HVMAN, an elite Silicon Valley biohacking/nootropics company, began 2017 in a way as markedly notable and strange as its name — with a seven-day company wide fast. CEO Geoffery Woo insisted, in an interview with The Guardian, that this hyper-immersive study conducted by company officials was a way to test productivity born out of hunger-clarity. A similar strand of birthing office and research-orientated motivation has taken the rest of the valley by storm over the past two years, calling into question not only health risks involved with a seemingly ‘illegal’ testing of body limits, but the religious appropriation of California’s latest fad.
Joining Geoffery Woo is Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. Dorsey has been cited to go as many as 22 hours without eating, sometimes more, opting for a water-only diet. Like Woo, Dorsey is increasingly fixated on achieving peak productivity, which he believes comes from the refocusing of bodily energy on the task at hand rather than the digesting of ‘unnecessary’ calories and nutrients. Risks of this trend have been assessed heavily, especially with regards to eating disorders. While it has been found that in some ways intermittent fasting is an instigator of heightened productivity, the possibility of subsequently developing an eating disorder is high. This is especially true of those who have previously struggled through an eating disorder such as anorexia and bulimia, or have had similar eating issues prior to taking up fasting.
Many younger employees of companies adopting this fad into their culture may feel pressured to engage in the ritual, leading to a hyper-fixation on achieving peak potential through harming their own minds and bodies. In many ways, the people who work for these companies are already overachievers. Most are recruited out of the most prestigious educational institutions in the nation, and are therefore obsessed with success. Presenting a way for them to become even better, to achieve more, and expecting them to take a second to think about the risks is implausible.
For them, the discipline they seek is one they plan on utilizing for the purpose of profit. This trend is another cog in the capitalist machine, a way for greedy moguls and their cronies to elevate their mainstream standing and be valued as the hippest place to work. tweet
CEOs of mega-trendy companies like HVMAN have marketed fasting to their employees like a team-building exercise. For them, the discipline they seek is one they plan on utilizing for the purpose of profit. This trend is another cog in the capitalist machine, a way for greedy moguls and their cronies to elevate their mainstream standing and be valued as the hippest place to work. They prey on the ingrained “need to thrive” which capitalism has instilled in the best and the brightest, risking the health and well-being of the people they employee.
As Ramadan approaches, the ummah begins its annual reflection on the elements of our most sacred month, primarily the fast. Many of us seek to remind ourselves of the meaning behind our month-long ritual, as a result invigorating our resolve to fully embrace the holiday. We think about the compassion and understanding fasting allows us to develop for those less fortunate; those who endure starvation year-round. We think about the closeness to our faith and to our families a month of abstinence from worldly obstructions allows. Rarely, however, does it cross our minds how much weight we will lose, how productive we will be, or how much money we might make selling our fast to the unsuspecting diet fiend or overworked college grad.
As Muslims, fasting is a way to foster a connection with our maker, and consequently our own humanity. The hyper-privileged have found a way to exploit our intentions and practices, effectively fooling many into harming themselves in a futile exercise inherently focused on external achievement, rather than internal peace.