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ecophilia - fasting, fungi & fractals #4, why fasting?

Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme
Day 6 of 108 of fasting, fungi, and fractals. 

Why fasting?
Yesterday, I explained one part of my fasting practice of wearing one dress for the 108 days. The second part of my fasting practice is an actual fast.
The main reason I engage in a fast is that I am curious to figure out how to change my mindset about scarcity. Ascetic practices have been used to tame the mind for thousands of years, especially in religions. For the transition towards the Ecocene, I am convinced that we have to go through changes that feel uncomfortable. Through fasting, I want to explore how to feel comfortable, at ease, and maybe even joyful when encountering the scarce, the painful, the awkward, and unfamiliar. When I fasted before, I rather white-knuckled my way through, distracting myself whenever I didn’t feel well. This time, I want to engage and relate to these feelings consciously. What is my habituated mind telling me? How do I react to the discomfort? Is it possible to just let it pass? What stories do I come up with to maybe excuse myself for breaking the fast early? How can I embrace discomfort?
At the same time, it is easy to forget the most crucial reason for regenerative living: to allow all beings to flourish. The goal is not to suffer through it, just so we make it. So while we have to adapt a great deal of our normal to even have the chance of making it, I find the idea of forcing, white-knuckling, and regulating myself unappealing. I am here to enjoy life. That’s why I find it so fascinating to explore how we can adapt our mindset in a way that the practices of making it enjoyable.
A few more reasons convinced me that fasting is a good idea: 
  • The Ecocene requires a transition towards a probiotic planet. Jamie Lorimer uses the adjective probiotic in a broad sense to describe “human interventions that use life to manage life, working with biological and geomorphic processes to deliver forms of human, environmental, and even planetary health. Going probiotic goes well beyond a preference for live yogurt; it links a range of efforts to change the composition of biophysical systems to modulate the rhythms and intensities of their ecological interactions”. I consider fasting to be such a probiotic practice. 
  • Food consumption as a pattern of unsustainability. I find the patterns between overconsumption of food and planetary resources strikingly similar. The overindulgence of what is knowingly harmful to the body; the willingness but inability to stop the destructive behavior; how we treat the ecosystem closest to us, our body; and how we treat the ecosystem that extends our planet. I see those patterns to be fractal. They repeat themselves on various levels (more about fractals soon). I hope to get insights into these patterns through mindful fasting. 
  • Addiction and disconnection. After years of research about behavior change and addiction, I came to understand that food for many has the same functions as drugs do. Some even call food, especially sugar, a drug. In experiments with rats, the rats preferred to drink sugar water over cocaine. As Johann Hari in his book Lost Connections, Bruce Alexander in The Globalisation of Addiction, and Anne Wilson Schaef in When Society Becomes an Addict beautifully and convincingly analyze in their respective books, addiction is a coping strategy to deal with disconnection. The Ecocene is the age of reconnection, though. To reconnect, we can’t keep escaping into addictive behavior. The best way to reveal what we might be disconnected from is to stop the behavior that covers this feeling. As I have found myself struggling with this issue, I hope to shed some light on how we might move from addiction to reconnection. 
  • Autoimmune Disease. I have a history of fasting. Anything from short, intermediate fasting to a 60-day water fast. I have been fasting, again and again, to explore the possibility of healing autoimmune diseases from fasting. Research - especially from Valter Longo - has shown that people with autoimmune diseases can benefit significantly from fasting until remission. Experiments with mice and human cells in a petri dish showed, for example, showed, that even stem cells can regenerate. 
As I understand them, autoimmune diseases might result from antibiotic (life-destroying) practices vs. probiotic practices. For example, we now know that a lack of microbes in the gut can lead to autoimmune disease. Functional medicine aims to recover the gut microbe to heal or improve various autoimmune diseases. From Lupus to MS. Charles Eisenstein describes autoimmune diseases as 
 “symptoms of a deep infirmity in our civilization. They have level after level of cause, from the proximate biochemical and biophysical mechanisms to toxic environments, impoverished food, and electromagnetic pollution, to basic patterns of living, thinking, and being in response to modernity, all the way down to the sense-of-self that underlies our civilization”.
During the fast, I want to share some of my insights about this connection between fasting and autoimmunity and health in general and its relation to a probiotic planet. 
The protocol
I am not doing a water fast for 108 days. Instead, I will follow a fasting-mimicking-practice developed by the biogerontologist and cell biologist Valter Longo. 
Valter Longo (among many others) did extensive research on the benefits of fasting. In some of his trials, he noticed - for obvious reasons - that water fasting is hard for people. He then discovered that when people eat up to a maximum of about 800kcal, the beneficial processes continue (such as a decrease of activities of the growth hormone receptor and thus of the TOR-S6K and PKA genes known to accelerate aging). He refers to this as a fasting-mimicking-diet. The upside of this is that it is easier and involves the same risks as water fasts and is relatively safe, as long as you get sufficient vitamins, minerals, and proteins. I will therefore follow his protocol during the 108 days.
The reason why I feel comfortable doing this without a physician is - apart from being nearly impossible to find one who would go along with it - that I have sufficient experience with fasting, so I know I will stop immediately (even if early) as soon as my body signals me to stop. Moreover, I get my blood work checked every three months, so I know I don’t have any deficiencies, to begin with.
If you have any experience with fasting, I would love to hear about it. 
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Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme @eco_philia

Ecophilia is an in(tra)dependent, journal-like newsletter exploring ecophilia - a lived philosophy for the Ecocene. It is rooted in the intersection of ecology, spirituality, and science. I share the best things I learn, science & experienced based.

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