"I'd say the 14 days of my midterms in my first year of college. I was so afraid of flunking out I studied and survived only on what I could consume while still studying, meaning a ton of coffee drinks (like those horribly expensive Starbucks drinks you buy from the corner store) I LIVED on this stuff for 14 days straight. I didn't have time to eat, eating was for the smart, for the accomplished, or the incredibly lazy. The first day after midterms I went to McDonald's and ate 15 double cheeseburgers, four large fries, and three large milkshakes, chocolate of course, and then spent the next four days so sick..."
"Hard to say the number of exact days. But, when I was in the military I went through an intensive training program where we'd be out in the field for weeks or a month at a time. Sleep and food deprivation were part of certain phases of training. So, I suppose it could go on for maybe a week straight with no food. Then, when you did have access to food it was severely limited and your caloric intake was not enough to meet daily requirements anyway. So, your body was basically tapping into stored fat reserves at that point. This cycle would go on for days at a time. When the course was over and we were waiting for our vans to pick us up, we were given raw onions and potatoes. We couldn't light fires and cook them, so we at them raw - sliced the potatoes like chips, and ate the onions like apples."
"3 weeks, repeatably. I am a foster child, and I did not have a good foster home. The foster home that I had was a very strict one. They would often refuse you to eat meals with them if you 'weren't nice.' Food was not provided between meals, and you ate what was given to you. All of it. If you didn't eat it all, you had to finish the leftovers the next meal you had. No matter how gross it was by then. I was a straight A student, best in my class, you would think that a person that spends her days reading books and doing homework would be considered a 'nice girl.' I was not. If my foster brother teased me and I lashed back I would be refused dinner. If I was punched by my foster brother and I hit back I would be grounded, often without dinner that day. My foster brother was adopted by the family, he hated me, and showed clear psychopathic tendencies from a very young age. They adored him, and everything wrong in this world was my fault. I lived there for 11 years, and for 5 of those I was basically starving. Sometimes I deliberately skipped the meals, but most of the time it was denied me. I got used to it. I would spend every opportunity outside the home to have food if given to me. I was given a visiting home once a month when I was 13 and they would take me to all you can eat pizza places where I would eat 10 large pizzas on my own. Weeks of starving and one weekend a month with gorging, it was my first taste of life. By the time I was 14 I was weighing 48kg."
"A few weeks. Had drinks, might have nibbled on toast or things occasionally, but it was rare. I had whooping cough, so even moving too quickly would set off a coughing fit, and end in horrible retching. This'll be slightly graphic... anyone who's had whooping cough will know what it's like. The choking/retching/coughing fits are awful, even more so if you've been eating; you end up so desperate for breath that you draw in air automatically whenever you get a pause from coughing. So, if you haven't been dry-retching on an empty stomach, you're going to breathe in. Nasty, and dangerous. So I chose to avoid eating for the most part. The whooping cough lasted around 2 months, I'd guess about a month would have been spent barely eating - but it was 10 years ago, so I can't remember properly. I don't remember being hungry, though. I think I was too unwell to really be hungry."
"I got my first teaching job back in 1998. It was a mid-year appointment at a school about two and a half hours from my parents' home. My mother loaned me about $500 to get a U-Haul and to cover various incidentals, including the 1st, last, and/or deposit. Unfortunately, that didn't get me terribly far. I had a bit of furniture I'd gathered over the few months prior but didn't have much cash put together. The real problem was that when I got to my new job, I had to fingerprint and wait for them to clear before I could start earning a paycheck. For whatever reason, my fingerprints took forever to clear. While waiting, I was in the classroom teaching, but there was a sub in there to keep everything (somehow) legal. The sub was just sitting there, making money, while I was working for free. It eventually turned out that my fingerprints got caught by a glitch in the system. After teaching for three weeks, they finally agreed that there was a problem and reprinted me. I missed the deadline to get my first paycheck. I was able to borrow about $200 to pay for some of my rent, but there was no money for food, so I was subsisting on water and whatever ice would come out of the freezer in my apartment. I think it was about a week or so before my fiancée came to visit me. I guess I looked pretty horrible because I'd kind of stopped eating. I must have had some calories here and there, but not much. She forced me to take some food she bought. I figured I was enough of a welfare recipient in borrowing from my mother. In all, I'd guess I went about a week with fewer than 500 calories."
"21 days. I was an 18-year-old intern in the worst hotel in London and I often worked from 7 am until around 11 pm with few to no breaks. I knew I was being exploited but bringing it up with my school would mean a graduation delay, so I figured I could suck it up for a few more months. There were roaches in the kitchen so I relied on junk food at midnight for nourishment. This got tedious, plus it also made me gain weight, so I came up with the grand idea to lose weight through a water fast. I'd read people waxing poetic about the detoxing qualities and it was simple: all I would have to do was drink water throughout the day. The first three days were horrible. I was very hungry. After that my appetite simply vanished and the weight started to practically melt off me. But after the first week a certain fatigue started to settle in. Completing my shifts got harder and harder. I started forgetting things and making dumb mistakes by week two. By the end of the third week, guests started to ask after my health. Getting up from my chair and walking short distances was exhausting. My work clothes, which had been tight on me before, hung loose around my body. I was also getting hungry again but in a really strange way. I've never been able to smell well but in the third week of the fast I was like a bloodhound. Every smell was amplified compared to what I'm used to. That's when I decided to break the fast. I'd read online that you have to do this very carefully by very slowly allowing your body to adjust to food again. Small quantities and no meat in the beginning. So I had some fresh orange juice. And it was as if my brain and my stomach suddenly came back online. I was ravenous. I'd had the urge to binge in the past but then I felt I could have eaten the contents of an entire food distribution center. So I caved. I ate everything I could get my hands on. The day afterward my stomach hurt so much I felt like curling up and staying that way for the rest of my life. To make a long story short, I got into a cycle of binging and restricting, gained all the weight back and then some and did some permanent damage. When you deprive your body of food like that it will fight you and if you have no one to keep you in check you will lose that battle. It did give me some insight into what it's like to be hungry and the idea that there are people all over the world for whom starvation is just an inevitable part of life; I cannot imagine the strength it takes to suffer through that."
"48 hours, from heartbreak. I won't go into all the grisly details, but from the moment I received the message that a relationship, as I knew it to be, was over, my body went into this strange shutdown, high-stress mode that I've never experienced before. I could not eat, nor had any interest in eating, for two days. Which is extremely strange for me, as I am the type of person who loves eating and snacking usually every three or four hours of my waking life. Normally when I'm deprived of food, I get super tired, lose all ability to focus, and get very irritated. During these two days, however, I went to my job and worked as I normally would, went for extremely long walks, and felt no problems with my energy levels. It was kind of like I was running on some kind of stress adrenaline. The only reason that I ate again was not that I was hungry, but because I felt that it obviously wouldn't be very healthy to continue this fast for much longer. Even after that, it took me a very long time to resume normal eating habits. I've never again experienced such a long and intense bodily reaction to a high-stress situation."
"More than a month. It nearly killed me (which is what I was trying to accomplish). I had this really really bad eating disorder that started with me visiting a nutritionist in order to lose weight. She gave me a really strict diet of no more than 1200 calories a day but didn't take into account that I was doing about 2 or 3 hours of exercise a day. I followed it religiously and did not cheat even once. Naturally, the first month I lost a lot of weight quickly but my metabolism suffered and I hit a plateau. My nutritionist advised to keep on the diet plus 200-300 more calories a day. At the time that seemed crazy and counterproductive because I thought that if I wasn't losing any weight at 1200 calories I was going to gain it all back at 1500. I cut back on food even more. I worked out harder. I developed a pretty nasty orthorexia that evolved into anorexia pretty quickly. I had only one meal a day and going over 800 calories was not allowed, ever. I did not lose any more weight, though. I was exhausted, hungry and finally depressed. The binge eating started gradually. At first, I bought massive amounts of food just to chew it and spit it immediately. After a few weeks this stopped being satisfactory and just gorged on it for a day, stopped eating for two days and then go back to my strict diet. In the end, it was just gorging and fasting for weeks at the time. At that point, I had had enough of myself and just decided I was going to starve to death. When I fasted, the first three days were horrible, but after that I was completely numb. I felt nothing at all. I went with my life as usual: office job, abusive relationship, and working out intensely while having nothing but water. Just this time there was no more food to be had. On the third week I couldn't go back to the gym, I was completely spent (and still wasn't losing weight, go figure). I was still biking to work. At some point during the fifth week, I was riding my bike (reeeaally slowly, it was all I could handle) on the way to my office when I felt I was starting to faint and fall to the side of the street. A bus was coming in my direction. I fell to the floor and thought it was going to finally be over. Fortunately, the bus stopped right before hitting me. I remember feeling more alert than ever and very, very afraid. I immediately got up and went to get some juice."
"84 hours. I was around 19, and our basketball team qualified to play at the regional level. For this we had to go to a different city, about four hours from where I live. A couple of days before we had to leave I was hanging out with the team, and a few seniors were telling us about how horrendous the toilet facilities were at the college where we were going to be put up. Warning flags went up in my head. At the time, I had a complete and utter inability to poop in toilets that weren't clean. If I could, I avoided public toilets even for peeing. 19 years and I had never ever pooped in a toilet that wasn't the one at home, or in a nice hotel. I didn't even use my college washrooms, although they were pretty ok. In fact, whatever block I had was so severe, that I used to go back home from college when I wanted to poop and miss the lectures for the day. So when I realized that I would have to stay at a place which had horrible washrooms, I was stuck. To me it meant three days of not going. And since my digestive system is pretty active, this was a bad bad situation. So my genius brain hit upon an idea. Where does poop come from? From digesting what you eat. What if I didn't eat?! Yes! And so the day before we were supposed to leave, I switched to liquids and force pooped all day, clearing out my system. I spent the next three days playing basketball and drinking only water. My team knew what I was doing and they did try and get me to eat, they were really concerned. The coach had no idea of what I was up to until a teammate squealed on the last day. She was kind of horrified and forced me to eat. Yet apparently, my body had some secret reserve of energy, I didn't feel fatigued or tired or weak or anything really, except maybe excited. I finally gobbled my first morsel in almost four days when we boarded the train back home. Soo good. Mmmmm. Yeah. We came in second at the regional level, which was great. I got yelled at some, which wasn't. And I lost almost 4 kilos, which was pretty good too. I don't do that anymore, now that I am older, wiser and my stomach screams to be fed regularly. Oh and I can poop almost anywhere now, traveling helped me learn that."
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"5 days, I was 13 years old. It was summer. I will never forget it. It was mean, selfish, horrible. My mom had to put up with a very creative child. I had done some plays and was asked to audition for two children's programs, one in Philadelphia, the other in Boston. My mom said no to both. Boy, I was angry. I was never so angry in my life at her. I retreated to my room and told her I would never eat again. So, my mom said fine. Day 1 & 2 were fine. Day 3, I got sick of water. Day 4, toothpaste (AIM) tasted really great while brushing my teeth. I think I had the cleanest teeth that summer. Day 5, I realized my mom had called my bluff and so I went downstairs to apologize. She still said I was not going to audition for the programs and not only that, I was going to spend the rest of my summer volunteering at the hospital for two hours a day, once a week."
"We usually eat out on Saturday nights. It was a normal Saturday night, I hadn't eaten anything since morning and was supposed to hangout with friends and have dinner later in the night. But a mishap happened, probably the worst incident in my entire life. We went to pick a friend at a pool club and ended up sitting inside and waiting for his last game to finish. That's when we saw some cops inside the club. As their numbers kept increasing, we could feel the panic in the atmosphere. Before we could realize the situation, they pointed their guns towards us and ordered us to make a line and get ourselves checked. They'd collect all the stuff from everybody and throw it in a big bag. This made us believe that they were snatchers impersonating as cops. Afterward, we were ordered to leave the club and were loaded in a police van. Kidnapping for ransom was very common in Karachi those days and we were still thinking that we'd been kidnaped and they'd call our parents for ransom, until we had been driven to a police station. Still unaware of the situation and confused but rather relax that we were inside a police station and not kidnaped, we had a couple of smokes, made some jokes. But after a little while we were dragged inside a lockup. During the whole session some of the guys got beaten up by the cops for no reason but to threaten others. That's when we came to know that they'd been demanding some bribe from the pool club owner and upon not getting the desired response they did all this to make him suffer and lose customers. We expected that we'd released soon but hours went by without any progress inside a small room with 40-50 other guys, some of whom were crying out of fear. At 8 in the morning I asked a guy for his phone which he was secretly given by his visitor. I rang a couple of other friends who jumped out of bed, came to get us released, paid the cops some money and took us out of that hell at 3 in the afternoon. When I returned home, mom was crying as we were out of contact since last night without any trace. I had to create a dozen lies. That was the day I went around 32 hours without eating anything."
"48 hours. I was a struggling actor in New York City, going to auditions, singing in cheesy supper clubs and nightclubs, occasionally driving a cab. I hit a particularly bad stretch when a Broadway show that I was in (as a member of the chorus) closed after 17 performances on a Friday night and I couldn't file for unemployment until the following Monday. Luckily, the group of fellow struggling actors I hung out with had a custom of taking the others out to lunch at the Broadway Deli when they got their first acting paycheck. I ran into one of them that Sunday afternoon and he had just gotten paid so we all gathered at the Deli and I ordered a big Reuben sandwich. It was how I broke my 'fast.' Even now, years later, I joke about the day Christopher Walken saved me from starvation."
"Approximately three weeks. I fell about 7 meters from the roof of a house in 2009 and instantly became a paraplegic. I was told that when you have a traumatic injury such as mine, your body shuts down non-essential areas, such as your bowel and bladder (I know, sound fairly essential areas to me too.) But my appetite just disappeared, and it wasn't just the terrible hospital food. My wife would bring me in anything she could think of that I love to eat, but I literally could not stomach any of it. In the mornings I could not even eat a mouthful of cereal. And prior to my accident I certainly had no problem with food and my waste line could attest to that. In the end, I was put on medication that enhanced your appetite and thankfully it seemed to work. I ended up losing about 20kgs. But because I was so overweight to start with, I was actually back to my ideal weight. Have to take small positives out of a bad situation I guess."
"Cicadas can grow up to the length of your hand, from the tip of its nasty looking wings to the top of its noggin. Yuuuge motherloving monster. This thing... this, this CICADA, kept me hungry for three days. It was semester break, as I remember clearly. Everyone with half a mind had already left campus and only the zealous and broke remained. I was the latter. Holed up in my empty dorm building, I passed my days on my laptop browsing songs and several futile attempts at studying. One afternoon, I heard the incessant tap-tap-tapping of bare feet on the tile floors outside my bedroom. Had my housemates returned a week early? I cracked open my bedroom door and peeked outside. Nobody. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap... I advanced into the living room and was greeted with a full view of a gigantic black bug drumming its wings on the cold tiles and flailing about. 'Eeep!' I practically threw myself backwards into my bedroom and barred the door. And by 'barred' I meant 'stuffed a towel in the crack under the door' for fear that the cicada might just decide to flail itself into my room. Day 1: I hope it dies soon. I need to go outside, I'm hungry and the 'fridge is in the living room... As I nervously paced around my bedroom. I've never wished so hard for my housemates to return quickly before. Day 2: I checked my supplies. Only a 1 Litre bottle of water and a slightly stale wafer. I'll make do. The drumming of the cicada's wings stop for a brief moment. But I am not to be fooled. Sure enough, I hear it buzzing around even closer to my door. I arm myself with bug spray and sleep hungry. Day 3: Delirious with hunger, I began to negotiate with the cicada, in my head at least. Come on man, I'm starving, and you're not going to die anytime soon, can you at least let me pass? I'm a good guy, I don't eat cicadas. We can talk. By late evening, I was already thinking of a suicide mission where I run out the bedroom, blindly spraying bug spray around me, and jump out the front door to freedom (or the cafeteria). Day 4: I woke up light-headed and dizzy. But then I heard voices. Had I finally started to go insane? But no! The voices were accompanied by an all-too-human sound of footsteps. Some of my housemates were back! I nearly cried with joy. After some time the cicada fell silent. I gingerly crept out to the scene of the crime, and the ugly beast lay on the floor immobile. I stared at the full extent of its nastiness, grimaced, then went out for brunch."
"I still remember the day in the college when there was a list of just 5 students who were short of 75% attendance. My friend told me that my name was there on the list. This means I would get an F and would have to attend summer school. No way. I got afraid. I went to the office of that particular teacher and asked him to check if my name was there. Unluckily, he forgot the list at his home and said he would bring it in tomorrow. I became restless. I could not consume food the whole night due to this tension. It was almost 12 hours since I consumed food, I was just surviving on cigarettes and tea. After 24 hours since I consumed food, I ran to the college to his office and found that he was absent. This added 6 more hours to my misery. I again visited his office in the afternoon. He was still absent. This added 4 more hours to my misery. Finally, when I was having some tea, I heard that the teacher was taking a walk on the ground. I ran to him and asked him about the names. He told me that he would bring the list tomorrow. I insisted but he paid no attention. After another 4 hours I found out that the list was on the notice board in the college. I ran to the college and finally learned that my name wasn't there. I abused my friend a lot. After exactly 40 hours, I got to eat food. It was really a nightmare."
"3 1/2 Days. Ecuador - north part of the country, in the Sacred Mountain of Urcupacha, with the tribe of 'Fuego Sagrado.' That was one of my most amazing memories of my life. By doing the Seek of Vision, I went to this ancient ritual sponsored by the tribe. The quest is to be in a lonely place without eating, drinking and talking. Well talking is obvious because you are on the mountain alone. This is one of the most ancient native's practice to get wisdom about yourself. The first day was very nice, very tolerable, I had to be there in a small area, about 8 meters square in the company of a small tree. So that day was ok, the night was very cold, about 7 degrees. The 2nd day my inner agony starts, my thoughts were mad about water, was a long day but between mantras and positive thinking I did it. The third day came, my head was in pain, my lips very dry and this weird taste in my mouth. The sun was already burning my face and literally taking any drop of liquid from my body. That was a long day. After 4 pm, I had this crazy though that I had to dig a hole in the ground to get water. I'd start digging and after 60 centimeters of digging with my bare hands I found a root, very think and full of liquid. Tight away I took it into my mouth and I chewed it, but the taste was very strong and made me vomit a bit. Finally the night came, was one of the longest nights ever. The fourth day comes. I was already awake when the sun was rising, my mind was absolutely crazy dreaming about water, thinking all the times I'd left water in a cup, in a glass, every single waste of water I did gave me a lot to think about. Coke was on my mind, and I am not a big fan of Coca Cola, but there she was mocking me and messing around with my thoughts. When the sun was it's the highest point above the sky, I was literally feeling I was dying, my mouth was dry, my body was weak. I had to make it another day, but talking to myself I was about to give up. So after 2 pm, with 2 tears in my eyes (I guess the last reserves of water in my body) and with a deep feeling of defeat I'd decided go back to the main camp and quit the quest."