I wanted to write about the cost of fraud in the banking system but because I have taken the rest of the year off, I decided to pick something that is totally unrelated to work, namely fasting. Before Christmas I did a six day water fast, that means that for six days I didn’t eat at all, I only drank water, no tea or juices.
Not My First Time
This was not the first time I went on a fast. It is not so hard and it seems as if my body adapts faster to it the more I do it. Normally I would start on a Friday and use the weekend to adapt. So Monday I can go to work and stick to my normal schedule, which includes attending lunches and dinners. This takes a bit of explaining but most of the time people not only understand but they also find it interesting. It might seem like a bit of self torture to sit a dinner table watching others having good food and wine but honestly, it is not really that hard. This time I started on the first day of my winter holidays.
For some time I wanted to do another fast. This year I have not been very disciplined about food and lifestyle (yes, everything is relative in life). At least not like in 2011 when I participated in the European Ironman Championship. That took a lot of preparation and discipline. Still, I cannot keep it up like this forever and alternate periods of intense physical activity with periods when I have to take it easier. Yes, It might be better, or even healthier (who knows) to keep a reasonable level all the time instead of these fluctuations, but then I would never do an Ironman. Anyway, increasing body weight, less sleep, more coffee, less attention to the quality of my food, it all adds up and I knew I was moving in a direction I didn’t want to go. So I needed a “reset”, a recalibration of my body and the way to do it was to fast.
The idea is not so much about weight loss but to give the body a period of rest and a cleansing. The fact that (all) religions have periods of fasting also shows that the benefits of fasting have been known to mankind for ages. I had contemplated fasting for some time but it was the book “Fasting and Eating for Health” by Joel Fuhrman that gave me the understanding I needed. Fasting provides the body the rest it needs to undergo important maintenance and clean up. Some call it detoxification. This process is most effective once the body changes its metabolism and goes into protein saving mode. This happens after all sources of carbohydrates are depleted, usually after two days and is called ketosis. In this phase the body will be actively looking for tissue that is not essential and that can be burned for energy.
How Does It Feel
I felt cold during the fast. This is normal. Digesting food is hard work for the body and this takes up a lot of energy and generates heat. No digestion, less heat. So you feel cold.
Blood pressure is lower, so you have to pay attention and get up slowly but even so, I felt lightheaded from time to time.
Headaches are usual during the first few days, I attribute mine to caffeine depravation. Only a minor issue in my case.
Strange taste in my mouth and my tongue turned almost white, this seems to be normal.
I was not hungry nor thirsty and had to make sure I drank at least a litter of water a day.
Energy levels are lower than usual. This doesn’t mean I couldn’t work or that I had to stay in bed all the time. It is just better to do light administrative work.
My only problem were my legs at night. The backside of my upper legs hurt so much that I couldn’t lie down comfortably. A hot shower helped, bath probably would have been better but we don’t have a bathtub. I searched the internet a bit and there are some indications that this might be linked to caffeine depravation. Not impossible, I drank a lot of coffee in the weeks before I started my fast. Next time I’ll make sure I don’t take any coffee at all or only modest amounts before I start fasting.
I lost almost a kilo a day. I guess most of this is water and loss of muscle mass but this will be reversed. Still a few kilos less, no more sugar cravings, no more need for caffeine to get through the day, a cleaner and leaner body. I feel good about it and am motivated to build on these achievements by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In my experience only a healthy life style will bring my weight down, not keeping diets, starving myself. I see fasting in that context and not as a method of sustainable weight loss.
As a 55 year old with a history of high performance in sports I like to think I know my body well. If you are interested in fasting and how it might help you I highly recommend the book “Eating and Fasting for Health” by Joel Fuhrman as a fist step. I just wanted to share my experience and that should not be taken as advice.