July 2, 2017

Fasting for Fun, Highs & Health.

Editor’s note: Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this web site is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional before trying out new home therapies or changing your diet.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that.

My skin is smooth, my belly flat, and every sensation from touch to sights and sounds is heightened.

If there is an opposite to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this is it. At four in the morning, I wanted to go outside and sing with the robins. I settled for full-bodied waves of pleasure, feeling each breath caress my lungs, and letting the sheets hold me close.

I have just completed 24 days of consuming no more than 500 calories a day.

Today, 21 pounds lighter than when I started, I can eat more if I wish—but I’m free of the psychological drive to overeat. The idea that food will smooth out bumps in the the road seems as ludicrous as it used to seem true.

Fruit. I want fruit. Blueberries, cherries, and raspberries are waiting in the fridge—but there is no hurry. I can taste them from bed, exploding on my tongue and making me wiggle with excess energy and delight.

Looking around by morning light, I love the wall, the comforter, the breeze coming in the window, and the lazy approach Sunday morning offers.

I wasn’t fat when I began this diet, but I am thin now. Walking is easy—less air resistance, and I can watch my leg muscles flex. On a hike yesterday, I was astonished to discover that lean is a feeling—an openness to the ocean, the egrets, big yachts in the marina, and the smell of lobster coming from a small square shack where people were lathering tails in butter.

My friend, an emergency room doctor, swears by fasting, which he does a couple of days a week. But he is still thinking more than he is feeling, and he is curtailing his eating because he read about it in a book, not because of his own feedback from feelings. “It is good for me,” he says. (And that is very different than, “It feels good.”)

Perhaps sensations should be our guide in this life—and not just positive ones. Maybe we came here to feel the widest range of sensations possible; from heartbreak to elation, from the tender smoothness of a soufflé to the burn of a full bodied hot sauce, from the titillation of foreplay to the crescendo of orgasm.

So often—like when we were kids in school, or adults on an airplane, or any age with targets and agendas for work or exercise—we ignore our bodies. We forget—or even intentionally shut down—our nervous system feedback loops that would provide us vital data about our well-being.

Feelings, though often accurate, aren’t convenient in our deadline-and-goal-oriented, driven lives. But without them, we can find ourselves stressed, overworked, or under-pleasured.

The reason, if there is one, for this low-caloric odyssey is that upon returning home from a month and a half at a friends lake house, I couldn’t find my body. It appears that it refused to leave the morning dips, the candelabra-lit dinners on the vast front porch, watching eagles cut lazy circles in the sky, and the splashing of fish.

When I got home, I was all head. I missed the wisdom of my body and began over-exercising, eating, under-sleeping, and feeling homeless at home. Thankfully, the 500-calorie diet has me in my body again—and feeling, perhaps more than ever. My thoughts have shrunk into so much background chatter and then sweet silence.


The path to wisdom winds its way through our feet, legs, torso, up into our hearts, down and back up our arms, and finally—when we feel ourselves fully—to our heads and minds.

Our bodies ground us in the wisdom of being here now. Our heads stretch us like taffy into imaginary worlds, where we can sample the fantasy that minds thrive on.

Without attention focused on our bodies, our minds live in wonderland, where everything seems either worse or better than it really is.

Five hundred calories for nearly a month is an intense invitation back to the body. You don’t need anything that extreme.

Any contact with Mother Nature, be it walking through the forest, standing on the beach arms spread welcoming in the waves, watching the sunset, or listening to the frogs chirp reminds us that we are nature. Any time spent in nature reminds us that our bodies are part of nature, flowing with the seasons, dancing to the weather, and totally natural.

Exercise, if not over or underdonecan also bring us back to our bodies. The essence of balanced exercise is to listen carefully to your body. Bodies like extremes, and minds like consistency. A friend of mine runs fairly slowly and always at the same pace. He trances out while running and doesn’t feel a thing. Covering the same distance by alternately jogging, sprinting, and walking makes him a changed man. His body lights up welcoming the variation and revealing his spry unpredictable self.

Rest too invites our bodies from their mind driven stupors. I’m experimenting with the idea that all doing is just spots of paint on a canvass of rest. Like so many others, I used to judge my value by what I got done. Now I do so by the quality of my rest.

Watching a lion in the wild, their lives are spent lounging, with occasional hunts or chases. The same is so for most animals. We have strayed from that natural intelligence and become so busy that we have forgotten ourselves.

Adopt rest as a motif from which activities arise, rather than immersing yourself in work until you are too tired to make a meringue or love. Punctuate your rest motif with activities your mind imagines need to be done and your body enjoys.

Any attention focused on our bodies lights us up, reminds us to be present, makes for better sex, and satisfies us from the inside out. Heck, often when we are doing nothing, we are also taking great care of ourselves, inspiring our natural enthusiasm and curiosity, and enhancing our wisdom.

I’ve gotta go eat some fruit. Thanks for reading this blog—and please, in the comments section, share your own “secrets” for returning attention to your body and living a grounded, rewarding life.


Author: Jerry Stocking
Images: Flickr/Arallyn!Flickr/Chiara Cremaschi
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Emily Bartran
Social editor: Callie Rushton

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Kirsten Kathleen Jul 20, 2017 4:41am

hello jerry. i wanted to share my recent reaction to your posting on elephant journal, which is a place that i know many folks look to for advice and inspiration on all areas of life. although this was not your intention, in my mind (unfortunately, a mind that knows fasting, deprivation, lightness of the body, etc. inside and out) i just read a post encourages food deprivation, not embodiment. i can respect that you had an empowering month of returning to your body through weight loss on a low calorie diet, and i am happy for you. it is certainly a lovely thing to let go of our emotional grasp on food for the time being and to exist in a lighter body that shows the sinews of our muscles. but at the same time, i know the journey of fasting, fruitarian diets, vegan diets, raw diets, bulletproof diets, ketogenic diets, for the sake of feeling "cleaner" and "lighter" and more "pure"all too well. it's not for lack of experience and personal insight that i write this post. i take issue with those who advocate taking extreme measures like drastic calorie restriction to the general public, perhaps unaware of the impact that such messages have on others (as a woman, of course, i am thinking in particular of how another young woman might be reading this post...she too may be appreciating the seductive notion of losing 21 pounds in a month!). i work in the mental health care field, specifically with addiction, and i have seen the damage that eating disorders inflict on all areas of a person's life. eating disorders are incredibly prevalent and are no small matter. they have the highest mortality rates of all mental illness. sadly, it is most often young women who are most impacted by messages such as yours (even if well intentioned), since they are the ones who are flooded daily with the message that they should be smaller, fitter, take up less space, be prettier, cleaner, more pure, more clean. as a culture we have become fixated on the physical body, giving incredible power to the diet/fitness industries. your post, in my opinion, is suggesting that weight loss through fasting is one beneficial and powerful entry (or re-entry) into one's own body. by not eating, i hear you suggest, one can feel more embodied and alive. i want to call bullshit on this. no one, i repeat no one (of course, serious medical concerns aside), should be told that being smaller and lighter is a preferable state of being. it breaks my heart to hear anyone of any age perpetuating this misguided and destructive belief system. unfortunately, for the moment at least, we live in a generally eating-disordered society, or at the very least, a diet culture that gives food morality. and so, it is because of this, that i find the topic of fasting a tricky one. having lived in india and other cultures that utilize fasting as an integral part of spiritual practice, i recognize that fasting has extensive benefits when one is working towards certain goals. and, as many current medical studies show, fasting has the potential to manage and even reverse certain medical conditions (such as epilepsy and cancer). of course, our ancestors (as the paleo community loves to point out) lived periods of their lives in states of ketosis (aka fasted). that's all fine and good. so, all of this said, i question how the same practices translate here in our particular social, historical and political context. i live in boulder, and i hear various diets, cleanses, detoxes, and fasts shrouded in "spiritual" and very enticing language all the time, and i am triggered. as a 20-something woman who has been on a long and exhausting journey regarding my own relationship to food and exercise, it is disappointing to me to read an older male suggest to readers of elephant journal that fasting at a rate of 500 calories or less per day for a month is what lands one in their body. i would argue that nourishing the body is what makes us embodied, present, engaged and interesting human beings. deprivation has certainly never landed me in my body, but honoring her rhythms, her fluctuations, her hunger and her pleasure has.

Sally Negus Jul 2, 2017 8:50pm

Awsome Jerry. I've done some long water fasts, and also mainly watermelon juice kind of fasting..and have struggled to get back into it, drop 10 lbs and get more limber and clean..this article was a great motivation. Can't wait to check out your "Getting the joke" and website. Thank you

Pat Brown Jul 2, 2017 7:27pm

Your words are very visual and I loved sharing your feelings of peace....

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Jerry Stocking is a modern day Thoreau who left the fast paced world as a stock broker and moved to the woods. He now spends his time helping others, and himself, express their zest for life.

He lives his life with heart wide open on a 33 acre blueberry farm with two ponds and a peaceful pace. Often writing at 3 a.m., there are no social conventions here, just the pursuit of possibilities and unconditional love.

To find out more, take a peek at this “Getting the Joke.”, or read Jerry’s free e-book download his free e-book., visit his website
for some inspiration…