The Six Day Water Fast

Ben Marcus, in his mid-forties, felt pain throughout his body. He decided to try something unconvential: a six-day fast consisting of nothing but drinking water. He chronicles his (mis)-adventures in this piece for GQ.

TrueNorth lacks the whorehouse comforts of a spa. There isn’t even a pool, which seems to violate some central tenet of California apartment complexes. It feels more like a scientific-research center. There are daily lectures and cooking demos, and the guest rooms are stocked with DVDs of slightly NSFW health documentaries. Today at the clinic they showed a grim video called The Pleasure Trap, an unflinching lecture on why we eat, and eat, and fucking eat, what isn’t good for us. Salt, sugar, and fat, combined with chemicals in processed foods, trick the brain in the same way as cocaine, and the brain flushes our bodies with dopamine, perhaps the most blissful, and addictive, homemade chemical we have. Once we find a way to trigger it, we kill ourselves to get more. Literally.

That evening, with no dinner to cook, eat, and clean up, I prepare my water smoothie, made of nothing but distilled water, and turn on the Food Network. If I can’t eat food, I’ll watch some. On TV, pre-scandal Paula Deen and her son are making corn dogs, fried okra, croissant-dough muffins with caramelized pecans. These things look gorgeous and obscene, like the invented genitalia of a new species. But after watchingThe Pleasure Trap, it seems wrong to refer to this stuff as food. More like recreational drugs for the mouth, with nasty side effects like diabetes. Still, I’m drooling. I love these recreational drugs. I go to foreign countries just to try exotic versions. I’m a user. I do food.

Just not today, and, if I survive, not for the next five days.

It appears the fast has worked wonders, though I appreciate the cautious outlook that this might have been a short-term victory:

Throughout my stay, a six-day fast has been regarded with amused smiles. Pathetic amateur, they don’t say. One doctor says everyone should do a long fast at least once in their lives. What’s long, I ask. Twenty-one days. Maybe thirty. Now I see the appeal. Once you get over the misery of the first few days, things start to look up and you get this feeling that something profoundly necessary is happening inside you. I’ve lost sixteen pounds, and a deep bend at the knees is surprisingly pain-free. My hands no longer ache. My skin is clear. The whites of my eyes look Photoshopped.

Don’t try this at home, folks. Seriously: from personal experience, even fasting for twelve hours is bound to make you dizzy, and you don’t want to be falling down stairs when you attempt something this bold…

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