Video lecture (14:00)
Whether or not to continue your job during a water fast is one of the most important decisions you can make. On the one hand, some of us have the luxury of being able to take time off work. In this case, is it really worth doing so? On the other hand, many of us don’t have much choice at all. So if you do have to work through your fast, how will it feel? This video and article covers:
- (1) what to expect if you do continue working through your fast and
- (2) how to make the best of it.
When you should never work during your fast
Although most people are capable of continuing their job at least to some degree, there are a couple of circumstances in which you should never work through your fast.
The first is if your job involves heavy physical labour. The simple fact is that you won’t have the strength to do it beyond the first 24-36 hours of a water fast. The ketosis-based (fat burning) metabolism which sustains you after this point is biochemically incapable of providing enough energy to power your muscles to their full strength. End of story. Keeping in mind that most jobs which involve heavy physical labour also involve a risk of injury if something goes wrong, it’s imperative not to endanger yourself by working through your fast!
The second is if your job involves responsibility for the safety of others – even if your job is sedentary, involving no physical stress at all. I would argue that the mental clarity which many people experience during a water fast means that you may well be able to execute your job even more safely than in everyday life. Instead, the problem occurs if – despite the odds – something actually does go wrong. Given general public misconceptions, it’s almost certain that the water fast will be blamed for any accidents or shortcomings, and you’ll end up taking the wrap for water fasting on the job.
Fortunately, though, most of us in today’s world don’t have jobs which entail heavy physical labour or the responsibility for the safety of others. In theory, then, there’s no reason why most of us shouldn’t think about working through the fast.
Disadvantages of working during a water fast
Unfortunately, if you do end up continuing your job during a water fast, there is definitely a long list of disadvantages. It’s important to be aware of these before deciding how to proceed:
Low energy levels
If there’s one thing which people experience while water fasting, it’s low energy – and this will obviously affect how you feel on the job! There are several reasons for this. The first is ketosis itself. Not only is ketosis incapable of providing a lot of power to the muscles. Many people also find that it doesn’t provide enough energy for simple physical tasks either, and the end result is that you feel chronically drained. Instead, you’d rather lie around on a sofa all day, which unfortunately doesn’t fit most job descriptions!
Beyond this, water fasting lowers blood pressure. Although in itself this is usually something positive, facilitating detox, it also tends to cause lower energy levels. This is true especially for people who already have low blood pressure to begin with, or for those whose blood pressure has fallen significantly since the start of the fast.
Finally, by its very nature, the process of cleansing causes lower energy levels. Detox is hard work! Since your body is working overtime on the inside, it means that there’s less energy available on the outside – and that includes doings things like your job. In addition, detox can also cause brain fog (although increased mental clarity is certainly a possibility, especially for those who already have some fasting experience).
Beyond a lack of energy in itself, the extent to which you can apply those lower energy levels is almost certainly going to be time-restricted. In other words, it’s going to be hard to get through a whole day at work without taking breaks from time to time. Alternatively, it’s possible that you’ll feel fine pushing through a full eight hours in one stretch, but then you’ll pay the price the next day.
Energy for work = less energy for detox and healing
If detox is hard work for your body on the inside, leaving less energy on the outside, then the opposite is also certainly true. Forcing yourself to expend energy working through a fast means that there’s less available for detox and healing. For me, this is the crux of the matter, and there are no two ways about it. No matter how you look at it, a water fast is an incredibly powerful means to cleanse and heal, but I’ve coached too many clients not to notice the difference: taking time off from work leads to more powerful results.
Dealing with people at work
If you’re fasting for more than a couple of days, it’s just a matter of time before people at work notice that you’re not eating. They’ll start asking why. Dealing with colleagues’ questions, concerns and in many cases disapproval is only going to drain your energy reserves further.
Accessing deeper levels of the fast
Water fasting should be a holistic process, healing physical, emotional and spiritual levels of being. Because working through a fast makes such demands on your physical energy levels, because it forces you to keep your attention focussed outwards into your job environment, it makes it virtually impossible to access deeper levels of the fast. The kind of introspection necessary to cleanse and heal emotionally and spiritually simply cannot happen when you’re tied down all day by mundane issues dictated by your job.
Risking an early end to the fast
I’ll say it right now. Of all the factors leading to breaking off a fast before its intended completion, work load and job pressures are probably the most important. In many cases, it’s simply too much to ask of yourself. So if you do have to work through a water fast, it’s crucial to recognise this and to take whatever steps are necessary to put the odds a little more in your favour. We’ll take a look at these in the last section of this article.
Advantages of working during a water fast
I can think of only two possible advantages of working through a water fast. The first is for those whose single goal is weight loss. Any job’s physical activity and emotional stress – even if this is just the positive emotional stress of sustained concentration – accelerate the rate at which you burn calories.
The second advantage is that working during a fast distracts you from the fact that you’re fasting in the first place. If you’re hungry, your job is likely to distract you from the feeling. If you’re bored by not eating, your job will keep your attention focussed elsewhere.
Distraction can definitely help people who haven’t yet learned to deal with the challenges of water fasting. On a deeper level, though, distraction is only a temporary solution. Distracting yourself from hunger still means that you’ll have to deal with it later. You’re only delaying the inevitable. And when the part of you which is feeling deprived by not eating finally has enough, it’s going to rise up against you with full force.
The problem with distraction goes even further. Ultimately, distraction away from whatever you’re doing is a form of denial.
In the long run, the only solution to the hunger and boredom of a water fast is the exact opposite of distraction. You have to stare them both in the eye and go as deep as you can into the feelings they provoke. In time, with experience, you’ll learn that hunger is just a physical stimulus – in other words, something which we don’t have to react to emotionally. You’ll learn to let go of your boredom, surrendering to the fast and the deeper state of being it opens up inside you.
Practical solutions for working during your fast
If, in the end, you do have to work through your water fast, there are several ways you can minimise the negative impact of your job.
Reducing work load by planning ahead
It may sound obvious, but the most important thing you can do is to try and reduce the amount of work you’ll actually have to do during your fast. This almost certainly means planning ahead, so jumping into a fast on the spur of the moment usually isn’t the best idea. If you can finish some of your work ahead of time, before the fast actually begins, or delay some of it until after the end of the fast, it can make all the difference in the world. Many people find they’re incapable of continuing their job at a 100% workload, but they’re fine at 70-80%.
One important consequence of partially reducing your workload is that it enables you to take short breaks when necessary through the day. Many people find they can get through the day without any issues, so long as they can take a 10-15 minute break every couple of hours.
Using weekends, holidays and vacation time
Again, it may sound obvious, but, except for the longest fasts, judicious planning around weekends and holidays can significantly reduce the number of work days during your fast. Three-day fasts can be planned around weekends, starting the fast on Friday (last meal Thursday evening). This way, the weekend will already have arrived by the time you exhaust your glycogen supplies and energy levels drop. If you break the fast Sunday evening or early Monday morning, your energy levels should return in time for the beginning of the work week.
Ten-day fasts can be planned to begin on one weekend and end on the following weekend. In other words, four out of the ten days can take place at home and not at work.
Beyond this, many national holidays are scheduled in order to create long weekends. Take advantage of these! And in the worst case, it might also be worth considering using some of your vacation time if necessary.
Check out the webshop on waterfasting.org
The webshop offers downloadable fasting plans and guides to help make your water fast a success.
Working from home
Work is work, but if you’re water fasting it can feel psychologically much easier if you can do at least some of it from home instead of the office. You don’t have to get in your car and drive. You don’t have to meet colleagues. You can do it literally from the comfort of your own home. It’s also much more comfortable to take little breaks lying on your own sofa or bed, instead of being propped up in an office chair, on full display to everyone.
I would always suggest fasting without caffeine whenever possible. Caffeine accelerates your metabolism when a water fast is all about the exact opposite: slowing it down in order to cleanse and heal. However, if you find that you simply can’t stay focused enough to get through the day, it might be worth considering an occasional cup of green tea in emergency situations. Black tea and especially coffee should be avoided because they are acidic and stimulate digestion, whereas green tea is mildly alkaline. I would also stress that caffeine should be taken only occasionally in order to maximise its effect. Regular caffeine usage results in the body acclimatising to its effects, thereby counteracting its benefits.
Under normal circumstances I would always advise against using electrolytes. As much as they may make you feel better, they reduce cleansing and healing – something I’ve witnessed time and again among those clients who choose to use them. However, precisely because they do reduce cleansing (and therefore detox symptoms), precisely because, as mineral salts, they do raise low blood pressure (thereby increasing energy), electrolytes are also an option for emergency situations in order to get through the day. When taken under these circumstances, the problem with electrolytes is that they tend to stay in the blood longer than caffeine, and their effect can last days rather than hours.
When so much is stacked up against you by working during a water fast, it’s really important to be able to rely on supportive family and friends to help get you through. Lacking that, a water fasting coach can also make a world of difference.
When water fasting, so many circumstances lie totally beyond your control. You can’t control physical detox symptoms. It’s extremely difficult to control your emotional reaction to such physical discomfort, especially when it may last days. It’s equally difficult to control your reaction to psychological factors, such as withdrawal from lifelong addictions to specific foods as well as eating in general. And let’s not even mention being able to control your spiritual reaction to taking away all the ‘excitement’ of food, and simply having to ‘be’ during your fast. In short, a water fast is much more likely to take you for a ride than the other way around!
With all this in mind, the decision about whether or not to work is probably the most important thing you can do to take at least some control over the circumstances surrounding your water fast. Whatever you choose to do, I hope that some of the ideas above will lead to a smoother and more enjoyable experience.