For the past few years, I’ve fasted on Black Friday. I don’t consume anything–no shopping and no eating for at least 16 hours.
If you’d like to join me, I’ll be doing it again this year from 12AM – 6 PM on Black Friday. You can follow and/or suffer along with me using the hashtag #BlackFridayFast.
Sixteen hours really isn’t that long. I once did it for 30 hours, and while it sucked, it wasn’t that bad. I wrote about the experience at the end of WHERE AM I EATING? (you can read the excerpt at the end of this post). Sixteen hours is plenty of time to accomplish what I want to accomplish through the fast.
How to get your hangry on
If you are pregnant, a hobbit, or suffer from chronic, apocalyptic-levels of hangriness, you may not want to give this a go. If you do participate, you’ll want to decrease your activity a bit (a great excuse to nap all day), drink a lot of water or juice (avoiding acidic juices), and break your fast with something nice on your belly. I usually break it with Thanksgiving leftovers or obscene amounts of Pizza King pizza, ignoring that last bit of advice altogether. Also at 11:59PM on Thanksgiving Day one minute before beginning the fast, you’ll find me somewhere near the fridge with a full mouth and belly.
Why I’m doing the #BlackFridayFast
I’m a contrarian
How’s that for honesty? I didn’t want a varsity letterman’s jacket in high school. That bad that you like now? I don’t like them now and have moved onto some other cooler band you’ve never heard of. (I’m actually not quite that bad, but I’m definitely somewhat of a contrarian.)
I’ve got nothing against those who shop on Black Friday. I’m not better than you. You probably love shopping much more than me. All that money you are saving on those deals…I would pay that much not to be in a crowded store at 3AM so tired I wanted to puke.
So there’s that. But there’s also the fact that I’m a bit of a contrarian. In fact, this rebelling against Black Friday thing is starting to catch on so much maybe I should think about going shopping.
REI will be closed on Black Friday, encouraging their patrons to play outside while documenting their experiences with the hashtag #OptOutside.
The group “Our Walmart” made up of 100 WalMart employees and 900 others has been fasting outside Walmarts for 15 days as they ask for a $15 minimum wage.
To know hunger the slightest bit
I fast to remember just how important food is by experiencing a bit of hunger. There are a billion undernourished humans on the planet and a billion overnourished. Like most of you reading this, I’m part of the last group. As I write in EATING:
“Love isn’t possible without food. Nothing is.”
Not eating reminds me of the necessity of food and our biological tie to plants and animals.
(I go in much more detail on how I think and feel about this in the excerpt)
Man belongs to the world
We need to be more than consumers–takers. We need to be producers and leavers as well.
A quote to ponder from Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn:
“The premise of the Taker story is ‘the world belongs to man’. … The premise of the Leaver story is ‘man belongs to the world’.”
Said the ape to the man, his student. Have you read Ishmael? If you have and explained it to a friend and didn’t sound like an idiot, you are smarter than me.
The average American consumes the amount of resources of 32 Kenyans. If all 6.5 billion earthlings were Americans, we’d need five planets! We consume too damn much! And a day that celebrates consumption, seems as responsible as a Free Beer Friday day for an alcoholic.
Our society tells us to consume more because we aren’t good enough the way we are and all these things can make us more fully realized humans. But at the same time, we should conserve more. A recent essay by George Monibot in the Guardian argues that economic growth can’t be reconciled with sustainability:
Governments urge us both to consume more and to conserve more. We must extract more fossil fuel from the ground, but burn less of it. We should reduce, reuse and recycle the stuff that enters our homes, and at the same time increase, discard and replace it. How else can the consumer economy grow? We should eat less meat to protect the living planet, and eat more meat to boost the farming industry. These policies are irreconcilable. The new analyses suggest that economic growth is the problem, regardless of whether the word sustainable is bolted to the front of it.
It’s not just that we don’t address this contradiction; scarcely anyone dares even name it. It’s as if the issue is too big, too frightening to contemplate. We seem unable to face the fact that our utopia is also our dystopia; that production appears to be indistinguishable from destruction.
Anyhow, that’s why I’m fasting. I’ll be thinking about some of the above on Friday, but mostly I’ll probably be thinking about pizza. If you want to join me, I’d love to have some online company at #BlackFridayFast.
Now here’s that EATING excerpt I keep alluding to.
From WHERE AM I EATING? An adventure through the global food economy
On the day Americans do what Americans do better than anyone else on the planet—consume—I chose to consume nothing. I fasted on Black Friday.
In the morning, I made the kids breakfast without so much as an eye twitch from lack of caffeine or sugar. But by lunch, I was in a friend’s vacant office writing this book—a book about food—my nose buried in a bag of chocolates like a street kid huffing glue for a fix.
By dinner, I was experiencing hunger like I hadn’t known hunger. It no longer existed in my stomach; we all know hunger like that—the kind that twists, the kind that growls. This was lightheadedness fueled by lack of sustenance. Biological systems were finding fuel in untapped places.
I made dinner for the kids—penne pasta in red sauce with sides of carrots and grapes. Normally in the course of cooking, which I’m learning to do, I would have popped in a few grapes or carrots.
Yes, this hunger was different. My head hurt. My limbs were heavy. My stomach wasn’t any more hungry than usual, but my body was becoming increasingly lethargic.
When the kids were in bed, I read about the events of the day. A local story reported from Victoria’s Secret that more than the prices were half-off; the shoppers’ clothes were half-off, too, as they refused to wait for the dressing room. Two people were shot in a Walmart parking lot in Tallahassee by a fellow shopper. People pushed and shoved their way to 40 percent off gaming systems. Some workers at Walmart were thinking of striking even though it would likely mean that they would lose their jobs, because they weren’t protected by a union.
I added six hours onto my fast because I wanted to experience sleep after not having eaten for an entire day. Falling to sleep was easy at first, but I became too hungry to stay asleep.
I dreamed about food. I dreamed about potato chips—salty, high-caloried potato chips. Then I dreamed about bacon.
When I awoke at 5 AM, I had bacon on the brain. The house was cold and the desire to stay in bed was strong, but the desire to find bacon was stronger. We were out.
Nine minutes to go.
I thought back to our Thanksgiving lunch yesterday, where my lobster dip was a smash-hit, and Annie’s Grandma Betty prayed, “Lord we give thanks to thee for the food about to nourish our bodies. We ask you to bless this food and the hands that prepared it.”
The spread of food was three tables long. There was a lot to be thankful for, including all of the family members with their heads bowed.
In the throes of a famine, some parents stop caring for their children. They become consumed with finding food and abandon them. The moral become immoral. Crime rates rise. Anger, delusion, and hysteria rule.
My small famine isn’t an act of solidarity with the world’s one billion undernourished, it is simply to know hunger, to know what it feels like to be without food. But I know that my next meal will come, and I know where it will come from.
Food isn’t a luxury; it is a biological necessity, a human right. We should treat it as such. We should give thanks for it.
Love isn’t possible without food, nothing is.
We can’t live without food, and we can’t live without the people who catch, pick, and grow it.
I give thanks for the food about to nourish my body and to the hands that prepared the food I’m about to eat…wherever in the world they are.