Intermittent fasting is an incredibly easy and sustainable nutritional strategy. It’s simple – you restrict your eating window and avoid food for the rest of the day. This self-imposed restriction actually gives you more freedom. Yet, there are some invisible rules of intermittent fasting that no one talks about nor should.
A Story About Fasting
I’m going to let Franz Kafka depict this notion with his short story The Hunger Artist. It’s about a man who is a professional faster. Talk about a dream job, not to mention the career opportunities. But I digress… He travels across Europe and puts himself on display inside a cage at the town square.
The hunger artist earns his living by fasting for 40 days. Unfortunately, the people don’t share his idea of self-restraint and think that he’s cheating in some way. They assign butchers (what…) to guard him at night, to ensure he doesn’t eat anything. What’s even more humiliating is that these men deliberately turn a blind eye to him, as if to allow him to steal some food. The hunger artist sings to prove his credulity but no one believes him.
He fasts for 40 days at once and then changes location. Even though he could go longer than that and actually wants to do it, his business partner forbids him because the spectators lose their interest.
The Starving Hunger Artist
Eventually, professional fasting goes into total decline because of the audience wanting more exciting forms of entertainment. The hunger artist then joins the circus and gets put in a cage next to ferocious lions. At this point, deliberate abstention from food resembles an art form itself, but it’s also a humiliating spectacle.
In the circus, he breaks his personal record of 40 days but no one is there to recognize it because the staff forgot to change the signpost on which his daily total was displayed. The hunger artist then wastes away, unnoticed and unappreciated.
Many days pass until the overseer discovers the man buried in the straw nearly dead. He speaks his last words, asking to be forgiven, explaining that he wanted to be admired by everyone. When the overseer tells him that everyone does admire him, the hunger artist says that they shouldn’t, confessing that he fasted only because in life he couldn’t find food that he liked. Then he died.
The Invisible Rules of Intermittent Fasting
The invisible rules of intermittent fasting are the same as the ones in Fight Club, they’re simply applied to a different context. Don’t make the mistake of breaking all of them like the hunger artist.
The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about the Fight Club.
Don’t do fasting to become some sort of a martyr. The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would agree with me on this: “Wherever on earth the religious neurosis has appeared we find it tied to three dangerous dietary demands: solitude, fasting, and sexual abstinence. (Beyond Good and Evil: §47)”
Fasting shouldn’t be some sort of a means to “repent our sins.” It’s an empowering strategy that causes advantageous metabolic adaptations and hormonal responses, which we use to augment our body. You don’t have to start living like an ascetic monk who avoids sex and other pleasures of life either.
The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about the Fight Club!
It’s not a means of punishing oneself either. We shouldn’t do intermittent fasting as a restriction but instead as something that liberates and empowers us. Simply doing it in some shape or form is enough.
Restricting your eating window seems obsessive and confining but it actually gives you more freedom than ever before. You become less dependent on food and don’t have to spend time eating just because you feel obligated to do so.
The third rule of Fight Club is: if someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over.
Doing intermittent fasting requires self-mastery, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It asserts dominance over our unconscious urges but at the same time can be taken too far.
You need to be mindful of the conditions of your body and how well you can handle fasting. The fact is that physiologically you’ll be fine. It’s just that psychologically you may not be prepared for abstaining from food for long periods of time.
Don’t jump into it right away if you can’t handle it. Start with having 14-hour fasts, then 16, then 18 and then have your first 24-hour fast. If you want to go beyond that, then be my guest, but do so at your own risk and concern.
Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight.
Don’t try to impress someone else or get attached to an expected outcome. Fasting is a way to get more in tune with your own body and empower your body. It’s you versus yourself, first and foremost.
You shouldn’t force it on others either. Everyone could use a bit of intermittent fasting but not all of them have the desire or the guts to eat only one meal a day. That’s fine, you do your own thing. Those who want to follow the same path will have to choose to do so themselves.
Stick to the Invisible Rules of Intermittent Fasting
Of course, intermittent fasting isn’t fight club. It’s not a cult or a secret movement (who knows) but an empowering nutritional strategy.
The rules of Fight Club simply serve as a metaphor and shouldn’t be taken literally. Like…of course you can talk about intermittent fasting and you should, if you want to teach it to others. To reiterate them once again.
The invisible rules of intermittent fasting:
- Don’t do intermittent fasting to get social recognition or validation. Oh look at me, I’m fasting. Do it to improve your health and give yourself more freedom.
- Don’t use intermittent fasting as punishment or to deliberately starve yourself.
- Don’t push yourself unnecessarily too hard. Be mindful of how well adapted you are to fasting and build up your ability. Doing IF in some shape or form is already just enough.
- Do intermittent fasting for yourself first and foremost. Don’t try to impress others or judge them for not having the same mindset.
To avoid breaking them, make sure to check out my book Intermittent Fasting and Feasting to become a master of the art and your own physiology. I also have a 21-day ketogenic meal plan that includes both IF and keto. The combination of the two is immense and very powerful. Check out the video about the rules on my YouTube channel.