January: Life in the Fasting Lane

I began my year of “living like a prince” with a daunting decision. If I could do one thing to launch me successfully into what felt like a hugely intimidating (while also incredibly fun) project, what would it be? What is the one thing, that if I could do it successfully, would make each of the next challenges easier?

What came to mind was generating more energy. I was going to need energy, and buckets of it. If there’s one thing that former Prince associates agree on, it’s Prince’s seemingly boundless energy. He was able to maintain a schedule that could (and did) push many otherwise fit and energetic musicians, engineers and managers to the brink of exhaustion. For example, during tours, Prince would do an hours-long soundcheck, play a two-and-a-half-hour show, then go to a local club and play and hours-long aftershow. Later, he might watch the recording of his show, making mental notes on his performance. Other times, he would go to a studio and record, or use a mobile studio brought along for that purpose. Sometimes, between concert dates, he would fly back to Paisley Park and record nonstop for a couple of days, then fly out to the next tour date, much to the relief of his exhausted recording engineers.

Bassist Rhonda Smith, who toured with Prince in the early 2000s, spoke at a PRN Alumni Association (a nonprofit organized by former associates of Prince to continue his legacy of giving) event in Minneapolis in October, laid out the rigors of working at Paisley Park: There was no eating lunch. There was certainly no sleeping. Smith would finish a full day of rehearsing and then would be asked to launch into choreography rehearsals.

For those of us with office jobs, Smith translated it this way: “It was like you finished a heavy report at 4:55 p.m. and breathed a huge sigh of relief, and then your boss walks by and puts another huge stack of paper on your desk and says, `I want that by tomorrow.'”

One of the techniques that Prince used for maintaining his energy, particularly during recording sessions, was fasting. In the final Rolling Stone  article about Prince based on an interview done at Paisley Park on Jan. 24, 2014, reporter Brian Hiatt wrote, “He’s very thin, but not fragile – a strict vegan who, by his own account, sometimes doesn’t eat at all (`I have gone long periods with no food, and also water – people have to remind me to drink water because I always forget to do that’).” 

It did seem that there were specific situations that would cause Prince to decide to go without eating. For example, Steve Parke recalled that Prince told him he hadn’t eaten for two days before they began filming a video. While Prince’s stretches of fasting are documented, we don’t know if he performed fasting in a regimented way, or if it was more a case of forgetting to eat while immersed in work, or a case of wanting to look fit on stage or in a video, or simply nerves. Any and all of these are possible.

I launched into January knowing that I was going to need my own endless font of energy to accomplish the goals I had set out for myself in 2019. Focusing on my eating habits as foundational to creating energy seemed to make a lot of sense as a starting point, so I decided to dedicate myself to a regular fasting regimen and generating more energy through food — or lack thereof.

Fortunately, fasting is all the rage these days and there is plentiful information on how to launch into a regimen. After considering various forms of intermittent fasting, each with a mysterious numerical name (everything from “16:8,” which calls for fasting for 16 hours and then eating during an eight-hour window to “5:2,” which calls for five eating days with two fasting days mixed in), I decided to try Alternate Day Fasting. I had a leg up here, in that I dabbled in Alternate Day Fasting during 2018, and had observed my sister-in-law use it to great success. Knowing I had someone to call when things got tough tipped the scales in the direction of Alternate Day Fasting, and I decided to dedicate myself to it in January, to see if that regimen could stoke my creative fires and boost my energy.

TOMORROW: What is alternate day fasting and what is my actual daily regimen?

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