November 12, 2018 • Sarah Jean Gosney
Note: I am not an expert on fasting. If you decide to undertake this process, proceed with caution and listen to your body. Especially if you take medications or have health conditions, you may want to consult with your doctor before doing this.
So, on a whim last Thursday night, I decided to undergo a 2.5 day fast. I was prompted to do this after listening to Dr. Rhonda Patrick talk to Joe Rogan about the benefits of prolonged fasting (48+ hours) and the fasting-mimicking diet (a pattern of severely restricted eating over the course of a few days intended to recreate the benefits of fasting). You can find their interviews on YouTube and her references on her site. On Thursday I had just completed a 20 hour fast, and I have been doing intermittent fasting on and off for about a year and experimenting with fasting to reset the circadian rhythm for about 3 years. The longest I had fasted before was 24 hours.
Prolonged fasting can radically change the microbiome, increasing microbe diversity; activate stem cells; reduce autoimmunity; and prompt autophagy (cell death) of autoimmune and damaged cells. There are more benefits of fasting, but these all jumped out at me as effects I could really use.
So, what motivated me to undertake such an intense fast? As some of you may know, I have been undergoing a health transformation in the past several months, guided by the book A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, M.D. In short, I changed my diet to essentially a paleo diet, started to exercise more, meditate daily, and detox. This has led to some miraculous effects. To learn more about the process, read this post.
As far as I have come with that process, I was still having some issues. I have this recurring infection (it’s been treated multiple times by antibiotics) that I was able to stave off by avoiding all sugars, fruits, and most starches (pretty much eating a ketogenic diet), but I found I was unable to maintain this strictness for more than a week or two at a time, at which point I would eat one serving of fruit a day for a couple of days, at which point it would return. I am also hyper-sensitive to many of the foods I eliminated. For example, when I eat dairy, I tend to have an asthma flare the next morning. Additionally, the weekend before the fast, I had cheated on my diet multiple times at a social event (eating vegetable oil, dairy, and accidentally eating gluten), and my digestion had not gotten back on track.
There was a spiritual component to the fast too. I wanted to see if I was mentally strong enough to go without food for over 2 days. Additionally, I was feeling like I was in a bit of a rut in certain areas of my life, and I wanted to increase my focus on prayer and decrease my focus on my bodily needs.
All in all, I needed a reset. I decided to drink coffee* and water and eat nothing for 2.5 days. I decided to go longer than 48 hours because I stopped eating at 10:00 PM on Thursday night, and I didn’t want to mess up my circadian rhythm by breaking my fast at 10:00 PM Saturday night. So, my goal was to make it until Sunday morning.
*Note on coffee: Evidently, consuming anything besides water, including black coffee and green tea, activates processes in your body to break down these xenobiotics (any foreign organic material, meaning any plant or animal product you might consume), making it not a true fast. However, given the research on the many benefits of a fasting-mimicking diet by Dr. Valter Longo, I figured that, if you could get the benefits of prolonged fasting while still eating some food, you could get the benefits by eating nothing and drinking black coffee. There is currently no research on the effect on the body of drinking black coffee while fasting.
So, I began. During the first 24 hours, I was definitely hungry, but it was bearable. I drank two cups of coffee that morning and felt very wired, jittery, and a bit shaky, so I switched to decaf for the rest of the day. As usually happens when I’m fasting, I got very cold, so that was a big part of why I kept drinking coffee.
The day wasn’t that difficult, although I did make dinner for others (including searing a big, beautiful steak), which was a challenge. I definitely wanted food and was hungry, but I wasn’t starving, and I didn’t have any intense cravings for food. At the end of the day I felt slightly nauseated and had a slight headache. The nausea may have been caused by drinking a Seltzer water, as they are quite acidic. I took an Epsom salt bath, ate a bit of pink salt, and drank some water, and the headache mostly went away. A few food videos popped up on my Twitter feed, and my mouth watered over them, but I was able to move on. By the end of day 1, I was feeling a bit spacey, but my willpower was strong.
Day 2 was pretty similar, although my energy was low, and I was spacey all day. I had a bit of trouble keeping my train of thought going. I ended up taking a two-hour nap, though I didn’t sleep very deeply. That was one thing I noticed all three nights of the fast: my sleep was fitful and not as deep as usual. On day 2, I was daydreaming about food a bit more and could hear my now totally empty stomach growling quite a bit. By this point, I definitely felt like I was in an altered state. I was hungry and ready to eat, but I was not desperate for food. My mental workings felt a bit otherworldly, and I’m sure I seemed a little out of it.
I also noticed on the second day that my period stopped. Note to women: don’t do this on your period, because it will mess up your cycle. This is called amenorrhea and usually happens to anorexics. I don’t have difficult periods, and I didn’t think 2.5 days of fasting was enough to disrupt my cycle, but evidently it was. Doing this may affect your cycle no matter what point you’re at in it–I do not know–so be aware of this.
The only time I truly felt unwell was at the end of day 2 after I took a bath. I started to see stars a bit, but I quickly drank a glass of water and sat down for several minutes and felt better (though still slightly nauseated and headachy like at the end of day 1). I had actually let myself get mildly dehydrated during the day, as I had had only half a glass of water, a couple cups of decaf coffee, and a Seltzer that day. I had thought that was enough, but I could tell from my pee that I wasn’t getting enough water.
Both days 1 and 2 I walked a few miles in the cold, so I was not completely sedentary while I was fasting. I also dedicated extra time to prayer both days. 48 hours in, I really wanted to eat and felt pretty hungry, but I was not overcome with cravings or the desire to eat. I just kept thinking about food. Once again, I sat with others as they ate dinner. I considered breaking the fast after 48 hours, as I knew that I would get the benefits, but I pushed through and went to sleep.
I ended up waking up at 5:00 AM on night 3 and breaking my fast. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep without eating, and even though it was a little earlier than the time I wanted to signal to my body as “breakfast,” I decided to eat something. Before I ate anything, I took my measurements and noted that I had lost 1.5 inches on my waist and 1 inch from my hips. I didn’t weigh myself, but after 24 hours I had lost 5lbs. How much of this loss was pure fat, I’m not sure, but not all of it was, to be sure.
I knew my body wouldn’t be able to handle too much food at first, so I drank a glass of coconut water, had a couple squares of chocolate, a few nuts, and a bowl of bone broth soup (mostly liquid with some small chunks of meat and potato) to break the fast. I was still very hungry, but this was enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay and get my digestion started again. As you can tell, most of what I consumed was nutritious liquids.
I went back to sleep again and ended up not feeling like eating until 11:00 AM, at which point I ate 3 pieces of uncured bacon, 3 eggs, part of a steak, some fermented pickles, and some broccoli. After this, my appetite was stimulated, and I ate a fair amount that day, but I never at any point binged or even feasted. I ate a few medium-sized meals during the day. Even after I broke my fast, I was still quite tired Sunday (probably from lack of good sleep), and I ended up sleeping a deep 11 hours that night.
It’s a day after I broke my fast, and I’m still 4lbs down from my starting weight. I will measure and weigh myself in a few days (I will be out of town at the 1-week mark) to see how much of the loss was true fat loss. As you might have noted at the beginning of the post, my goal was not to lose weight with this fast, but I know many people do fast for weight loss, so I thought it was worth mentioning.
I will have to wait and see if the fast was worth it from a health point of view. I know it will take a few days for my digestion to get back to normal, so I will suspend my judgement on that for a while. I am really hoping to be able to eat fruit again without ill effect, so I am going to go ahead and eat some and see what happens. As for the auto-immunity, I know my psoriasis seems calmer. I also generally looked really healthy after finishing the fast, for whatever that is worth.
As for the spiritual benefits, I noticed that some of my prayers I had been working on for a while were answered. This was a near-miracle if you ask me. The skeptics out there will say this is a coincidence, I’m sure, but the fact remains that there was a major breakthrough in what I had been praying for during this time.
The fast was worth it if for no other reason than to prove that I could do it. I am hoping the health benefits will deliver, and I know I got something from it spiritually. It is certainly not a venture for the faint of heart.
It’s five days after my fast, and here’s what’s going on:
-digestion is still messed up (it was before the fast)
-I am able to consume small amounts of fruit, but still react poorly to significant intake of sugars like honey
-My weight is 2.5 lbs down from my starting weight (it came back up a bit)
-My size is the same; I lost 1.5 in from my waist and 1 in from my hips, and it’s still gone
-prayers still answered
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