Of Sheer Will

Jacky Tang
4 min readAug 12, 2019

I can do it. I tell myself I can do it. It will help me. It will help my skin. Plus I gotta lose some weight. I can’t keep on eating junk like this just to make me feel better. Then it all collapses. At the first sign of hunger, the first tinge of stress, it all falls apart and I give in.

Every once in a while I look up some information about fasting. Intermittent fasting. Juice fasting. Water fasting. Just plain fasting. There is a ten-minute YouTube video that while seemingly click-baity actually backs up its claims with references to real research articles. Maybe that makes it more bias through selection, yet I can’t help but feel it gives it some legitimacy. I’ve done the same myself. Digging through medical articles on PubMed without any formalized training to try to find some resolve, something that will make me better. My own research has backfired at times. Maybe it is just click-bait. The video goes through the difference between cutting calories and cutting food. He brings up the famous case of an overweight man, complete with a black-and-white photo, who fasted for 382 days and lost 276 lbs while sipping tea and consuming vitamins. He says it is safe to fast while it may not be to cut calories drastically. Fasting switches the bodies gears from getting calories from outside the body to within, while reducing calories simply starves the body while it still seeks energy from the outside making people feel cold and tired. The hunger goes away in a couple of days, he says.

It can’t be that hard I tell myself. It is totally doable.

I have eczema. More technically correct, I have atopic dermatitis, a term I have searched countless times on Google. It encompasses some form of eczema deemed atopic eczema, but it is part of a larger systemic problem, an autoimmune problem, possibly. There is something called an atopic march that those who inherit atopy go through. The first stage is asthma. This plagued me throughout grade school, making phys. ed. class somewhat of a struggle. Yet I was part of all the sports teams in junior high. Go figure. One time I was at a friends house when I was hit with an asthma attack. He had an inhaler, yet he refused to let me use it because I had to ‘work through it’ to make me ‘stronger’. After fifteen minutes without any change he gave in. The second stage is rhinitis. Basically a permanent stuffy nose. When I was in Edmonton I finally decided to have surgery to remove the polyps in my nose that was there for years. The experience of surgery, even one as minor as this, is not recommended. My stuffy nose eventually came back anyway. The third phase is the eczema. This is where I am now, though I still have my stuffy nose, or maybe half stuffy.

It feels as if my eczema has consumed my life, despite yielding the advice of my uncle to remain zen about the whole thing, to reach nothingness. I try not to let it bother me. When it comes I go and sit at my computer in the middle of the night and watch some show I’ve been eager to watch or play Overwatch until my sleepiness overcomes my itch. I try not to let it define me, yet I hesitate to find another partner in the fear that they’ll figure out what it’s really like to be with someone who is sick and leave me. It is much easier to pretend that I am normal, that I look normal, from a distance. When I was living with my last partner we had to sleep apart mainly because I couldn’t sleep most nights at a reasonable time. She insisted that it didn’t affect how good I looked, but I knew she was just being kind, bless her heart. In my mind it is gross, disgusting, and makes me a burden. Better to live by myself where I don’t have to worry about affecting others with it. I’m sure many people have doubts about their capacity as a partner, worrying about their personality, their quirks, their sexual appeal, their income, but none of that compares to being permanently sick with nothing that can really be done. Except fasting.

There is proven literature out there that fasting has some powerful curative effects. It can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, restore insulin sensitivity, and burn down fat instead of muscle. In my case, it helps to reduce inflammation, the root cause of eczema. While there is a chicken-egg question of whether the inflammation is inherent or if it is caused by a poor epithelial barrier against unwanted outside invaders, it is clear that nothing can be done about the barrier, only the inflammation. I’ve been on a whole wide array of medications to tackle precisely that, from topical corticosteroids to oral systemic corticosteroids to drugs typically reserved for more extreme cases like chemotherapy and organ transplants. Some of it works but only to some extent. The harder stuff works better but at the risk of permanent organ damage. With all of these factors considered, fasting seems to be a viable, safe, option. It maybe the only option left.

I can do it. It’s totally doable. Yet how come I haven’t been able to do it? It makes me feel like I am too weak to pull it off, that I lack the will to push through. I convince myself that I’ll be sick no matter what. I convince myself that I’m stressed enough already. Why add to it by depriving myself of one of the only things that makes me feel better. I convince myself it won’t work. Why bother? Nothing has worked. I know that these are only excuses. It’s only a few days. If it does work, isn’t this the cure that I’ve been looking for? Come on! I can do this! At least that’s what I keep telling myself.



Jacky Tang

A software-psychology guy breaking down the way we think as individuals and collectives