An Unintended Fast

I remember awhile back, my friend Dan was in the midst of a fast. For one week, he was having nothing but water with cayenne and maple syrup. Midway through, he began not looking so well. “How’s it going?” I asked. “It’s going well!” he said, unconvincingly, and I wasn’t certain if the forced smile on his face was more for himself than me.


People do all kinds of fasts — juice fasts, cabbage soup fasts, lemonade fasts, protein fasts, kale fasts. They are done for weight loss, to rid the body of toxins or for spiritual reasons.

Other than skipping a meal here or there, I’m not much of a faster. (I’m more of a slow-and-steadier.) But sometimes in life, you just ain’t got a choice in the matter. Such was it last Friday when I woke up feeling not-quite myself. On the schedule for the day was “Lunch with Dad,” a leisurely affair at a local Italian restaurant that typically involved fried calamari, some pasta or fresh fish, a bottle of wine and a couple double espressos. None of which was sounding the least bit appealing. I got out a thermometer and took my temperature, which was 101. Calling my dad and taking a raincheck for lunch, I climbed into bed and slept through the appointed lunch hours instead. I woke with the chills, and my fate was sealed.

Those close to me will attest, though I may get my share of colds and various secondary ear and chest infections, I rarely am laid down by the flu. Likewise, it takes a lot to get me out of the kitchen. But that evening, it took everything I could muster to throw together a rustic fagioli Italian bean soup for my family. I had a small bowl myself, not even realizing it would be the last meal I would eat for three days.

That night, I tossed and turned and sweated in my twisted, feverish sheets, and woke in the morning in the full throes of it. While it was a chest-and-head flu and didn’t seem related to my stomach, I had no appetite whatsoever. Further, I was having none of my usual thoughts of food — no projecting about what dinners I would be making the next several evenings, what kind of marketing I needed to do, what my evolving Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus would include. The nearest I could go was deciding whether I wanted lemon or chamomile tea.

Somewhere in the ensuing 48 or so blurry hours of fever, sleep, TV, kids asking me if I needed anything, coughing and tea, tea and more tea, I ate half a bowl (4 oz., perhaps) of cereal and a few macadamia nuts. It would be Monday night before I felt that I could, possibly, eat something. I wasn’t hungry, mind you — but I realized that I was feeling a little better and was looking gaunt in the mirror. My wife and kids were making turkey chili dogs, so I sat down at the dinner table and gave it a shot. To my surprise, my dog tasted pretty good. I only ate half. But it was a start.

Over the ensuing days, my interest in food has come back gradually, along with my appetite. I’m not quite diving back into the kitchen, eager to set my creativity free, and I still have to remind myself to eat at times (I forgot to have lunch yesterday). But at least I no longer feel the despair I did last week fearing I may never want to eat, much less cook — or write about cooking — again.

My flirtation with fasting done, I think I’ll stick to the slow and steady.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 00:43:47

    Ah, yes, that’s how I spent the entire Thanksgiving holiday. Hope you’re on the mend.


  2. Lisa
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 01:37:35

    Ahhhh…when I had brain surgery, I couldn’t smell or taste for over two months…Great lesson on how the olfactory and gustatory RULE why we eat…they are our survival mechanisms!


  3. Andy
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 01:52:55

    Shit, I wish I would get it. I had hip surgery and can’t exercise for three months and I am quietly gaining weight. Freaks me out.


  4. Andy
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 01:54:35

    Haha. Compared to you siblings and their dramatic surgeries, your little flu is worrying fewer and fewer of your blog fans!!


  5. Mom
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 04:00:57

    I sympathize Sean, I HATE not wanting to eat. It seems like a death toll to me. When sleep and not being disturbed become more important than what we’re having for dinner become the norm I hope I will be soon outa’ here.


  6. glennis
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 07:23:16

    So sorry you are feeling bad. It is unsettling to feel like you don’t want to eat. The last time I felt that way was – was it only last year? – when I had my digestive system crisis – I spent 3 days in the hospital and then a month on a restrictive diet, and then surgery. But after all that, I have not had any troubles since.


  7. rachelocal
    Dec 14, 2012 @ 15:41:23

    Aw, Sean. So sorry to hear you’re sick. You know what’s even worse than not being able to eat? NOT BEING ABLE TO DRINK WINE.

    I hope you recover quickly!!!


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