep fasting, because things seemed to be going somewhat better than January. But with the missionaries coming over and my wife cooking for them, me helping out, and Monday being a work day, I decided I would go ahead and break the fast, which I did at about 5:30 pm. (What we call Sunday brunch occurs whenever we eat after Church, no matter the clock time.) Final weighing before breaking fast: 92.3 kg (203.5 lbs).

By an hour and twenty minutes after breaking my fast, I was back up to 93.7 kg (206.6 lbs), a gain of over three pounds in not much more than an hour. A lot of this was water/liquid recovery, but the ugly fact is that I made a pig out of myself at dinner. Big mistake. I didn't really mean to, just having a nice conversation with my family and the missionaries and overdid the eating part.

Effects: None

Total fast time: Fasting time: 116 hours ± 30 minutes (4 days, 20 hours ± 30 minutes)

AFTERMATH

As before, I recovered in less than a day—basically overnight. My overeating the previous day didn't help me, but I was fine on Monday. Again, my weight crept up, but slower this time. Still, I did not modify my eating habits, and by the end of the month I was back up to 99.5 kg. I'm sure such weight yoyoing isn't good for me, and I've decided I need to implement some discipline in my eating, especially post-fast.

CONCLUSION AND RETROSPECTIVE

It's clear that I have been dehydrated in my early fasting attempts. This one was no exception. I'm glad that the physical inconveniences seemed to lessen, or else I just got used to them so that I didn't care too much (which amounts to the same thing).

It's also clear that extended fasting is a great way to lose weight, but if you keep bellying up to the trough, it won't do you any long-term good.

Finally, the primary purpose of fasting (to me) is to increase spiritual sensitivity and power. So far, I hadn't experienced any of that. Fasting to lose weight is fine; heaven knows I could stand to lose some. But that's not primarily what this is about for me. I want the blessings God has promised to those who seek after him and those blessings. I want to have the power to positively impact my family, to lead them spiritually through the crises we face and the even more difficult crises that are sure to come. So these "long fasts" are really just testing the waters.

I want to gain the spiritual sensitivity that I can feel the Spirit telling me when to fast. I want the fast to be so empowering to me that any carnal desire for food or comfort is left behind without another consideration, not necessarily because I don't feel it, but because I don't care about it. That has been my goal, and that remains my goal.

Again, I consider this to have been a successful fast. I am not yet even near where I want to be. But I do think I'm moving along the path. This February fast was several hours shorter than the previous, but almost the same, and less uncomfortable. If I get the forms and practices down correctly, then I hope the Spirit will have a place to dwell if and when it comes during my fast.

Edited by Vort

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On 3/28/2021 at 11:23 PM, Vort said:

First, the leaders of the kingdom of God, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have told us what constitutes a "fast": 24 hours without food or water, comprising two consecutive skipped meals (if you live on a three-meal-per-day schedule). This is what we might call the canonical fast; I prefer to use the term ecclesiastical or church fast. If you want to "fast" as the modern prophets have urged us to do, this is what they mean. As far as I know, this is all they mean.

I can remember people fasting back in my student days. I tried it myself once or twice, though my roommate used to mock me for it calling it a "hunger strike". There was a young man who lived a couple of floors down from us, who who...well, I hesitate to use "***** **********" as an analogy (that's got me into trouble on this forum before) but I don't know of a better expression. Let's just say that he took "God stuff" a bit more seriously than your average student. He used to fast quite often, and whenever my roommate learned that he was fasting he would take a packet of chocolate digestives and go visit him. "Would you like a cookie?" "Go on have a cookie!"

He was that sort of guy.

(By the way, to us, back then, fasting meant going without food for 24 hours. I never heard about fasting without water until I found out about the LDS church several years later.)

I was never 100% sure of the point of fasting, though I did get that it was a form of sacrifice. Then one day a fellow student explained it to me like this: "It's a way of keeping your prayers in the front of your mind for a period of time. If you don't eat, then every time you feel a twinge of hunger it acts as a reminder to pray."

A few years later (I was a postdoc by then) I found myself dating a girl - I'll call her C - who...well again, I'm not going to go there. She had been through Bible college (though she was not ordained) had served as a missionary, and I took her views a lot more seriously than I probably should have. She deeply despised Mormonism and hated me having the BoM on my bookshelf (along with Bahagavad Gita and I Ching). She was forever fasting, and always referred to it in a manner that suggested she was the only person who ever did it. She explained it (whenever fasting was mentioned) like this:

C -  "You see, I fast once a month."

Me - "Yes I know you do. I've fasted myself too, sometimes."

C - "Yes, but the reason I fast is because God is bigger than my food."

Me - "The way I understand it is it's supposed to bring your prayers to the front of your mind. Every time you feel hunger, it's a reminder that you should be praying."

C- "No, that's not it."

Me - "So what is it about?"

C - "You really don't get it, do you? It's because God is bigger than my food! I don't even feel hunger when I'm fasting."

The best thing at this point was to change the subject. I'd want to say: "If you don't feel any hunger, what is the point? You seem to be suggesting that it's about sacrifice, but if you are sacrificing something to show that God is 'bigger' than that thing, and going without that thing costs you nothing, it's totally pointless. I might just as well go around wearing women's knickers to show God that he is 'bigger' than my wearing the correct underwear for my sex. Doing things to make yourself uncomfortable for the sake sacrifice has a long history. (And let's face it, hunger is a form of discomfort.) Why would Thomas a Beckett have worn a hair shirt (humbly concealed beneath his bishop's robes) if it wasn't uncomfortable for him? When Jesus was in the wilderness and the Devil tempted him to turn stones into bread, what kind of temptation would it have been if Jesus hadn't felt hungry?" But it was pointless talking about it. Any attempt to challenge or unpack what she said just made her more vexed. "God is bigger than food" was all the explanation that fasting would ever need.

(By the way, this is the way C was at the time we were dating. She mellowed a lot later on. I don't know if she ever got married. I hope she did - and happily.)

Edited by Jamie123

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Update:

I had mentioned (back in the "mask wearing" threads) that I had a breathing problem.  It started around October or November of 2019.  Just recently, I have come across some information that it may be linked to my intermittent fasting.  

I had started my intermittent fasting around that same time.  And I've just recently recognized that... well... it has to do with bowel movements.  So, I won't go into the details.  But I finally put it all together.  I consulted several online sources about it and the diagnoses are varied -- as serious as diabetes and as simple as "I need to eat more."  So, I've started to just eat lightly throughout the day instead of a full intermittent fast. 

Day one.  No breathing problems.  We'll see.

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In the late 60's I had just returned from my mission.  I was having some spiritual difficulties.   Prior to my mission I had spent time in the army and received orders to combat in Vietnam but the last minute my orders were changed.   My best friend from the military went to Vietnam and did not return leaving behind a young wife and daughter.  I was the reason he joined the church but because he was black his wife had reservations (I never met his wife).   There were other that I knew that did not return from Vietnam.  I was not so troubled on my mission because I did not learn of their deaths until I was released from my mission.  In addition an Elder from my mission (not a companion) was drafted after his mission and was killed in Vietnam.

I was determined to teach physics and math at the high school level but flunked remedial spelling 3 semesters in a row and was kicked out of the teaching department.  I was not sure what things were turning out as they were.  I was also most disappointed with the young ladies at BYU that I felt lacked any real spirituality (more concerned with skirt lengths and being popular).  I give this little background so any reader can understand my spiritual frustration and desire for a unique spiritual experience.

A companion from my mission suggested that I seek spiritual guidance through a spiritual quest common to some native Americans - he was full blooded native American and at the time the only LDS member of his tribe.  In essence the spiritual quest was a type of fast in the wilderness.  And so I walked out of civilization into the Utah wilderness between Moab Utah and a small city (Escalante) on a 40 day fast.  My fast was not what @Vortdescribes as a full fast from food and water but rather a fast from civilization - eating only what G-d and nature would provide.   I wore my combat attire (fatigues, boots and jacket) from the army and took a rope, blanket and knife and left at the beginning of April.

I fully expected an experience similar to Enos in the Book of Mormon.  I expected a visit by angles to straighten out my spiritual problems.  I thought my experience was ruined about a week past my halfway point when I came upon a fellow that was lost.  He was on a work release project from the state prison.  He was very dehydrated and weak.  His boots were new and he could hardly walk from blisters.  We were in a wilderness area - miles from any roads.  He was much larger than me - I could not carry him and I was certain if I left him for help that he would die before I could get back.  It took about 4 days before I as able to get him out - we were spotted by a search party that was looking for him.

And so I never had any great revelations - I thought my fast was a failure.  However, over the years I discovered that my quest was far more successful that I thought at the time.  When I returned to civilization it was like reading the Book of Mormon and finding answers to problems from things I experienced on my fast.  This has turned out to be one of my greatest life experiences.  When I returned I could smell so many things - everybody smelled like cows???  I weighed 110 lbs and thought I was weak from lack of food.  The last day I hiked out just over 20 miles and decided to run as far as I could.  I ran the full 20+ miles with all my stuff in about 3 hours and never tired - I could have ran harder.

My point in this story to the forum is that there are other fasts - beyond going without food and water.  For example if someone is having Word of Wisdom challenges that can attempt a word of wisdom fast for a day or week or whatever.  Or one could try a 10 hour fast of spending that time doing temple work in the temple.  The purpose of a fast is to make our prayers more meaningful and to draw closer to G-d.  The goal is not to starve or thirst or lose weight.

 

The Traveler

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@Vort I look forward to reading these posts in greater detail as I get time. I've only skimmed and may have missed some important notes and if so, disregard my desire to help as being redundant. I was noting your stomach pains after eating following not eating for around a week and was wondering if you are familiar with refeeding syndrome. I don't think you've experienced it, but it is a possibility to be familiar with. I personally never fast longer than 48 hours just to be safe since I can't be bothered to do a medically supervised fast. I'm sure most of the time a week or so is great. Anyhow, refeeding syndrome can be fatal and I'd hate for you to pass on prematurely. Some primary concerns are electrolyte imbalances and a cascade of inadequate nutrition to properly metabolize food wherein by introducing food while specific nutrients are low (but the need for them is high to deal with the incoming food) it creates a situation where eating actually creates a greater need for nutrients (a key one being vitamin B1/thiamine) and can begin a cascade of unwanted effects such as organ failure and even death.

Please undertand I am not trying to dissuade you from long fasts, but just want you to be aware of some risks and possibly work with a trusted advisor/do your own research to take appropriate precautions.... you may not intend to get that close to the Lord from your fasting just yet.

https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/30/refeeding-syndrome-dont-forget-thiamine-deficiency

https://www.healthline.com/health/refeeding-syndrome

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THIRD LONG FAST

I had an abortive fast attempt that began on March 9 and ended less than two days later. I had to make a trip a few hundred miles away, and on the way to the airport, my wife wanted to eat at an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria in the Seattle area that I had eaten at many years before when working in that area, and that I had told her how great it was. I barely remembered it until we got there, but it was indeed very good. For the sake of a date with my wife, I stopped the experimental fast after only about 46 hours. I thought that I may not do any long fasting in March. Turns out the opportunity presented itself later that month.

DAY 0: Sunday 21 March 2021

I began fasting after talking with my daughter-in-law over some specific concerns she had. My goal in this fast was to implore the Lord that his hand be shown and certain changes be effected in people's lives. I had no specific goal for how long the fast would last. I last ate between maybe 7 pm and 10 pm, so when I started keeping track a few days later, I estimated 8:30 pm as the approximate starting time. For the first 24 hours or so, this was a full fast, neither eating nor drinking anything.

I did not weigh myself at the start of the fast, though I estimate my weight was something close to 98 kg (216 lbs). My mind and spirit were focused on the matters at hand, and not with weight loss or the effects of fasting or any such thing. Nevertheless, after a few days I started keeping some track of my weight. I think the spiritual aspect of my fast suffered when I started examining my reactions closely. I do not believe that such self-awareness per se necessarily works against the spiritual effects of fasting. I do, however, think that my own strength and ability in fasting is immature and undeveloped enough that pulling my attention away from the declared purpose of my fast even just to see how much I weigh and ask myself how I'm feeling is apparently enough to disrupt my "fasting mindset".

This is a valuable insight for me long-term. I don't want to lose the self-aware, self-examining aspect of fasting, but I even more don't want to lose out on spiritual growth and insight and other blessings because I'm so busy navel-gazing or distracted with unimportant trivia that I miss the actual spiritual blessings of the fast. So this is something I will have to think about going forward.

DAY 3: Wednesday 24 March 2021

This was the first day I weighed myself: 94.6 kg (208.6 lbs) at 7 pm. By this time, I had been drinking water. In retrospect, I was not drinking enough. This was the fast where I figured out that I had been dehydrated in previous extended fasts. So future efforts at extended fasting will include drinking a lot more water, even if I have to drink it on a scheduled regimen.

Effects: By Wednesday, I had entered the period of feeling relaxed/a bit weak. Less overall feeling of discomfort or hunger. Making a list of foods I found myself wanting seemed to lessen or eliminate some of the obsession I had previously felt about food in general and certain dishes in particular. Toward the end of my fast, I found myself not really caring about eating specific foods. So I think that was a small breakthrough of sorts in this fast.

DAY 4: Thursday 25 March 2021

93.6 kg (206.4 lbs) at 7:00 pm.

Effects: Nothing in particular

DAY 5: Friday 26 March 2021

92.6 kg (204.2 lbs) at 5:00 pm. Losing about 1 kg per day. I did some moderate yard work for about an hour in the early evening, moving wheelbarrows full of dirt (probably about 250 pounds per wheelbarrowfull, enough that I had to work at it) and shoveling stuff around to prepare for grass seeding the following week. It wasn't easy, and I was weaker than usual and had to rest a lot, but I was surprised by how much I could do. I thought I would be weak as a kitten and not be able to do much. That's not how it was.

Effects: Nothing substantial. Even after my hour of yardwork, I felt good. It was at about this point that I began suspecting I had been dehydrated during this and previous long fasts.

DAY 6: Saturday 27 March 2021

My son and his family flew home on this day. I continued fasting for another day. At 11:00 pm I weighed 91.8 kg (202.4 lbs).

Effects: Honestly, I felt fine. Relaxed, a bit tired, but not bad at all.

DAY 7: Sunday 28 March 2021

I broke my fast just before 5 pm, when the missionaries came to eat with us. I weighed myself just before eating, and was at 90.7 kg or 200 lbs, the first time I've weighed 200 pounds in probably 15 years.

Effects: I was fine.

Total fast time: 164 hours 30 minutes ± 90 minutes (6 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes ± 90 minutes)

AFTERMATH

I avoided overeating when breaking my fast. As I wrote in an entry above, the following day I had some sharp stomach pains that led me to think that I may have developed an ulcer from fasting. But the pain subsided within half a day, and I was just fine after that. So I don't think there was any ulcer. [NOTE: It was a gallstone, so not fast-related.] Still, I may add the occasional glass of baking soda water to my drink when fasting for extended periods. I suspect just maintaining a good hydration level will probably be sufficient to avoid such problems in the future.

CONCLUSION AND RETROSPECTIVE

I think my tracking of my weight and general feeling took my mind off of the purpose of my fasting, which is unfortunate. I need to be single-minded in my fasting, not worrying about trivia and nonsense. Not exactly sure how that will factor into possible future extended fasts. If I continue these experiments, I should possibly consider holding a separate spiritual fast once per month, unaffiliated with any "long" fasts, during which I simply give myself over to fasting for however long I feel I should, without worrying about anything else. But despite my personal failings, this fast was a very positive experience, even joyful, something I look forward to repeating.

Edited by Vort

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On 4/6/2021 at 7:35 PM, SpiritDragon said:

@Vort I look forward to reading these posts in greater detail as I get time. I've only skimmed and may have missed some important notes and if so, disregard my desire to help as being redundant. I was noting your stomach pains after eating following not eating for around a week and was wondering if you are familiar with refeeding syndrome. I don't think you've experienced it, but it is a possibility to be familiar with. I personally never fast longer than 48 hours just to be safe since I can't be bothered to do a medically supervised fast. I'm sure most of the time a week or so is great. Anyhow, refeeding syndrome can be fatal and I'd hate for you to pass on prematurely. Some primary concerns are electrolyte imbalances and a cascade of inadequate nutrition to properly metabolize food wherein by introducing food while specific nutrients are low (but the need for them is high to deal with the incoming food) it creates a situation where eating actually creates a greater need for nutrients (a key one being vitamin B1/thiamine) and can begin a cascade of unwanted effects such as organ failure and even death.

Please undertand I am not trying to dissuade you from long fasts, but just want you to be aware of some risks and possibly work with a trusted advisor/do your own research to take appropriate precautions.... you may not intend to get that close to the Lord from your fasting just yet.

https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/30/refeeding-syndrome-dont-forget-thiamine-deficiency

https://www.healthline.com/health/refeeding-syndrome

Very interesting. I had never heard of this. Thank you for sharing your concern. This looks like a very good reason to make sure food intake is restrained when coming off of an extended fast.

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A question regarding fasting in difficult circumstances...

When I get really upset, I tend to shut down in some areas. I'm neither hungry nor thirsty, I have to force myself through daily task, etc.

Regarding the first example, I make myself eat and drink a bit, figuring some nourishment might do me good.

But this thread has me wondering if I should just go with it. Seek heavenly comfort, turn it into a fast.

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On 3/29/2021 at 2:13 PM, Vort said:

This morning at around 2:30, I awoke with a very achy stomach. The pain became excruciating, to the point that I got up and stood in (sat in, laid in) the shower for some time. I stayed up doing various things because it was much too painful to sleep, but I finally went back to bed around five and slept for two or three hours with a heating pad on my upper abdomen. The fact that this unprecedented stomach ache occurred immediately after breaking my first-ever nearly seven-day fast made me doubt it was mere coincidence.

This happened again yesterday, more agonizing than the first time. I was the only adult left at home at the time, so I drove myself to the emergency room. After a few hours, the pain began to subside. Even better, I got a diagnosis.

Gall stones. Ugh.

The doctor could think of no reason that a week-long fast would bring on a gall bladder attack. And the latest incident was not associated with fasting at all. So it appears it really was coincidence that my first gall bladder attack just happened to occur within hours of ending my first week-long fast.

Anyway, not sure where things go from here. I spend all night last night in agony and got almost no sleep. I'm finally feeling somewhat better, but I still feel like I got hit by a truck.

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Gall stones is better than a burst gall bladder.

My dad's story: There he was, happily smoking and drinking himself through his '50's, when his gall bladder burst and almost killed him.  

Scene 1: Phone call I received the evening after that happened, from the hospital: "Call the FBI!  I'm being held against my will!"

Scene 2: [Being wheeled out of the hospital a week later by several nurses who were in tears because they'll miss him so much]: "I don't even remember making that phone call, or anything else before this morning.  Sorry ladies!"

Scene 3, Doctor 1: "You have to give up smoking and drinking, or you will die soon."
Dad: "You're just saying that because you're a Mormon and your church makes you say it.  I'm getting a 2nd opinion."

Scene 4, Doctor 2 (non-LDS): "No really.  Do it or die."

 

So he did it.  Dropped smoking overnight and took up near beer.  Got a good extra 20+ years out of him, but they were relatively sin-free years.  

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On 4/1/2021 at 1:54 PM, Jamie123 said:

I can remember people fasting back in my student days. I tried it myself once or twice, though my roommate used to mock me for it calling it a "hunger strike". There was a young man who lived a couple of floors down from us, who who...well, I hesitate to use "***** **********" as an analogy (that's got me into trouble on this forum before) but I don't know of a better expression. Let's just say that he took "God stuff" a bit more seriously than your average student. He used to fast quite often, and whenever my roommate learned that he was fasting he would take a packet of chocolate digestives and go visit him. "Would you like a cookie?" "Go on have a cookie!"

He was that sort of guy.

Lovely person. And now I'm all curious about the asterisks.

asterix1.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

Quote

(By the way, to us, back then, fasting meant going without food for 24 hours. I never heard about fasting without water until I found out about the LDS church several years later.)

I was never 100% sure of the point of fasting, though I did get that it was a form of sacrifice. Then one day a fellow student explained it to me like this: "It's a way of keeping your prayers in the front of your mind for a period of time. If you don't eat, then every time you feel a twinge of hunger it acts as a reminder to pray."

[...]

C - "You really don't get it, do you? It's because God is bigger than my food! I don't even feel hunger when I'm fasting."

FTR, I don't agree with either of your acquaintances. I do believe that the physical sacrifice involved is intrinsic to the value of a fast. But I believe it's much more than this. Lots of things are available to sacrifice, if that's your mindset. Fasting provides a somewhat unique (can I even say "somewhat unique"? Is that like "more perfect"?) sacrifice in that you are willingly depriving yourself of a necessity of life.

But I think it goes beyond this, as well. My own idea—and this is not canonical LDS doctrine, so please don't take it as such—is that intentional fasting and prayer somehow opens to us spiritual sensitivity and insights that we do not normally perceive. The scriptures are replete with stories of men gaining great spiritual gifts and magnifying the spiritual gifts they already possess through fasting. Somehow, the power of God is made manifest in such people, and their fasting is an integral part of that process.

Now, I don't mean to make this procedural. I definitely do believe that God is not capricious, that he is a God of law, and that he follows processes to bring about his creations. But I don't claim to know those processes; they surely go far beyond any physics we have developed. My own belief is that fasting is, in effect, an eternal law, and that by following that law, we can experience its blessings. But I don't claim to know the boundaries or intricacies of the law of the fast. Obviously, it's more than just not eating anything. It certainly must be done with a pure heart. A major reason for my experimentation is to try to figure out how such things work.

Quote

Any attempt to challenge or unpack what she said just made her more vexed. "God is bigger than food" was all the explanation that fasting would ever need.

(By the way, this is the way C was at the time we were dating. She mellowed a lot later on. I don't know if she ever got married. I hope she did - and happily.)

Yeah, the "God is bigger than food" thing leaves me nonplussed. I don't really have a response to it, except to say, "Okay, whatever." I guess if it worked for her, then more power to her.

Edited by Vort

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On 4/5/2021 at 1:02 PM, Traveler said:

I ran the full 20+ miles with all my stuff in about 3 hours and never tired - I could have ran harder.

There are tales of American Indians covering 100 miles in a day on foot. I think those stories have been largely discounted in modern times, but maybe we should reassess just what properly trained and motivated people are capable of.

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