AskWHYBlog: Carol Harvey In San Francisco

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Saturday, October 29, 2005



by Carol Harvey

It's time to consider how hunger feels as Bush Republicans gut social programs and push for food stamp cuts using Hurricane Katrina reconstruction as an excuse.

If you've attempted a weight loss diet, you have an appreciation for the savagery of hunger. That hollow ache in the stomach and debilitating muscle weakness are the reasons most diets fail. Here is a tip. Eating small amounts of food triggers cravings. Try eating nothing. Your hunger will vanish.

Once during a spiritually motivated fast, for 15 days I ingested only water and coffee. I discovered a phenomenon described in Franz Kafka's short story, "A Hunger Artist." Kafka wrote that, in the Middle Ages, people would recline in open cages in the town square eating nothing. Passers-by would toss them coins.

There was a trick to it. For the first few days, they suffered gnawing pangs, which then subsided. This enabled Kafka's hunger artist to fast for prolonged periods.

I learned that fasting was easy. I got very tired, but never hungry.

On day 15, I was scared back to normal eating. My auburn-red hair turned gray. With B vitamins restored, the color thankfully returned. This was my closest brush with starvation.

My fast was a privileged luxury. I always had food available. I was not a member of an impoverished family lacking the means to feed its children an adequate nutritious diet.

NOTE: Receiving feedback on this article from several people who carried their fasts past the 15-day mark, I was told that, prolonged fasts can cause a great deal of physical pain. When the body finally gets the message that it is going to starve to death, you begin to really really hurt.