How to Stop Food From Sabotaging Your Life

Redeem your life with the lost discipline of fasting

It wasn’t a usual day. I was exhausted. I couldn’t think clearly and could hardly work on any problem. Unfortunately, I was given the hardest task by my product manager since I started working.

I had to take out a hundred different types of data points from a database I had never seen before. It was tough as is. But I had made the task tougher on myself.


By eating lunch.

“One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three quarters keeps your doctor alive.” — Ancient Egyptian Proverb

For most of my life, I’ve been taught one thing — eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a pauper, and dinner like a beggar.

Well, if that’s true, the king is a dumbass. And surely the king has never worked on complex database problems and hundreds of lines of code on one tiny MacBook display.

As a society, our lives have revolved around food. You get up, have breakfast. You make it to work, and before you know, it’s lunchtime. With the heavy lunch you ate, you can hardly do anything in the afternoon. Which is when you reach out for a snack — a coffee, or a protein bar — for a quick boost.

You push through work till 6 pm. You pick up dinner from your favorite restaurant. The same things repeat itself every day.

Our time is conveniently divided into three to five chunks:

  • Before breakfast,

  • From breakfast to lunch,

  • From lunch to the early-evening-snack,

  • And the time before dinner.

The problem with that is it breaks a long day into otherwise short chunks which are not enough to get anything serious done. It doesn’t take a productivity guru to tell you this.

When you know you’ve to go for lunch at 3 pm, you’ll not start working on a tough problem at 2:30. So you waste those 30 mins. Add another 30 mins of lunch and an hour of food coma after that. 2 hours gone. Poof!

I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for the past eight months. I fast for 14–18 hours every day. I have dinner between 7 and 8 pm and I eat breakfast around 10:30 am every morning. I used to be strict with my eating window. But quarantine has forced me to match with other people’s schedules which is why my breakfast time is now variable

It’s then quite obvious that my best work happens before I eat breakfast. I journal, meditate, exercise, shower, and write. I have breakfast, just before my 11 am daily office meeting. Post the meeting, I get to work until lunch at around 2 pm. I then meditate again around 4 pm followed by a short walk and continue working till dinner.

In addition to my daily intermittent fasting, I fast for the whole of Saturday. And this is where the magic happens. It’s like a golden window of opportunity. I no longer have to step outside my room to eat with others. And there’s no excuse to slack off.

It’s just me with my laptop and to-do list. I meditate an extra hour on Saturday and get more done than any other day of the week.

Here’s the Greatest Benefit of Fasting

It’s why Obama wears only two colors of suits to work. It’s why James Altucher has paired down to living in AirBnBs instead of owning a house.


When I first dove into the world of intermittent fasting, I was skeptical and scared at best. My eating habits were pretty messed up. There was hardly a gap of 8 hours between dinner and the first snack in the morning — biscuits with tea (milk added). It was actually the exact opposite — I was eating for 16 hours and fasting for 8 hours. Which basically means if I was awake, I was eating.

Perhaps you have a similar lifestyle. Like the majority of humans, I never saw a problem with my schedule. And as a result, I was 20 pounds heavier than I am now.

I pushed myself to exercise every day with no avail. When results weren’t visible, I switched workout programs, unaware of my own folly.

Like most of my friends, I’d research about different diets every day — paleo, keto, vegan, bulletproof, etc. I was running after them because nothing else could save me.

I was wrong. And I’ve never been so glad to be wrong in my life.

When I first came across intermittent fasting, it was troublesome — “You don’t eat breakfast? Why on earth would you do that?”

While most people attribute eating breakfast as a result of their culture, things were different at my house. My father gave me examples every day of how people who don’t eat in the morning fall sick and have all sorts of health problems. This made it more difficult than it had to be.

But soon I had an epiphany. Why should I change my diet if I can change my behavior to live a healthy life?

That’s exactly what fasting is.

You don’t change the foods you eat, at least at first. You just change your habits and feeding windows. Instead of having breakfast at 9, have it at noon. Or mix it up to make a big lunch.

This shift instantly gave me at least 2 hours back every day. That’s 60 hours a month. I no longer have to have tea and biscuits in the morning. I no longer have to make time for breakfast. And in both cases, I don’t have the blood-sugar drop which gives me sustained energy levels.

The results are even more dramatic on a 24-hour fast. I save another 2–3 hours of fatigue after lunch or snacks. I don’t have to think about food. I don’t have to think twice before sitting to write at 1 pm just because I’ll be called for lunch at 2.

Here’s the Second Greatest Benefit of Fasting

I feel real mental clarity, increased focus, almost like a low-level euphoria — Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote (Lost 80 pounds with fasting)

Stress isn’t always bad for your body. There’s good stress and there’s bad stress. Just like working out, fasting triggers a mild stress response in your body. And again, like exercise, it releases endorphins and gives a boost in energy.

From an evolutionary perspective, for thousands of years, humans needed to hunt for their food. Considering hunting is harder than going to the supermarket, our bodies need high levels of energy to run, catch, and kill — all while fasting.

It is natural for tribes even today to feast on a big meal and then go without food for a couple of days. A study of Piraha people by Daniel Everett reveals that even though tribals have an option of storing good, they don’t. When asked about it, one of them said,

“I store meat in the belly of my brother”

Let’s come back to the 21st-century shall we? Chances are, you don’t need to do running around to catch animals. But what you need to do is do your math homework, or write that article, or make that strategy document. All of this requires a lot of mental energy. And fasting gives you exactly that — sharpened senses and heightened awareness.

If you’re skeptical, pick your most important task of the day. And do it just after a heavy breakfast or lunch. It will almost be a pain in the rear.

It Isn’t a Magic Pill

While I almost start jumping when someone talks about fasting, it’s not a magic pill as most think it to be.

The reality is, you cannot get away with eating bad food. You can’t out-train an unhealthy diet, and you can’t use IF as an excuse to continue with it.

That being said, taking out sugar and processed food, and adding more raw foods on your plate is a simple enough strategy for the average joe to see results.

But the key argument is this — if you can eat fewer meals and get the same (or better) results, why would you make your life complex by eating 4 or 5 times a day?


Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself — Rumi

You want to focus. You want to work deeply and you want to crush your goals. Chances are you never looked close enough to what’s pulling you back — food.

Simply put, if you want mental clarity and focus effortlessly without making your life into a web of productivity systems, try fasting this week.

Don’t eat at least before lunch and see what happens. If hunger strikes drink a lot of water, coffee, or tea. (Don’t cry like a baby, it’ll go away in 30 minutes).

It will be one of the best lifestyle changes you ever make.

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Written on July 24, 2020