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.


bratliff said...

Actually you probably can and should do most of the light housekeeping chores. You will know if you don't have the energy.


Anonymous said...

This is a test to see if I can indeed 'post a comment' without a process similar to securing a position with the joint chiefs of staff...

Max Calder said...

The opportunities that will arise when one is fasting are wonderful to think about... Having completely changed your life around to accomidate such a drastic change opens so many new doors for your self improvement and, as the Buddhists would say, 'daily practice'... They're referring to meditation. Any plans in that area?

Unknown said...

I plan to try over the weekend when I have many hours of unbroken time. I'm aiming for 3-5 minutes at first. My mind has always been too distracted to succeed at this but the fasting has made me very mellow so I think there might be a shot.