What I learned not eating for 60 hours

June 12, 2013 - Get free updates of new posts here

During lunch, while I was scarfing a delicious ham sandwich (bad jew, I know),  my friend Charlie Hoehn wasn’t eating.

I asked, “What’s up?”.

“Oh, I’m on a 7 day fast, ” Charlie said.

“WTF. Fer reals,” I said.

“Yea, while I was going through some things last year this was one of the few experiences that really helped make my life better,” Charlie said.

It also gave him mental clarity like nothing else which made me curious to try.

I decided that since I’ve done a 24 hour fast before, going for 60 hours would be pushing myself to the limit.

So for 60 hours I was in. Queue weekend…

For the first hours of the fast I was gold. This will be cake I thought (pun-intended).

I did a 14 mile bike ride and then some light walking.

Bad idea.

“The wall” hit me around 4pm.

Tired, low energy, just low everything!

Towards night time I could feel my stomach rumbling but it wasn’t unbearable.

Noah Kagan Hungry

Sunday is where it got really challenging.

Stupid me decided a 4 mile hike and 3 hours of disc golf were a great idea. They weren’t.

My energy was very low and I got extremely light headed whenever I tried to stand up.

This was a rough day, I’d go in-and-out of hunger and got weak very quickly throughout the day when I normally wouldn’t.

As night began I was extremely productive with work and creative with my writing. Maybe cause it was hard for me to move so typing on my couch seemed easier than usual.

The day was near done but I couldn’t sleep…

And I couldn’t sleep and it continued. Shit.

Then my heart started acting a bit crazy. Beating extremely slowly but very strong like I’ve never felt before.

It scared me. I searched online for what a normal heart beat should be which is 60-100.

Checked my pulse which was 68 and then tried to rest.. Finally around 2:30am I passed out.

BUT woke up again at 3:42am.

My heart was going all zany again. WTF is going on. I got a bit scared.

Internally I was debating: “No way I can break my fast. I committed to myself, my fasting partner (very helpful) and others that I’d see this through to the end.”

Most of us think we are stubborn and I’m no exception.

I had to ponder if it was worth it to potential damage myself long-term vs the ego that was challenging me at that moment.

I also struggled with maybe this is just the hard part I have to get past and suck it up.

My heart kept throbbing…

So I made the executive decision to make some oatmeal.

The downside risk of dying was not worth trying to reach an arbitrary goal.

…I still feel some guilt today for not going all the way.

Noah's Famous Oatmeal

Noah’s famous oatmeal

I felt better nearly instantly.

Lost 7 Pounds in 2 Days

Lost 7 pounds (149) after not eating for 50 hours.


What can YOU learn from this?

Discipline is good. I’m super glad I had the self control to not eat and reinforced that I can do this in other parts of my life. Short term not having discipline is okay but the long-term reward from it will make you much more likely to get what you want.

Reading is shit. Experience is gold. (< Click to tweet) You can read about how to start a business or a diet or anything you’ve been avoiding doing forever. The best way I’ve found to truly internalize knowledge is to experience it yourself.

Food = Energy. I never looked at food like gas to a car. When you give your body food it’s basically converted to energy so you can do the things you want it to do. Better food = better energy.

Question your habits. I’m SO used to just eating at put-food-in-my-mouth o’clock. Know what I mean?? It’s getting dark so that must mean it’s dinner time. But are you really hungry? This experience reset my expectations to really question if I’m hungry at that moment or not. (Back in 2008 I wrote a book review on Mindless Eating. Check it out for some healthy eating tips.)

Simplify your decisions. Yesterday, I realized while snacking that it’s easier to not have to decide with food. With fasting, I knew I wouldn’t eat but snacking on jerky yesterday I had to figure out how much I wanted to eat. This made me realize why the 100 calorie Almond packs are so powerful. If you know the decision will be hard or uncertain, figure out how you can pre-commit or reduce having to decide when you don’t want to.

Would I recommend this for you to do?

HELL no, if you want to do it as a diet. It’s not a bad kickstarter to a diet but it’s definitely not sustainable.

Yes, if you want to explore how far you can go, become more aware of when you actually need to eat, and want a challenge.

Would I do this again?

Yes, I plan on fasting for only 24 hours once a month. Less for the challenge and more for the reminder that I don’t really need to eat as much and bring my  awareness of food to the front of my mind. It was amazing how much food consumed my thoughts when I didn’t have it for only 2 days…

Okay, action time. Leave a comment committing to fast for 24 hours. ANYONE who posts that they do it and what they learned about themselves I’ll personally mail you something. International people too!

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39 responses to “What I learned not eating for 60 hours

  1. Barbara Reply

    I fast for like 12 hours a day. The fact that most of that is while I’m asleep shouldn’t be held against me.

    This part is totally off-topic. I’m a complete geek, and so I naturally looked the source code of your page to see what theme this is. Saw you have a javascript named “cat” which just added several points to your awesomeness score.

  2. Isaac Reply

    I fasted for 5 days once, it’s difficult to do but it does really help you get in touch with your self in a new way. Lots of people in the Bible fasted for over 30 days.

    After a certain point it is hard to start eating food again, you have to start with soup or something easy on your stomach.

  3. Erin Harding Reply

    Good for you, Noah! You should be proud of yourself for lasting 50 hours especially since all he physical exercise probably had an affect on you. I’ve read you should not exercise beyond light yoga/walking if you are strictly fasting. Fasting is as much of a mental game as a physical one. You definitely have to psych yourself up for it. I just did a fast as well and plan on doing them once a month(48 hr) or possibly once a week(24hr). Haven’t decided.

    I did a 28 day juice fast(all freshly juiced) once and was going for 30 days. Mentally I felt amazing and even physically I did. It’s amazing what your body can do. However, on day 28 my mouth started to get all torn up…soo…I quit. No shame in that.

    Quitting for common sense and honorable reasons is not “quitting”. It just means that sometimes what you thought you wanted may not be in your best interest after all and sometimes a little “nudge” from the Universe drives home that point. :)

    At 50 hours you had already learned what you set out to learn, right? No need to go 60.

    Good luck on your next one. And check out this. It might sustain you better than tea: http://davidkirschwellness.com/store/all/48-hour-cleanse

  4. Skye Reply

    Noah you should look into intermittent fasting. Haven’t tried it but i keep hearing about it in my health & fitness podcasts. I think Ferriss touched on it as we’ll in 4 hour body.

  5. Tom Reply

    I recently lost 35lbs by taking bits and pieces of varying disciplines. Paleo, 4-hour body, intermittent fasting. Paleo in that I mostly removed processed foods, no rice, sugar, bread, pasta, 4HR body, by eating the same food everyday and a cheat on Sunday. I save my social eating for Sundays and eat whatever I want, not overeat, just whatever i want. This let’s my body know all is well and it’s not starving. I follow that with a fast to knock my insulin levels back to normal. I begin my fast sunday night around 10PM. I don’t eat again till Tuesday morning around 10AM, so 36 hrs. I will inadvertently fast for 12 hrs at other times, just by getting up late and not eating till 10AM. And I walk for 1 1/2 hours or ride my bike for an hour daily.
    Interesting video on fasting :http://goo.gl/AXpC7

  6. Kari Reply

    You may feel a little guilty about ending early, but it seems you succeeded quite nicely in one of the most important areas of all: listening to yourself. I can’t think of many people who have succeeded by ignoring their own internal dialog/ feelings/ thoughts/ etc in lieu of blindly following some other person’s secret-to-success. Growing and pushing past your boundaries is important, but so is getting in touch with what works for you, as an individual.

    Case in point: As a migraine sufferer, I would have to be in a hostage situation before I went 60 hours without food. In fact, if I get a little cocky and push it much past 5 or 6 hours, there’s likely going to be hell to pay. In my case it would probably be more beneficial to be conscious of the duration between meals, rather than eliminating food altogether. You could argue I would yield similar results (discipline, paying attention), from nearly the exact opposite process… but only if I know how to listen to what my mind and body are personally trying to tell me.

  7. Joel Reply

    Hey Noah,

    I’ve been experimenting with fasting (intermittent) for the past couple of weeks. I attempted to fast for 38 hours (9pm Sunday was last food – 11am Tuesday was next food) three weeks ago and couldn’t do it. I felt exhausted, irritable, and was starving (or so I thought) by 4pm on Monday evening. I fed myself and decided I was going to try it again the following week.

    Mission accomplished :) The second time I kept my mind busy with work and convinced myself that if I could just get to 4pm (the failure point from the previous week) that I could make it all the way until the finish. Keeping occupied until 4pm proved fairly simple and after that it was easy.

    I’ve done it again (finishing today actually) of another 38 hours and it’s even easier the second time :) It probably helps that I “fast” 16 hours per day regularly but it really is a mental game.

    I’ve learned that the habit of eating is tough to get through but once you realize that you will not die from not eating every few hours it is quite liberating to realize that you aren’t a slave to food.

    My mental function peaks around the 16 hours mark I’ve found and slowly declines as the time passes but it does really make you aware of your food intake.

    I’ve become more productive, decreased my body fat (not a skinny dude like you), and felt like I’ve taken back control of my life (I know that sounds cheesy). Having the self-control makes decision-making in other aspects of my life easier.

    I don’t know if I will push for 50 hours anytime soon but I’m going to continue on with the small (16 hour) fasts daily.

    Thanks for being open with your struggles and what some of your failures are. It is really quite refreshing to see people I view as successful embracing those failures and sharing what they learn from them.

    1. Noah Kagan Reply

      This was an awesome comment. Thanks for sharing.

      While in Russia I’m not sure when we’re going to eat so I’m experimenting w fasting during the day time.

      The control and awareness of food is powerful.

  8. Isabelle Reply

    Just saw the post – I like the challenge. I’m starting right away. Reporting back tomorrow afternoon.

  9. Isabelle Reply

    So, I did just a little more than 24 hours of fasting. Can’t remember doing anything like that before. I started fasting shortly after lunch yesterday, then started eating again this afternoon. Learnt a few things:
    – It was very tempting to read the post and think “yeah great I’ll start tomorrow”. Instead I asked myself, “why not start now, immediately?”. It’s always easier to postpone things that then end up not happening. This is something I need to get better on, so starting straight away was good for me.
    – I mentioned this to 3 people. One thought it sounded crazy but fun, another had done something similar and was supportive. The third questioned why I would do such a thing, whether it would harm me and thought it unnecessary and a bit pointless. Good lesson in how even small change can create reactions. This made me consider how I present my ideas and the people I choose to share ideas with.
    – Once decided, not eating wasn’t so bad, even though I cooked for two others and had to watch them wolf down one of my favourite dishes. I felt free. Somehow the simple decision to not eat for a while and break norms made me feel powerful.
    – Starting to eat again, I felt that I was eating much more mindfully.

    I am now considering doing this more regularly – why not? Thanks for the challenge Noah, it was a great experiment!

  10. Drew Curtis Reply

    Hey Noah, 60 hours seems like quite the stretch! With all that physical activity in the mix I’m not surprised your body went a little nuts.

    I I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about 2 months now, 16/8. I honestly feel a lot better not eating until about 1:00 PM and only eating until 9. My weight hasn’t really changed, but I have had people telling me I look like I’m putting on weight, so I’m guessing that I’m losing body fat and gaining muscle (I’m alright with that).

    I usually do some kind of cardio in the AM, bodybuilding style workouts in the afternoon, and yoga here and there.

    60 hours is crazy, if you do give it another go, let us know what happens. Thanks for sharing your results and keep up all the awesome work you do.

    1. Noah Kagan Reply

      Thanks for the comment Drew.

      Been experimenting with a schedule like that.

      Gonna do another 24 hour soon. I like the reminder to think if I’m really hungry or not.

  11. Sonia M. Reply

    I do intermittent fasting (from 6 pm to about 7-8 am), and that’s the most I’ll do. I have a really fast metabolism and am prone to low blood pressure and hypoglycemia, so the whole “real” fasting thing feels too dangerous to me.

    What’s funny is that today I had my longest intermittent fasting (6 pm last night to noon today), and I needed to eat way more today, including 2 bullet proof crio brus instead of 1. And I went for a jog. While I’d never do what you did – I’m tiny, and I managed to hurt people twice my size when my blood sugar got too low, and they thought I would be funny to block my path – the fact I do intermittent fasting, and that I’ve experienced some of the symptoms you described made your whole post come to life for me. Like you wrote “Reading is Shit. Experience is Gold”. The fact that I’ve experienced something similar gave your story more impact and weigth.

    By the way, I’m stealing “Reading is Shit. Experience is Gold” as a life motto.

  12. Nicole Reply

    Hi Noah.

    Thanks for sharing your journey! Not sure if mine counts as a fast or not. I’m doing the Isagenix 30 day, and doing a deep cleanse 1 day a week. So on that day, I just drink this cleansing drink. I’ve only done 1 so far but I learned:
    1. Eatings is so often mindless- as you said, eat dinner because it’s getting dark. We don’t actually check in with our bodies to see if we are actually hungry!
    2. Food is fuel, but it is also an experience- as a dancer and dance and Pilates instructor, I get the food as fuel part. But I was never a foodie. I truly couldn’t have cared less. I think this time away gives me more appreciation of the texture, flavor, smell, sound.
    3. We need less than we think we do- and I bet this applies to more than just food.

  13. Caleb Reply

    I’ve done a handful of 3 and 4 day fasts, enjoyable experiences for sure.

    When you look at food as “gas to fill the tank” you also need to look at activities as “using the gas that’s not there”. I usually cut all my workouts when fasting as my body needs all the energy it has just to survive.

    I see where you’re going with the “why eat if not hungry” bit but I don’t really agree, especially for someone as active as you seem to be. I eat to fuel my body. If I have a workout in a couple hours it doesn’t matter if I’m hungry, I will eat at least a light meal of protein and carbs so that I’m not hungry throughout the workout/activity and my body has energy to draw on. I’m more focused on getting all I can out of my workout. Also I never feel like eating after a workout but that hour after is the most vital time to fuel your muscles and recover faster. Not to play the devil’s advocate, but just putting in my two cents.

    Also I love your comment on pre-portioned snacks, it’s the best way to go.

  14. Andrew Spott Reply

    I fast every week from after dinner Sunday until I eat dinner on Monday. It’s only about 20-22 hours, but its a great weekly habit. I find, like you, that it helps to center my mind and remove my (very human) fixation on food.

    It also makes for a very productive Monday.

  15. Marcy Reply

    I did a 14 day fast in the south of Thailand. Only coconut water & very thin veggie broth+colonics. It was intense. I’m not sure I would do it again but after the two weeks I felt amazing and very clear minded.

  16. Benny Reply

    Good timing that I found this post. I’ve got 1.5 more hours left on my 24 hour fast. Been drinking lots of water and oolong tea to help. I started when I had my last bite last night at 7pm. This is my 4th time this month. I wanted to try it cause my body turned to shit after traveling in Asia for 4 months.

    I read Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon and the benefits of fasting. I’ve always been a guy who thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day and if I got the slightest bit hungry, I’d get headaches or be in a bad mood.

    However since I’ve done these fasts, I don’t get those headaches, my mind is clear, I don’t get sleepy from eating a ton of food and then crashing.

    But besides doing 24 hr fasts 1-2 times week been doing intermittent fasting. I go from 12-8 for eating and don’t break my fast till 12pm the next day. I feel great in the mornings and throughout the day.

    Also there is the Leangains.com that I learned about for losing fat and gaining muscle. I don’t follow that because I’m not lifting heavy weights like it recommends. Maybe in the future.

    So what I have learned is that food is so important in how we perform. I’m so used to just eating whatever so no wonder I would always need to nap in the afternoon, or get really bad headaches. I also realize I don’t need to eat for 24 hours and I’ll be fine. I even exercise in the morning and have plenty of energy.

    P.S. Last night listened to some of your interview with Pat Flynn. Awesome interview so far. My favorite on his podcast for sure so far.

  17. kareem Reply

    You mentioned Food = Energy, but I like to think about food as a drug. It kicks off physiological reactions depending on what its nutrient composition is. So think about what kind of reactions you want to induce (quick spike? steady output? etc) and then work backwards from there to figure out how to achieve it. All calories are not created equal =)

  18. Marcos Reply

    Ok Noah! Action time! I just had lunch, and I’m committing to a 24 hour fast. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  19. Marcos Reply

    Fasting complete! It was more around 25 hours, and it was a great experience.

    I expected it to be very hard but it was surprisingly easy. I kept myself busy working on something that really matters to me so for the most part I forgot about what time it was and when I should eat because I was so engaged.

    I found out that for me eating can also be an excuse to take a break or stop doing something I don’t really want to do. When I was doing the more tedious part of my work that’s when I kept thinking about grabbing something to eat.

    I feel proud of myself for deciding to do something and keeping my word. It also felt good to do something for myself that goes against the norm and not caring about other people’s opinions. I immediately got negative feedback from people who heard about it regarding my health or that they simply didn’t see the point and thought I shouldn’t do it. I smiled inside and thought to myself “shouldn’t doing something (legal!) because I decide to do it be reason enough?” I’m glad I did it.

    I encourage people to try, it really isn’t that hard when you put your mind to it and it makes you feel more in control of your life!

  20. David Bograd Reply

    Great post Noah, really inspired me to think more about what and when I eat!

    Im a bit more than 2 hours in, on the 24 hour fasting.
    Really excited to see how my body will react to this – i lift weigths just like you.
    I usally eat 4-5 times a day, big meals, so this is quite different! ;-)

    I will check back tomorrow with a result.

  21. Ben Reply

    Hi Noah.

    I have been dieting and using IF now for just over 3 months and never thought about going 24hr let alone 60 hours. I’ve always just eaten when I wanted and after doing this experiment I can now see that I eat when I’m not hungry most of the time… like yourself I will be introducing a monthly 24hr fast.

    Thanks for sharing this :-)

  22. Sam Reply

    I’m currently on the 36th hour and feeling great! I’ve read in many places that the better you eat beforehand, the easier the fast will be. Beforehand, I ate foods like brown rice, chicken, some oats, bananas, apples, beans and a couple of greens. It’s not the best, but it’s not jam doughnuts and biscuits either.

    I have much more energy available and I have much clearer thinking. I think my plan is to fast 24 hours once a week and do a 3 day fast once every 1 and a half months or something. Doing things like cold showers, meditation and fasting really helps you get out of the “automative” mode where you’re just going through each day doing your usual habits (some may be bad habits) and not really being in the present.

  23. Slane Reply

    Noah! You’re not supposed to exercise when you’re fasting or to start a fast cold turkey. You are supposed to modify your diet the week beforehand and take it relatively easy during a fast. I’ve read a lot about it, which is why I’ve never done it : )

  24. Hannah K Reply

    First of all, I loved reading that. I admire that you accepted a challenge not only to test your strength, but to discover what outcomes (if any) there would be. You experimented on yourself and learned valuable lessons from it. As a Muslim, I have fasted before during Ramadan, and I have to say that it teaches discipline, patience, and appreciation. I haven’t eaten anything today from 12 pm to now (12:03 AM)- just because I didn’t feel hungry/ had a lot to do- and I feel so alive. It’s crazy how calm, relaxed, and focused I am. I am interesting in fasting for 24 hours now, and looking forward to it. :)

  25. Elvis vallejo Reply

    Awesome article im actually doing a 50 hour fast and so far im in 34 hours and I’m hanging in there. But I do feel weird specially at night my heart start actin up but in my case it’s mind over matter lol anyways awesome article keep up the great writing thanks for your useful info!!