Half Way There

Monday marked the mid-way point of my 40 day Lenten fast. 20 days. Funny enough, it seems to have been quite long, and also feels like I just started. I thought today I would share some of the things I’ve learned so far in the process. If you’re just jumping in, you can read all about what’s going on here: http://www.torontobeerblog.com/lent-2014/hunger-games-2014/ and read the posts so far here: http://www.torontobeerblog.com/lent-2014/.

Boosting The Signal

People are interested. This is a late-breaking fact, but here it is: I’ve had some good coverage so far. Huffington Post published an article I wrote about the fast, which lead to a few radio interviews. Cool. Then this Sunday, my friend Jordan St. John covered my story in his column in The Toronto Sun. Due to the reach of The Sun/QMI, things kind of blew up at that point. The story has now been picked-up by publications across the world, with a column in the religion section of Time totally tipping the scale. Seth Meyers referenced me in his opening monologue Monday night. I have no idea, at this moment, how much traction it will have, given that the news cycle is now like minutes, but there has been a huge upswing in traffic at my blog, and messages are coming in via facebook, twitter, email and comments here at a surprising rate. As a big part of this journey was sharing my fast with as many people as I could, this is very good indeed.

Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

You Smell

I have been fascinated by this fact: you really do smell like what you eat. Anybody who has spent time on public transit in Toronto is perfectly aware of this. “Ethnic smell” is often an element of of xenophobic (or downright racists) remarks, and I don’t support that. But I’ve been amazed to find that everybody smells like their food. So yes, people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc of smell slightly of curry, but have you noticed that sometimes Eastern Europeans smell a bit like kielbasa? Or that Chinese people smell a little like garlic and ginger? A lot of my multi-generation Canadian friends smell like pork and beef. I started to notice this, when one morning, probably around 5 days into the fast, I went to kiss Erika. I thought “weird, Erika’s got a bit of onion/garlic on her breath.” I think her and the kids had eaten cereal for breakfast. Except then when I went to kiss Ben goodbye at school, I noticed he smelled like garlic and onions too. So when I got home, I hugged Erika from behind and covertly sniffed the back of her neck. Onions and garlic. I smelled Grace. Onions and garlic. The penny dropped. I cook with a lot of onions and garlic. The smell wasn’t actually particularly powerful (not actually like having onion breath). It was just the smell of their skin. It made me realize that when I’m standing next to a guy on the bus thinking “I smell curry” he’s probably thinking “I smell onions”. Although right now he’s actually probably thinking “I smell alcohol”. By removing those foods from my diet, I suddenly noticed that I didn’t smell like my family anymore. Now I’m smelling everybody. And guess what? You all smell. It’s amazing, and sort of cool to think of these groups of people, united by these subtle aromas. It made me very aware that we don’t rely on our noses as much as we should. When we do, it’s because they’re being assaulted by chemical fragrance (I’m looking at you, Axe users). Next time you’re in a public space, give a thoughtful sniff. See what foods you can smell.

I talk too much

If you know me well, hang in there, there’s more to this section than the headline. You already know I talk too much, I know. But I don’t process while I’m talking. When I talk, even about this fast, I’m sharing stories and insights I’ve already had. I don’t discover things through most of these conversations. However, when I’m writing about fasting, I find myself discovering all sorts of things. Like that I learn more about the process in writing than I do in discussion.  So I’m painfully aware that I’m not writing about this enough. I will be trying to write more, both to quell requests for more posts, and also to help me thoroughly explore the experience.

I Lack Self-control

I have not broken fast yet. I’ve licked a few drops of sauces etc, when cooking, because sometimes you just have to check. But I don’t really think that’s a break. With the support (and pressure) of everybody watching, my loving family and the grace of God, I’ve not only survived so far, but thrived. I played all three of my last hockey games of the season (guzzling Gatorade during the last one to keep my energy up). I’ve had moments of hunger-related moodiness, but have been amazed at how rational I’ve been able to be, even when I’m feeling angry. But, in a way, my “success” so far has seriously juxtaposed all the other areas in my life where I don’t have good self control. In the interest of pretty ugly openess, let me share some of them with you:

Food. Yeah, I’m not eating, but in doing that, I’ve become aware how often I bow to my “lust” for food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for enjoying food. The next post I write is going to explore this  a lot more. But there are so many times when I have four tacos, when three is enough. Two veggie burgers when one would sustain me and be enjoyable. An entire bag of President’s Choice “Loads of…” chips when a handful is plenty. I want this lesson to stay with me when I’m done this fast.

Money. We are very blessed. We are not wealthy by GTA standards, but we are definitely extraordinarily comfortable globally. That being said, I often impulse-buy things. Sometimes the things are useful and good. Sometimes they’re not. But they are never really things we “need”. Sometimes, when we’re scrambling for the last few dollars to cover the car payment, I think back over the past two weeks and can identify multiple purchases that were totally unnecessary, and are now causing me financial discomfort. And that’s not okay. It even relates to the above, because often it’s a 3am falafel or burrito on the way home from a bar, when there are 3 bags of PC chips at home. I need to apply the self-control I’m using now over my eating, to my desire to spend money.

Looking. I adore my wife. She is amazing. I love her awesome personality; she is one of the most caring people I know; she is amazingly strong; and she is an incredible mother. She is also pretty hot. While her physical attributes are entirely secondary to the parts I love most about her, there’s no avoiding the fact that I find her highly attractive. I like seeing her with no clothes on. With me? I am also a male with good vision who spends time in public (bad) and time in bars (worse). There are a lot of attractive women out there, and even during the winter, the advent of yoga pants has made that fact visually easy to identify. I heard a great analogy years ago, that actually works really well in all this talk of food and no food, and it was this: If you spend the whole day eating candy, you won’t be hungry when you get home for dinner. I won’t quote my infamous mayor here, but I do like that analogy. I don’t think it’s bad when I glance out the window while driving around and think “that’s a good looking woman”. I do think it’s bad when I look back. Some days I’m great on this front, other days, not so much. Maybe it’s just that with more warm weather, the 3/4 length North Face down-fills are being left at home, but I’m aware that I’m catching myself more often looking, and needing to remind myself that appreciating a beautiful person is fine. Indulging myself in looking at a beautiful person is not.

Thanks so much for all the kind support you’ve all given me through this. I am so blessed to know that so many people are interested in this, and open to discuss it. You have all been an amazing blessing.


  1. Posted March 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Great to see a fellow “faster” around these parts! I love the reflective nature of this post… tons of food (sorry) for thought. Cheers and I look forward to your next post! 🙂

  2. Posted April 27, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    how many pounds you’ve lost after this diet? ))

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