Fasting 101: Intro

by Troy C. Thomas

Monday September 28, 2015 4:45 pm

 

Today was the first of three mandatory ones. For the past three weeks I have challenged myself to be more disciplined. And being more disciplined consisted of watching what I consumed. I’ll be honest, I have a love-love relationship with food. For as long as I can remember, food has always been in a big deal to me. My family even has long running jokes about the many occasions where I exhibited my passion for food. They even used to call me a “human refrigerator” because of it. I was a “foodie” well before it became stylish. I bond with my family and friends most of the time over having a great meal or comfort food. So I felt it was a good challenge to shake things up a little. My first restriction was to avoid dairy products. Which is pretty hard for me. I love cheese, and I usually sit around the house and snack on it with my daughter. Sour cream is another soft spot for me(which my family has a joke for as well). My mother makes an exceptional quiche. I eat Mexican food a couple times a week. So I can safely say dairy is usually present in my daily use. The other challenge was to not consume of alcoholic beverages. Which is a little big deal. Solely due to the fact that I live a social life. Sometimes it is not even a thought to have a drink with food. I want to make it clear, I do not drink alcoholic beverages with all my meals. And I definitely don’t drink daily. But I can get caught up in being at an event or with loved ones and just drinking just cause. So adding restrictions on drinking was just me wanting to be more conscious of my intake. So in the last three weeks I have been very in tune with what I am ingesting. And having to avoid cravings that normally I wouldn’t even think twice about. As of last week, I had an idea to fast. I felt it would test me the hardest. So I came up with the rules almost immediately. It would be a mandatory three days, with an option for a fourth. Depending on how well I did. So depending on when my first meal of the day was, I would not be able to eat for exactly twelve hours until the next meal. Also no using profanity. And NO drinking alcohol. But I could consume as much water as possible throughout the day. So today was my newest challenge…

 

This morning was a little tough. I had a goal to finish eating by 6:30am. That way if I had a hard time with not eating throughout the day, then I wouldn’t I have to wait so late to eat. But it didn’t happen as I had planned it. I woke up around 5:30am. I was running around the house straightening up. Also I had to get my daughter’s clothes ready. So I did not start cooking my breakfast until around 6am. Which was cutting it close. I prepared 2 sausages, A bowl of granola cereal and 2 eggs. I hastily ate trying to finish by 6:45am. I hit my target with 2 minutes to spare. Then I had to get my daughter in the car so that we could drop off Shelly Sims at work. Who is also doing the fast. And she has been doing the original diet restrictions for the last three weeks as well. Ms. Sims is the person that came up with the original challenge. So because I like testing myself, I accepted her challenge. The first week we started with three consecutive days of no alcohol and no dairy products. Then we bumped it up to four days a week. Which we both did for two weeks straight. Now the bigger challenge has arisen.

 

I learned a lot about myself today. I saw that I could operate on an optimal level without having a full stomach. And having to handle my two year old daughter and her doctor appointment demonstrated that. So being attentive, having patience and consoling my child while she was physically going through pain showed me that I would be perfectly fine. Following her doctor visit I had to carry her a decent amount of blocks in the extreme heat, which further proved to me it was going to an okay experience. At one point during the day I did not even think about food. If I felt an urge I would just pick up my gallon of water and take a sip or two.. And as the day went on I had time to reflect on the ideas we have in our head regarding food. One thought that always came up was that I get cranky or short with people when I am hungry. Not sure where or why that concept came about. But I did believe in it. I would tell people to stay clear of me when I either missed a meal or hadn’t eaten yet. Today proved that theory wrong. I ate very early in the morning and the time period until my next meal was the longest I’ve ever went without food. And I was perfectly fine. Mentally on point. Then I dropped off my daughter so I could complete some tasks for work. I felt no problems at all. Once my day was done, I returned home. I didn’t even open the refrigerator. Nor did I look into the cupboards. I was definitely focused. But they were not conscious decisions. I guess I fell right into the behavior that I needed to do to make this as easy a transition as possible. After friends began to check on me, I had another “ah ha moment”. To make It very simple, I want to be more in tune with hunger. I wanted to learn to avoid just eating because I can. This experience was the vehicle to humble me. Also make me even more sensitive to people that are not as fortunate as myself.

 

Around 6:20pm I began getting my dinner ready. Although I was ready to eat, I wasn’t necessarily hungry. I knew I should eat and wanted to eat. I never ended up getting that anxious feeling that is attached to a person that was hungry. I was content. I was learning patience, on different levels. I had wait half of a day to finally eat. And I had to wait an extended time to heat up my food due to reheating it in the oven. Approximately two weeks prior I had to toss my microwave in the trash. It had finally kicked the bucket. I had to reheat a lamb roast and black rice in the oven. While I had a salad in the refrigerator. Once 6:45pm hit, I dug in. Trust me when I say that my food tasted so good to me. It felt like the lack of eating and only consuming water awakened my taste buds. Each bite/chew tasted like it released more flavor. My palate was dancing. I cleaned both plates and just relaxed. Today was a test and I passed, well kind of. It would have been a perfect day. But I slipped a few times using profanity. Which was another lesson I learned, that it was easier to change my food consumption than it was to change my vocabulary. All in all today was good. I will work harder at watching the words that roll of my tongue. I must hold myself accountable. And I will.

 

 

Tuesday September 29, 2013 12:25pm

 

This morning I switched it up. I actually set my alarm clock for 6am for the rest of the week. After yesterday’s breakfast, I knew that I couldn’t rush my meals. It felt weird. I didn’t even get to enjoy the food. So I made sure I rose at a decent hour. That way I had a more workable window of time to prepare the meal and eat it at a normal pace.

 

Once my eyes opened, I went down to my kitchen to prepare breakfast. I basically had the same menu as Monday. I only changed from cereal to oatmeal. As my food was cooking on the stove I went around the house cleaning. For some reason I enjoy straightening up around the house before I leave for the day. In between preparing breakfast and cleaning up, I made time to do my daily libation and morning prayer in the Quiet Room. Every morning I make an attempt to acknowledge my ancestors and pray for the people I love and myself. It’s become a great habit. And has actually given me a sense of satisfaction when I pray for others. Following today’s prayer I rushed back downstairs to get my first meal of the day. This time I had much more time to eat. I ate a comfortable pace. I ended up finishing at 6:50am. Which I was very happy with, it left me with a good time of the evening to eat my dinner. So today was definitely starting off a lot better than my first.

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By 11:50am I started to feel side effects. There was a level of clarity and self consciousness that I had never experienced before. After leaving my house, I went to our family office. As well as having to go and check on a few properties and meet with some vendors. And as I was driving around South LA, I began to notice different food spots. Then I started to think about trying them out because I had not patronized them yet. And some were just the normal spots that I would go to when I had a taste for that particular restaurant. But today was so real. I have always been the type of person that’s aware of my surroundings. Only this situation pertained solely to restaurants. This happened for a few hours. Literally from the time I left my office until I pulled into my driveway.

 

Another side effect I noticed was that I could feel my muscles. I know that sounds weird, but that is the best way I can describe it. As I walked around my home I begin to feel different muscles. It almost felt like I had a really good workout the night before. The muscles were firm. Every turn, every stair I climbed or even just bending over was an experience. My abdomen felt like I did crunches. My biceps felt like I had been carrying heavy items or curling weights. The lower half of my body felt like I was doing lunges the night before. It was an experience for sure. I had never been so conscious about what was going on with my body. This carried on for the rest of the day. I even had to ask Shelly did she experience anything like it, and she confirmed that she did.

 

Today was getting to me, mentally and physically. The mind games, cravings and body functions were taking a toll. I can’t say it was negative. But it definitely was testing me. So I knew I had to have my dinner ready as soon as possible. I had finished breakfast at 6:50am. So that means I could chew anything after 6:50pm. I kept myself busy until it got closer to my dinner time. I was working around the house. I even took a nap. A little after 6pm, I began to prepare the food. I reheated a lamb roast and decent portion black rice. I only ate enough to satisfy my hunger. I didn’t want to feel heavy because I had an Afro Brazilian dance class to attend. So once I stuffed my face, I drove straight to class. Which I ended up having a pretty decent night. I did terribly as far as dancing. But my energy was there and I was alert. At no point during the class did I ever feel fatigued. I ended the night with a nice snack before I went to bed.

 

Today I was tested.

 

Wednesday September 30, 2015

 

The alarm clock went off at 6am. I followed the usual program. Starting with preparing my breakfast. And then made my way into the Quiet Room. I put on my elekes, I lit my white candles and then started libation. So every morning I verbally name my ancestors and/or significant ancestors from history, pour a drink of water after each name and finish with the word “ase”(pronounced ah’shay”). The whole goal is to pay homage. In Afrikan culture the libation is a ritual to honor the ancestors and is also believed to keep the spirit of the ancestors alive. So everyday that I wake up, this is the first thing I do before my daily prayers. It’s a way of spiritually staying in tune with the people that had an influence on my life. Once I finished my prayers, I made my way back down to the kitchen to eat breakfast. It went by pretty fast. I finished by 6:40am. Now I could relax until I went to work.

 

I stepped into office around 8:30am. Work was work. Made a few calls. Checked on a few things. Spoke with my mother. And then it was time to go. When the days are slow, we just pack up and call it day. Sometimes I might stay in the office and catch up on my reading. Or get on my laptop and pay bills. Today was not that day. We said our goodbyes and I gave my mother her usual kiss on the forehead. I went home and changed into my bike clothes. I was prepared to ride my road bike down the coast line. That’s one of best privileges of living in Los Angeles. I planned on going from end to end of the bike path. Which is Torrance Beach to Malibu. Its about a 35 mile ride for me. I parked at the midpoint between the destinations. And then went north towards Malibu. I rode thru Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach and Santa Monica. It was a pretty good ride. Once I reached the end of the bike path, I took a small break. Then I hopped right back on my bike to head south to Torrance Beach. I was paying close attention to energy level and how my body was responding to riding my bike while fasting. I didn’t feel fatigue on any level. I was alert. I was cruising at a pretty fast speed. I was pretty impressed with my performance. As I was transitioning from Santa Monica Beach back to Venice Beach I had a severe crash. I was doing about 20 mph when the fall occurred. One problem with riding the bike path is that people use it to walk on and usually track sand onto it. And road bikes and sand don’t mix. Road bikes have very thin smooth tires. And when sand and those tires come into contact its almost like a car hydroplaning. So to make a short story shorter, I braked to make a quick left turn on winding part of the bike path. And I guess the speed I was riding at and the sand carried me forward. Then the bike became horizontal. And I ended up landing first on my left hip and the final impact was my left elbow. I’ll be very honest, it hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt. I knew to not sit down. I didn’t want my body to lock up on me. So I dusted off the majority of the sand. Walked around for a while. And at the same noticed my arm was bleeding. My only goal was to get back to my car. So I hopped back on the bike in immeasurable pain and rode back to Playa Del Rey. Once I reached my car I hopped off and noticed I had a very noticeable limp. So I literally threw my back in the car and took off all my equipment and drove straight to my house. I pulled into the driveway and took out my bike. Man!! Climbing the stairs was a challenge. Especially with a bike on my shoulder. But I definitely was not going to leave it in my car. And after getting settled in, I cleaned on my arm. Then I ran a hot bath because I needed to soak . I added Epsom salt and baking soda. I wanted to be as proactive as I could be. As I took off my compression shorts there was this very big bruise and wound on my left hip. The area looked as if someone took a cheese grater and drug it across my flesh. I was pretty shocked at the damage that was done but I couldn’t do anything to reverse it. So I just hopped into the bathtub. I’m not sure how much the bath helped. But I am sure I do not want to find out what it would feel like without it. Even though I crashed and was in pain I still clocked in 21 miles on my bike. It’s not a good distance for a ride. But I’ll accept it.

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After I finished soaking, I took a nap. I woke up feeling pretty decent considering how bad of crash I had. Then I started to focus in on my fast. Number one was how much time did I have until I could eat. The second part was a little tougher. It was my third day of the fast. I noticed that other than Day 2 I had not had any real rough challenges with abstaining from food. I was trying to figure out a way to challenge myself more. I knew I would have to make my fast longer. But I didn’t want to make it too easy, nor did I want to make it something that was not obtainable. As I was thinking about it, the numbers “16 hours” and “24 hours” kept coming up. So I decided to go with the bigger of the two. I wrapped my head around my choice and decided it was a sound decision. I just lounged in my bedroom until it was around the time I could eat dinner. I ended up finishing my meal at 7:40pm. That means I could not touch food until 7:40pm the next day. Now it was time to test myself and I was truly ready for this challenge. Day 4 here I come.

 

Thursday October 1, 2015

 

Today was different. I did not need to have my alarm wake me up at 6am. I did not have to prepare a breakfast. I just woke up and went straight into the Quite Room. I did my morning ritual: Lit my candles, did libation, prayed for myself and my loved ones. There was a different feeling in the air. I had a very high energy prayer session. My day was starting off well because I had already conditioned myself. I knew that I would not be eating until around 8pm. I was quite surprised by how my morning went, I actually did not think about eating. After my morning prayer I went around the house cleaning and straightening up. That ended up taking about an hour or so. Then eventually I got dressed and headed into the office. Once there I received a few text. They were from dear friends that were checking to see how I was doing with the fast. Then I shocked them when they found out I would be doing a 24 hour fast on my last day. I actually enjoyed their responses. It kind gave me more of an incentive for staying focused. I went on with my day and completed all the needed tasks for work. Then I fed my brain with some much needed reading.

 

Around 4:15pm I started to get dressed. I had a Yoruba divination with a Brazilian priestess named Iyalorixa Mainha. I put on my white clothing and hopped into my car. My destination was Hollywood. My appointment was not until 5:30pm, but I left early because I did not want to deal with LA traffic and finding parking is pretty hard on that side of town. And I actually did hit a few pockets of traffic. But to my surprise I found parking right when I pulled up to the home where my divination would be taking place. By the time I reached the front door it was a little before 5pm. I had more than enough time to relax until my turn. I sat in the living room having a discussion with Mainha’s interpreter. Iyalorixa Mainha only speaks Portuguese. So we needed someone to translate between the two of us. My window of time was only for 30 minutes. She told me a few key things about myself and then allowed me to ask questions. I asked her for advice on certain things and then asked her to pray for me. She recommended that I complete certain acts to “put my feet in the same directions as my head”. So before I left I paid my respect and got a big hug from Mainha. Then I went on a goose chase to find items needed for her to complete my divination. I ended up driving for about an hour through Silverlake. Finally I realized I should of went to a particular grocery store in the first place. So I drove from Silverlake during rush hour to Korea Town. I ended up finding what I needed and headed right back to Mainha. Once I reached the home, I was taken back into a room where Mainha was sitting. And guess who’s in the room, no other than Shelly Sims. I played around with the both of them for a hot second. But I had to leave immediately. I was double parked. So I went in search of a place to park. Eventually I ended up in a Pep Boys parking lot. I sat and waited until Shelly’s divination was over. Plus it was the last day our fasting. So we had intentions of celebrating with a very good meal. We drove from end to end of Hollywood with no luck. We couldn’t figure out a place to eat at. Finally I said The Parlor. It was about 10 minutes from where we were. Once I saw the menu, I knew I made the right choice. My prize for completing my fast was a turkey burger, French fries and a beer. My palate and stomach were very happy. The food was delicious. That ended the night on a high note.

 

Conclusion

 

“Fasting is primarily an act of willing or reduction from certain or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a period of 24 hours, or a number of days” (Wikipedia). I didn’t want to have to pull from that site but Merriam Webster Dictionary had such a basic and boring definition, and that would not be acceptable. So I did my first fast. And based on that definition, I did not complete a true fasting. But I accomplished my goal. It was a challenge. But one that I took head on. I knew what I was walking into. But I actually had no clue how it would unfold or finish. I had no other motive than testing myself. It’s much more deeper than I am making it sound. I was testing myself mentally. Testing my will power. Completely testing my spirit. And the ultimate test was making me become more disciplined. This is another moment in my life where I looked at myself in the mirror and made a decision to change. Because there are times when we need to just switch things up. Not become stagnant or predictable. And the weeks prior to the decision to fast were lining me up perfectly for the test. I was already putting restrictions on my diet. Completely cutting down one of favorite vices which are dairy products. It was pretty simple to withdraw myself from consuming. But in the process I realized how many products I ate that were dairy based. I even had my daughter confused because I was not eating cheese with her. So between not eating dairy and restricting alcohol it gave me a clear view. Once I did that for three weeks I felt the need to up the challenge. So I mentioned it to Shelly Sims. She totally was interested. And having her participate it gave me a different level of support. Because some people were curious. Some thought it was cool. And there were some that thought it was extreme. But I felt the need to do it.

 

This challenge was necessary for so many reasons. I learned a lot about myself. I became more in tune with my body. There were moments where I truly could feel the muscles that make up my body. How they move. What they are connected to. Also what they can endure. I learned the power of thought. There where moments where I was constantly thinking of food, and it made me a little irrational. And there were moments where I was completely fine and did not worry about food or hunger. Timing was one of the biggest teachers. It made me pay attention to how much time was needed to eat and actually prepare my meals. Either I cooked on the spot or I reheated food that I already cooked. But that was another benefit of my fast, I cooked everything I ate. Honestly that was not a part of the goal. But it was great knowing that all my food was fresh and healthy. And that brought another type of pride into the equation. The spiritual part of this was comforting. Each day I made sure that my morning prayer preceded my meal. This added more to humbling me. I was already achieving a new level of respect for eating and having food. But still honoring the most high, the spirit world and my ancestors gave it more meaning. There are so many things that occurred during the fast. Some things I acknowledged during the moment, but forgot to make note of. And then there were things that I could never forget. One thing that stood out was my taste buds. When I was eating the food’s tastes seemed so to have more flavor. Also during the fast I napped everyday. Which does not happen on a regular basis. I had very deep sleeps. But I am not sure if it was solely because of the fasting or did the extreme heat waves of Los Angeles that week contribute to my siestas. And I learned how an idea or people influence our beliefs. There is old saying that I have repeated a million kazaillion times, “I get angry when I don’t eat… So beware”. And I truly would act it out. I think “irritable” would be a more of an accurate word. But that’s here nor there. During the fast, I realized it was complete hogwash. Other than my second day I didn’t have any issues with not eating of being hungry. I realized by the third day that I should push myself harder. And that’s why I went 24 hours without eating. All in all, I believe this experience was a complete benefit to my life. I found out about myself and found my truth within those four days. Some people do things for attention. Some do things for the accolades. I did mines for the battle within myself. And yes people cheered me on. But I learned that life is about making choices. And I made the choice to do it and also made the choices necessary to finish. So the lesson is/was once you make a choice it is a part of you. It speaks for you. So we need to be conscious of what we do, how we are doing it and why we are doing it. This was my first fast. But it wont be my last.


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Troy C. Thomas


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