I've been wanting to use this photo for over a year. I can't think of a more appropriate time than now.
Nine and a half days. I made it through 9 and a half days of a 10 day fast. Yup. I was short just 8 hours. You may be saying "Doh! You were so close! Why did you blow it?" Internet, I swear, it wasn't my fault.
I ran out of lemons. Seriously. I ran out of lemons on day 10. On day nine, I noticed I was low on lemons so I went to the store to buy some. Only when I got there and saw the beautifully colored rainbow Swiss Chard I thought, "It won't be long now until I can eat that again." One thought led to another and soon I convinced myself that since it was so close to the end of my fast, I should stock up on fruits and veggies right away because that's what's needed to break a fast: oranges first, and veggies later. So I shopped, lingering over every carrot, beet and cucumber and savoring their colors and smells. I bounced from veggie to veggie, anticipating the taste of each one on my tongue. "Oh and radishes! I must have radishes!" I stocked up on oranges and orange juice for breaking the fast and purchased a few other items, like eggs, light meats and raw meaty bones for the dogs. I went home, proud of my smart decision to purchase all these items ahead of time.
As soon as I walked in the front door, it hit me: I forgot the lemons. Thwarted by my own subconscious!
On day 10, I started the day as usual for the fast, drinking that delightful quart of salt water that's part of the routine and set out to deal with contractors and meetings in my home most of the day. I didn't drink anything but water (since I had no lemons) until 4:45 PM, when I had enough and broke out the orange juice. Nine and a half days of suffering. And I didn't even have a young Mickey Rourke to entertain me.
I don't fast a lot. If I'm lucky, I can set aside time to do one per year. But typically they last 5 or 6 days. One thing I love about fasting is how food tastes after the fast. I tend to delight in flavors for months and months. And because this one was the longest fast I ever did, I'm almost certain everything is going to taste starking delicious for a long time.
So here are the top ten things I learned this time around during my Nine and a Half Day fast:
- The better and cleaner your diet is, the easier it to fast. In the past, I fasted when my diet included wheat, gluten and dairy. This time I was gluten-free, but not dairy free. I'm not a caffeine drinker or addict so that is also a plus. It now makes sense why some doctors and educators propose a preparatory diet before fasting, so you don't feel like you've gone cold turkey from foods that you're physically addicted to. Unlike fasts in the past, except for the initial hunger pains of days 1-3, I had no real cravings and later rarely felt hungry.
- Every fast will teach you something new about your comfort or "go to" food for quick energy or hunger relief. It's probably the food you think about most in days 1-3.
- I have to admit, my pal, Sylvie, is correct. Maximum rest is required during a fast. Since you aren't feeding your body fuel, it needs to use the energy it has to heel and eliminate toxins. I've had better results with 5-day fasts where I rested a lot more than I rested this time. Unfortunately, I have too many projects going on now for me to be completely at rest, plus two big dogs that need exercise. Between my project level and meeting their exercise needs, there wasn't one day that I just laid around. And that had a big effect on the outcome. It wasn't until day 9 that I felt my best, no make that fracking fantastic. I'm happy that most of the joint pain is lessened and some even gone, but I'm certain, I would have felt better much sooner if I just rested. If you're going to fast: set aside time to do NOTHING but lay around, read, watch TV and sleep.
- Sometimes old symptoms of old illnesses will pop up. For me, it was insomnia. I had insomnia for 6 years. When I went gluten-free, it disappeared. I believe when you fast, some old toxins, sitting around in your body, will rear their ugly heads one last time before making their final exit. I've actually seen lab results in my own body that proved this theory of a toxic prescribed medication that persisted in my body for up to six months after stopping it. The insomnia wasn't severe, just a few nights of difficulty falling asleep.
- It's easier to go without food than you think. I'm not sure if I could ever do a "water only" fast, but provided my sugar levels stay normal, and this fast used a maple syrup lemonade mix to do that, it was easier than you'd imagine.
- Other people's awe or opinions about your fast don't matter. What matters is what works for you. I decided to do this while Mr. Wild Dingo was away. He never asked how it was going, until Day 8. Though he's seen me fast before, since this one was long one, he probably just dismissed it as another one of my harebrained ideas that I'd give up on after day 4. But I had plenty of gal-pals checking in on me to make sure I was alive and that my dogs were not missing limbs. Then on day 8 he finally asked and I said it was good but, "It's weird that I've gone 8 days without food, huh?" And Mr. Wild Dingo's all, "Ya, that is pretty messed up. I mean, if you don't eat for 30 days you will die." That turned on my worry button and later that night, I started to panic about re-introducing foods to my body after it was over. Will I vomit? Will I screw up my digestion for life? Oh my gosh, I hope I didn't hurt myself. Then I remembered, there are many people who've fasted on this exact method for 40 days. So I fell asleep. Later, a friend told me she did this exact fast for two months! And she's still alive and very healthy. He probably learned that "fact" in some deprivation training program while in the Navy.
- You don't need to eat. Well, let me modify it. You don't need to eat as much as you think you need to eat. I picked up a nasty habit when I moved back to California. Snacking on cheese and crackers while making dinner. Because I was hungry and couldn't wait. And it had a negative affect on both my health, dairy being an inflammatory food, and my appreciation of my own dinner. In Switzerland, I never did that no matter how hungry I was. Because I wanted to savor my dinner. The biggest lesson I learned from this fast, and I hope it lasts a lifetime: If I can go without food for 10 days, then I can certainly wait an hour before eating dinner.
- Taking that lesson a little further, no matter how hungry you are, you can certainly wait until a healthy food choice is available instead of grabbing what's convenient. Skipping a meal isn't going to kill you. You're better off grabbing a fresh juice to keep sugar levels normal and waiting until you can choose wisely.
- Epsom salt baths really DO detoxify! I never take baths because it seems so cumbersome. I managed to take one on day 9 and felt amazing. After the bath, I had one of those "detox" headaches that are common when fasting on the hardest detoxifying days. But I drank water, laid down and it passed and I felt fantastic. Epsom salt baths are now on my weekly ritual list.
- Don't go grocery shopping at ANY day during your fast. Call someone to pick up lemons for you if you must.
My friend Sylvie once told me "I believe the body is a machine. It knows how to heel itself. You are the only thing that gets in its way. When I get sick, I fast (and rest) for as long as I need to so the body can do its thing." I feel lucky to be surrounded by such wise, caring friends.
Fasting does make you more aware of your relationship with food. I truly believe if more people were aware of how food truly makes them feel from the moment it hits their tongue to 24 hours later, it would solve many health issues plaguing us today. But being aware often means slowing down, and sadly our society is far too caught up in fast-living to be swayed to slow down and think about how food affects the body.
I hope this experience and post enlightened you a little bit about the mysteries of fasting. Anyone can do it. If you are thinking of fasting, check with your doctor, especially if you have health issues, such as diabetes.
Here's to a Starking Delicious February!
Starking Delicious, February 2013
Photo taken at Le Jardin des Cinq Sense, Yvoire, France, April 2011