I wanted to write this post about fasting, because it is such a easy, natural, free, simple and accessible tool for improving you health considerably. To good to be true?
Many will scream that it’s dangerous, or be skeptical about the benefits of not eating for a while. But wait, there is some science and millennials of experience behind this.
From 12 hours to 40 days or more. Water only, or with juices, tea or broths. At home or supervised. There is a way for everyone to fast. Everyone? Well, almost yes. But it goes without saying that fasting is not for pregnant ladies, thin/extremely thin people who have limited fat reserves, people taking heavy medication, people with severe illnesses and conditions, etc. (If you consider doing a fast, it is at your own risks, do your own extensive research, consult a doctor for medical advice in case of any doubts/concerns.).
One great contraindication to water fasting as well, is actually the “fear” of fasting. In order for a person to go on a fast they need to understand enough about fasting so they can relax and allow the body to do what it does best, which is heal itself.
What it is mainly about: Fasting helps the body to normalize itself by giving it a chance to use the energy that we usually spend on digesting the food for healing and detoxing instead. Our surroundings, our food, pills, stress, pollutions makes the body store toxins. These very same toxins are kept in our fat cells, or our adipose tissues. Since we’re constantly eating every day, we provide our bodies with a ready stream of glucose for energy, which leaves our bodies with little reason to break down our adipose tissues. Glucose is our body’s immediate preferred fuel. Only by cutting out our glucose source (by not eating or by reducing our caloric intake) will our body turn to our fat reserves for energy (this process is called catabolism/ketosis). This is when the toxins finally get processed, broken down and released.
There have been many reported benefits of fasting, including but not limited to:
- Fat/weight loss
- Emotional detox / Purging of past baggage
- Physical detox / Body cleanse
- Prevention of diseases
- Healing of diseases and pains
- Increased mental clarity
- Increased spiritual connection
- Increased creativity
- Improving one’s relationship with food
- Reset poor eating and lifestyle habits from the past
- Vividness of dreams
- Improved physical complexion
- Improved flexibility
So what does Science says?
The 4 phases of fasting
1) Gastrointestinal (the first 6 hours) – using the nutrient reserves in the intestinal tract.
2) Glycogenolysis (the next 24-48 hours) – using glycogen stores as a source of sugar for the muscles and brain, brain uses a large percentage.
3) Glyconeogenesis (14 days) – breaking down of protein nutrients to be used as fuel.
4) Keytosis – where the body uses the by products of fatty acid metabolism to produce keytone bodies which can then be burned by the brain.
when the body has no more reserves (and it can take some weeks) than it goes into starvation mode, which can be very damaging for the body and brain. The body gives you signals before you get into that phase, an intense hunger (a specific feeling in the throat, it apparently doesn’t come from the stomac)
for more information about each phase: click here
Long video about fasting (worth the watch 🙂 ) From Dr Alec Burton
Short Video (worth the watch too) From Loren Lockman
Brief history of Fasting
The history of fasting can’t have a beginning point because there’s no reason to think that early man did not fast in the normal course of his existence; every other animal, even today, will fast during times of stress or illness, and sometimes even at the slightest uneasiness. It is a natural tendency for the organism, whether human or animal, to seek rest, balance, and to conserve energy at critical time’
The early great philosophers, thinkers, and healers used fasting for health and as healing therapy. Hippocrates, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Galen all praised the benefits of fasting. Paracelsus, one of the three fathers of Western medicine, is quoted as saying, “Fasting is the greatest remedy–the physician within.” Early healing arts recognized the revitalizing and rejuvenating power fasting promoted.
Early religious and spiritual groups used fasting as a part of ceremonies and rites–most often during spring and fall equinoxes. Today, every major religion practices fasting for various spiritual benefit.
Today, it is usually the healers and physicians with a spiritual and/or holistic orientation that recommend fasting for health. Conventional Western medicine has not fully embraced natural remedies. But as their acceptance of the body-mind connection expands, they are increasingly willing to work with that powerful influence, attempting to not interfere with, but rather to foster the body’s own healing mechanisms. As medicine evolves in this direction, it will undoubtedly “rediscover” fasting as the invaluable method of self-healing that it is.
Scientific research is proving that there is unseen energy being directed through the body that will naturally incline the body toward balance and health. Even Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D. has said he believes the future of medicine lies in the study of the energy patterns of the body and learning how to enhance those patterns positively. They will continue to find all the evidence they need to prove the body is more than just the physical body we see, more than just biological processes.
No amount of surgery or medical procedures will cure a body that isn’t physically, emotionally and spiritually directed toward healing. And any scientist will concede that only the body itself can restore tissues to their original state of perfection. Many times what natural remedies succeed in doing is gearing the other aspects, the emotional and mental and spiritual aspects of our being, toward health. Fasting is a prime example of this. Even a one-day fast will bring subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, changes to the overall psyche.’
I was really interested in doing a water fast, but I wanted to do it supervised to feel safe, especially on a long fast. I am vegan, young and a dancer, why would I want to go through that, I must be pretty healthy. Well here are my reasons; I am interested in observing my body/mind when detaching from my eating habits. Detox my body, from the years I was eating meat and quit some sugar too, it can also be a very good way to prevent diseases, and considering my family history, it would be very beneficial. To free myself from accumulated emotions, sounds like a great thing to do to keep living life with lighter weight and past baggage. There had been quit some suffering pain and grief these last years, and I want to release that. Loosing weight is one of my goals too, but i don’t want to obsess about it, 4-5 kilos would be a good result, maintaining a healthy muscle/fat balance while feeling a bit lighter and more fit. I am at 58 kg for 1,67m just before the fast. I have a shoulder injury since July, that heals very slowly.. maybe the fast helps with that too!
I went for a 18 days of supervised fasting in Bad Brückenau at the Malteser Clinic. It is not a water only fast, we get a carrot juice in the morning a broth for lunch and an other broth or tea at dinner time as well as a small cup of agave sirop every 24h in case of energy drop. It is medically supervised, the place is nice and relaxing with many activities to do, or not much at all if you just want to rest in your room. There is a swimming pool, sauna, gym, and the place is in the middle of beautiful mountains.
I am sharing an insight into my fast.
to give you an idea, here is my daily schedule:
8.00am: carrot juice
8.30am: hot arm or leg bath followed by 10 seconds of cold water (arm to get the blood pressure higher, legs to lower the pressure) and repeat. so I always ask for the arm bath because my pressure is already quit low (and it tends to be at regular times as well)
9.30am: Cardio. We bike for 19min to check the heart rate when sustaining an effort, and second heart check after 1 min of rest, so see it’s ability to recover.
10.30am: the colon therapy… and it’s everyday. It actually helps to clean the waste/toxins that the intestins and colon are trying to eliminate. It’s not pleasant, but it prevents the toxins from reentering the bloodstream trough the colon.
13.pm: nap with a warm humid potatoes sack on the liver, helps the liver to release the toxins.
afternoon is for activities and treatments. I usually walk, do some pilates or yoga, meditate, read, write, go to the swimming pool… I also use the infrared cabin, for some nice heating of the body. I had 2 lymphatic drainage, and 6 body massages, one CranioSacral Therapy and a session with the chiropractor over the 3 weeks. We see a doctor once at the beginning of the week and once at the end of the week.
Day 1- 3
The most difficult part of the fast, because my body had to readjust to not receiving glucose from food. I was preparing myself during the week pre-fast, small portions mainly fruits and veggies and no coffee/alcohol.It helps the body transiting into the fast. It was my mom’s birthday the day before I left and we ate out, I had a glass of cava to celebrate and the chef made a special vegan dish for me!
Into the fast. I was feeling overall pretty fine, even though a bit slow and tired, until the morning of the 3rd day, where I felt like my blood pressure was so low, I was feeling achy, really nauseous. After puking (sorry for the details) I felt so much better instantly. I think I had drunk too much tea the day before, and that might have increased the nausea, since then I have 1 cup of tea a day, I feel much better, I drink water (about 2 liters), the juice in the morning and the broths. I had a bit of troubles falling asleep in the evening, but that might have been because I was taking a nap in the afternoon. The results of my blood test showed a little deficiency in potassium, so I got supplements to take. I feel like sleeping and resting a lost, and that’s what I do 🙂 My weight is stable, I am retaining some water.. So I had a lymphatic massage to help drain the excess water in my body. My skin is not so nice, I have a couple of pimples..
Day 4- 7
I have more energy than during the first days, no doubts, but my body is still quit slow. I have mental clarity, no major discomforts except that I am generally quit slow. My tongue is coated, which I brush of, it’s a sign of detox.I have the wish to eat but more from missing the habit than hunger. I write down the foods I think about, to have a little list at the end of what my body wanted during the fast. healthy stuff actually so far: beetroot houmous, spring rolls, artichoke and roasted pumkin where the 4 things I would really want to eat! my feet are a bit cold, but the infrared cabin helps heating the body! I get a very good back massage, maybe it helps heal the shoulder injury I have from this summer still.. Also my skin is clearing! I saw the doctor, who told me to relax, and that I didn’t have to do anything. That’s also one of my aims, a easier and loving understanding of myself, and letting go of the control, develop a sense of trust in my body and in my soul for knowing what to do. Listening to my self and my intuition. I am meditating every day, and I like this habit I started in august this year. It really helps to center myself and give room for emotions and thoughts to be observed and released. My weight is at 57kg.
On the morning of day 8, I heard about the attacks in Paris, I must say I am quit shocked. I take the time to read and follow the news. I don’t wanna watch any videos. I have a sudden will to write. On day 9 I finished the article about Fear that you can find here on my blog (in french only at the moment). I want to rest and spend some time on my computer, using my energy for brain work 😉 Every day gets easier. I feel really creative and productive, I want to write and post so many articles on the blog!! I am at 56kg on the morning of day 9.
Day 11- 14
More than half way into the fast! I am feeling fine but I am quit looking forward to the end of it I must say. I already did a list of the things I want to buy at the grocery store before going back to Brussels, they have a lot of cheaper health/food here in Germany, and a lot of different vegan product at a very fair price (cosmetics as well). So I will go shopping when my fast is over ;). At day 12 and 13, I got into the emotional release phase of the fast. Quit some confessions, tears and emotions coming up, and that I felt like sharing for the first time because I could look at it now as being part of the past, that I didn’t need to live or feel those things anymore because the didn’t belong to my current life and they could not serve me in any way. It was a very relieving feeling, and I was happy those emotions were being processed and ready to be released.
I am at 55.2kg on the morning of day 12.
Day 15- 18
getting towards the end! I must say that I can’t wait for breaking the fast, I really look forward to eating again. My shoulder is completely healed, it’s totally pain free, after 4 months of very little improvement, I couldn’t be happier it’s over!! I am a little bit dizzy when I stand up, so I have to be careful, but other than that I have no other unpleasant symptoms. I sleep really well, and I am fresh and concentrated during the day. I do a lot of reading and writing, for the blog but also about the current situation in Brussels and Paris related to the attacks. I will go to the cinema this afternoon, change my mind a little. I am also reading a lot about spirituality, and how fasting can awake that sense of awareness in you, and also reduce your karma. Some more links below if you are interested to know more. I am at 54.8 on day 16
My last day went super well, I am very exited, proud and humbled that my body, mind and soul went through this journey, I am looking forward to breaking the fast tomorrow! I am at on the day of breaking the fast (after 18 days thus) I am at 54.6 on day 18.
Breaking the fast!!! bon, just a thicker soup, not really really exiting. and It had a lot of cumin, which I am not really fan of.. but the re-feeding time is a crucial part of a fast, so better not rush and give the wrong foods to my digestive system! (a guy who fasted here was rushed into the hospital the day he left because he stopped his car at a gas station and ate a sausage with fries… tomorrow I should get some veggies to shew on! I bought a pear juice and had it around 4, so delicious!! thick veggie soup to end the day! I am so so happy I completed and did this fast! I am really exited about going back home and observe how this experience will continue inspire and influence my mind, body and habits
I am very energized, maybe because I am exited about going home and having completed this and being able to eat again! I had a banana/apple porridge for Breakfast yummy! potato and carrots for lunch, I was very hungry at 4pm so I went to buy apple sauce.. I was craving it, and it felt right to eat it, I ate very slowly, and my body was just fine, I want to be really careful about the transition phase, but I was hungry and I thought it’s also stupid to wait around 3 more hours if my body wants something.
Plate of warm veggies for dinner!
I went to the health store and the supermarket they have in town to bring some foods with me home as I will be working straight the day after I go home. They have some cheaper things and slightly different or that you cannot find in Belgium. I am taking time to exercice and stretch properly.
Let’s go back home!! My train ticket got upgraded to first class, I see it as a little sign to congratulate me somehow. My best friend joined me at my place in the evening, I am just exited to take a fresh start. sometimes it’s not about changing the outside that makes you happy, it’s changing the inside.
Back to work! I feel totally fine, hungry and easily satisfied with my meals. I will surely eat as clean as possible, and keep 24h of fast a week (dinner to dinner the next day). and see how that goes with my body/habits. Xmas and other celebrations will start soon, so I want to be able to enjoy this period guilt-free, but also not gain weight. it’s all about balance 🙂
My overall experience.
I tried to have very few expectations allthough my goals were clear. I wanted to take a fresh start, wrap up some unfinished emotional business that was still in my way, develop an even more mindful relationship with food, and unlink food and emotions, I wanted to detox my body, loose a few kilos and heal my shoulder injury. It’s crazy to realize the type of food we crave when we are feeling low, tired or stressed, and the type of food we desire when we are happy, energized and rested. We eat the type of food that go with our mood, and I think that’s why a lot of diets dont work. When we feel unhappy, we desperately want change, we ‘should’ loose weight, the motivation will make us eat healthier and less for a few days, but if the emotions behind are not healed, if we don’t love ourselves before to start any type of changes in our lives, we can be sure we are gonna fall right back into the old patterns.
links for further reading and interviews:
A very complete review of a 21 day water fast: http://personalexcellence.co/blog/fasting/
https://www.fasting.fr (en français)
BBC documentary: Eat, fast and live longer (In English)
Arte documentary about fasting (en Français)