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72 Hour Fast

My name is Zachary Cohn, and I have never been hungry.

I don't think I've ever gone more than 18 hours without food. Even during religious holidays when fasting was encouraged, it was only sun-up to sun-down (and I'd sneak food throughout the day anyway). I've wanted to eat before, my stomach has told me it was empty and needed more food to sustain it. Even right now, my stomach is growling a bit, even though I ate less than 2 hours ago.

Food is actually a fairly significant part of my life. I eat healthy and I love to cook. I pride myself on having never drank a soda. My roommates and I regularly cook our own dinners, ranging from calzones (made from scratch!) to oven-baked chicken with a homemade alfredo sauce. We eat healthy, and we eat a LOT.

I live in an upper-middle class household where there have always been cans in the cabinet, apples on the table, and milk in the refrigerator. I've made enough money so if I'm out, I don't have to deliberate and decide if I can afford to eat out somewhere or if I should just hold out and wait until I get home. Food has always been an arm's reach away.

I was at a bookstore looking at this book last week when my stomach growled and I decided I was hungry. This time though, for some reason, I thought about my last thought. "I am hungry." Four hours before, I had eaten a 3 egg omelet with cheese, turkey, and peppers. There was no way I was "hungry" again. This is when I realized that I've never truly been hungry. Starving children in Africa, to use the cliche, have gone days without food. People tortured in POW Camps have been deprived of food for days at a time.

On Refining Diet

On SEBASTIAN MARSHALL

I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.

Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:

First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.

Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.

Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.

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