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


David said...

Simply amazing!

Anonymous said...

That's great!

Did you regain an of the weight?