(Originally posted Dec. 2014)
Yesterday I bid farewell to food… It wasn’t anything ceremonious or even anything planned, but at lunch I noticed myself saying goodbye to the food I was eating: “this is the last lunch for the next five days…” And then again at dinner, a final feeling of farewell to food: my last meal of any kind for the next five days.
I’ve been water-fasting for the last five years or so, usually once or (more recently) twice a year. A water fast means not taking any calories into your body for the duration of the fast: drinking only water or, at most, an occasional herbal tea. It’s a wonderful way to detoxify the body and appreciate food for what it really is, starting on a “clean slate” at the end of it: freer from the usual addictions to food we all suffer from, as well as from the addiction to eating itself.
The day before a water fast I’m always filled with feelings of both excitement and trepidation. It’s like standing on the starting line before running a marathon. There’s a long road ahead, and you can never really know with complete certainty what’s going to happen along the way – as much as the uncertainty is itself part of the fun! In many ways, undertaking a water fast and running a marathon are similar, not only psychologically but physically as well. More about that tomorrow…
Over the next five days, I’m going to post daily about how I feel and what it feels like to live off water alone. Right now, it’s nearly 4pm, and my last meal was dinner last night. I feel good. Yes, at lunchtime today my biorhythm kicked in with a rumbling stomach. Yes, I was hungry – but the funny thing is that it’s a different kind of hunger when you don’t expect to be eating anyway. When you allow yourself the luxury of expecting to eat lunch (and who doesn’t in the modern ‘developed’ world?), when you feel that it’s your right to eat lunch, then your ego starts shouting the moment lunch is late. And this makes hunger feel much worse.
The worst hunger I felt was on my very first water fast. My body had never experienced 24 hours without any calories. An instinctive, animal part of me panicked through the entire day, as if I would die of hunger – even though my rational mind knows that, just like everyone else, I have enough calories stored in fat cells to last a full 40-day fast. Now my body is wiser, and my ego gives less resistance. It’s ok with the thought of not eating for the next five days (or at least it’s ok at the moment!). So my stomach rumbles. Big deal. Or, more precisely, it goes like this: stomach rumbles, ego immediately jumps in with: “I want to eat!” Then, in the same moment, a deeper part of me recognises the ego-game and responds with: “It’s alright! Nothing to worry about!” And that’s it. Done. Yes, it happens every time my stomach rumbles now, but over the next few days my ego is going to get used to not eating, and so it’s going to stop complaining. On top of that, the entire digestive system shuts down over the first few days, which shuts down a lot of the feeling of hunger along with it.
During the first 24 hours of any water fast, there’s enough glycogen stored in the liver to compensate for any lack of energy through the lack of eating. The real question is what happens tonight when my usual fuel tank hits empty. I’m hoping my body is already switching over to ketosis (the direct burning of fat cells which happens only during a water fast or special low-carb diets). This takes practice, and on your first water fast you can expect to feel pretty awful at this point, with headaches, cramps, a total lack of energy, and possible nausea as well… For me, the transition towards ketosis has become smoother with each fast. My last water fast in April-May went so smoothly that I hardly noticed the transition at all.
Well that’s all for now. There’s nothing more to do than… not eat!