Doing design is how I provide food, water, shelter, clothing, and other provisions to my family. No plans to stop. But. That means a good portion of my life will be spent in a rather sedentary state. Agree? I love to workout, hike, surf, fly fish, ski and I coach 3 youth baseball teams. I move allot for a designer I think. But the fact is we have to be still in order to execute our designs. And for long periods of time. So even if you are working at a stand up desk, you are not using much energy during your design time. Simple as that. This means your just more susceptible to weight gain than you would be if you were say a sherpa, a forest ranger, a ultra marathoner, or a shepherd.
I began practicing the habit of fasting about 2 years ago. Specifically Intermittent Fasting. I did this purely as an experiment in combatting those sedentary parts of my week when I am best at fat accumulation. Body by Design you know. I considered a treadmill at my standup desk, but being a bit of a minimalist I could just not stomach this complexity and use of extra power all day. Not to mention, I live for extended periods of time with my family from our trailer and so the treadmill is just out. Intermittent Fasting is simply the practice of consciously cycling periods in which you eat with periods that you don't eat. The fasting periods cause hormonal responses in your body that provide health benefits. Of course the rise in popularity to IF is burning fat and weight management. Certainly a good reason to look into it. But not really why I am telling you about this today. I do not want to try and give you all the science behind fasting. I am a designer for god sakes. You need to go read the science from an expert. I am just a fan of the results I have experienced. I think for designers and creative thinkers of any type (people who rely on their ability to produce ideas to make a living) this will help you do better work. Have better ideas. Good stuff. Read more.
Of course I had my doubts, just like you will. And when I tell anyone that I practice fasting they usually give me a strange look. And then I hear things like:
• Eating three meals a day is normal. Required.
• Are you not an American?
• Eating 6 meals a day is even better than 3 b/c it will keep your metabolism "fired-up."
• That you would not have the energy to work.
• Breakfast is the most important part of the day.
• You could never workout on an empty stomach.
• You will loose muscle.
• You would feel hungry all the time and it would be a distraction.
• I feel grumpy if I do not eat.
• You will starve!
I certainly understand why we believe all the above. But in my new reality, they all have turned out to be myths.
Top 5 Reasons I Creative Thinkers Should practice Fasting…..Daily.
5. Burn Fat & Weight Management
The reason of course IF is popular now is that it burns fat effectively and rapidly. When there is no food in the body (when you are in a fasted state) the body will go to its fat stores to get energy. That's energy around your waist son! Use it. Living in this modern world with so much abundance and connivence food, these fat stores are really easy to build up. Fasting takes us back a bit to a more primal way of living. Easting when we find food. And therefore a natural way to manage your weight. You will simply eat less calories over time. Also, if you have a social occasion where you want to outright FEAST, IF helps you lessen the effects of that feast the next day. So feast guilt free. If you add some weight training to your fasting practice, you will also add some lean muscle. Now I know as a whole creatives types tend to not put a lot of importance on physique and athleticism. I think that is a mistake. Your not a dick, just cause you are fit. If we are blessed with health, we all have a more athletic self in us. And hey you can still have a great hipster mustache or huge beard if you want. But I'll chose a Shoalin Warrior as being more connected to his creative spirit any day than dudes who just dress "creatively." Nothing against beards, I have one, but they are just decor kid. We need more.
4. Convenience & Simplicity
Real mastery takes real time. We all want to master design. So we need all the time we can gather. During a fast you are not taking time away from design by: Going out to buy food, taking time to eat or even cook a meal, or even worse going out with co-workers for a 2 hour social lunch. Life is just that much simpler. Not to mention, if you are practicing IF, you are not going to have to be as concerned with only eating certain foods. I still like too, but t is not as crucial. So there is just less thinking and planning for meals and shopping.
3. Healing & Recuperation
Design is long, tough, grueling mental work. Even stressful at times. I have read that 65% or more of the bodies energy is directed toward digestion after a meal. So if we are eating all day long, we are putting a ton of energy into just digestion. During fasting, we give our system a rest from digestion and free up this energy to work on healing and recuperation. The repair of cells, organs, tissues, and eliminating toxins to be more specific. Why have our bodies spending so much energy on digesting food we don't need when it could be working to improve our health. The body will take the time to heal and do some housecleaning when we give it a chance. Many believe that living a lifestyle of eating less, means you live longer. More Design time! It is no wonder that we read about fasting in the major religions of the world.
2. Increased Energy Levels and Lower stress.
Ok I am really not going to try and explain the science here. Again, not my job. But I just want to ask. Could you stand to be more energetic during your design time? Of course you could. From what I have experiences, fasting leads to a feeling of physical lightness and increased energy. Being tired when you are trying to do good design is not easy. As I get better at fasting I find myself having more and more energy during the day. Much more. And I sleep better too. So more energy the next day. I just feel spritely man.
1. Greater Mental Clarity and Improved Cognative Functioning.
What are designers if not thinkers, problem solvers. Again, no science from me. I'm talking about the results of my practice. And I am even open to the idea that this may be completely coincidence, but I don't think so. Wow. Over the last 6 weeks, as I really started to make fasting a habit, I am producing design solutions that I just don't feel I would have produced before. My ideas are better, sharper, crisper, more intelligent, more UNEXPECTED. I'm just feeling it. I am surprising myself with the way I am jumping design hurdles. My daily attitude is BRING IT with regard to client work. I keep catching myself having ideas for solving problems that I know the past I have never come up with so easily, or as cleverly. I'm not saying I am a better designer than you, I'm saying I am a better designer than I was 2 years ago. I also just feel overall more CLEAR and focused. I feel GREAT, not just physically but mentally and this has by far been the most surprising thing about this experiment. And the main reason I plan to keep the habit. Mental clarity gives you the ability to more clearly see and realize what is really important. Therefore you can focus more on what matters and get those projects done. I would even say that I am able to reach design solutions more quickly because I am seeing what is crucial in the design challenge in front of me and am able to focus my mind toward solving the make or break issue. I feel calmer and happier. Never bad for design. I'm just riding better waves of design flow these days because I can more clearly see the good waves coming in. Sorry, I had to throw some surfing imagery in here ;)
How to do it.
Again, go to the experts. But it is really easy. There are multiple styles out there. The trendy diet right now is the 5 days off, and 2 days on fasting routine. This is great for the general population and would certainly help with our epidemic levels of the diseases of excess. But for creative thinkers I recommend a daily routine. I like the daily practice because design is a daily practice. I want the increased energy and mental clarity as much as possible. I want that sharpness as often as I can have it. I also like the time savings during workdays. To develop a daily routine of fasting you can start with 14 hours of fasting followed by a 10 hour eating window. Of course SLEEPING for 8 hours is a great thing to include in that 14 hours ;) Start there. Then move to 16/8. Once you get into it you can go to 18/6. I worked up to 18/6 by the second month of this experiment. In fact, some days I only eat one great meal a day in the evening. That is mostly because I have been in such a great state of mind and a good flow with my design work, I am not hungry, so I find no reason to stop and eat. I want to keep making. But then I enjoy the hell out of my dinner. I also really focus on the quality of that meal in terms of nutrients. I want every bite to be quality and go toward healing and repair. For the record, I do workout every weekday morning on an empty stomach. I might even workout at hour 16 or 17. I can report plenty of energy and I get more results from my workouts.
Finally I would like to say I am a fan of fasting because I just feel more close to my human spirit. I think more about people in the world without access to all the food we have here. And maybe if for no other reason, just purely out of respect for their situation, we should east less? I feel more like I am eating only my share and I am feeling more grateful. So on my ongoing quest to live a connected creative life, and not just a life in the creative industry...I am less of a CSA (Creative Industry Asshole) than I was 2 years ago. Let me know your thoughts.