For those who participate in various fasts for spiritual/religious purposes, one of the primary explanations I've been told is that fasting is a means to simulate what life is like for those who have very little, therefore gaining the participant an appreciation for their own blessings.
If that's your reason, then find another one cause it's a load of sanctimonious crap: the burden that comes with living on very little is not that you have very little, but you have No Choice in the matter. Anybody who participates in a fast has the option not to, or has the option to "cheat". Throughout the fast, the participant is performing a cost-benefit analysis as to how guilty they will feel if they cheat or abandon the fast altogether. It's about as empathy-inducing as camping trip after a stop at the sporting goods store for biodegradable toilet paper.
The simulated situation is also a temporary one with a known time limit. The real situation is not.
Yesterday I went to the Susan G. Komen 5k Walk, and while the sanctimony is quite obvious, not so much is the potential metaphor to being a cancer patient--and good thing, too, because then we would all understand my analogy to the ineffectiveness of fasting.
The Walk was held very close to my office, so I could park at work and The Company paid the registration fees for those who signed up whether or not we showed up. I had decided that, despite the sanctimony, attending the Pink Ribbon Parade was important because my sense of time this year is shot all to hell. I will know if I will have an appointment today or tomorrow, but don't ask me if tomorrow is Wednesday. I no longer have that intuitive sense that "today feels like a Friday." This year is one string of moving from one appointment to another, one phase of treatment to another, punctuated on occasion by events.
The Komen was one such event. I was asked last week about Radiation, and I said "It's starts the Monday after the Komen". It was always "the Monday after the Komen". Only after I said the words this last time that I realized that means "next Monday". As I write this I'm actively translating to myself "that's tomorrow".
Very early on in the walk, I found myself behind a couple of twenty-somethings who were talking about doing 5k's as an athletic activity, not so much for the various causes they represent. Then one said something that tempted me to interject my two-cents: "I can do 5k's, but I can't get into the mindset of people who run marathons, even half-marathons. I don't know how they do it. I couldn't get myself to run 13 miles."
I have a co-worker who was really down on herself a couple years ago after being told by a doctor that she needed to lose 80 pounds or she would die. I had just finished losing 80 pounds and ran my first half-marathon. I told her "You are at the bottom of Mount Everest and you have just been told you must climb this mountain or you will die. That's enough to discourage anyone. Don't think about the top of the mountain. Don't think about 80 pounds. I never thought I could have lost 80 pounds and I couldn't think about mile 13 when I was on mile 1 or I would have never finished."
And that's how it is. You receive a diagnosis and you move from one appointment to the next, one mile to the next, one pound to the next. Don't think about the finish line, mile 13, or a clean bill of health.
At some point, inevitably, you hit the wall. Everyone has their Wall moment; dieters may call it a plateau. In a 5k it comes around mile 2.5--I felt it yesterday--,where your enthusiasm is gone, you felt you have done enough, and you are ready to go home. In a half-marathon, it's around mile 10. If you break your pace after mile 10 you may never pick back up for a strong finish.
I never asked my co-worker how much she has lost after two years, but she has lost quite a bit. Maybe she's reached the top of her mountain, maybe she feels she has lost enough weight (at least to get the doctor off her back). The cost-benefit analysis and choice to quit losing is hers to make.
Although, with my doctors, I don't have that option. Knowing I'm in the home stretch, the last six weeks, the last phase, I have hit my wall. It's not a soul-crushing sensation, but rather an irritation at the circumstance. I'm so close, and I have to finish, but my mind and body are performing a cost-benefit calculation that doesn't get very far. Because this isn't a diet, a fast, or a 5k. I can bargain with reality all I want to, but I have no choice but to continue my climb up this mountain.