Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adventures in fasting, part 1

Between Tuesday night at 8pm and Thursday night at 8pm, I consumed:
2 glasses of juice
About a dozen almonds
Several liters of water

and that's it. I had been planning to do a fast for a few months. I'd wanted to do a water-only fast, and to do it for 72 hours, but I ended up modifying it and stopping after 48 hours.

Why would I do such a crazy thing? A few months ago, I thought fasting advocates were completely off their rockers. Then I read 3 books about fasting (here is one that's completely online)and thought what the heck, I'd try it. This book described how to prepare for a fast and how to safely conduct a 3-day water fast. My goals in undertaking this fast were:
--give my digestive system a rest so my body could get to work on healing things like minor skin abrasions that haven't completely healed and my eczema, which is mostly dormant but gives me trouble every so often
--change my relationship to food and stop eating for reasons of boredom, stress, etc.
--try to budge my body off the weight set point it is so stubbornly defending

The most major reason is the first one. Fasting has cured all sorts of conditions, injuries, you name it. It's really pretty amazing. There is also a lot of evidence that the human body is designed to fast.

I didn't write about this until after it ended because I didn't want my two or three readers to worry (though I'd already talked about it with my nearest and dearest). I checked in with HS and had a doctor's appointment the first day. I ended the fast early due to some uncomfortable symptoms. More about the fast in the next post. Here's a teaser: my sense of smell became supersonic. I could smell things in amazing depth. Even today, after breaking the fast, I smelled a jar of honey and could pick out all kinds of notes, like sweat, that I've never smelled before. I could smell the "natural flavors" at the bottom of the ingredients list in whole wheat pasta.

Because it's hard to find a picture that goes with a fast, here's a picture of the furrier of the two men in my life.


Fin De Fichier said...

Quite fascinating. In our human past we almost certainly faced periods when there was a scarcity of food and fasting (specifically, caloric restriction) is known to activate certain genes that are normally dormant. I wonder whether the very occasional activation of such genes - say 3 times a year - is healthier than people who are always struggling to eat less, which clearly just doesn't work for some people.

An interesting thing I find about myself is that, when emotionally stressed in a certainly way, my appetite drops dramatically. This runs contrary of course to the typical trait of people over-eating to calm their nerves. I wonder if this is a nature or nuture thing for me. I'm just sort of recovering from the upset of my very brief relationship not working out, but the whole week of the acute phase I was eating about 30% less than I normally do. Which of course, is still more carbs than people who are dieting, since I have one of those super fast metabolisms. And BTW it's not that he called me fat.

I would kindly suggest, though, if wounds are healing slowly there may be something else at work. I'm sure you are taking a multivitamin. Have you been traveling for work again? I'm convinced travel is an incredible stealth form of stress that will be a hot news item some time in the next few years, when some study comes out. But like anything it depends on the people, some are fine with it (just as some are fine with high salt diets) and some are not. I know I never sleep as well when traveling so that's an obvious part of it.

Amy said...

Hey FdF,
I too find that I eat less when I'm emotionally stressed. In Shelton's online book, he says
"Grief, worry, anger, shock and other emotional irritations are almost as potent in suspending the desire for food and in rendering digestion practically impossible as are pain, fever and severe inflammation."

From what I've read, it's not really genes that are activated, it's more that the body has the resources to do deep healing instead of spending most available energy on digestion.

Theresa said...

I've been meaning to try a fast as well. Not a water fast, but juice and maybe fruit for a few days. What made you decide to do it now (well, two days ago)? I find that's the hardest part--I'll think about it, but then I'll have something to do on a certain day and it gets pushed back, blah blah blah.

Fin De Fichier said...

This study definitely concludes that gene expression patterns change during CR. Might take longer than a couple days, though, the time period isn't part of the abstract. Anyhow, good luck with the fasting. It's fascinating to read about.

medline paper