I hate Jeffrey Kluger. In fact, I hate all the editors of this issue who thought it would be funny to find out what would happen if I didn't eat for two days. I'll tell you what happens: I get hungry. And cranky. And cold and light-headed. What's next on your list of investigative journalism? See if a guy bleeds when you stab him? See if sour milk makes him barf? I must have missed the e-mail about how the magazine was taken over by the guys from TV's Jackass.
For my fast, I decided to do the Master Cleanse, a diet from the '70s that's become popular with the type of women who do yoga as exercise, carry Marc Jacobs handbags, buy organic food and don't read the science section of the newspaper. See, now hunger has even made me mean to my wife.
The Master Cleanse has a slight advantage over normal, Gandhi-type fasting in that it allows you to consume one thing: a glass of water mixed with 2 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp. of dark amber maple syrup plus a dash of cayenne pepper. I wisely choose two days to do this when I won't be overly tempted to eat. The first is at my father's house in New Jersey, since my dad doesn't care all that much about food and, other than dips and chips, keeps all of it solidly frozen. The second day is on a cross-country flight, when I normally fast anyway. As JetBlue's business plan demands.
The first day, I don't get at all hungry until about noon, when I make my first Master Cleanse beverage. It isn't bad, similar to what I would have expected if I ordered spicy lemonade at a restaurant, which, of course, no restaurant would put on its menu because the drink is gross. When the rest of the family enjoys its lunch of chips and dips, I don't feel that hungry. And at dinner, my dad eats some sort of microwaved leftover pasta at the counter that looks completely unappealing while my grandmother eats something that was clearly once frozen while she watches Lou Dobbs. That dude is a major appetite suppressant.
By 6:30, however, I'm feeling really light-headed. That feeling of clarity that fasters talk about? That's the loss of peripheral vision. I am also cold even though my 86-year-old grandmother is not. This cannot be healthy. Later that night, I have trouble falling asleep, not because I'm hungry but because I'm freezing. An extra blanket takes care of it. The best part of my day of fasting, I realize as I drift off, was not having to floss.
I wake up the next morning and am not particularly hungry. I am also not interested in any more spicy lemonade. But at noon, I force myself to drink some anyway. My grandmother, who never talks about herself, decides to open up and tell me the history of her life. Through food. I now know that when she started working she made meals a night in advanceand what the weekly menu was. This does not make me any hungrier. I credit this not to the fasting but to Jewish cooking.
By late afternoon, I am still not all that hungry. In fact, I'm a little less hungry than I was at this time the day before. I feel superior to food. Seeing people eat on TV makes them look weak. I also have far more time to focus on my work. How could I ever have been mindlessly sucked into this eating thing, like some sort of food junkie. "What's for dinner?" "Where should we eat tomorrow night?" "Want to go to Whole Foods?" I was pathetic.
I was also insane for not realizing a fault in my plan. Not only will flying to L.A. make my day three hours longer but also airports are designed to tempt you to load up on calories. I walk by a Mex and the City, a Dunkin' Donuts, a Cheeseburger Cheeseburger and a Create Your Own Salad. I am, to my surprise, drawn to people's salads far more than to their fries. Maybe my body craves actual nutrition. Or maybe my body is an idiot and doesn't realize how good French fries are.
On the plane, I feel actual hunger pangs. They come in waves and don't really hurt so much as just annoynot much worse than before a late dinner. I still, however, feel weak. My back hurts, and I'm still light-headed. I'm far too aware of my tonguelike its taste buds are so desperate for stimulation it might slither out of my mouth and find something itself. Luckily, the couple next to me break out a really bad-looking submarine sandwich, and she licks the mayo off her fingers. I go back to feeling superior. Superior, but very interested in her remaining bits of bread.
After a great night's sleep at home, I wake up at 8 and go straight to the kitchen to break my fast. But I'm not really hungry. And nothing looks very tempting: oatmeal seems leaden, raisin bran gloppily suffocating, smoothies mucus-catalyzing. I head back to my office and do some work. Three hours later, I'm still not hungry, but I know I've got to eat something. The only thing I can think of that seems appealing is what my grandmother used to make when I was a kid: poached eggs on toast. They taste like super-eggsso rich and velvety, the pumpernickel bursting with earthy chewiness. I take my time with them and then, foolishly, eat a banana and some walnuts. I reach that uncomfortable level of fullness, weighty and stomach-focused and stretched, that I realize I usually feel at least once a day. And I think I like it less than the hunger.