The worst part of drinking a glass of olive oil is not the taste. It’s the consistency, how tenaciously the stuff clings to your throat. It’s like post-nasal drip crossed with licking out a bottle of Valvoline. The viscosity gives you the false sensation that the oil is building on the walls of your esophagus, fluttering tidally as you breathe. And the smell—a grassy half-vomit with fruity retch notes, or whatever bullshit that chemical plant in Jersey printed on the label—lingers in your nose for at least a day.
And, of course, there’s the moment where it comes out the other side. Olive oil is a natural laxative, something of a minor-league cleanse when consumed in quantity. Like, say, a pint glass full, which I drank as part of a multi-step quest to keep my body from operating properly. I would do this again, but only if you told me it was for something important. (The continued survival of the human race, maybe. Scarlett Johansson, in a red dress, on my front porch in summer. Big things.) And I had a reason.
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Correction: We had a reason. My friend Zach and I were prepping for a long-distance trip in a sidecar motorcycle, for Cycle World magazine. We were trying to ride nonstop from Seattle to Los Angeles, setting an endurance record by never dismounting the bike, even to refuel or find a bathroom. Partly because it seemed like a fun thing to do. Partly because it was pointless and dangerous and seemed like the kind of thing that would make us feel alive. And partly because we are idiots.
Sidecars are three-wheeled motorcycles with a separate passenger compartment and extra storage space. For our trip, Zach and I borrowed a Ural Gear-Up sidecar, built in Russia, from the brand’s American importer.
Our plan was simple: We’d start in Seattle early one morning this spring, trade riding duties on the move, use a chase car to pass over fuel cans, and see basically the entire west coast without stopping, except for traffic lights—a route of more than 1,300 miles. At the Ural’s 45-mph average cruise, that meant around 30 consecutive hours on the road.
The body chemistry was the puzzler: Riding takes energy, energy takes solid food, and solid food produces deuces. We rigged up an on-bike urinal for liquid, but early in the planning stages, we realized that serious bathroom needs meant either stopping at a gas station or solving the urge before it happened.
A week before the trip, Zach called a nurse friend who lived in Panama City Beach, Florida, where, as Zach put it, “there are plenty of fighter pilots.” Turns out military pilots often down a few Imodium for 24-hour flights. Turns out the nurse friend had a few suggestions—actually a terrifying, multi-step process—to mutate our bodies into one-way food holding tanks. Turns out corking yourself up for 30 hours, while still doing work and consuming enough food to stay alive, was not a medical impossibility.
Zach emailed me the nurse’s process. On paper, it looked like a cleanse: fast, drink a cup or two of olive oil, then watch your input. It also contained the words “magma road tar,” in reference to something that was supposed to come out of my body, on purpose.
I read the instructions, thought a bit, and asked Zach if he was certain all of this needed to happen. Zach asked me if I had a better idea. I informed him that I had no ideas at all, because I was an English major in college and English majors know bupkis about anything even approaching real science. After which my mind filled with thoughts of body hacking gone wrong, explosive ordinance, and industrial-strength toilet cleaners. Instead of thinking more on the subject, I decided to drink a beer and take a nap.
The email was still there when I woke up. This was somehow less than comforting.
Maybe I didn’t want to jinx it. Zach had no such fears. As a final sanity check, he called a doctor friend on the eastern side of the country.
“You know,” the doctor said, “I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me specifically how to not shit for 30 hours.” Then he said the whole thing would probably work.
Spoiler: It all worked. We rode from Seattle to Los Angeles in record time. I went 63 hours—29 of those on the bike—with only liquid leaving my body. We ate and rode, rode and ate. I lost my mind from fatigue around 3 a.m. on U.S. 101 in Northern California; we hit snow and sleet and rain; and maybe we also sang showtunes at the top of our lungs while riding into Malibu at the tail end of the trip, half-mad from epic exhaustion.
And dear God, when it was all over, maybe some kind of condensed, never-before-seen Satan-core of waste left my body and found porcelain. Its existence and structure, after 63 hours, seemed to serve as warning to never again commit that kind of atrocity on any living object. Especially if that object were me.
Funny how your body just sometimes knows things.
After the trip, it took my bowels a week to return to normal. Or something like normal—I can’t really tell, because nothing has been the same since. Healthier, I think. Cleaner, easier, more friendly, but also a little . . . ominous. The sensation that my colon and I are now aware—and wary—of the other’s existence, where before, we just operated independently, assuming the other was help, not a threat. (A doctor once told me that manipulating your body outside its natural rhythms can produce a long period of settling-out, like your organs have PTSD, still bracing for the next impact. Seems legit.)
As for the end itself, I wish I could say it was dramatic. But there was no torrential release or explosion, just a slow climb back to normalcy, like clearing your head after a long night of drinking. I have no real lessons to pass along. I did not lose or gain any weight; the whole thing didn’t make me want to eat better. Maybe I drink a bit more water now, on a day-to-day basis, but I can’t say for sure.
If you ever decide to try this, and I hope you don’t*, one piece of advice: Be very, very careful with the olive oil. Your first instinct is to chug it. Do not chug it. Your body is not set up to chug something that flows like sanding sealer. You do not want to know what happens if you chug it.
Hint: The answer is not Scarlett Johansson.
*Disclaimer: The above process has not been officially endorsed or otherwise recommended by either Men’s Health or a medical professional. The two men who did this were, and remain, very stupid. Your mileage may vary. Your colon may vary. We take no responsibility if you try to get extra mileage out of your colon, or extra colon out of your mileage. Travel safe.
Published with thanks, and apologies, to Zach B.
The article ‘I Drank Olive Oil to Stop Myself From Pooping For 63 Hours’ originally appeared on Men’s Health.