Ever since hearing Ray Cronise on the Rich Roll podcast talk about his extreme methods of healthy living, including water fasting, I’ve had a quiet urge to try this reset out.
In recent months I struggled with compulsive eating. I was eating past full and after I’d already had dinner or been out with friends. It was my way of comforting myself, of saying “everything is ok, I’m taking care of you.” All the while I was ignoring that the overeating was only adding to my stress levels and irritating my chronic ulcerative colitis versus allaying everyday anxieties. I knew I needed a 180 on the behavior.
I read a study from the University of California Berkley that showed a 3-day water fast actually resets the immune system. I youtubed and googled like mad to read stories of others who slowed or stopped cancers and chronic illnesses through extended fasting. Having taken myself off of all medications for my ulcerative colitis in the past year, opting for natural solutions of diet and stress management, this new information upped my intrigue.
I researched where I might be able to do a supervised water fast and didn’t come up with much. The best option was True North Health Center but I still found the overall package to be pricey for what it offers. Then again, the places that weren’t pricey also had horror stories strewn across internet reviews of mistreatment and even worsening health conditions.
A bit frustrated, I added it my “list” and figured an opportune time and place would come to me.
It sort of did and sort of didn’t.
After experiencing a disappointment in some travel plans, I longed to create the feeling I was looking for from that travel. In particular, I was wanting to tune into myself, without distraction. That night when I went to bed I thought to myself, “tomorrow I’m going to try out a 24 hour water fast.”
What is a water fast? It means no food, no juice, nothing but water. Many believe distilled water is the way to go. I did my fast with filtered water, a little bit of lemon and one caffeine-free tea each night.
The 24 hours turned into nearly five full days. I was able to do it without going to a facility and remain relatively active throughout. There are a few things I did right and a few things I didn’t that I’ll share with you here.
What I Did Right
- Because my diet is relatively clean already, without needing to prep, I had prepped. Before fasting, one should eliminate all processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine for at least a week in order to make the detox more manageable. Although I didn’t fully adhere to the above because my diet contains some sugars, being a gluten-free, soy-free vegan who rarely drinks coffee or alcohol gave me a leg up
- I kept activity light. Although I did yoga and went hiking, I wasn’t climbing the tallest peaks and I was often taking breaks in my practice. Water fasting isn’t the time to get your personal best in any sport.
- I planned daily rejuvenation activities. From massages to meditation classes and a session in a sensory-deprivation float tank, I always had something restorative to look forward to that didn’t revolve around eating.
- While fasting, I did more research about fasting. Learning more of the health benefits kept me going!
How I Could’ve Done Better
- Embarking on a 5-day water fast, especially for a first-timer, is intense and really shouldn’t be done for longer than three days without at least having a doctor on call.
- Prepping is important and makes it easier to fast. Things like trying out intermittent fasting for shorter periods of time before doing an extended fast would’ve been helpful.
I broke my 5-day fast with papaya. A small amount of the water-dense fruit every two hours and within half a day, I’d also added in some cooked spinach and later some avocado. I found that I enjoyed the food on a new level having gone without for days. Over the week that has followed, I’ve also found that my absolute need to always have dessert had faded. I was now asking myself the question, “what do I need?” versus “what do I want in this moment?”
When I make my choices from that place and I’m conscious about how much I’m consuming, not only does my body feel great, but I don’t experience any symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
A successful 180, but it’s not over yet. It’s too easy to fall back into old patterns. So I’m committed to finding a way to incorporate shorter fasts into my life as a means to remind me what it means to enjoy the food I eat and to give my digestion a break and a chance to spend time on something else. Seriously, 65% of our body’s energy goes to digesting food, there’s a lot that can be done with that energy when borrowed effectively and healthfully.
If you’re interested in fasting with me or doing any other 180 challenges, join me on Facebook where I share and challenge...