I fasted for 36 hours and this is what I learned

Over the past twelve months, I have done 16 to 18 hours of fasting regularly. Today, I completed 36 hours of fasting. At first, the thought of doing something like that felt terribly challenging and weird. It was challenging because I couldn't fathom going one day without food; I felt my body couldn't take it, and I will lose the will and eat more. It felt weird because from where I come from, the culture and ethnicity, we are a bunch of food-loving people, almost to the point where food sometimes become an obsession, however, mostly in a good way. Food is something that binds our community and culture. 

I knew that 36 hours wouldn't be that difficult because I know too many people who have fasted for over 36 hours, and some regularly do 36-hour fasting (once a week, nobody will recommend more than that, and one shouldn't). However, the uncertainty of whether I will be able to succeed was deeper. It also taught me something about myself - that until and unless one tries something, you will never know whether you will succeed or not.

Nevertheless, I did it, and I might add that I have passed with flying colours. 

The Cortado I made for myself.
Will I make a good Barista?

Why I did it?

It came off as part of a challenge. Where I stay right now, the place has gone into a 14-day lockdown. To keep ourselves busy, one of my trainers came up with the 14-day challenge. The challenge is simple (and as I write, we are currently on Day 2 of the challenge; if you want to start now, you can join us from wherever you are). The challenge is simple:

1. Sleep by 10p.m. 

2. Wake up before or after sunrise.

3. Don't eat anything post-dinner and before 9:30a.m.

4. Six days out of a week, do a minimum of 30 minutes of physical exercise.

5. One day of fasting.

I have done most of the things earlier, and thus, I readily accepted. The only thing I have never done was one day of fasting. 

Ideally, I thought it would be 24-hour fasting. But the 24 hours cut-off time clashed with my bedtime, and if I don't eat at least 2-3 hours before hitting the bed, I tend to have an uncomfortable sleep. Sleep is the most important part of my life. Thus, I decided that I would wake up the next day, and breakfast would be my first meal. Also, one point of the challenge was not eating before 9:30a.m. So, I decided to extend and make it to 36 hours. 

On Sunday, around 10p.m., I finished my dinner, and on Tuesday, 10a.m., I had my next meal. Yes, it involved a lot of planning.

My average fasting hours over the last few days

How did I manage?

The key for me was to keep myself hydrated. I consume a minimum of 3-litre of water daily. Most importantly, I drink when I am thirsty and have made it a point to not go eccentric and time my water intake. Anything that we do should be natural and not mechanical. At first, when I started drinking 3 litres daily, I was conscious of how much water I was drinking, but slowly, it became a natural process, just like brushing my teeth. During the 36-hour fast, I hydrated myself with plenty of water, especially when I felt hungry. 

I also drank three cups of black coffee and two cups of cortado (homemade) with toned milk. I don't take sugar. 

Kamesh, my trainer, suggested that in case I felt hungry, I should drink fresh juices. Just to be on the safer side, I asked my friend to get me a watermelon. It now rests peacefully in the storage, but I promise that I will consume it soon. Another friend of mine suggested that I have salt in my water if I felt dizzy or weak. By salt, he meant one which contained sodium, potassium and magnesium, like electrolyte powder.

I read somewhere that meditation and rest help fasting. Resting doesn't mean going to sleep but more like keeping your mind at rest, being still and at peace. Also, resting can mean a 20-minute power nap. I took a 20-minute power nap, went for a 20-minute walk, did 28-minute of yoga (stretching mostly) and around 15 minutes of meditation. While I did all these, my mind was occupied with these activities, which weren't strenuous and supported my wellness. I recommend incorporating meditation, stretching (any kind, pilates or yoga or simple stretches like a baby), power naps and being still into one's life. These are small tools of happiness and living a stress-free life. I practice them regularly and have been doing so for over a year now. You will be amazed at the kind of light-heartedness these activities bring to your life.

Doing all these and learning from the elders in our house who fasted due to religious ceremonies, I managed the fasting quite well. I must say it was an eye-opener.


To be honest, it felt crazy in the beginning. Like I have mentioned before, I have fasted for 16 hours a day, almost for months altogether. I still do it regularly. But fasting for 36 hours or even 24 hours is something that most of my family members, kin, friends, etc. will find it ridiculous and won’t be very supportive. When I told my mother about my fasting, she told me that I shouldn't sleep on an empty stomach, and that is the way.  However, that wasn’t the point of doing it. I have never done anything to please or entertain others. Well, sometimes I may do certain things, but mostly I do what I feel like. The 36-hour fasting was more like a mental battle than a physical one. It has been already established that we eat more than our body needs. We eat as if we are going to run out of food, and as a result, we hurt our system by over-feeding it. 

The fasting for 36 hours was more to understand me and my body. The first 16 hours was difficult. It actually surprised me that I was struggling when it was something I regularly did. I read somewhere that after 20-22 hours, our body gets used to the situation. I think it is more to do with our minds. What happened was as I was nearing the 18-hour mark, a part of my mind kept telling me that I won't be able to succeed and I will need fruits juices. However, another part of my mind kept on pushing me and encouraging me. It was funny - observing two parts of my mind arguing, but that is how it is.

The power nap helped calm my thoughts. As I woke up rested, I felt more at peace. The walk, meditation and stretching helped further. Soon, I reached almost a nirvana-like state (stillness). As I completed 24 hours and headed to sleep, my body wasn't crying or cursing me for denying it any food or nutrients. It was quiet, acknowledging the challenge. 

This morning when I woke up, I felt lighter, awake and aware. I don't know how and why. It is something that the scientists will probably be able to answer, and I look forward to hearing from others about their opinions and views.

When I finally broke the fast, I didn't rush to eat. I paused, chewed well, took time and didn't rush with the food. I also didn't eat a lot. I took my regular portion of food. I decided to eat simple stuff - bread and a bit of potato curry. My body doesn't feel any different than before like I have lost so much weight that I have become a Robinson Crusoe. Rather it feels normal and as if I never fasted. 

P.S. Note

I do not recommend that you should fast for 36 hours. If you do plan to do it, please consult with your trainer or dietician or doctor. Fasting is not recommended for everyone. Besides, I am not a doctor or trained professional to suggest it. This is more about my experience. If you plan to fast for longer hours, please do a 14 or 15 or 16-hour fasting before trying 36 hours or more. Again, I am not a trained professional, and you should consult with your doctor before experiencing it.

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