Disclaimer: This has nothing to do about my books or writing in any way. It’s a life post. Feel free to skip if you just want to read fiction. 😉
The Why of My Fasting Experiment:
Some of you know I’m a bit of a sideline health nut. Most of this stems from my struggle with autoimmune issues over the last few years. After falling into a bit of an eat-whatever-I-please-including-plenty-of-sugar pit last December and then coming down with Covid, I wanted to give my body the best opportunity to heal.
While reading a health book my mother had passed onto me, the author claimed that one of the best ways to detox one’s body was fasting. This was a completely new concept to me. While I often practice Intermittent Fasting to rest my digestive system (fasting for say 16-20 hours at a time, which for me means eating lunch, going to work for a Walmart shift from 2-7, and not eating until later the next morning) and have fasted for spiritual purposes for that same amount of time, I had never considered fasting for longer.
I was intrigued, so I dug into two fasting books, completed a forty-hour juice fast, and then decided to tackle a longer fast. The idea, so the science says, is that once your body stops burning sugar (glycogen), it will burn fat, getting rid of a lot of the stored “junk” in our bodies. There’s even a study out of MIT that claims fasting boosts the regenerative capacity of stem cells. Insulin goes down and human growth hormone (HGH) go up–a good thing considering some of the effects of aging seem to stem from low HGH (the height of which occurs during puberty).
Okay, that was a lot of science, but it got me excited. As does the fact that fasting has so many spiritual roots. (Let me just say, after my pitiful 84-hour fast, I have an entirely different newfound respect for Jesus’s 40-day fast in the desert!) I have a lot more to learn, but I love the learning. And the reading. Lots of reading! But armed with a little bit of knowledge, I decided to embark on my first long fast. My goal was five days, but as we’ll see, that was a bit unrealistic, for me, at least….
ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional and it is advised that you speak with your doctor before beginning a longer fast, especially if you have medical conditions.
Another Note: My fast included LOTS of water, a cup of bone broth every day, lemon water, herbal tea, and water with Vitamin C powder. I still took my thyroid medication in the morning and my multi-vitamin after Day 1.
Day 1: I was actually surprised how cranky I was on Day 1. I think if I had eaten better the day before my fast (I splurged on some dairy and chocolate–things I usually try to stay away from), day 1 would have been easier. I was obviously hungry and my stomach kept growling. But I slept great!
Day 2: Mood much better! Still quite hungry, but the funny thing about hunger is that it doesn’t actually get worse. Yes, my stomach was still growling, but I couldn’t honestly say I felt any hungrier than I did the day before. I still had plenty of energy. When the family sat down to dinner, I enjoyed a cup of bone broth. My legs ached for no apparent reason, but I read this could happen, so I took a magnesium supplement.
Day 3: Almost exactly 48 hours into the fast, I noticed a dramatic shift. I’m guessing this is when my body completely ran out of glycogen and the heavy duty cleanup of fasting began. I felt nauseous and tired. When I woke on Day 3, I told myself I would not go past 3 1/2 days if I didn’t start feeling better. Though I did get a burst of energy mid-morning after some lemon water, it was short-lived. I stand up to write and I couldn’t even do that. My legs ached. About midday, I finally allowed myself to lay down. I napped for two whole hours! I awoke still nauseous and achy.
Looking back, I wonder if some of this was due to my mild hypothyroidism. I did not consult with my primary care doctor or my functional doctor before starting the fast, and I intend to before trying this again. Then again, it might have just been my body’s very real reaction to no food!
Funny, but at this point I wasn’t even hungry–just nauseous. And yet, I still very much wanted food because I assumed it would make me feel better (of course). I went to bed knowing I would break my fast the next morning. My sleep was horrible. I was jittery (was it the anticipation of food the next morning?) and my legs ached horribly. I awoke the next morning still feeling lousy and eager to put an end to the fast.
Breaking the Fast:
I had planned (and even dreamed) about what I would eat on this first day. I knew I needed to go slow–I didn’t want to shock my body or overeat and ruin any hard work I’d accomplished. I started with a 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds and walnuts with herbal tea. I don’t think anything has ever tasted so good as these unsalted morsels! I chewed super carefully and simply SAVORED the beauty of God’s gift of food. Wow. Within ten minutes, my nausea disappeared. I made myself wait another hour before eating an apple and walnut butter. I didn’t have what I consider a full meal of cooked kale, bacon, onions, and dairy-free cream cheese until an hour after that. By this time, all my aches disappeared and I felt PHENOMENAL. All my energy returned much quicker than I expected. I happily fluttered around the kitchen the rest of the morning making hummus and chicken broth and grain-free bread.
I was careful not to overeat this first day and relished every single solitary bite. An overwhelming feeling of contentment and gratitude that didn’t go away for at least three days after I ended my fast settled over me. I also had no desire for sugar during this time.
What I’d Do Differently
Eat better leading up to the fast. I think giving my liver a head’s up is only fair. I should have practiced completely clean eating at least a week or two before my fast.
Talk to my doctor about side effects/dangers of fasting with Hashimoto’s.
Focused more on the spiritual aspect of fasting. While I have done this a lot in the past, I was so focused on the benefits for my body I’m ashamed to admit I missed out on the spiritual benefits I know were there for me. While I still prayed and meditated, I didn’t make it a habit of seeking God through the hunger. So I’d definitely make a more conscious effort to do this differently!
Have you ever done a longer fast? I’d love to hear about your experiences!