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Water fast coaching and consultations (online)

Mugshot 2018 Kisoroszi garden (square)Water fast coaching and how it helps:

Hello, I’m Dr. Tallis Barker. In addition to the many articles and videos here on this website, I also provide more private and personalised support as a water fasting coach.*

I’ve successfully guided hundreds of people from across the world through fasts of 3 to 40 days
(CLICK HERE for testimonials)

Fasting by yourself can be lonely.

Some people need accountability.
Some people need a partner to keep them company through their journey.
Some people need sound advice, especially when fasting to heal health issues.
You can find all sorts of answers on internet forums – but are they right for you?

Whatever your needs, I’m here to help hold the space for your fast.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that the emotional security provided by working with a coach makes the experience of fasting much, much easier. That security even tends to decrease the severity of detox symptoms – and when they do occur, I can help you find the most appropriate ways to relieve them.

I offer the following online services:

  • (1) Full coaching (see below)
  • (2) Single online consultation (see below)


(1) FULL COACHING FOR ANY LENGTH OF WATER FAST

Price includes:

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(1) Preliminary video call (Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp) before the beginning of the fast (@60 min.)
(2) Daily check-in video calls to discuss how you’re feeling (15-20 min. per day, every day except Sundays).
(3) Unlimited email contact every day for the full duration of the fast.
(4) Continued daily contact (video calls and email) after the fast, through the refeeding process.
(5) Access to my personal phone number in case of emergency.

Bonus: Free copy of my PDF How to Break a Water Fast and Manage Refeeding
Bonus: Free copy of my PDF Dealing with Detox Symptoms

HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?

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Before the fast:
Once you’ve filled out the sign-up form (by clicking one of the buttons on this page), I’ll contact you in order to set up a preliminary video call. Ideally, this should be at least a week before you plan to begin your fast. That way we can talk about how best to prepare for the fast, both physically and psychologically, as well as discuss any concerns you may have (also taking into consideration any relevant medical issues, if any).

During the fast:
Once you actually begin your fast, we’ll stay in contact via daily video calls in which you can let me know how you’re doing, and I can offer suggestions to any problems you may be having: anything from detox symptoms to sleep problems to cravings for food. The simple fact is that most people do encounter difficulties while water fasting. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (2018) showed that over 89% of people experienced some kind of adverse event during their fast, ranging from mild to severe.** Having an experienced water fasting coach can obviously help you avoid or reduce the severity of such problems! Once things are going smoothly, I can also offer tips to help you go deeper into your fast, both emotionally and spiritually.

In addition to our daily video calls, you’re free to send me unlimited emails about any issue you’d like to share. In case of emergency (which is highly unlikely!), you’ll also have my personal telephone number.

After the fast:
For many people, the refeeding process after their fast is the trickiest period: both in terms of resisting the temptation to overeat, as well as in making sure you don’t overload your digestive system. We’ll stay in contact via video calls and email until both of us are confident that you’re back on course to your everyday diet.

Prices*:

  • 3-day water fast: $200 (USD)
  • 5-day water fast: $250
  • 7-day water fast: $300
  • 10-day water fast: $375
  • 14-day water fast: $475
  • 21-day water fast: $650
  • 28-day water fast: $800
  • 30-day water fast: $850
  • 40-day water fast: $1000
  • Other lengths of fast: price to be agreed

* Price includes both the fast and refeeding period afterwards
** 20% discount for students, the unemployed and those on social security


(2) SINGLE ONLINE CONSULTATION

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A single consultation via video call ($120 USD) is suitable for general advice about fasting or the planning of a specific fast and/or diet plan. Price includes an internet video call (60 min. via Skype or WhatsApp), plus follow-up emails relating to the given issue.

  • A single consultation is also the place to start if you’d like full water fast coaching, but aren’t sure how long you want to fast. In this case, our video call will help you decide. Afterwards, you can convert to full coaching by simply paying the difference in fees for whichever length of fast you choose.

CLICK HERE for testimonials


IN ORDER TO SET UP A CONSULTATION / COACHING:

  1. Please fill out the SIGN-UP FORM below or click on one of the sign-up buttons above.
  2. I will reply by email (usually within 24 hrs) in order to set up a time for a video call.
  3. Follow the instructions regarding payment by credit card or PayPal.
    Payment is due before our (first) video call.

*Please note: I am not a medical doctor and do not offer medical supervision for any fast. I encourage those with medical issues to seek advice from a qualified M.D., in parallel with my own knowledge and experience as a fasting guide.

**https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5819235/

Diet coaching after your fast

The refeeding period

Full coaching for your water fast (see here) already includes coaching for the refeeding period after your fast, while you transition back to a normal diet. This normally takes about a third to a half of the length of the actual fast. (For example, after a 10-day fast the refeeding period usually lasts 3-5 days, while after a 21-day fast it is more likely to take 7-10 days.)

Stick to good habits with diet coaching!

Full coaching ends once refeeding is over, and your digestion is up and running smoothly again. For many people, though, this is precisely when the trouble of sticking to your diet starts! This is why I now offer online diet coaching for after the fast and refeeding period (please see the contact form at the bottom of this page). The main aims of diet coaching are:

  1. To help you maintain the health benefits of your fast into the long term
  2. To continue the good habits established while refeeding
  3. To establish greater accountability for what you eat

After a fast, it is notoriously difficult to stay on track and control eating habits. If, during your fast, you’ve felt deprived by not eating, it’s likely that you’ll try to compensate afterwards by seeking extra comfort in extra food. If you’ve lost a lot of weight during the fast, your body is going to try to put that weight back on again. Sometimes there’s an insatiable hunger. Sometimes there’s just an uncontrollable urge to eat, eat, eat. There are a million reasons for things going wrong: some physical (hormonal or endocrine related, eg. ghrelin levels), some emotional and psychological (such as cravings or the return of food addictions). Whatever the reason, it can be a real struggle to stay on course – especially if you’re alone.

Which diet is best after a fast?

There are and always have been countless diets out there, all claiming to be the best. This simply illustrates that there is no single ‘best’ diet for all people at all times. I am happy to support you in following whatever diet you choose to follow, so long as it is nutritionally sound. If, on the other hand, you aren’t sure what direction is right for you, my role as a diet coach includes helping you to decide.

What diet coaching offers you

(1) Video calls 3 times a week (WhatsApp or Skype, usually @10-15 min)
(2) Unlimited email or messaging contact for the duration of coaching (24/7)

It’s up to you to decide how long you’d like continued support through diet coaching. This program works on a weekly basis and can simply be renewed as need be. However, it is a good idea to commit to a certain length of time initially, in order to ensure that you stay the course.

Prices

(1) $80 per week (discount price for those who are continuing on from full coaching)
(2) $100 per week (standard price)

In order to set up diet coaching:

(A) If we’re already working together through full coaching, just let me know you’d like to continue with diet coaching after your fast, and we’ll take it from there!

(B) If you’ve not fasted with me, and would like diet coaching:

  1. Please fill out the REGISTRATION FORM below.
  2. I will reply by email (usually within 24 hrs) in order to set up a schedule for our video calls, give you a link for payment as well as my contact details.
  3. Follow the instructions regarding payment by credit card or PayPal.
    Payment is due before our (first) video call.

*Please note: I am not a medical doctor and do not offer medical advice or supervision for any fast or diet following the fast. I encourage those with medical issues to seek advice from a qualified M.D., in parallel with my own knowledge and experience as a fasting coach.

Spring retreat 2021: 7 day water fast

9 day – 8 night retreat centred around a 7-day water fast:

DATE: 8 – 16 May 2021 (Saturday 8th, 4pm – Sunday 16th, 1pm).
LOCATION: Danube Bend (Hungary), about 1 hour from Budapest. (A car share can usually be arranged free of charge from Budapest, see below)
PRICE: 700 USD / 550GBP (see below for details)
Enquiries and registration: see application form below

— If you are unable to attend but would like to organise your own fasting retreat for me to lead (in either Europe or the USA), please contact me using the application form below.

spring retreat kospallag

Kóspallag: the village where we will be fasting


About this retreat:

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Our accommodation for the retreat

We will be fasting in Hungary’s rolling Börzsöny hills, less than 10km from the most scenic spot on Europe’s greatest river: the Danube Bend (pictured above). Hungary’s climate is perfect for fasting in the spring and autumn, with plenty of sun and average daytime highs around 20-22C (70F).

Our accommodation lies on the edge of a small village called Kóspallag, and features a large garden with fields and miles of forest directly behind. There are several natural springs in the vicinity from which we shall drink throughout the duration of the fast. The house is newly built, with a sauna and jacuzzi to help promote detox. Standard accommodation consists of a shared twin room with en suite bathroom, but a few private rooms are available for an additional fee.

Day 1 (Friday), pre-fast:

After arriving, we will share a “last supper” before the water fast itself begins. This will be an opportunity to bid a conscious farewell to food for a week, as well as to examine how everyone feels about this.

Days 2 – 8 (Saturday – Friday), 7-day fast:

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Local forest paths

Each day consists of a combination of loosely structured and free time. All programs are optional except for the daily group sharings, when we sit in a circle and check in with each other about how things are going. This is an opportunity to share how you feel, whether physically or emotionally. There’s no need to talk if you don’t feel like it, but you do need to be present so that we can all look out for each other.

This is one of the huge strengths of a fasting retreat: you’re not alone. You’re in the same boat as your fasting brothers and sisters.

We all help each other along, and by the end of the retreat deep friendships have often begun to evolve.

Beyond the daily sharings, optional programs are offered through each day, including:

— Gentle yoga/stretching (twice per day)
— Group discussion: sharing experiences (twice per day)
— Daily walks in nature
— Lectures on fasting and detox
— Meditation
— Support for anyone who is having a hard time 🙂

For anyone interested, there will also be opportunities to practise:

— Shanka prakshalana (yogic intestinal wash)
Dry fasting
— Sauna and jacuzzi, to promote cleansing and detox

Day 9 (Saturday), post-fast:

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One of the hardest parts of any fast is the refeeding period following the fast itself. It’s so easy to get it wrong, either by eating the wrong foods or by by uncontrolled binge eating! After breaking the 7-day water fast on Friday evening, we will focus on establishing a healthy path back to an everyday diet! During this time, there will be opportunities to:

— Discuss strategies about how to continue the path back to normal eating after the retreat ends
— Prepare for the return back to everyday life and society
— Continue cleansing through more sauna and jacuzzi

Over the last 24 hours of the retreat, we’ll be gently stimulating the digestive system back to life through the most appropriate smoothies and solid foods. By the time you go home, you should be perfectly capable of continuing without any digestive problems.


Summary:

spring retreat malnaskert 2

One of the bedrooms at our accommodation

If you are interested in exploring your limits, your fears and addictions, if you want to come to a deeper understanding about who you are, and if you have some prior experience in fasting, then you can learn a lot from this retreat. I myself have extensive experience with up to 21-day water fasts, as well as 5-day dry fasts (no food, no drink), and would like to pass my own knowledge on to you.

To see pictures from previous retreats, please click here.


About 7-day water fasts in general:

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Our local spring

Experience with 7-day water fasts is essential for anyone interested in attaining a deep level of cleansing. For most people, an annual 7-day water fast should be enough to maintain health into old age (in combination with a healthy lifestyle). For those with deeper health issues, water fasting can be used as an effective healing modality, and 7-day fasts provide powerful momentum in this direction. (More information here.)

If a 7-day water fasting retreat feels too long, you may want to consider trying out a 3-day water fast at home first. The truth is, though, that often participants arrive to the retreat having practised only a couple of 24- and 36-hour water fasts beforehand. They do fine – and so will you!


Prerequisites for and further information about this retreat:

— Prerequisite: prior experience of at least one 36-hour water fast.
— Please note that this retreat is not medically supervised. There will not be a doctor on-site. Anyone with a medical condition who is considering this retreat should discuss this with their healthcare professional. (Please feel free to discuss it with me as well, using the registration form below.)


Payment:

After applying using the form below, I will reply and send a link for payment via credit card / PayPal. Participation in the retreat is secured once payment has been received. Once received, payment is final and non-refundable.

Price includes accommodation, participation in all activities during the retreat (including sauna and jacuzzi), meals before and after the fast, VAT and IFA (tourist tax).
If necessary, free transportation (car share) can usually be provided to Kóspallag, which is approximately a one-hour drive from Budapest.
Getting to Budapest is easy from all across Europe. Most budget airlines have round-trip tickets for about £100/$130.


To sign up or ask questions:

Fasting in a time of lockdown

‘This is the perfect time to fast…’

I’ve heard this sentence, again and again, repeated verbatim by numerous clients since most of the world went into lockdown earlier this year as a result of Covid 19. Now that many of us are slowly returning to a less restrictive regime in life, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on how lockdown has influenced people’s actual experience of water fasting.

In many ways it’s true: lockdown really is the perfect time to fast. In becoming socially distanced from one another, we’ve enjoyed an opportunity to become closer with ourself. Locked into our homes, locked away from the outside world, this has been an inherently inward-turning (yin) period for us all – as opposed to the more outgoing (yang) mood of everyday life. Since we’re not running around, out on the town any more, we’d may as well just stay at home and simply be.

Lockdown has forced us to slow down. Of course, fasting does the same. It too is also an inherently inward-turning occupation, with consciousness directed towards both the physical detox and healing taking place inside the body, as well as towards the deeper emotional and spiritual layers within our being. In short, the yin characteristics of the world under lockdown reflect and naturally support the yin elements of fasting.

Fasting at home instead of at the workplace

Beyond the general parallels between lockdown and fasting, lockdown has also brought specific benefits in terms of the logistics of fasting. For example, with most people working from home, there’s been little or no need to endure the stress of fasting at the workplace. If you’re feeling low on energy, you can just lie on the couch and get on with the day’s job: a much more comfortable solution than the average office desk and chair. I’ve even had several clients who have worked from bed most days.

For many, lockdown has also brought a reduced workload and, with it, the chance to work more slowly, as the body permits. This leaves more energy for focussing on the fast – more than would ever have been possible under normal circumstances. For those who have been furloughed, fasting has even served as a substitute for a job: that is, a full-time occupation in itself. In the end, isn’t that how fasting should be?

Another benefit of fasting at home instead of the workplace is not having to tell your colleagues about your crazy plans. For some people, though, this has been a mixed blessing, because lockdown has consequently meant living in closer proximity with partners and family who may not be 100 percent supportive of water fasting. (Let’s be honest, for most people, the last person you want to tell about your water fast is your mother!) Whether parents, spouse or other, this has often put added pressure on relationships which are already stressed by living together under one roof, 24-7, for weeks on end.

Anxieties and distractions

Although lockdown has positively influenced many people’s experience of fasting, it hasn’t always turned out to be beneficial. Sometimes the emotional impact of lockdown has hit a little too close to home, intensifying anxieties which already lie at the heart of any water fast. For instance, many people find that they need distractions in order to survive the unrelenting ‘boredom’ of a water fast. Unfortunately, though, lockdown has severely restricted the spectrum of possible distractions normally available. Unless you’re happy with marathon sessions on Netflix, you’re pretty much stuck. You can’t go out and meet with friends. You can’t go out shopping. If you’re unlucky, you can’t even go out and spend a little time in nature. Everything is closed.

Without external distractions, there’s no choice except to turn inward. For many people, though, the introspective gravitational pull of a water fast already poses a challenge in itself. Combined with lockdown, it can become too much, uncovering parts of our personality which we’re not ready to face. The mirror is simply too clear. As if this weren’t enough, let’s not forget the whole reason we’ve been locked down: Covid 19. Lockdown has been a constant reminder of our human fragility and, ultimately, mortality. Water fasting is too.

For me, this is one of the fundamental reasons to practise water fasting. We feel the fragility of our human bodies, and, by surrendering to the fast, connect with a deeper part of our being. Or, to put it another way, by letting go of our usual attachment to finite, physical Self, we begin to taste the infinite within us.

A broader perspective

The same applies to all of lockdown. Similar to the beginning of a water fast, we have battled giving up everyday habits: little things taken for granted, like breathing fresh air outside or going for a walk. Furthermore, many people feel a deep resistance and resentment to the way that the democratic freedoms we normally enjoy have been swept aside. In some locations, rules have even been imposed which bear little relevance to the actual science of disease prevention. Whatever we feel about the political motives of lockdown, though, this whole situation invites us to explore where true freedom lies. Just as in a water fast, so long as we resist giving up our everyday habits, we will never find the true potential of who we are. We can either be prisoners on the outside, beholden to the limitations of a body suffering from detox – or, equally, to a world suffering in the throes of Covid 19. Or, alternatively, we can find freedom on the inside: a strength which is capable of transcending any crisis in the outside world. The choice is ours.

Ultimately, the whole experience of lockdown itself constitutes a kind of figurative ‘fast’ from modern consumer society. Understandably, this hasn’t been easy, in the same way that water fasting also poses a challenge for the vast majority of people. Perhaps, though, this is all for the best. For lockdown provides a new perspective on our often dysfunctional relationship with family, friends and colleagues, our job, our environment and, more generally, with all of Nature. Hopefully, it will also act as a global reset for the future – in precisely the same way that a water fast offers the possibility to heal from destructive old habits and addictions. The inconvenient truth is that, for a long time now, the trajectory of modern living has been unsustainable. Sometimes giving up our comfort zone is necessary to ensure future health and happiness.

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Spiritual fasting in Lent (or any other time)

25th February, 2020
Tomorrow marks the beginning of what for many people is the most important time of the year in terms of spiritual fasting. For Christians, Lent constitutes the 40-day period prior to Easter, serving as a reminder of both Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert as well as the final period of his life leading up to the crucifixion. It is a time for introspection and reflection on life.

Whether or not you are a Christian, water fasting naturally supports this shift towards looking inside ourselves. By giving up food – the elixir of life for our physical body – we become able more naturally to identify with that deepest part of ourselves which has no need for physical sustenance: our spirit, our soul, our innermost Self.

Reaching the point of opening up spiritually through fasting isn’t always easy. It requires surrender. Surrender not just of food, but also surrender of our ego which wants to eat the food, which wants to find comfort and love in food. It takes a huge amount of courage to let go of all that wanting, to let go of our comfort zone through eating.

So long as we are engaged with that struggle with ourselves and our egos, engaging in spiritual practice is next to impossible. While fasting, it’s easy to think that we ‘should’ be feeling closer to God, that we ‘should’ be happily meditating or praying, but the truth is that often the opposite is the case. We can feel far removed from God, and the idea of meditating or praying can create mountains of resistance inside us.

The beautiful irony, though, is that when we finally do let go of our comfort zone and truly surrender to the fast, we find that the love we crave is already there within us: within our own soul, one with the universe and God. Just as food is for the physical body, this love is the elixir of life for our spiritual ‘body’.

Until we reach a point in the fast of surrendering our ego, it’s easy to feel down or inadequate, to feel guilt or even self-hate. Instead, please, please try and be kind to yourself. We’re all only human. Even if you never reach the point of fully surrendering yourself to your fast, it was your spirit, your soul, your innermost Self which called you to fast in the first place. Sometimes it takes time for the clouds to clear and for the sun to shine. So stick at it! Sooner or later you will feel the warmth of golden rays on your face.

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Fasting against coronavirus (Covid-19): how to boost immunity and maximize health

This extended article argues that the best thing you can do to strengthen your immune system against Covid-19 is to undertake a 7-10 day water fast or, ideally, a 21-day fast as soon as possible (see Section 3). For most people, fasting is also advisable during illness, especially if you begin as close to the onset of symptoms as possible (see Section 4)

Article sections:
(1) A no-win scenario?
(2) Why fasting is your best bet against coronavirus
(3) How to fast in order to prevent illness
(4) How to fast in order to treat illness

CLICK HERE if you need COACHING for your own water fast

(1) A no-win scenario?

The rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout China and, increasingly, across the globe rightly has many people worried. Currently, the number of infections continues to double every few days, with the official death rate holding steady at just over two percent. If this trend continues – and it is only an if – then the number of casualties will eventually extrapolate to many millions of deaths worldwide.

Read More

Tasty, tangy sauerkraut soup

This is a tasty, tangy soup I enjoy especially after winter fasts – including the 7-day water fast I just finished yesterday. Before global trade overpowered local economies and foods, winter was always the time to eat preserved vegetables such as sauerkraut – especially in areas with a cold winter climate. Through the process of fermentation, sauerkraut gains many healthy nutrients not found in raw cabbage. Boiling the sauerkraut for this soup does unfortunately destroy its natural probiotics, but the organic acids produced by them remain intact.

In Eastern Europe and Russia, sauerkraut and grated cabbage (both raw and boiled) have always been used to break fasts. The high Vitamin C content and antioxidants help to revive the liver, and the fibre helps to ‘scrub’ out the intestines before returning to an everyday diet.

*Note: this soup is not suitable for those following a zero-sodium protocol.

Basic ingredients:

500g / 1 lb. potatoes
500g / 1 lb. sauerkraut
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
½ vegetable stock cube

Optional additional ingredients:

100g kidney beans (pre-soaked, boiled and ready to eat)
100g cannelloni beans (pre-soaked, boiled and ready to eat)
Thyme
Black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Total calories: 595; up to 915 with all optional ingredients

Makes 5 servings at 195 calories per full bowl of soup (350ml / 12 fl.oz.); up to 305 calories with all optional ingredients

Cooking instructions:

Put about 1.5 litres/quarts of cold, fresh water into a medium saucepan and start heating to the boil. While you wait, dice the onions, chop the potatoes and carrot, and throw all the ingredients into the saucepan. I usually add half a stock cube. If you’d like to avoid all added salt, then feel free to leave this out. Without a stock cube, though, the soup can taste too sour for many people. (The taste of sauerkraut is balanced evenly between sour and salty when raw, but when boiled in the soup, this shifts distinctly towards the sour range.)

While the stock cube dissolves, squeeze out some of the juice from the sauerkraut. (This helps to reduce the salt content.) I simply take the sauerkraut in my hands, and literally wring out the juice. Then add the sauerkraut to the pot, and pour in as much extra water as necessary in order to just cover the vegetables. I find the sauerkraut has a tendency to stick together in clumps, so it’s worth stirring into the other vegetables from the start. After the water reaches the boil, simmer (lid on) for 75 minutes and let cool.

This basic version of Sauerkraut Soup is fine for refeeding on Day 1 for fasts of 1-3 days, Day 2 after fasts of 4-10 days, and from Day 3 of longer fasts. The only reason not to recommend it immediately after all fasts is because of the relatively high salt content, which can contribute to oedema in some cases.

If you’d like to add some or all of the additional ingredients, the time to do so is after all the basic ingredients have already been added. Please note that black pepper is a stimulant and should be added only in moderation (if at all) after a fast. Olive oil should also be avoided immediately after longer fasts. Otherwise, a small quantity helps to bring out the soup’s flavours. Likewise, the beans should be added only if you’re sure you can digest them.

Enjoy!

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Is water fasting safe?

Many people are convinced that water fasting must be dangerous. Unfortunately, this is mostly based on fear, misinformation, and only a minimal number of actual cases. This video and newly expanded article examines all the facts through a variety of different issues, also covering the exceptional circumstances in which… (more below)

water fasting really does become unsafe. Knowledge is power: so read on, gain the facts, and fast with confidence – not fear!

Article sections: (1) Fears about fasting, (2) Is water fasting safe?, (3) Why water fasting is safe, (4) Fasting versus starving, (5) Discomfort versus danger, (6) Danger arises when brain overrides body, (7) People for whom fasting is dangerous, (8) Refeeding and eating, (9) Final thoughts

1. Fears about fasting

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. Most people are afraid (or at least a little anxious) about giving up food. Fair enough, if you stop eating for too long, starvation is the only possible outcome. So when we hear wildly dramatic statements like: ‘if you water fast, you’ll die’, a part of us resonates with the idea deep down inside.

In combination with this instinctive response, our more rational mind can also easily fall prey to fears about fasting. Over the last 100 years, modern Western medicine has disempowered our trust in ourselves and our bodies’ own natural wisdom to heal. Instead, pills and potions have become the name of the game, and today we entrust our wellbeing to medical doctors instead. With a training based almost entirely around pharmacology, it isn’t that surprising that even most well intentioned MD’s simply don’t get it. Fair enough, when your whole world revolves around putting medicines into the body, the idea of not putting in anything at all seems all the more contradictory, if not downright dangerous.

2. Is water fasting safe?

So can you die while water fasting? I won’t lie to you. The answer is yes – just like you can die getting up in the morning or crossing the road. All of life is a risk. Taking a full perspective on the issue, though, water fasting is totally safe for the vast, vast majority of people.

Don’t just believe me. Believe Google. I would suggest that anyone who has lingering doubts type the search terms “water fasting” and “death” into the world’s largest search engine, and see what comes up.

Essentially nothing.

Yes, a few isolated historical cases have been documented in which people died.Most of these, however, involved fasts lasting several months, and were conducted with disregard for the body’s warning signs (to be discussed later in this article, as well as in my video-article on fasting to lose weight).

Besides this, you’ll find only a lot of heated personal opinion as well as vague, unsubstantiated horror stories.

3. Why water fasting is safe

It’s only been in the last hundred years or so that those of us living in the Western world have had unlimited access to food: every day of every month, year in, year out. Before that famine was an unavoidable fact of life – as it still remains across other regions of the Earth today.

On a physiological level, the initial stages of famine are identical to fasting.

Over the millennia humankind has proved itself remarkably resilient to famine, and each of us is designed to be able to last 6-9 weeks, if not more, without food. You might say that we are born to fast as much as we are to eat. Both are – or at least should be – totally natural to us.

It’s in our blood. We’ve been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years, and we’re still here to tell the tale!

To take another historical perspective, think of it like this: if fasting were somehow dangerous to us, evolution would have weeded out those of us incapable of fasting long, long ago.

4. Fasting versus starving

I’ve already mentioned the obvious fact that if you stop eating for too long, starvation is the only possible outcome. This really is the crux of the matter in terms of safety.

Fasting means that your metabolism is able to sustain homeostasis: a state of equilibrium maintained between the various elements of the body and among the various physiological processes which keep you alive. Yes, you’re burning fat, but all your other body systems are stable and therefore running safely.

Starvation begins once the body can no longer keep things in balance, and homeostasis is lost. As mentioned above, it usually takes at least 6-9 weeks of continuous fasting to reach this point. Usually, this is triggered by fat levels having dropped to approximately 2% of body weight, which causes the body to start cannabilising muscle tissue for fuel, as well as eventual damage to the inner organs. Another dangerous situation arises if electrolytes gradually shift out of balance, making homeostasis impossible to maintain. Again, this is highly unlikely to happen in under 6 weeks of fasting – especially if you began the fast as an otherwise healthy person. If you do reach the initial stages of starvation, though, it’s imperative to end the fast immediately.

If fasting is safe and starvation is unsafe, all you need to do is listen to your body. There are very clear warning signs. Once fat levels drop dangerously low, your body elicits an unmistakable and irrefutable hunger: one totally different from the kinds of hunger which often come and go throughout any water fast. If electrolyte levels become dangerously imbalanced, symptoms may include nausea, brain fog, cramps and other issues. Unfortunately, these symptoms can be almost identical to those which arise through normal cleansing. Often, only the context in which they appear provides the definitive clue, but a water fasting expert should be able help identify these, especially if they’ve been working with you throughout the fast.

5. Discomfort versus danger

In fasting as well as in the rest of life, discomfort and danger are clearly two entirely different issues. Detox symptoms may be uncomfortable, but this does not mean that they’re inherently dangerous!

The simplest analogy would be to consider the flu. Your muscles are aching, you feel a little nauseous with a headache to boot. You’re certainly in discomfort, but is it dangerous? Of course not!

Essentially, flu often presents exactly the same spectrum of symptoms (with the exception of fever) as you might experience on a water fast. Why? Because in both cases your body is detoxing. The only question is whether you’re cleansing from a virus or from the toxins released through the fast.

6. Danger arises when brain overrides body

Fasting becomes dangerous primarily when we allow our mind to dictate what it thinks is best for our body. If, in contrast, we simply tune into the messages our body is continually sending us throughout the fast (as well as every day of our lives), and if we act accordingly, then we have nothing to fear. Body knows best.

Here are two classic examples.

(1)

Many people follow a protocol of drinking at least ‘x’ litres or fluid ounces per day during their fast – in other words, they aim to reach a ‘magic number’ formulated in the brain, not the body. We’ve all heard about how it’s important to stay hydrated. There’s a certain logic in this. If you’re water fasting, the water helps to flush the toxins out from the tissues. So surely more is better. I even know of one medically supervised water fasting centre in the US which prescribes their patients a minimum of 140 fl. oz. of water per day. That’s over a gallon!

The problem is that drinking more than you actually require slowly washes out electrolytes. (Exactly the same issue can play out in endurance sports. No-one dies from dehydration during competition, but there have been occasional cases of marathon runners suffering sudden death from hyper-hydration.)

Considering that electrolyte depletion is already one of the dangers in an extended fast, drinking too much should definitely be avoided. The immediate solution, however, is not to take an electrolyte supplement (as many people naturally assume). This only kicks the can further down the road, correcting for one bad mental decision by introducing yet another variable into the equation. No. The solution is simply to follow your thirst.

Thirst is there for a reason. It’s your body’s way of telling you to drink! I always recommend that my clients use thirst as the default setting to determine the quantity of water they drink, and nine times out of ten things run perfectly. On the odd occasions that problems arise, sometimes the solution is to drink more – but, equally, sometimes it is to drink less. It all depends on which particular symptoms appear in the body.

(2)

As mentioned above, ignoring the body’s warning signs can get you into trouble, causing danger. But what does this really mean? It means that your mind overrides a particular bodily symptom, in a decision to ‘push through’ the fast.

Sometimes you do need to push through a particularly acute wave of detox. Other times you need to abort the fast. At times it can be exceedingly difficult to know which is which, and what the right thing is to do. The ultimate decision, though, should not be based on willpower (a mental attribute) but rather trying to tune into what your body is feeling. I’ve had clients suffer through truly horrendous detox symptoms, and although they’ve wanted to stop (a mental state), deep in their body they’ve known that continuing the fast was the right thing to do. Similarly, I’ve known cases where the actual physical symptoms were quite mild, but the person concerned drove straight to the ER because they just knew deep in their body that something wasn’t right. It’s in cases like these – in which physical discomfort can make it difficult to objectively observe yourself – that an external expert opinion can prove indispensable.

7. People for whom fasting is not safe

Although water fasting is completely safe for well over 99% of the population, there are nevertheless exceptions to the rule. It’s extremely important to understand which conditions and situations preclude fasting! These are listed below:

Cardiac issues

The only cases I’ve heard of which have ultimately resulted in death concern people with underlying heart problems. This does not rule out fasting per se, but it’s crucial that anyone suffering from such a condition discuss it first with their doctor.

There are two potential complications caused by a weak heart. First, cleansing puts a strain on the heart. In the same way that people experience a pounding heart during the flu, a very similar symptom can present while water fasting as well. This can be further compounded if blood pressure falls excessively. (Otherwise, lower blood pressure is a perfectly normal mechanism of a water fast which facilitates detox.) Although an elevated heartbeat is perfectly safe for the vast majority of people, it could eventually cause problems for someone with cardiac issues.

Second, if electrolytes fall too far out of balance, this can ultimately lead to cardiac arrest. A whole array of symptoms makes itself increasingly obvious before finally reaching this point, but if the body’s warning signs are repeatedly ignored, then consequences are inevitable.

Type 1 diabetes

Those with Type 1 diabetes are usually told they cannot water fast under any circumstances. This can be true if pancreatic function is already too diminished. Nevertheless, water fasting is certainly possible in certain cases, and I myself have worked successfully with Type I clients. Before considering such a fast, though, it’s imperative that anyone with Type I diabetes discuss it first with their doctor.

In contrast, Type 2 diabetes usually responds extremely well to water fasting. This is the type of diabetes most of us are more familiar with, involving the body having built up resistance to insulin, as opposed to damage to the pancreas (Type 1). Since the issue here concerns hormonal imbalance rather than physical dysfunction (as in Type 1), a water fast’s hormonal reset often leads to a full healing of the disease.

Toxic drugs and medications

If you’re taking prescription medication immediately before your water fast, you’ll need to decide whether to continue with your meds, reduce dosage or come off them altogether during the fast. This is an issue which should always be discussed with your doctor as well as a fasting expert, so you can find a solution which maximises the healing potential of your fast while keeping you safe.

Certain drugs and medications can cause nasty detox symptoms at the best of times. In everyday life, this can mean both side-effects while taking them, as well as withdrawal symptoms afterwards. Coming off such drugs ‘cold turkey’ and diving straight into a water fast can make things much, much worse. In such cases, the fast is too powerful, the rate of detox is simply too high, and the body can become overwhelmed – possibly leading to death. Alcohol, opiates (such as Methadone) and certain anti-depressants (such as benzodiazepenes including Xanax and Valium) all fall into this category.

As much as coming off your meds for a fast might be a problem, the opposite can also be true. For instance, certain common drugs used for Type 2 diabetes, such as Metformin, block the liver’s gluconeogenesis (the process of synthesizing glucose). This can cause serious complications because the metabolic circumstances during a water fast are almost the opposite from those in everyday life – that is, from the circumstances for which the drug was prescribed in the first place. In short, Type 2 diabetics normally benefit from lowering the level of glucose in the blood through a drug like Metformin. This is because Type 2 diabetics do not respond effectively to insulin, which would normally fulfil this function. During a water fast, though, glucose levels are already significantly lower than in everyday life. This means that a drug like Metformin can force the body out of homeostasis, making a water fast highly dangerous.

Psychological imbalances

For almost everyone, eating goes well beyond the purely physical realm of simply fulfilling nutritional requirements. Of course, we also eat for emotional reasons, in order to feel comfort, to relieve boredom, to calm anxieties. Since psychological imbalances all express themselves through various painful emotions, a water fast inevitably impacts further on those same emotions.

It’s often a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, taking away the comfort of food and all the other emotional crutches of eating can prove exceedingly difficult for those suffering from psychological imbalances. This holds especially true for those with eating disorders – the vast majority of which are primarily psychological based and not physical.

On the other hand, it’s also true that many psychological imbalances are caused by hormonal imbalance – and one of the best ways to restore hormonal equilibrium is through an extended water fast. In such cases, healing the hormonal imbalance also heals the root of the psychological imbalance. In the 19th century, for instance, water fasting was even used to successfully heal schizophrenia.

Rare metabolic disorders

There exists a very small number of rare metabolic disorders which makes water fasting impossible. Most of these involve the inability to switch over to ketosis once glycogen stores are exhausted. Fortunately, the body provides extremely clear warning signs. Severe nausea and vomiting in the first 24-48 hours of a water fast almost always indicate that the fast should be aborted, regardless of the underlying cause.

Fasting with any medical issue

Above and beyond the medical issues described here, it’s always best to discuss any health conditions you may have with both a medical doctor and a fasting expert before embarking on a water fast. This holds true for any fast longer than 24 hours, and is especially important for fasts over 3 days. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

8. Refeeding and eating

It may come as a surprise, but the most dangerous part of a water fast isn’t the fast itself but rather refeeding and eating afterwards. This applies especially to fasts of approximately 10 days and longer, in which so-called Refeeding Syndrome can develop.

Refeeding Syndrome can occur as the body shifts away from ketosis and back to a primarily carbohydrate-based metabolism. In order to manage this transition, the minerals potassium, magnesium, phosphate and vitamin B6 play a decisive role in shifting position and changing their biochemical function within each cell. The problem develops if you eat too many calories too soon, because these minerals will not have arrived at their new ‘destinations’ and therefore will not be able to perform the functions required of them. The initial stages of Refeeding Syndrome cause oedema and cramping, especially in the fingers and toes. If calories are not restricted at this point and the body’s warnings signs continue to go unheeded, this can eventually lead to nausea, heart arrhythmia and finally cardiac arrest.

I would venture to guess that about half of all people who undertake an extended fast experience the initial stages of Refeeding Syndrome during the first few days of refeeding. I certainly did myself on several occasions, before I understood what was happening! Although potentially life-threatening, Refeeding Syndrome is nevertheless something that most people pass through without any serious problems.

In addition to Refeeding Syndrome, the other main issues during the refeeding period concern digestive problems – which, again, are usually caused by eating too much too soon. There are two dangers: overloading the GI tract before it is capable of (1) producing the requisite enzymes for digestion and (2) physically moving the food through the intestines (peristalsis). As with Refeeding Syndrome, digestive problems tend to occur on longer fasts, in this case from about a week or longer.

One final problem caused by eating too much too soon is that the ‘wrong kind’ of fat can start accumulating. Instead of gaining normal subcutaneous fat – the kind most people notice around their waist line and elsewhere – the body prioritises fat around the inner organs in the period after a fast. This is the kind of fat which, in higher quantities, has been linked to an increased likelihood of chronic disease in general.

If you need help in designing your own refeeding program, I offer a pdf in the waterfasting.org shop here. Alternatively, my water fasting clients receive a personalised refeeding plan through daily video calls, as part of full coaching.

9. Final thoughts

Although this article is starting to read like a water fasting horror story, the truth is that nothing could be safer in the whole world. The real horror story revolves around eating – and especially so in the modern Western world. Bad eating habits cause obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease… The list goes on and on. If the number of documented deaths through fasting over the last century can be counted on the fingers of one hand, how many millions of deaths can be traced each year to eating? Try Googling that!

Or just trust in yourself and in your body’s innate wisdom, and fast.


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Water fasts versus juice fasts: how are they different, and what are the pros and cons of each?

Many clients come to me assuming that a water fast will feel similar to a juice fast. The two, however, are very different, and this often comes as a surprise to them! This video and newly expanded article take a look at how water fasts differ from juice fasts, and discusses… (more below)

the pros and cons of each.

What is a water fast?

The essence of a water fast – and what distinguishes it from any juice fast – is that the liquid you drink contains zero calories. Although this primarily means water, certain water fasts also allow herbal teas, especially when the reasons for fasting are physical (as opposed to spiritual).

What is a juice fast?

To a greater or lesser degree, all juice fasts involve the drinking of liquid which contains calories. This can take a variety of forms, such as fruit juices, vegetable juices, clear vegetable soups or a combination of all of the above. A whole range of protocols exist, ranging from approximately 200 calories per day to no caloric restriction at all.

(Note: traditionally, the word ‘fast’ has always referred to a zero-calorie intake. In this sense, a ‘juice fast’ should be called a ‘juice diet’ or ‘juice cleanse’. Following modern usage, though, I shall continue using the term ‘juice fast’ here.)

The advantages of water fasts

In understanding how water fasts are different from juice fasts, it ultimately all comes down to a single factor: strength. A water fast provides a deeper, stronger cleanse/detox and more powerful healing than any juice fast. It’s that simple.

There’s no question that juice fasts can offer a strong potential for healing. Low-calorie protocols like the Buchinger fast have even been applied as alternative cancer therapies. However, as much as the calories in such juice fasts benefit the body with high-quality nutrition – something which in itself should not be underestimated – they can never compete with water fasts in terms of raw cleansing because juice fasts never allow the digestive system to fully switch off.

The benefits of fully switching off digestion through a zero-calorie approach:

(1) Ketosis during a water fast is always stronger than a juice fast because the body doesn’t have to process incoming carbohydrates, which work against the body establishing ketosis in the first place. Stronger ketosis means stronger cleansing because toxins are released from fat cells. Even a ketogenic diet doesn’t help much in this respect, because any intake of calories means that the body doesn’t have to burn its own fat, where toxins are stored.

(2) Because of zero calories ingested, it means you expend zero energy for digestion. It is estimated that up to 30% of our daily energy requirements is consumed simply through digesting food, so bringing this to 0% means that a lot of extra energy is available for cleansing.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, it is only by totally eliminating food intake that the immune system is able to reach full strength and spread fully throughout the body. (For details about how this takes place, please see my article ‘A stronger immune system‘.) As a result, there is a clear quantum leap in efficacy between the lowest-calorie juice fast and any water fast.

Raw strength can also be a disadvantage

For those who don’t already have some fasting experience, as well as those who carry a high toxic load with a suppressed or weakened immune system, water fasting can sometimes prove to be too strong.

In such cases, physical detox symptoms can become totally debilitating with low energy levels, headaches, nausea and body aches. Emotionally, too, a water fast can be too strong – especially when combined with heavy detox symptoms. But even if your body feels fine, the simple lack of any sustenance or taste during a water fast can be hard to bear psychologically, especially for those without much fasting experience. It can feel too relentless, without food providing any degree of comfort at all.

Ultimately, the main danger of a water fast’s strength is in the increased likelihood of breaking off the planned fast’s original length. (For clinical dangers of a water fast, please see my video-article: ‘Is water fasting safe?‘) In this sense, a ‘stronger’ water fast can actually become weaker than a juice fast if you lack the stamina to complete it.

The advantages of juice fasts

Greater physical strength during juice fasts

If the main advantage of a water fast is its cleansing and healing strength, then the main advantage of a juice fast is the higher level of physical strength experienced during the fast. Given that calories are going into your body during such a fast, you’ll simply have more physical energy. Not only does this make it much easier to get through the day physically (and especially so if you have to continue your job during your fast), but on an emotional level too the higher energy levels can help significantly.

If your body is feeling stronger, your motivation to continue the fast is also likely to be stronger. Calories equal comfort. In this respect, the only potential downside of a juice fast’s calories concerns the risk of wanting more and more ‘comfort’, which can lead to things spiralling out of control. For some people the clearer, black-and-white parameters of a water fast – ie. that you’re consuming nothing but water – is easier to maintain than the ‘grey zone’ of a calorie-restricted protocol. Similarly, some people also find that a water fast’s complete destimulation of the digestive system allows hunger to switch off more effectively.

Greater length of juice fasts

Even if it comes at the price of lower levels of cleansing and healing, the increased levels of physical strength also present another advantage. Juice fasts can last much longer than water fasts. Whereas only a tiny minority of people ever contemplate undertaking a 40-day water fast, many more are likely to consider a juice fast. In my experience, for instance, clients with no fasting experience feel comfortable considering a 1-3 day water fast, whereas they are generally happy to try a 7+ day juice fast. In principle, many juice fasts can easily last a month or two, especially those based on fruits, in which the overall caloric intake isn’t much lower than that of a healthy everyday diet.

Societal acceptance

Another advantage of juice fasts is the fact that they are accepted by society, whereas water fasts are still (mistakenly) considered extreme or dangerous. This may not seem important, but when you feel physically or psychologically challenged by a fast, the support of those around you can really lift your spirits. In contrast, having to deal with the concern and resistance of others only drains your limited energy further.

An introduction to water fasting

Juice fasting also provides a very smooth path towards water fasting. The vast majority of my clients, for instance, come to me after having already experimented with juice fasting. I too reached the point of considering my first water fast only after feeling comfortable with juice fasts. It is a completely natural progression. From the full calories of an everyday diet, the restricted calories of a juice fast just seem much more attainable than the zero calories of a water fast.

Juice fasting provides also the perfect introduction to water fasting for those who are initially unable to water fast. For those few people whose toxic load prohibits water fasting, juice fasting can be used to cleanse more gently: until the stronger cleanse of a water fast no longer risks excessive detox symptoms. For those who simply find 24 hours without food too daunting, juice fasting can boost the self-confidence necessary to try a water fast.

Combining water and juice fasts

Many people ask whether it’s okay to do a water fast before or after a juice fast. The answer is a most definite ‘yes!’ In this respect, there are several ways to combine the two types of fast.

One popular method is to insert a short water fast into a longer juice fast. For instance, a 24-36 hour water fast can easily fit into the middle of a week-long juice fast. In order to maximise the benefits, you might consider beginning the juice fast at a comfortable caloric intake, and then reducing it day by day until reaching the water fast. Over the last few days of the juice fast, you can build back the calories again, so that the transition back to your everyday diet is relatively seamless.

Juice fasts work well immediately before any water fast. As discussed above, juice fasts permit an initial degree of cleansing before the water fast takes it to the next level. Although this usually smoothes out detox symptoms, sometimes the opposite happens, with the immune system eager to jump into overdrive once calories are reduced to zero.

Juice fasts work particularly well after extended water fasts, especially when someone has a serious health issue. Any refeeding program should focus on vegetables and fruit, and a juice fast provides the gentlest way of delivering the nutrients of these food groups without the risk of overwhelming digestion.

See what works for you!

I hope this article has given food for thought about water fasts, juice fasts and some possibilities for combining the two. By and large, there are no rights or wrongs here. Mostly, there are only rights! Really, the most important thing is to experiment and see what works for you. Enough theory: so stop reading and try it out for yourself. Your body will love you for it!


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