I completed a 40-hour fast today at noon, breaking it with a cup of Trader Joe’s Organic Butternut Squash Soup. I’ve never officially fasted before. In fact, I was scared to do it because I’m a skinny, slip of a girl who has trouble gaining weight and I had convinced myself that I couldn’t go longer than a few hours without food.
I just proved myself wrong.
Which is a good thing. Now I know that I won’t immediately die a horrible and tragic death by starvation if for some reason I have to go 24 hours without food.
I was put on the fast by my doctor, who is helping me deal with a long-term systemic yeast infection that has led to a nasty case of eczema. (I’ve written about the eczema/atopic dermatitis before on my blog, so you can do a search for it if you need more info.) The fast is actually slightly modified from a strict water-only fast in that my doctor prescribed a product called Core Restore. It has a powdered supplement that you mix into water, juice or rice milk, along with some vitamin and detox capsules you take during the the week-long program.
So, I got some calories during my fast with the Core Restore powder. Not many, mind you. Only about 400 calories between that and the rice milk. Otherwise, it was herbal tea and water for me.
I had to do some mental prep before the fast so I was ready to get through it. It helped to realize that pretty much every day I go without food for at least 12 hours, between supper in the evening and when I wake up in the morning. Yeah, news flash. I don’t eat while I’m sleeping and somehow I manage to wake up just fine. Sometimes, I go even longer, like when I sleep in past 9 and then laze around reading until 10. (Another duh moment: It’s called break-fast for a reason.)
I also realized there have been times when I’ve had the flu that I’ve gone three days without eating much of anything and managed to survive. As if that wasn’t enough to convince me that I could get through a fast, I also survived three pregnancies with three bad cases of morning sickness that lasted three months each. The morning sickness during the last pregnancy was so bad I ended up in the hospital with dehydration. Even though I couldn’t keep down much food, I only lost 6 pounds in that time, rapidly gaining it all back as soon as the morning sickness passed.
So, I psyched myself up for the fast by first convincing myself I could do it. Then I did some research on what to expect for symptoms. The whole point of my fast was to give my intestines a rest from digesting food so they could heal and help me overcome this yeast infection. Fasting releases toxins, which can make you feel sick, kind of flu-ish. Fasting can also cause your blood pressure to dip. If you already have low blood pressure (yep!), this can cause you to get dizzy if you switch positions too quickly. The cure? Move more slowly.
Because so few calories would be consumed during the fast, I planned to do it during a couple of days off work. I also made sure to do nothing overly strenuous. Although with our wacky Minnesota weather extremes this winter, we keep bouncing back and forth between severe below-zero temps and snowfall, so I did a little light shoveling at the very beginning of the fast. And I walked the dog. And I survived both. Otherwise, I took a nap and sat around and drank a lot of tea.
Amazingly, I never got overly hungry during the fast. A few pangs here and there, but totally manageable. A little fuzzy-headed, a little extra itchy, a coated tongue, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.
Part of my preparation included researching how to break a fast. Because I’m trying to clear my body of toxins, it’s not a great idea to gallop right back to heavy, hard-to-digest foods. Hence, the Trader Joe’s soup. I bought a couple of them just in case I had to modify my fast to include more calories. Instead, they’re helping me to break the fast gently.
I’ll also be making my own soup this evening, something with rice and veggies and lots of broth, that I can eat all day tomorrow. (Soup for breakfast. Why not?)
If I had tried to do this fast a year or two ago, I’m not sure I could have managed it. However, because I suspected I had systemic yeast, I had already eliminated sugar and refined carbohydrates from my diet and I went gluten-free a couple of weeks ago. Both of these factors probably kept me from having serious withdrawal symptoms from a lack of blood sugar. If you’ve never fasted before, I’d highly recommend easing into it in this way in order to keep from shocking your system.
All of this put me in exactly the right frame of mind for my fast. If you’re considering a fast for some reason, I’d suggest finding a doctor who practices functional medicine or a naturopath to guide you through the process. (Your garden variety MD doesn’t know squat about nutrition and how it affects chronic disease.) Do your own research on fasting and how it might affect you. Preparation, both mental and physical, are essential for a fast of any length.
(Oh, and you might want to read Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore. A couple of characters in the novel fast for spiritual reasons, so it’ll give you some inspiration.)
Have you ever done a fast? If so, how did it go?