This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
The description of my fast of seven days, which appeared in "PHYSICAL CULTURE" some time ago, will probably be of interest to my readers.
During the last fifteen years I have frequently fasted as a cure for threatened illnesses that attack even the most careful in this age of civilized or rather uncivilized dietary.
I have been seriously threatened with pneumonia and numerous other ills of less importance which have quickly succumbed to this effective means of ridding the system of impurities. Though there are now some valuable works on this subject, when I first adopted these theories, they were based entirely on my own conclusion and instinct and the well-known fact that all animals fasted when ill.
Until this last experiment I never fasted over four days, and even then I usually ate an apple or a bite or two or something light each day, thus at no time previous to this last experiment did I fast absolutely.
I have frequently made comments on the value of fasting in "PHYSICAL CULTURE." and determined to test the effects of an absolute fast of one week on strength and weight. I did not take a particle of nourishment in any form, though drank freely of pure water.
After Seven-day Fast. Showing How The Face Wastes During A Fast.
The first day of the fast, I lost five pounds and the next day two pounds and the loss gradually decreased each day, and on the seventh day was but little over one pound. Altogether in the seven days, my total loss of weight was fifteen pounds.
My loss of weight was far greater than is usual when one is fasting. This was caused by the great amount of exercise that I took daily. In fact I lost about as much weight in this one week as one would ordinarily lose in two weeks if no exercise was taken.
Each day I walked about ten miles, and surprising as it may seem, I felt weaker the second day of the fast than at any time thereafter.
Before and After Seven Days Fast.
I always took my walk in the morning immediately on rising and usually felt weak at the start This was however entirely morbid, for after traveling one or two miles, it would entirely disappear and I could walk with a strong steady tread, and at the conclusion always felt equal to ten or twenty miles more.
Frequently when rising from a seat after a short rest 1 would feel quite dizzy for a few moments, but this would quickly pass away.
The first four days were the most uncomfortable. I did not seem especially hungry, but I was languid, except for a while after exercise at which times I always felt strong and energetic.
I attended to my daily duties during the entire fast with the same regularity as usual. My brain seemed especially clear, and mental work actually required less effort than when eating regularly.
At times difficulty was experienced in inducing sleep. The gnawing sensation in my stomach would not cease, though a plentiful supply of cool pure water seemed of great advantage, and was of valuable assistance in wooing slumber.
The sixth and seventh days of the fast were really by far the most comfortable. I felt that it would require but little effort to continue on for three or four weeks, but the object of the fast was accomplished and I was not at all anxious to continue it further.
Putting up 100-lb. dumb-bell high over head with one arm after seven-day fast.
The most important feature in lessening the effects of fasting is to keep the mind employed so one will not be continually referring to the desire for food.
The only time there was the slightest danger of my giving way to my appetite was on the fourth day. At this particular time I mention, there was nothing of importance for me to do and after conversing a short time with some friends, I went out with the distinct intention of patronizing the nearest restaurant.
After walking a short distance and giving the matter serious consideration, I determined not to break the fast and instead of the restaurant, I visited a gymnasium and spent thirty minutes in vigorous exercise, and in consequence felt much better, and all thoughts of giving up the fast were abandoned.
The comparison photographs show how the body wasted away during the fast. The face thinned especially and the eyes sunk considerably.
Raising 200-lb. man with strength of arms only, after seven-day fast.
But the astounding fact in connection with the fast was the strength possessed on the seventh day. The average person imagines that he becomes weak even after missing a meal, and a fast of one day, is supposed to take away all strength. There was never greater error.
On the fourth day of the fast after testing my strength, I concluded to use a fifty pound dumb bell in illustrating my strength on the seventh day of the fast.
Well, the seventh day came at last, though I must confess the week seemed rather long. I visited the gymnasium after my walk with the intention of leaving instructions that the fifty-pound dumb bell be sent to the photographer's gallery. On arriving there, I felt so strong that I concluded to test my strength. I thought that may be I might be able to raise without difficulty a heavier bell than fifty pounds.
I raised the fifty-pound bell over my head a number of times without the slightest difficulty. It did not seem heavier than when at my usual weight. I tried the sixty-pound bell, then the seventy and eighty-five with similar results, and immediately left instructions to send the one-hundred-pound bell over to the gallery as I felt that my strength was equal to raising it.
Muscles: Normal Condition. and After Seven-day fast.
I know full well that my readers will beamazed at these feats of strength performed after this long fast, and no one could be more amazed than I, for as stated before I was under the impression that to raise a fifty-pound bell over head with one hand after a fast of this character, would really be something worth boasting about, and I was astounded at my strength under the circumstances.
The hundred-pound dumb bell was sent to the gallery, and Sarony's employees who saw and photographed the feats will vouch for the statements made and the illustrations shown. I had to raise the hundred-pound dumb bell twice before a proper negative could be made of the feat.
The second feat of raising this 200-lb. man as shown in the photographs was not easy, as any one will discover on trial, and it would be well to remember that I never at any time in my athletic career believed in using heavy weights, and had not attempted to raise a hundred-pound dumb bell off the floor for at least two years previous to the performance of these feats.
While in active practice in general athletic work a number of years ago, I could raise a hundred-pound bell eleven times at arms length over head with one arm, but at this time I occasionally handled these heavy weights. As I have taken no heavy exercise for a number of years, more than a slight effort would be required to raise this heavy dumb bell, even when my weight was at its usual standard.
A lesson is taught with unquestionable clearness by this experiment. The American people are actually eating themselves into their graves. Ninety-nine out of every hundred take from five to fifty years from the length of their lives by stuffing their stomachs. They eat, not to nourish the body, but merely for the pleasure of gourmandizing. The result is that from two to five times as much food passes through the alimentary canal than is necessary to maintain weight and strength, and mind and body are actually weakened by the strenuous efforts made by the system in endeavoring to rid itself of this excessive amount of food.
Any one can be benefited by a fast such as I describe here. Of course I would not advise one who has been eating three meals each day all during life to immediately attempt total abstinence from food for seven days, though such a fast under such conditions would be productive only of benefit provided it could be borne without too much of a mental strain and provided great care is used not to over-eat when normal dietary habits are resumed. In fact the greatest difficulty in connection with a fast of any duration is the tendency to over-eat after the fast. This error will often be productive of so much injury that all the beneficial results of a fast are practically nil.
After the fast I have described here I made the mistake myself of eating too heartily on two or three occasions and I am satisfied that much harm resulted thereby. On the second day after the fast I ate three hearty meals, when one hearty meal would have been sufficient. This was, as before mentioned, the first fast of this duration that I had ever gone through, and I was not prepared to meet conditions with which I was not familiar.
Unquestionably it would be better in experimenting with fasting to start by fasting one meal or say one day at a time. The result of this will give you confidence in its benefits, then you can gradually advance into a full-fledged convert. The principal result of value in such a conversion will be from that day forward absolute independence of all advisers, medical or otherwise, upon an ailment of any kind that attacks you. Fasting will be at once the principal part of your self-treatment, and forever thereafter your stomach will be free from the drug habit, and if you expect to retain the slightest respect for yourself you must first learn to respect your stomach.