When you consume nothing but water for several days, you get tired. It’s natural to interpret this fatigue as a sign that the fast is harming your health, but I believe that this subjective sensation of fatigue is just the body’s way of asking you to rest. While eating a meal and then drinking a cup of coffee is like an upshift, a meditative water fast is like a downshift. Coffee is a great tool if used in moderation, but overdoing it can lead to burning the candle at both ends. A rested water fast, on the other hand, is like burning the candle at neither end. It’s the opposite of a stimulant. Your body gets a chance to put all its effort into recovery.
Water fasting promotes a deep form of rest. When people go longer than they’re used to without food, they tend to crash. They get exhausted, and they generally interpret this fatigue as a bad sign. How could it be heathy to do something that makes you feel like your body is falling apart? Aren’t you just starving your body of nutrients? But I would argue that this is a misinterpretation of the body’s signals. When you fast, it’s not that your entire being loses vitality. It’s that your energy is allocated away from conscious behavior and toward your body’s healing-related systems, which operate at a high level of complexity despite being unconscious. Although as conscious entities we feel like our consciousness is our whole self, this isn’t true. There are a lot of systems that we don’t consciously control, such as our immune system. Fasting feels like it shuts us down, but in doing so it actually wakes up a different part of us.