1.13.2012

Fast Fridays

Every Friday night, all summer long, in our quiet little town, hordes of teenagers (and some not so teenaged enthusiasts) head to the fairgrounds to watch motorcycles speed round and round the racetrack. It's so loud, I can hear it inside my house. They call it Fast Fridays, I call it obnoxious; but I do like the name. I've adopted it for my new ritual of fasting every week, from after dinner on Thursday night until dinner on Friday night.

I've successfully fasted four out of the last five weeks (last Friday I was in an absolute funk, and by 11 a.m., I succumbed to a fritatta). I don't fully understand my need to fast (one of the many ideas I found on a Paleo/Cross Fit website that tickled my fancy, I guess), but I do know that fasting is an important part of exploring my relationship with food. It's not about losing weight or denying myself food; it's about exercising self control and being mindful about what goes in, or doesn't go in, my mouth. (Plus, I like the lightheaded feeling I get after skipping breakfast and lunch, and the euphoric high I feel when it's time to sit down to a carefully planned and prepared meal on Friday night. Tonight, it's Daube de Boeuf, roasted cauliflower, and celery salad.)

My goal is to develop a healthy relationship with food and better understand its role in my life. I know that consuming calories is key to my survival, but I also know that I desire more from food than just nourishment. When I fast, I think about food A LOT, which is both challenging and enlightening. While mentally preparing for today's fast, it occurred to me that I often expect more from food than it can deliver.

Take for example my constant craving for espresso drinks. I resist the urge daily to go to a cafe and order a venti, but when I do give in and gulp down a mocha, I'm inevitably disappointed. It's never as good as I want it to be. Clearly, I expect too much from steamed milk, strong espresso, and powdered chocolate. A few Fridays ago, Avery offered to buy me a peppermint mocha, and because I was fasting, it was easier to say no. But a couple days later, I was back in the same place, finishing a latte, unsatisfied and with four fewer dollars in my wallet. Fasting might not cure my affinity for overpriced, high caloric coffee drinks, but I'm hoping the intentional act of resisting them will help me understand why I want them so much.

Then again, there are times when food delivers all that and more; like last night, when I surprised my kids with a trip to the local fro-yo hot spot, and enjoyed a cup full of artificially flavored and highly processed dairy substance covered in chocolate sprinkles, which my children affectionately call "rat turds". It was a wonderful pre-dinner treat, made even more sweet because my kids were thrilled with my spontaneity and because I knew it would be my last sweet treat for at least 24 hours (and hopefully longer, if I can resist dessert after dinner tonight). Fasting has certainly given me a deeper appreciation for food. Or when it comes to mochas and frozen yogurt, food like substances.

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While I'm not advocating fasting for everyone, if you've ever thought about fasting for a day, let me share a few tips:

- If it's cold, wear warm clothes and either crank up the heat or build a fire. When your body isn't generating heat by digesting food, you will get cold. Some light exercise will help warm up your body also. I like to jump rope, preferably in front of the fire, wearing sweats.

- Keep busy to keep your mind off of food. Find a tedious task to fill the time. It's amazing how intently I can focus when I'm not eating. One Friday, I spent well over an hour cleaning out the nasty, food encrusted gap between two planks in my butcher block countertop. Today, I cracked over ten pounds of walnuts (and finished watching season 3 of The United States of Tara; I'm really going to miss that show!).

- Be careful who you talk to (and what you write) when fasting, because you might just share too much in your altered, fasting state of mind. My filter seems to disappear when my mouth isn't busy chewing food. I strongly suspect that I will cringe when I come back here and read this post once I have food in my belly. Did my walnut finally crack? Oh well.

- Don't be alarmed by the lightheadedness you might experience after several missed meals. Enjoy it, go with it - you never know where your head might wander when you lighten the load that food puts on your body.

- Prepare some food ahead of time to feed your family during your fast. The less time you spend in the kitchen, the easier it will be to resist eating.

- Plan a really wonderful meal to break your fast. Cook lots of meat and veggies. Spread a pretty tablecloth and set the table with your good dishes. Light some candles. Put some more wood on the fire. Share your dinner with loved ones. Savor every bite. Eat seconds, even thirds. Don't be surprised if you fall asleep right after dinner. Fasting is exhausting work.

* * *
Dinner will be ready in just over an hour. I can smell the beef now, slowly simmering in a bath of sherry, herbs, and vegetables. I'm sitting in front of the fire, playing Scrabble with the kids - lots of simple, single syllable words. I love Fast Fridays. Perhaps you'll join me next week?

18 comments:

  1. It's funny that you mention that. Just this week I was reflecting on the news that the snack company Hostess was declaring bankruptcy.mi used to eat thei snack cakes and I occasionally get a craving for a Twinkie or something along those lines. But I realize that what I would actually taste is not the same as what I imagine or remember. Same with a host of other foods, including those from local bakeries. So many snacks are JUST. TOO. SWEET. I'm taking a break from wheat right now, which has caused me to reflect on this even more.

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    1. I think it's key to realize that what we crave is the feeling or memory associated with certain foods rather than the food itself. But still, there are days I could wolf down a package of Hostess cupcakes, no problem.

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  2. I fast once a month for religious reasons. It's such an interesting experience, to try to put your mind and spirit above the needs of your body. The first few times are always difficult but then you are surprised by how easy it becomes. And you're right, it's much easier if you're not in the kitchen! My husband and I practically have to flip a coin to see who gets to prepare the kids' meals while we're fasting! And that break-the-fast meal becomes so special and anticipated! I am on a journey to healthier eating and have although I haven't gone completely paleo, I am intrigued by it and have enjoyed reading your tidbits the last few months. Thank you for your thoughts!

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  3. You are so right about the mental fortitude and understanding that fasting brings about.
    I'll share how I do intermittent fasting: most days of the week (usually 4-5 out of 7) I eat dinner earlyish, don't eat the rest of the night, and skip breakfast. I break fast at lunch, usually about 11 or 12, as you suggest, with a nourishing, unhurried meal. That gives me a good condensed window for my meals and a long time without food. I find I can't do it the day after very heavy lifting in the gym or extended metabolic conditioning, nor am I inclined to. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that IF is both preventative and therapeutic in many ways. My own experience supports this, too. Like you, it feels best to keep busy. Outside and bundled up works best for me.
    And as for the espresso drinks: I've been off coffee for months now and I still crave them, go figure. Every now and then I order a breve macchiato, decaf, and find myself jumpy, congested and out three bucks. But it's so fun to live dangerously!

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    1. you know, considering your fasting schedule, i think a lunch to lunch fast might be slightly easier. perhaps i'll try that next week. dinner is usually my least favorite meal (except on fridays). i think it might be because i put so much work into it, by the time it hits the table, i'm done with it. i'd rather enjoy the leftovers for lunch.

      thank you amy! i'm going to go do a few toes to bar and knees to elbows before bed and movie.

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  4. As a child I was forced to fast once a month (just lunch) for my parents' religious reasons and since then I've had an aversion to food aversion! Ha! Go figure. Since I'm not religious maybe I can try fasting for the reasons you mentioned. It is intriguing to me.

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  5. We fast in our tradition - sometimes it is just meat, fish, dairy, alcohol... sometimes it it a strict fast. There is definitely a sense of accomplishment when you make it through to the other side; but it is in the doing that I think I learn the most. I am always surprised at how I will catch myself just about to put something in my mouth without thinking.

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    1. Quite often, I catch myself putting food to my lips without even thinking. Now that I fast on a regular basis, I often stop and think before I bite, "Is it Friday? Can I eat this?" And I agree about the sense of accomplishment. I feel such a sense of pride on the other side.

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  6. The stomach flu forced me to fast...this past Friday, actually. I'd been thinking about having a once/week fast day for years. There was always an excuse: I was training, I was pregnant, I was nursing, I was _____. Perhaps that unfortunate bug that plagued our household was a little blessing in disguise...it felt horrific at the time, but it got me to thinking about how my father-in-law has fasted on Saturdays every week for as long as my husband can remember, and how lately I have felt so undisciplined in every way. Perhaps if I can foster some discipline around this, it can spread to all the other areas of my life where I sure could use it.

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    1. I have absolutely found that discipline re: food has spilled over into other areas in my life, especially with exercise, housekeeping, and with the kids. the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices!

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  7. Ooooh Fast Fridays!!!!!!! I used to go to those with my dad. I'd sit in the front row and even though it hurt when the dirt would hit me, I was so happy to just be sitting there with my Dad.

    This fast you're on sounds interesting, I might do it! either way good luck, the challenge to form a healthy relationship with food, especially as a woman is probably one of the most difficult. It can lead to so many other issues that we keep buried and hidden to protect ourselves.

    WIshing you tons of love, strength and encouragement!

    And oh how I miss that smell of dirt and gasoline!

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    1. I love that you used to go to Fast Fridays! I've never been, and can't say I will, unless my kids beg me to go :) I'll definitely wear ear plugs!

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  8. yummu walnuts! I am trying to develop a healthy relationship with food as well, and I am doing so with the help of weight watchers

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  9. I have found over the past couple years that my relationship with food has become more indulgent -- more treats, more often -- and my waistline is telling the story. I began the horrible habit of snacking before bedtime and a habit it certainly is. There are nights when I feel the snack bug sneaking up, I assess and know I am not hungry but still reach for a little something. More control is what I need. I also seem to have the same relationship with those lattes, Molly, and since I started drinking my coffee black a few months ago, I find myself more able to resist them. When I do give in, they are not nearly as yummy as I thought they would be. Thank for the inspiration to get my eating more under control. I', not sure I'll be fasting anytime soon but I do think more about the food I eat.

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    1. Darn those lattes! I have to admit, Avery bought me a mocha Saturday morning - less than 24 hours after I wrote this post! - and I thoroughly enjoyed it (though all that sugar and caffeine kept me awake until midnight). I'm working on a balance between regular self control and the occasional indulgence.

      My daily indulgence: Coconut milk in my coffee. I don't think I have the fortitude to drink it black.

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  10. I actually quite enjoy fasting. The first few times are definitely harder, but eventually you come to know that you aren't going to starve to death, and that you begin to glean some deeper insight to your relationship with food. :)

    I've been doing a bit of intermittent fasting as well - nothing as long as a day (although I've done that before) but simply not eating in the evening...and not eating breakfast until I'm hungry. So often we get up and eat...because it's habit - it's been liberating to let that go and to eat when I actually FEEL hungry. :)

    Thanks for this post - it as very thought-provoking. xo

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  11. Hi Molly
    Im the newbie that sent the e-mail requesting more info about some fingerless mittens yesterday. I have to say I just LOVE LOVE this idea. I have a horrid relationship with food and as a result really need some inspiration to ultimately loose 50+ pounds. I have a lovely roast seared and ready for the oven this afternoon. After that I think I will give fast-Fridays a shot - perhaps as you say to examine my habits and develope some control in the area. Have so many things to keep me busy . . . .wish me luck

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  12. You make everything sounds so...DO-able.
    I tried a fast ONCE and failed miserably. I was something to do a sugar crash, I suspect. Not that I'm pounding candy, but rather, breads with jam etc..

    and the united states of tara is my new favorite show! She just discovered in on netflix and are almost done with the first season. So good.

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