If I had to sum it up in three words, I’d say: Challenging, Rewarding, Amazing.
And yes, in that order.
Last week, I completed my first successful 5-day fast. I documented my experience as I was going through it, so unlike what happens with so many mothers following childbirth, I remember all the gritty details. Truthfully, though, it was not nearly as bad (or so I hear -- I've never had a baby).
I don’t imagine it will come as a surprise to you to learn that not eating for five days can kind of suck. What you might not expect to hear is that, for me, hunger is not the problem. Cravings are what cause the struggle. Hunger is gentle; it is fascinating to watch it rise and fall like the tide. Cravings are not gentle. Cravings are like an angry child banging pots and pans in the kitchen. My experience of cravings is that they are triggered.
Triggers can be:
- time of day (“this is when I always eat”)
- the sight, smell or image of food (“hey! I want that”)
- remembering that I have Baby Bell cheeses (or some other tasty snack) in the fridge. (“I can almost taste it, I need that now”)
The power and sense of control is amazing when we realize that we don’t have to give into these cravings or hunger signals. Much the same way during meditation we watch our thoughts and feelings come and go, we can do the EXACT. SAME. THING. with cravings and hunger. That is liberating! And, informative. I have come to see that cravings are just another thought form.
This discovery has particular resonance for me since for the longest time, I felt powerless when confronted with ice cream, mac & cheese, chips, donuts, cake, cookies, or tons of other processed, sugar rich foods.
It is wild to discover that by not giving in
to any cravings at all while fasting,
you become stronger, tougher, and more free.
(As I wrote the above originally, I remembered, we have Lilly’s white chocolate chips in the freezer-- it was sort of like my craving like a zombie got reanimated by what I wrote and wanted to trap me but-- hell no. I can witness that dynamic and stay strong. A few more hours and I am THERE. Boom. Five Days.)
The results, are nothing short of the A-word. Let’s break it down:
- I have mental clarity like I’ve rarely experienced, I seem to need less sleep and be much more focused than I normally am (even than when I am on a 40 hour fast).
- My GKI numbers by the end of this fast are nothing short of exceptional. I’m consistently <1 and that puts me, based on documented research, in cancer-fighting territory.
- I’m down ~5 lbs since I started and to the lowest weight, I’ve been in at least a year. I know some of this will be regained when I start eating again, but often much of it is not.
- Plus, with the human growth hormone, ketones, and norepinephrine all going way up and my glucose (both morning and evening) going way down, it is certain that there are wonderful things happening inside my body that I can’t even see.
Here’s the breakdown by day.
Day 1 (Mon): Piece of cake.
Not literally, obviously. Given that I do 40 hour fasts typically 3 days per week, this was easy. Felt like a normal Monday.
Day 2 (Tue): The worst craving day.
I felt pretty good until maybe about 5 PM when I became very fixated on Baby Bell cheeses. I can’t explain why, I just really wanted one and I found myself fantasizing about them. Weird I know. I was very tempted to cheat, but knowing that I had two partners in crime that I didn’t want to let down helped push me through. I also began drinking salt water.
I want to EMPHASIZE this and give a shout out---
I did this five-day fast with two other women and
that SUPPORT TEAM got me through the
most challenging moments.
Day 3 (Wed): Getting the hang of this, until we started talking about food.
All morning and early afternoon I was fine. Then around 3:00 pm when we started talking about food I started fixating not just on the cheese, but also Keto ice cream bars, Lilly’s white chocolate chips, bacon. I made it till about 6 PM, then I was ready to grab that little red round and rip the wax off and savor ever bite of that mini gouda.
KEY DECISION: At that point, I decided I needed to get out of the house. So I took the dogs running. I ran pretty slowly (and Luka put up a fight about going too far), so we probably only ended up running ~2 mi or less, but that was all it took. I didn’t think about the cheese again the rest of the night until I was laying in bed about to fall asleep when I felt a bit of hunger creep up. I listened to it and chose kindly not to act on it.
Day 4 (Thurs): Wholly shit these numbers!
I woke up with a Glucose reading of 62. That’s six-two. Ridiculously low. And my ketones, 4.5 – so high for the first reading of the day! For those of you keeping score, that puts my Dr. Boz ratio at 13.8 and my GKI at 0.8 insane. Those are MD Anderson Cancer fighting dream numbers!
Again the morning was easy, by mid-afternoon I was peckish, but feeling mostly delightful. Then my knee/hip started bothering me. At first I thought it was stiff muscles from running the night before and overstretching them around noon.
I met up with friends in a park during most of the dinner hour, which helped a lot. I even successfully navigated a grocery store without eating anything I purchased.
As I went home for the night, the pain in my knees/hips kept bouncing around and started getting worse. Having never experienced this before, it wasn't until I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep for the night that I realized what must be going on. I believe it was micro-cramping and I think it was likely caused by being low on potassium.
On the one-hand I’m very much looking forward to eating again tomorrow, on the other-hand I’m going to really miss this clarity and focus.
THE POWER of seeing the actual results FIRED ME UP!
Day 5 (Fri): The easy part!
Mornings are always the easiest for me and most other fasters I know. So, Day 5 was honestly the easiest day. Especially after all the electrolytes. I honestly didn’t want to break it, but I finally did with (of course) a Baby Bell cheese since I’d been craving them for so long, sausage + brussel sprouts, and a little keto ice cream bar. It felt fantastic. And, I couldn’t believe how full I felt after the longest fast I’ve ever done.
THINGS THAT WORKED FOR ME:
- Avoiding the site, smell, and talk of food (though I would love to have avoided this even further. There was, what felt to me at least, a lot of food talk.)
- Drinking salt! In the past I haven’t done a great job of getting my electrolytes in while fasting. This time I was all over the salt and it made a considerable difference. No big crash on Day 4! Just the slight cramping from potassium deficiency.
- Staying very well hydrated with coffee (usually only a half cup), water, and seltzer.
- Doing the fast WITH friends.
- I’d like to start earlier on Sunday so I can time my fasting end for earlier in the day.
- Increase electrolytes!!
- Try either up to 500 calories a day (because I feel like a little snack in the evening would have really taken the edge off) or do it 100% clean. I had a little butter/cream in my coffee (<0.5 tbs) and I used the everything bagel seasoning for salt a bit on night four.
On the whole, I’m super proud of myself for completing this fast. Incredibly impressed by my numbers, have I mentioned that? And, loving the way I felt!
Please let me hear from you -- I would love to know what your experiences have been like!