21 day water fast: Day 7

mcdonalds (1200x800)So here we are, another milestone in the fast: the end of the first week and, with it, the first third of my planned duration.  I feel good, just physically slow in ev-er-y-thing.  But this new tempo – precisely because of its more leisurely, deliberate speed, as well as because it’s different to what I’m used to – also evokes an increased consciousness in everything I do…

This morning I’ve noticed a lot of muscles making their presence felt.  My shoulders and thighs are very subtly sore – low and behold, completely matching the muscles used to carry the fridge yesterday!  Normally, I wouldn’t have felt anything today, but again this proves the point that while fasting it’s extremely important not to overstress your body physically.  You can do lasting damage to it, as Gandhi demonstrated.  Quite bluntly, muscle damage was done yesterday (no matter how minimally), whereas normally such exertion would have been well within my normal capacity.  Besides this, I’ve felt old running injuries surfacing again, either in the form of a barely perceptible ache or as a sudden but mild jab.  The feeling has been much less intense during this fast than during certain others, when some of the muscles I’d pulled ached so strongly that I could hardly sleep at night.  Otherwise, the dull ache I’ve sometimes felt in my kidneys up until now has more or less completely receded, both in terms of frequency and intensity.

I’ve noticed a pattern developing over the last few days in terms of sleep.  I have a tendency to wake up after about three hours, and then find it difficult to go back to sleep again.  When I do, I often wake up after another couple of hours, and then, after some similar tossing and turning, go back to sleep for a final stretch before getting up in the morning.  This pattern coincides with a couple of other things in the fast which may be related.  The first three nights I slept heavily, and more or less solidly until morning.  This relates to the period in which ketosis was fully establishing itself, and it’s possible that since my body was working harder to finish the process, I was lower on energy and had to sleep it off.  In fact, I spent quite a lot of time dozing during the day too.  It’s interesting because I know that, at least for me, ketosis starts to kick in already by the afternoon of the first day.  (I feel an extra energy building before my glycogen starts to deplete.)  Nevertheless, I guess this shows that even if it does begin early and quickly, it still takes time to complete the metabolic shift.  The idea that my body is working harder also supports the fact that the only time I’ve felt cold during this fast is on the evenings of Day Two and Day Three.  Since then my sense of warmth has been totally fine.

With ketosis more established since Day Four, maybe I don’t need so much sleep, and this is the reason I’m waking up in the night.  Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that three hours’ sleep should be enough!  I reckon that the fact that I’m finding it hard to go back to sleep has more to do with the metabolism of ketosis.  It’s slower and smoother than our usual glucose-based metabolism, and also less responsive to change.  As a result, I need more time to power up in the morning, and more time to power down to go to sleep.

Driving into Budapest was a strange sensual experience.  Since the end of Day Six, I’ve sometimes had extremely live and visceral flashes of taste in my brain, most memorably of a meal I had out a few weeks ago: a perfect avocado covered with coriander leaves and with fresh lime juice squeezed on top… Hmm, I guess that says something!  Anyway, approaching the city I had one of these olfactory flashes: the smell of frying chips…  Simultaneously attractive and repulsive, but totally life-like.  Then, as soon as it had appeared, the hallucination vanished into thin air.  A kilometre later, the same smell reappeared, but this time more convincingly repulsive and exponentially magnified, as I passed a roadside McDonald’s.  That was a laugh!  A little later, driving down one of the main avenues through the centre of town, it was one smell after another, each replacing the last in a continuous flood of scents.  Each smell was intense and rich, almost a sensory overload.  Combined with this, the sight of one restaurant or food shop replaced the previous, one after another in a continuous flow.  Man’s obsession and addiction with eating was everywhere!

Along with the intensity of all those smells, the other thing which struck me driving through the middle of the city was the busyness and tension in the air: in the traffic, in the people, in everything.  And in the centre of it all was me, feeling empty and expanded, at peace, like the eye of a city-wide storm.  The energy of all that stress didn’t touch me – in fact, the external contrast with my own inner state of consciousness actually drew attention to and perhaps even magnified how open I was feeling.  Upon arriving home, my three kids surrounded me with their own high intensity kid-energy, but again, it felt fine.  I remained anchored in my own depths while they bubbled around me, and soon I was getting down to helping Lia with her math homework…  I don’t know whether it would be possible to sustain this centre of peace in the everyday world if I were to remain long in it.  For now, at least, it feels good.  Likewise, I don’t know if this is because I’ve only been here half a day so far, and the ever-present buzz hasn’t had time to undermine me, or whether the knowledge that I’ll be returning to solitude in a day or so allows me to enjoy this contrasting world for what it is.

At home, being surrounded by so much food – lunch food, dinner food, snack food, food-food – became a challenge if I began to lose presence.  But when I felt the temptation, the question always arose inside me: “do you really need this food?”  The answer was always no, and the craving subsided.  It’s true that around dinner time and I had to ask this question several times, but the answer was always the same.

4 responses to “21 day water fast: Day 7”

  1. I am just now finding your website and it is so informative. I am now embarking on my first 21 day fast after doing it for 30 days years ago. Of course I am older now. I hear so much about not exercising etc. and it is nice to see this blog. The last time I saw something like this was in a book and I can’t seem to find it anymore (technology). Thank you for the play by play. I am doing it for a lot of reasons but mainly for my health. What gets you through the day? Do you have a calendar? Do you isolate yourself most of the time? Do you empty out your fridge? I am single so food isn’t that much of an issue since my daughter doesn’t live with me. My fear is working (luckily I am a receptionist) and dealing with not telling my co workers as to what I am doing because they have so many views about fitness etc.

    1. Tallis Barker, D.Phil. Avatar
      Tallis Barker, D.Phil.

      Hi Yolanda,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the website. All the questions you have are about psychology and your emotional attachment to food (which of course we all have). There’s no single or simple answer here. The old phrase ‘know thyself’ is what helps best here. During coaching sessions with clients, it’s exactly these issues which often play a large role in our conversations – because everyone has to find out what works best for them. In cases like that, it’s my job to help them find that.
      I wish you all the best on your 21 day fast!

  2. Renata valguarnera Avatar
    Renata valguarnera

    I am filled with curiosity about the therapeutic effects of prolonged fasting on the body, as this practice remains unexplored territory for me. However, one thing appears obvious to me: “The less we eat the more we feel”…..and your posts in a certain way prove it to me….being so vivid and full of wonder towards the most undisclosed details hidden in the folds of Life…

    1. Tallis Shivantar Avatar
      Tallis Shivantar

      Hi Renata,
      Thanks for sharing :-). I too am filled with wonder and awe by the way that the body is capable of such miracles! It’s such a privilege to witness this time and again among my fasting clients.
      All the best,

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