Friday, September 30, 2011

the aftermath: the results of my 9-day water fast

the one food I was craving the most
So I did not have any trouble transitioning from the fasting state to the normal one, but perhaps it was too easy.  For breakfast Monday all I wanted was avocado, and I thought I would start with a half....but that was so delicious I slowly and appreciatively ate the other half, bite by bite, relishing  the creamy texture and perfectly balanced flavor of that sweet flesh flecked with just a bit of Himalayan crystal salt.  I thought to myself, this is it feels like to nourish oneself, as opposed to just eat, blindly, like most of us do.  I'm guilty as charged; half of the time I gulp down my carefully prepared meals standing up for goodness sakes.

So I headed off to work with the cut up watermelon, another avocado, and a banana.  Soon it became apparent to me that my taste buds had been reset and everything tasted too sweet to me:  the watermelon, the kiwifruit I had left in my work fridge, even the banana.  I did not want anything sweet.  I needed greens; vegetables, not fruit.  So I stopped and picked up some stuff at Whole Foods on my way home, and I have been eating mostly vegetables ever since.  I introduced new foods gradually and today; Thursday, I am eating 95% raw, salads, sprouted nuts, seeds, and beans, avocados, a bit of goat feta here and there, and raw vegetables like marinated portabello mushrooms or shredded raw beet, carrot and cabbage salad.  I have eaten some roasted cauliflower and sauteed beet greens, but to be honest I have really not wanted to eat cooked food much at all anymore so I haven't, and it has been much easier than I thought to make that transition.  I have not added in any eggs or fish or even whey protein, preferring instead to make my recovery shakes with hemp protein.  I am not a vegan normally, I do eat eggs, fish, and goat and sheep cheese, but for now I am resisting adding in more animal products.

I am eating much less than I was before the fast, which is to be expected if I want to keep the weight off, but fasting has made it so much easier because my body is now burning fat as fuel consistently, whereas before the fast I was really having trouble getting my metabolic efficiency to the point where I was not a glucose junkie, and I don't mean sugar, as my diet has always been devoid of added sugars.  More on this in another post.

So due to the fast, my energy levels and moods are completely stable throughout the day, even when I have not eaten in 4 hours.  That was unheard of before the fast; I had to eat every 2-3 hours to keep my energy levels stable and keep from getting that sick hunger feeling in my gut.  Another consequence of fasting: I have completely lost my cravings for all sweets.  It's wonderful! I am not eating any grains at all now, I did not eat many before but it would have been impossible for me to get up to go to the gym or a bike class without eating a bowl of my homemade granola in the am, after all, I had to power through a multi-hour workout like I did this morning: 20 min stationary bike warmup, 70 minutes of hard anaerobic lifting without breaks (body circuit with heavy weights and explosive movement) 15 minutes of myofascial release and stretching, and then a half an hour in the pool.  Now I can get through a gym workout on two raw flax crackers and some homemade hummus.  I took along an apple and ate half of it towards the end of my workout and that helped when I felt a bit depleted.

Why all this talk of my diet?  Well here's the rub.  The truth of the matter is a lot of folks, it seems, fast to lose weight.  Well I'm here to tell you that's not such a great idea.

What better way to lose weight than to stop eating?   you ask.

I would never have thought raw mushrooms were so tasty
I've heard from a a number of people on my fasting lists who were overweight and decided to fast to lose some pounds.  The problem with this method is that after you stop eating for an extended period of time your metabolism slows WAY DOWN.  This process is the enemy of the dieter.  Your metablolism can be slow for 6-8 weeks after the fast, during which time your body will do everything in its power to have you regain that weight, quickly.

The day after I was done my 9-day fast during which I lost 13 lbs I got this email from  Max Calder of YoMax Fitness, who is an expert on all things fitness and diet.

I want to make super clear a point we already discussed but you might not still fully understand.
Whenever anyone loses weight rapidly - their body, inexplicably, will do everything and anything to gain that weight back PLUS about 30 to 40%. It's like a rubber band thats been stretched and snaps back.
So, if you've lost 15lbs, you could EASILY regain 20 in 3 to 5 weeks. It will literally just 'appear' even if you think you've been reasonably careful.
I know you're aware of the 'Set Point Theory' and I'm in no way intending to condescend to you but I say this because I know how bummed you'd be to see all your efforts wiped away in no time at all…
I would recommend you limit your daily Kcals to 1200 for at least 2 weeks. This MIGHT give your body enough time to re-set it's SP to a new low.
As always, I'm sure you'll do what you want to do…Max
It was a wake-up call, but I reproduce it here because Max knows how hard I workout, and 1200 calories, well, that's not a lot for someone who burns twice that much on a typical weekend morning ride.  The bottom line is that I now have to be really careful....for me, it would be a (big) challenge, but for a formerly overweight person who has never learned healthy eating habits, it would be downright impossible.  I say this because I have heard plenty of stories of people who fasted off weight and then gained it all back and then some.  They would have been better off adopting a healthy lifestyle and relearning a balanced relationship with food and exercise.  Then the weight will come off naturally, gradually, and stay off.  I encourage you to view the movie Forks Over Knives, pick up a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food, or browse over to Joel Fuhrman's website if you want some help about how to cultivate this healthy relationship with food, your body, and the planet.

raw beans and seeds ready for sprouting
As for me the fast was a wonderful transition to a even healthier way of eating: a method that emphases living, raw foods with their enzymes intact.  Ever since the fast I have needed much less sleep, in fact I was having trouble sleeping at night until I really got back into a heavy training schedule as I have now.  I actually had to stop taking my antidepressant, which is big news in and of itself; as I have been on anti-depressants for 20 years.  My moods are totally stable and I feel energetic, positive, and self-empowered.  Dare I say happy?  Yikes.  Time for a new blog.

Honestly, a true fast is a complete system reboot.  My allergies improved so much that for the duration of the fast I stopped taking Allegra, although I have restarted taking it because of my lovely hounds.   I'm off my asthma meds completely though; no inhaled corticosteroid.   As for my IBS, the verdict is still out on whether or not the fast will help me clear that up.  I am  MUCH better than I was before the fast but I'm not sure how long that is going to last, and since so many items on my "fast wishlist" I actually accomplished, I don't want to attribute unwarranted success to this most difficult experiment just to make it sound like some sort of miracle.

Before my nine-day hiatus from life,  people would ask that generic question that actually means nothing; "Andrea, how are you?" and because I don't like to lie even when I know the asker really is not listening to the answer,  I would mumble back, "I'm OK, the question is how are you?"

Now I say, "I'm great," with a big grin on my face.

And I mean it.

Please review my last 11 posts, starting here,  if you would like more information on my 9-day water fast.  There are some fasting resources listed in the posts.  -aew

Sunday, September 25, 2011

the refeeding

So it was time.  7pm.  Max sliced up some seedless watermelon and a banana for me and put it in a little bowl, and I grabbed some chopsticks which would help slow me down.  I will tell you that each bite of those fruits was divine.  I would chew slowly and savor every sweet drop.  The fruit slid down my throat easily.  It was like turning on a light switch; my digestive system swung into gear and in a few moments my intestines were grumbling and churning a bit.  I stopped eating after 3 bites to make sure my stomach was not going to revolt, but it was fine, so half an hour later I had finsihed the whole bowl.  Halfway through we called my mom and let her know the fast was over.

"Oh...I'm so happy!  I did not sleep last night; I tossed and turned all night I have been so worried about you."  I laughed and assured her I was OK and as she hung up she said, "eat an extra banana for me!"

Earlier this afternoon as I was languishing in bed I got a surprise visit from big sister Jackie, Mitchell, and my nephews.  Of course I apologized profusely for missing the Mitchell's son's Bar Mitzvah last night but they understood.  Jackie folded some laundry for me and we all went out into the garden and the boys and I picked some fresh lettuce, the last of the zucchini blossoms, malabar spinach, serrano peppers, rosemary, chives, parsley, and basil for Jackie to prepare for dinner later.  We had a really nice conversation and Jackie studied me up and down, all thirteen pounds lighter, and said, "Onge, you look good.  Starvation suits you."

my first bite of food in 9 days
Talk about a Jackie-ism.  Despite having said that, I found out later from Sabrina, my other sister, that the  plan had been to stop over at my place and if I looked really bad they were going to "call 9-1-1."  Overall I am grateful that my family, though a bit bewildered by my method, were supportive and concerned.

Max brought over his bioelectrical impendance machine to test my bodyfat percentage, as he said he never had tested someone who had not eaten for nine days and this was going to further his research.  I ended up losing 13 pounds, obviously some of that is water and muscle, but I did lose quite a bit of fat as well since my BF registered at 14.9%.

The goal is to get back in the gym and on the bike and pack back on some muscle and continue to lose a bit more fat, now that clearly my body has remembered how to burn it.  I would not mind getting that number down to 13% over the next month or two.  I definitely lost muscle in my legs; I wonder how that is going to play out next time I climb some hills, but as I said it will be offset by the fat loss.

Actually the first thing I'm going to do is head to the gym Tuesday and do some core work and a light swim, nothing too strenuous, as I want to ease my body back into this the right way.  Tomorrow I plan to add avocado in with the fruit and Wednesday if all goes well, salad.  I will be sticking to raw foods at least until Thursday I think.  I have to keep in mind that my metabolism has slowed way down and it will be some time before I can eat like I used to.  Otherwise I will end up like many fasters do and pack back on the fat and then some.

Two hours after I had the fruit I did juice some carrot, celery and spinach but I could not drink more than a sip.  I'm still having some diarrhea (despite the fact that the BE machine said I was not, in fact, dehydrated) and carrot juice does not work for me when I'm in that state.  So I had more watermelon and a third of a banana and a glass of water.  So far I seem to be digesting fine.  Thank goodness.  I can't wait for my half of an avocado for breakfast tomorrow.  I will probably stop at Whole Foods on my way to work to get some vegetables and fruit.

The food did give me more energy within an hour.  The body is an amazing machine.  I'm really hoping that tomorrow morning I will not be a zombie like I have been and I can take the dogs on the most enjoyable walk we've had in over a week.  Chloe notices the change in me immediately and started playing with Madison and she jumped on my lap.  The dogs have been so depressed this week, convinced I was dying.  Madison, for her part, is not convinced.  Wait until she sees me tomorrow, she will perk right up. These two should realize how damn hard it was this week to feed and walk them every day.  I still can't believe I did it.

Now, I'm going to pray that this exercise worked.  I guess I will find out in the coming month.

stats: weight in am = 115.2 saliva PH = 7.0 (after watermelon) urine PH = 6.5

water fast day nine: enough already

So I woke up exhausted again, and still have diarrhea and cramps, especially when I drink water. The annoying dry cough persists, and my limbs feel like noodles; my arms dangling at my sides listlessly.  However I did feel slightly better than yesterday morning, so somehow, I have no idea how, I dragged myself and the dogs out for a walk.  Our normal 50 minute weekend route took an hour and a half.  I stopped and sat down a couple of times, but mostly it was just how slowly I was walking.  When I got home I fed them and had to take a two hour nap.

I'm irritable and bored today.  After really thinking it through, I decided to stop the fast this evening, exactly 9 days after my last meal on Friday the 16th.  I really don't think I can take another day of this and my physical symptoms seem to be indicative that my body is ready for nourishment.  I know my mind has had enough.  I agonized over this decision this morning because Fuhrman said that the *real* healing starts at 7 days, and he fasts his patients minimum 10-14 days, but then again this has been a really hard road for me and I think I have just had enough.  I am hoping enough healing has occurred by me resting my digestive system for 9 days.  And the bottom line is that after losing 13 pounds my body is getting low on reserves.  So I'm having some watermelon tonight!

My thinking about having it tonight instead of tomorrow morning is that if I have the same reaction as Celes did and the food makes me want to fall asleep for several hours, since I need to work tomorrow if I eat tonight it may even help me sleep.  And maybe I will wake up tomorrow without these horrible gut cramps.  I have slept so much the past few days but it is not always restful.  In fact the past few nights I woke up restless and agitated and had a really hard time finding a comfortable position in that my back and legs are so sore from being so sedentary.  My body is built for movement, and all this laying around is starting to have a negative effect on my moods.

So it's almost 4pm now.  I'm going to wait until 7 before I eat.  A friend is coming over shortly to slice it open for me.  I will keep you posted on my first post-fast meal.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

water fast day eight: exhaustion

Salvador Dali's "Mirage".  He had a great cameo in the movie last night
Today was probably my worst day yet.  I did got to see Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" last night which was entertaining but nothing fantastic, in the pouring rain.  Today I just could not get out of bed.  I finally forced myself to rise at 9 to open the dog door and feed Mad and Chloe.  Madison was eyeing me warily as I wobbled around.  I got some more water and went back to bed, until about 2:30 when Colin stopped by with my seedless watermelon from Whole Foods so I have something to break the fast with. He took one look at me and told me I should not even attempt to go to the lavish Bar Mitzvah tonight for Jackie's boyfriends' son, but I really wanted to go so I told him I was going to rally.

 I am open to the idea of breaking the fast before Tuesday morning if I felt there were health risks to continuing, but really the symptoms I am experiencing are nothing that I was not forewarned against by reading Fuhrman's book.  His patients spend their entire fast in his clinic resting.  And if my gut is undergoing the maximum healing that Fuhrman claims occurs from days 7-10 then my attitude is I made is this far, how can I quit now?  I'm not planning on repeating this experiment anytime soon!

I could call a doctor and see if he will write me a prescription for a blood test to check my electrolyte levels, but they are so anti-fasting that most would not want to write me a script for fear of liability.  Which is kind of silly since I'm already at the end and I just want a blood test to see if I should safely continue.  I did pull out a package of Hammer Nutrition Enduro-Lytes, the pills I add to my water on really hot days when I am racing or training, but they contain maltodextrin which is essentially glucose, so that was not happening.  I am sick of drinking water at this point; it has a metallic taste and when it enters my stomach it feels like I am pouring water into an empty vessel and it is sloshing around and making me more hungry.  However if I don't keep sipping it I get this annoying dry cough, which sometimes produces a drop of phlegm.

I did manage to force myself out to the park with the dogs.  I was walking really slowly and stumbling over rocks and leaning against trees whenever I could, but the girls got the hour of sprinting they needed. We got back and my every intention was to feed the pups and head into the shower to get ready for the party but after cleaning their feet and feeding them it was all I could do to collapse on the couch and stare off into space.  This is difficult.  I guess that's why more people don't do it.  Of course I've been borderline hypoglycemic since I was a kid so I knew this was going to be especially tough for me.

I actually stopped her for a minute trying to figure out which route
would be easier going.  I chose poorly.
So I called Sabrina and my mom and told them I would not be going.  After resting some more I showered and now I am in bed at 7pm with a big stack of books and my laptop.  I've had very slight detox symptoms: faint headache sometimes, slight clogging of one ear at one point, my tongue is slightly coated white but not much, but that's about it.  I still have the almost omnipresent gnawing, empty feeling in my gut that makes me want to eat a couple of almonds.  Just to make it stop.  And of course my back is a mess from spending so much time in bed or with a poor posture.

So that's about it, more tomorrow if I'm coherent.

stats: weight in am = 116.2  saliva PH = 6.75  urine PH = 6.5

Friday, September 23, 2011

water fast day seven: homeostasis?

medieval depiction of Hell--as you can see they
are served food there.   yeah, even in Hell.
Today I woke up feeling much better, thankfully. I could  not get to sleep last night for several hours; I actually was very restless but my physical body was tired so I resisted the urge to read.  Finally I fell asleep.  I can't say my intestines are completely over their ordeal but this morning was a dramatic improvement.  I had enough energy to take Madison and Chloe on a long walk with lots of off-leash time as it is going to rain the better part of the weekend.  As we walked there was a thick gray cloud cover that finally opened up right as I was leaving for work.  After the walk I felt depleted though, so I plopped down on the couch for a few minutes until I could gather up the energy to feed the girls and then go upstairs and dress for work.

Having lost 11 pounds certainly opens up my wardrobe options, which is certainly a welcome side effect.  I'm still not as thin as I was while eating and working out a few years ago before my hormones got out of whack.  I would not mind losing a few more pounds of fat and then building back the muscle I lost back in the gym in the coming months.  I wonder how long it's going to take me to be able to rejoin the group rides I've been going on the weeks before the fast.  Eventually when my legs get strong again it will be a welcome relief to climb those hills without those extra ten pounds.  Anyway......we shall see what kind of workouts I am able to do while I am building my strength back up and making the progression of fruits and vegetable juice to raw vegetables to  beans to tofu and so on.  I'm not sure where chocolate fits in there but I'm pretty sure it's at the end of my transition back to food.

Dr. Fuhrman likes his patients to break their fasts with watermelon, which is what I was planning to do.  There are many who give instructions to break the water fast on diluted fruit and or vegetable juice.  I have a good supply of carrots and vegetables between my fridge and my garden to supplement those first days.  The bottom line is my digestive system has been in hibernation mode for ten days when this is all said and done, and popping that avocado in my mouth could make me really sick.  There are stories on the web of fasters who broke the fast with pizza and burritos and made themselves really sick, like bedridden for a week kind of sick.

Back to today, because I am supposed to be taking this one day at a time, by mid-afternoon I was pretty tired  and still suffering from bouts of hunger and emptiness.  I tried to keep sipping as much water as possible, but my intestines were still cramping a bit from my ordeal of the last few days and that made drinking difficult because I started to feel sick.

A couple of notes: yesterday was a pretty humid day, and at 80 degrees walking the dogs normally I would be pretty slick with sweat by the time I returned home and got in the shower. Granted I am walking slower than normally, but I did not perspire at all walking them yesterday or today, and the dogs were panting like crazy.  I also noticed the hair on my legs has barely grown at all, which is handy because I sure don't feel like shaving.  It's amazing how the body quickly adapts to conservation mode.

After work today I am planning on going to a movie if I can find one playing right now that I want to see.  Then I've hit the weekend and the home stretch.  I can't believe I've made it this far.  Kudos to those of you who have encouraged me and shared their fasting stories; especially for you hard-core fasters who fasted for 21 to 40 days.  I don't think I could do it.  Certainly not if I had to work like this.

stats: weight in am = 117.4 saliva PH = 6,5  urine PH = 6.5

my Godchild picking my tomatoes for us

Thursday, September 22, 2011

water fast day six: depletion

So I got on the scale this morning and I had lost three pounds since yesterday, two of which I gathered were the water I gained from the nasty Miralax.   I went to bed last night still feeling prettly lousy as fas as my abdomen was concerned, and it was not until I woke up an hour later at 10pm to pee that I realized the diarrhea was finally gone.  Or the worst of it that is.   I felt weak and depleted this am, my legs as wobbly as a newborn calf.

my worried dog watching over me when
I got back from the hospital yesterday
I don't know how I managed to get dressed for work and feed the dogs. I don't know how I got through the workday, or how I scooted at one pm to meet the truck and pick up the raw milk, cheese and honey.  Lifting the cooler into the car was really tough.  I am so weak and frail right now, and I know it's mostly from how sick the bowel prep medicine made me with no food in my system.  I got home and after unloading I had to explain to the dogs that I could not walk them just yet; we had to take a nap first.  Madison whined a bit but she knows something is wrong with me and she has been very concerned about this.  Last night she slept with her nose practically pressed against mine, so she could sound the alarm if I was struggling for breath.  Of course because my body is burning ketones for fuel right now I smell different to her, and my lack of energy is really stressing them both out.

Finally I forced myself to take them out and we had a nice walk although I was walking very slowly. When I got back and climbed back in bed with my book my legs ached like I had just rode 80 miles.  Weird.  I did have a dry cough today but that could have been from the dehydration; once I even coughed up some phlegm.   The diarrhea did not go away, it turns out, but since there was nothing in my colon anyway, there was not much to it but nausea along with more hunger pangs.  Like I said, a rough day.  I really have not had more detox symptoms than that: my tongue is slightly white but no thick coating, no headaches or runny nose.  My lower back is sore but that is from spending so much time in bed and slouching at my desk all day since I don't have the energy to sit up straight.  They say the real detoxing starts at 7 days.  So I'm looking forward to feeling worse tomorrow.
the same tree at dog beach in the Wissahickon pictured
above; in May, before Irene and Lee
I did get some good reading and research done, and I'm just taking this beast day by day.  It has been suggested to me that it would be a shame if I did not take this opportunity to practice meditation and I agree so that is a goal for the weekend.  I'm in the home stretch now, four days left.  It's hard to believe I have not had any food since Friday.

stats: weight in am = 118.2 lbs saliva PH = 6.75 urine PH = 6.5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

water fast day five: what is the point of all this again?

one of the lookouts in the Wissahickon today
Today after I got back from the colonoscopy I was so nauseous and dehydrated I had to take an hour nap so I could get up and take the dogs to the park for a hike.  I felt weak from the diarrhea and dehydration, but since then I've been drinking and resting and I feel a bit better.  I think the reason for my weakness today is probably my poor judgment in scheduling the test during a fast, so I'm hopeful that tomorrow when I return to work I will feel as good as I did late yesterday.  One thing I noted about being hooked up to all of those machines in a hospital: my blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen saturation were all stable.  And I refused sedation, because I did not want any IV solution or drugs in my body during my fast.  Actually if you've know anything about me you would realize I would refused sedation anyway.  The anesthesiologist, who afterwards was abruptly dismissed by my attending nurse, told me I "was missing out on a fantastic drug with absolutely no side effects."  I laughed, and thanked him for his candor.

I generally try to wear as much metal as possible
One thing somewhat incredible, I have been off all allergy and asthma meds since last Friday.  Since I am highly allergic to trees, plants, mold, dogs and cats, I take Allegra year-round to be able to be as active outside as well as to be able to own two dogs.  If I forget Allegra for a day I generally get very itchy; as a matter of fact in the past two months my itching has gotten so bad that I have been up for hours at night itching my arms and neck to the point where I wake up in the morning with broken skin and severe bruising from all the scratching.  I can't wear metal jewelry anymore around my neck for more than a few hours; sterling silver or gold even, which is really frustrating for me because I sure do love my accessories.  In fact all of this allergic activity was one of the reasons I decided to fast in the first place; because autoimmune illnesses like asthma, allergies, and leaky gut syndrome all supposedly respond well to fasting.  I've stopped taking my daily Pulmacort inhaler as well; although the manifestations of that won't be evident until I start strenuous exercise again, since my asthma only presented as exercise-induced.

today's catch
So I've been reading and relaxing and doing only a few chores like watering the garden and picking some odds and ends from my garden which I will give away since I won't be eating for another week.  It broke my heart to hand my Dad, who drove me to the procedure today, a huge bag of freshly-picked lima beans from my garden because there is nothing quite like fresh limas, and I have an incredible recipe for them, but the vines are still producing so I should get to try them before the frost destroys all.  My lettuce is looking quite tasty as well about now, but I will give some of that away to Colin tomorrow when he stops by to pick up his raw milk and cheddar from the farm.  Nothing goes to waste.  That cheese is going to look yummy.  Ah cheese, the reason I'm not a vegan.  I only eat goat and sheep milk cheese for the most part though.

I wonder how the re-feeding is going to go, because apparently breaking the fast can be just as challenging as the fast itself.  Joel Fuhrman states that the faster's stomach stops the production of digestive enzymes, in addition to the fact that the mucosal lining of it thins out during a long period of dormancy, so you have to be extra careful of what, how much, and how often you consume post-fast.  Celes had tremendous difficulty with breaking her fast, although hers was 21 days, which will be twice as long as mine.  They say fasts longer than 10 days can be very difficult to break.  Well, I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.  I have to get through 2 more days of work, then a beautiful rideless fall weekend punctuated by a few social engagements I can't excuse myself from, then 1 more day of work before I can have that 2 ounce piece of watermelon next Tuesday September 27th.  And Boss #1 will be back from Ireland on Monday and popping into my office every 15 minutes with one problem or another, so I'm hoping I will have achieved some  non-characteristic Zen-like patience by then or I might have to lock my door.

I guess it would not hurt to state that my primary goals of this fast are:

  1. to heal my intestines.  By doing so I hope to heal my hypothyroid issues too, as thyroid issue go hand in hand with leaky gut syndrome.  20% of T4 is converted to T3 in the intestines, but only in the presence of healthy gut flora, according to Datis Kharrazian.
  2. to greatly diminish my asthma and allergies and get off those medications, especially the inhaled corticosteroid.
  3. to give my body some much needed rest.  I've been pushing it to it's limits for years and never getting enough rest.
  4. to lose the excess weight I've put on through these medical issues the past year which I can't seem to lose as long as my body refuses to burn fat because of my out-of-whack hormones and hypothyroid issues.
  5. to have time to write and read while I rest my body. I'm really loving all this learning which I don't have time to do often as I would like.
  6. to research and prepare my body and mind to incorporate even more raw food into my diet. 
  7. to enjoy relaxing, resting and healing; that is to say to calm my mind to the point where I'm not thinking about what I could be doing, but instead savoring the present moment.  

its not unusual for me to have 3 helpings of raw vegs on
my plate at one meal: here is raw celeriac, raw sunchokes,
and raw thai papaya salad.  Lots of slicing!
A note about #6:  It's quite a challenge to move to a raw diet from a cooked one, although I have been incorporating about 25-50% raw foods in my diet already, which is not insignificant.  Due to my inflamed IBS over the past year, I have not been able to eat more raw than that because my intestines have not been able to process it.

And as for #7, well that is a big challenge for me, but I'm pleased to report as I get through Day 5 of consuming only water that it is happening much more easily than I had imagined.  There really is something to this fasting thing!  My biggest fear now that I've clearly entered ketosis and clearly don't have a MCAD deficiency is how long it will take me to regain my strength after I've started eating again so I can resume cycling, weight training, running, and swimming.  My other fear is of course that my IBS will still be an issue after this is all over but I suspect that will not be the case, in light of the changes I have already seen.  But I won't know for sure until I resume eating.  Even the juice fasts I have done suppress the IBS greatly for a month or so, but each time it has returned with a vengeance.  It never completely goes away, but for the past 17 years it has been quite tolerable the way I have adapted my diet, and I would like to push it back into "remission" so I can resume a normal life.  Normal for me that is.

That's about it for today; I'm looking forward to reading some more of Ted Kerasote's beautifully written epic, Merle's Door, as well as working on a half-written poem that has been languishing on my computer since the snowstorms of January.  More tomorrow, I'm sure I will be feeling a bit less depleted then.

stats: weight in am = 121.2  saliva PH = 6.5 urine PH = 6.25

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

water fast day four: light at the end of the tunnel

the last burning embers of my fire this evening
Today is day 4, when my body  must be in ketosis, but this morning and into the afternoon I still felt hunger pangs, which frankly sucked.  This was supposed to be easier!  This morning it was difficult again getting myself around the house, and walking the dogs, which is always uplifting, was taxing at times, especially since I refused to cut short the walk.  I just had no energy to do anything involving the use of my limbs.  And I was irritated that in many of the blogs I read from other folks who had fasted, they seemed to have much more energy than me.  This is a prime example:

I'm beginning to think that the difficulties people associate with fasting might be self-magnified. If the rest of the 18 days are going to be as easy as the past 3 days, this is probably one of the easiest fasts in the world. :D       --Celes Chua, from The Personal Excellence Blog

WTF?  I had been feeling pretty lousy from day two.  I actually feared that I have that rare disorder that Fuhrman describes in his book, a MCAD (medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase) deficiency, where my body cannot product this enzyme critical to the oxidation of fatty acids.   I thought I should stop by the pharmacy on my way home and buy some ketostix just to make sure there were ketones in my urine.  

Add to all this that I thought it was a good idea to have a colonoscopy performed on Day Five of my fast, as well as the fact that my period started on Day Two; well, you can tell I'm an endurance athlete.  We routinely drive our bodies harder and harder and thus we sometimes expect too much from them at times.

So today I walked the pups and went to work, and despite my irritation from the hunger pangs, I did manage to have a productive day.  It was really difficult to rise out of the seated position, so I practiced economy of movement.  I left at 4:30 and headed home to start drinking Miralax and taking laxatives for my colonoscopy.  Then I lit a fire in the pit out back and read more fasting blogs until it was time to go inside and drink some more Miralax and water.  Those who have undergone the indignities of this procedure can feel my pain.

By 6 pm something had shifted.  I felt MUCH better.  Not from the Miralax, no, in fact that was making me slightly nauseous.  But there were no more pangs, and more importantly my energy levels were only off by like 20% as opposed to 90% like the past couple of days.  Wow, if I could only stay like this for the remainder of this fast I will definitely make it to 10 days, maybe even 14.  What this morning seemed like an insurmountable obstacle now seemed quite plausible.  This is encouraging.

So tomorrow am, Dad picks me up bright and early to take me to Penn Presbyterian Hospital for my procedure.  I took the day off from work so I could rest, since I only slept 8 hours last night and I did not nap today; I could not fall asleep in my chair at work.  When I'm eating food I have no problem doing this!

Stats: weight in am = 122.4 lbs saliva PH=6.5 urine PH = 6.25

These morning glory beauties were in bloom in the garden this evening; they bloom at night!  

Monday, September 19, 2011

water fast day three: hello ketosis?

the first thing I'm allowed to eat 7 days from now
This morning was really tough.  I had zero energy, it was a struggle to walk.  I made my way downstairs to let the dogs out and ended up sitting on the couch for what seemed like an eternity trying to get my strength up to walk the dogs.  Which I did, and we had a beautiful walk on this lovely brisk fall morning; I think being in the September sun invigorated me a bit.  Just a bit.

When I got back I actually had to rush out the door to make an appointment in Rittenhouse Square, and I only ended up being 10 minutes late because it took me much longer than usual to walk the 7 blocks.  I enjoyed the walk though, it really was a lovely morning.  My perception has shifted a bit though; I feel like I am from another world, it's strange.  Without food to ground me I feel weak and only half in the physical world.  Walking back to the car and smelling the fried food was a little painful but I just let it pass and kept marching.

 I made it to work and actually that was not so bad.  I think having tasks to do that did not involve much physical exertion (sitting at my computer) was much better than being at home all day and struggling through chores.  Boss #2 asked me if I was OK, I looked tired.  I said, "yeah, I'm tired."  I did not tell him about my fast.

the second thing I'm going to eat
The thing that was so rough about today besides the lack of energy was that I still had several bouts of hunger pain in my gut, which was not fun.  I am craving avocados.  It bothers my stomach to drink too much water, and I have very little thirst at all.

I went to my chiropractor after work, and he adjusted me and did the painful soft tissue work on my neck back and hip.  Then finally home.

 I was  reading in bed by 8pm tonight. I'm going to try and get into work at 8 tomorrow because I have to leave at 4 to get home and start "bowel prep" for the colonoscopy I'm having Wednesday morning.  There should not be much drama there considering I will not have eaten in 4 days.  I probably should be putting my body through that stress on a fast but it was a good excuse for a day off from work.

stats: weight in am = 123.6 saliva PH = 6.75 urine PH = 6.5

Sunday, September 18, 2011

water fast day two: lethargy

sunset across the street from 3434

Today was more difficult, as I imagined it would be.   I have had very little energy all day; even after sleeping 10 hours last night.  I did go on a 1.5 hour hike in the Wissahickon with the dogs this am, and we hiked on  trails that were more challenging; i.e I had to climb over some rocks or fallen trees here and there, and boy did my legs feel weak.  I tripped and stumbled once, the hiking boots felt heavy on my noodly legs.  Even typing right now I feel like I should be lying down.
Wissahickon Valley Park

So the meal I had Friday night sustained me yesterday, but today my system struggled to catabolize my muscle tissue in an attempt to feed my important energy needs, namely my brain and other organs.  It did not want my legs and arms using any of that precious energy.  I took two naps today, and although my plan is either to go outside and sit by a fire on this gorgeous September evening, or else take Colin up on his offer to join he and Jessica for a movie, somehow I think there is a good chance I will not make it back downstairs.  Walking the five downhill blocks to Colin's seems like an insurmountable obstacle, especially since I will have to walk back up.  Although the prospect of seeing a movie actually appeals to me, which is shocking.

snoozing in the sun with mom
Anyway, I did manage to do some more laundry and housework, bottle up some kombucha, put out the trash, water the plants, and do a teeny weeny bit of weeding,  feed and hike with the dogs, read my book sitting in the sunshine in the garden, listen to this video, and spend a lot of time petting Mad and Chloe.  They did not object.

As for symptoms, I've been as I said lethargic as a boa constrictor with a goat in its belly, and on and off all day I've been hungry and cold.  I just got a bout of nausea that only lasted about 20 seconds, and I had a slight headache this am for a minute or two.  I've gotten more stomach gnawing and grumbling too, but that pretty much is how my body manifests hunger; that, and the lack of energy.  On the upside my eye circles, as well as my chronic itchy skin, are gone.
ketone body

The other weird side effect of this fast is that time, which usually rushes by me like the wind as I futilely try to grasp as much of it as I can before it slips though my fingers,  has actually slowed down.  It's strange.  I would imagine that this is the speed at which time is supposed to flow.  I looked up at the clock today several times and each time was shocked it was so early.  The list of chores I have to choose from every weekend was not even consulted, as I knew that this weekend was going to be about reading, writing and sleeping; that's it.  If I did more of this relaxing in my post-fast life would the incessant rush of those winds slow a bit?  This is an interesting speculation.

But I knew the weekend would be tough and I think I was smart to wait until ketosis until I returned to work, since I would have NEVER gotten through the day like this.  According to Fuhrman and others, by the third day of a total fast, (not the third day of a juice "fast" or any other "fast" where calories are consumed however)

...the liver starts generating a large quantity of ketones from the body's fat stores.  As the level of ketones rises in the bloodstream, the brain and other organs begin to use these ketones as their major fuel, thus greatly diminishing the utilization of glucose by the body.  This significantly limits muscle wasting.  These keto acids are utilized primarily by the brain, muscle tissue, and the heart.  --Joel Fuhrman, MD, Fasting and Eating for Health

So that's about it,  it's time to start building my fire.  It's mom's 70th birthday today so I need to give her a call and reassure her that I am not going to die of starvation this week.  I've been doing stuff like this for twenty years though, so I would not be surprised if she forgot about it already.

Stats: weight in am = 125.6, saliva PH = 6.5

Saturday, September 17, 2011

water fast day one: attack of the hornets

Devils Pool , Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia, PA today
So today was sort of what I expected.  But then I've had enough surgery in the past few years which  required I fast from midnight the night before until mid-afternoon the day of surgery so I was expecting the grumbling stomach, mental fogginess, and lack of energy.  Around 9 am I drove the dogs to Wises Mill Road so we could take different trails than our usual jaunt from Hermit Lane, since I was not riding and had all the time in the world.  Besides if I took that trail they would jump in the water and I thought it would be better if they did not swim in the Wissahickon Creek yet since the fecal coliform count would still be high from Irene and Lee., never mind that we all did last weekend not knowing any better. We hiked the Orange Trail to Devil's Pool, and of course there was trash everywhere from the scumbags who party there and don't give a damn about anyone else who might want to enjoy it's beauty.  These are the same losers who feel the need to spray paint the boulders there.  As we were leaving the FOW was removing spray paint with some sort of solution.  Thank goodness for people who care.

Chloe walking over the trash I picked up afterwards
So I climbed on the rocks and picked up the trash, bottles, and articles of clothing left behind by people who should never had been born. Yes this took some energy, but don't forget I did eat last night so I still had a liver and muscles full of glycogen.  A friend took me to a gallery opening and dinner at FARMiCia so we managed to top off those stores nicely.  And hiking made me forget about my gnawing stomach.  The dogs were ecstatic running all over the "new" trail, and we ended up hiking off- trail part of the time.  Madison and Chloe got to chase chipmunks and squirrels and sniff, leap and dart to their hearts' delight.  That is until Madison disturbed what I think was a bald-faced hornet's nest and suddenly the dog bound up to me with pleading eyes that said, "help me mommy."  There were at least forty angry hornets all over her back and sides stinging her simultaneously.  Madison was flinching and biting at them, and in a second both dogs were in agony, rolling over in the brush and biting at their flanks.  Of course these insects attack aggressively when the nest is disturbed, and suddenly there were a bunch on me too.  I know I'm not allergic to stings, I was worried about the dogs getting stung that many times.

So the whole hike I had been discouraging my hounds from swimming, and now we were pretty high up on the ridge off the trail in the middle of the woods.

Lets go down to the water NOW." I yelled.  "C'mon, let's go swimming!"

They were not listening.  They were scared to death at this most unfortunate turn of events, poor things.

bald-faced hornet
I bolted down through the underbrush, grabbing at their collars as they stopped in pain and tried to roll in the dirt which clearly was not working; hornets don't die when they sting so Mad and Chloe were getting attacked multiple times by each insect.  Thirty seconds later I was sliding down an Irene- eroded retaining wall that was now a sheer 6-foot drop of mud with the dogs and I pushed them into the water.  Then I had time to see if the hornet that had stung me was still on my shoulder.  It wasn't.

Afterwards Madison, who had taken the brunt of the attack, did not leave my side.  Her tail was between her legs, she kept stopping to bite at her flanks, and  I could see she was hurting as we made our way back on a different trail that went along the creek to avoid another encounter.  Both dogs soldiered back, not straying from the trail.  They jumped into the car and I sped home and gave them each a Benedryl pill tucked inside a chicken heart.  Of course Madison smelled the pill inside the chicken heart and turned up her nose at it---imagine!  I pushed it to the back of her mouth and held her mouth shut until she swallowed it.  Then she accepted the chicken heart to wash it down.  Yum.  Both dogs got scrubbed and towel-dried.  For the next hour she was shaking, but that subsided and she seems fine now.

So after taking care of the beasts of course my first instinct was to eat, but I soon involved myself in other things and that passed.  I definitely am moving a lot slower than usual.  Sometimes I feel like I am swimming underwater.  Madison and Chloe are witnessing my frequent stops to sit down or just stare into space with curiosity   After I had vacuumed the downstairs  and did some laundry I was really tired, so I went upstairs and read a bit and took a nap, and my Benadryl drugged hounds were happy to join me--for 2 hours!  My naps are typically 6 minutes to half an hour long.  I'm pleased to let you know, in case you were wondering, that the food you eat really does give you energy during the day.  Yeah I know, duh.

I am doing some housework but nothing too strenuous.  For the rest of the night I will read and relax.  My body feels cold all the time, so I'm wearing a sweatshirt and leggings.  My heart rate is low, but so far I have not been paced much.  I'm thinking tomorrow might be more taxing, but I'm resigned at this point.

So that's about it, I weighed 128 this am, and my saliva PH last night was 7.0.   More tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

countdown to my first 10-day water fast

Aquarious by Håkon Søreide, available for purchase at

So I have a big day coming up this saturday the 17th.  That is the day I embark on my first water fast.  For a duration of at least 10 days I will be consuming nothing but distilled water.  You read that right.

 I've done quite a bit of juice fasting in my life, although diehards would say that juice fasts should be called "juice diets" or "cleanses", since they are technically not fasting.  Since you are still taking in calories, you are not resting your digestive system.  After literally years of research I have come to the conclusion that if I am serious about healing my body, I have to undergo a true fast. And God knows in the past year I have tried just about everything else conventional and alternative medicine has to offer in an attempt to get my body back in balance.  Nothing has worked.

I really don't want this post to be a primer on fasting, since if you are going to embark on this sort of healing journey you should really do more research than what is found on the internet.  I will provide some informative links below, but I recommend that you really spend time researching water fasting before you embark on your first one based on something you read in a blog.  Especially from someone who has not even completed one yet.....

So first off, *everyone* has pretty much expressed their concern and dismay about me not eating for 10 days; those people who I told that is, and they have been few.  That is to be expected, most people, especially folks in the conventional medical community, do not understand how our bodies are wonderfully adapted to heal themselves if we just let them by stopping the energy-intensive process of processing calories.  There is a chance I will have to abort the fast early should my body show signs of actual starvation, however this would be a rare complication.  Even very thin people have enough fat reserves in their bodies to undergo fasts of 40 days duration, and I'm 10 pounds over race weight.   My electrolytes will need to be monitored to make sure they do not get too low.  Ironically having a pacemaker will prevent my heart rate from dropping precipitously.  In fact the last time I did a 3-day juice fast a few months ago my heart rate dropped into the 30s while I was sitting at my desk often enough that my pacemaker was pretty much pacing me the entire three days.  That was uncomfortable, because I still think they have the voltage up a bit too high,  but you get used to it.

Which means on my next 6 month checkup my cardiologist will say,  "what the heck went on from September 17 to the 27th?  You went from being paced 11% of the time to being paced 80% of the time.  Any ideas?"  and I will blink at him doe-like for a few seconds and wonder if I should get into all that.  Yes they hook me up to that machine and the little computer prints out a journal of what my heart has been up to in the past 6 months.  Nifty huh?  Admit you want one.

There is a lot of information on the internet regarding fasting, some good, some mediocre, and some just plain stupid, as is the case with just about every health topic out there.  However, a book I highly recommend on the subject is Joel Fuhrman, MD's Fasting and Eating for Health.  Dr. Fuhrman has fasted many hundreds of patents over the years with great sucess in alleviating heart disease, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, the list goes on and on.  What attracted me to Dr. Fuhrman's work is that Fuhrman was a world class figure skater when he decided to embark on a 40-day fast to heal an injury.  Most of the literature I had read spoke of the benefits of fasting for people very sick with chronic diseases like RA and diabetes, but I wanted to know if it would be helpful for a relatively young (getting more relative every year) very active athlete who fools most people into thinking she is in excellent health.  After all, I never get sick, my energy levels are higher on my bad days than most of the people I ride with, even those 10 years younger than me, and I appear to be alert and vibrant.  But the sad truth is that my body has been out of balance for just about a year now, and I have tried everything in my power to regain homeostasis.  I need my body's innate power to heal to take over and allow me to regain a state of radiant health.

Of course during a water fast your body needs to be at rest, so I won't be working out for the duration of the fast. I really can't imagine that I ever went three weeks without working out in my entire life, not even when I broke my collarbone or had heart surgery.   Depending on how I feel once I enter ketosis, I might try and take a yoga class, but when fasting your blood pressure drops so much that you are vulnerable to fainting and lightheadedness, so I am not counting on being able to do much except dog walks.  And if Madison and Chloe have to pull me like a pair of salt and pepper sled dogs, you can be sure they will to make sure they get to go out for their daily hour hike.  It's important that I don't sweat or exert myself too much or my electrolytes can get out of whack pretty quickly when not taking in calories.

I guess what I fear the most is depression and boredom.  I am a person who is never bored, except the last time when I fasted and I did not have enough energy to really become engaged in anything, even reading was too much for me.  Of course my fast was only 3 days and because I was taking in carbohydrate in the form of vegetable juice my body never entered ketosis, so the breakdown of fatty acids to fuel my brain did not commence so I often felt hungry, weak and irritible.  I have read that on a water fast this dissipates by the 3rd day.  On the other hand, fasters differ in their accounts of their energy levels during the fast, and guess what folks, I do not have the liberty of taking two weeks off from Liberty. I'm starting the fast on a Saturday so hopefully I will already have entered the ketogenic state by the time Monday rolls around as Furhman states that this happens in 48 hours for women and 72 for men.  This way I will not be bitchy enough to get into a fight with Boss #2, who will be pretending to run the show since Boss #1, generally recognized as my ally, will be in Ireland drinking and golfing himself into a stupor next week.

Since I won't be working out or doing many of the daily chores and activities that keep me from writing, I plan to journal about how I'm feeling often during the 10 days.  Please feel free to comment and share your experiences with water fasting if you like.

Now if you ware wondering why so drastic a measure, I could point you to some further reading about the incredible benefits of fasting.  Dr. Fuhrman's book should be your first resource.  Here are a few other good links:

Natural Hygiene Society
All About Fasting
Dr. Shelton's 9 Basic Steps for Fasting

It's hard to believe I am going to miss out on this glorious fall riding that would normally happen this weekend; but that's OK, I'm committed to two weeks of reading, writing, mediation, introspection, and otherwise feeding my creative soul, which often starves as it takes a back seat to my athletic endeavors.  Yes I'm a bit apprehensive, but my instincts are telling me I will do just fine.