Years ago after a trip of debauchery I felt compelled to try and fast on our way home. Aside from my eagerness to clean myself out, I had a spiritual incentive as well. I want to crave Him as much as I crave food.
I always try to give myself plenty allowance on vacations and after years of cycling through clean and vacation eating modes, I know that my body will revert to it’s normal state after a few days of discipline and returning to my usual eating habits. I’m not condoning or suggesting my way is the best way. I’m just admitting this is how I do it. I have days where I eat pretty clean, and days that I don’t. I will endorse however, my lack of guilt for it. We all overeat, or eat unhealthy sometimes. The difference is, some of us beat ourselves up for it. Repeatedly. Those who beat themselves up for their indulgences are usually the ones who will indulge more often than those who just enjoy without abandon, the exquisite delight of each “naughty” morsel, and leave the guilt behind with the vegetables.
I am a geek when it comes to experimenting with my body. For example, I LOVED being pregnant. I was fascinated at the size of my ankles and the depth with which I could plunge a finger into them some evenings. I was amazed at watching my belly grow, and I’m probably the only woman who was thrilled to have to pull my car over one day because I thought I might throw up. I mean, I was genuinely excited about this.
I’m a firm believer that everyBODY is different. Yes, there are general rules we all should really adhere to. There are certain things that just weren’t meant to be ingested by humans. There are specific behaviors that don’t add value to any of us. But when it comes to the nuances of sleep, diet, exercise and mental wellness, different things work for different people. This is why the wellness industry is so massive. Every diet out there has worked for someone! We can argue about it all we want but the truth is, some of us do great being vegans. Many have become MUCH more healthy by going Keto.
I tend to be of the thinking that protein, fat and fiber are the game changers. It takes a lot longer to digest an avocado, for example, then it does a piece of candy. Limiting sugar consumption helps stabilize the blood sugar, and keeps our satiety up. But let’s be honest, eating is not always about being hungry. In fact, some of us have forgotten what hunger even feels like.
On the way home from this particular trip, I wanted to feel hunger. I wanted to teach my body (and mind) that a hunger pang wouldn’t actually kill me. Fasting was being talked about in the wellness community a lot at that time and I had done minimal research about it. I did realize by then that breakfast was in fact, NOT “the most important meal of the day” and that to eat because most of the rest of the world was eating at that time didn’t make sense. Why should I eat if I’m not hungry?
*Side note* If someone is eating breakfast and they feel good and are healthy, why would we change that? But if someone is eating breakfast, despite not being hungry at that time, and they’re looking for different results, I’d say that’s an area of opportunity.
My fasting experiment did not lead to any major breakthroughs spiritually or physically. I did not learn to love it. I tried different lengths of intermittent fasting but in the end, the hangry place I would get to was just not something I could overcome. I basically landed in the place of not eating breakfast until at least 1, maybe 2 hunger pangs have passed. I did learn that if I eat a huge dinner, or dessert after it, I will be more hungry the next morning. But in general, I don’t like to be starving, and I don’t make good decisions when I am.
I recently scheduled my first colonoscopy. I’ve been dreading this recommended procedure since I learned what it entailed. Stick whatever you want, wherever you want to stick it, but to not eat for an entire day beforehand was causing me sheer anxiety. I was dreading it! But, I was also, somewhere deep down, excited about the opportunity to try a longer fast. I’d planned to drink bone broth so made a big batch in preparation, but my husband challenged me to just do it. He usually fasts until lunch and has done many 24 hour fasts.
The afternoon of what would be my “last supper” before the fast began, I started getting a sore throat. I was devastated. It was one of my allergy bouts rearing its ugly head. They start with a sore throat and then it goes to stuffy head, lands in my chest and then I cough, for weeks. (I actually cracked 3 ribs from the out of control coughing fits I used to get.) At least that’s how they cycled for 7 years straight back before I knew I had Leaky Gut. As it turns out, fasting has a healing component that I do know about, but I didn’t want to go through the whole prep only to wake up so sick sounding on the day of the procedure that they wouldn’t let me do it! I ended up skipping dinner that night and just had bone broth. I finished my broth around 6 and didn’t sleep much at all. The sore throat was severe and relentless, and I kept panicking about what was going to happen.
In the morning I cancelled my scheduled workout and took a Covid test to confirm it was just my allergies. I started taking little hot soothing sips of tea, and waited. Although I’d been smart to schedule a busy day in hopes of keeping my mind off my eventual suffering, canceling the workout left me time to wallow. I think the Benadryl I’d taken was still in my system and I was miserable. Not from hunger, but fatigue, sore throat, watery eyes and self pity. I felt like I had the cards stacked against me and I was already at a disadvantage of knowing I’m NOT good at this fasting stuff! My husband was going to rock this. So much so that he played a tennis match 24 hours into the fast!
As it turns out, the sore throat was a blessing. My first hunger pang didn’t show up until 1 and it was mild. I attribute this to the continual sipping, maybe even specifically of mostly warm fluids. As is often the case, what I dreaded the most, what I was most afraid of, did not actually happen. I’d decided in advance that I would not make everyone around me miserable because of my discomfort. I had made a deal with myself to do this with as much grace and humor as possible… to be present, and not try to hide from the discomforts. My husband and I intentionally scheduled these at the same time. (Talk about a bonding experience.) Misery loves company, but also, when your partner is in your same shoes, you can’t dump or lean on them.
They say that deep into a fast your mind sharpens and that clarity and focus are heightened. I did not get to experience this. They give you sedative-type drugs for the procedure and although I did not go to sleep, I was pretty groggy. Ali wanted to go to breakfast afterwards (which I know most people would) but I was not hungry and was hoping to wait until we got home to maybe start with some bone broth. In the end I caved and had an egg, bacon and some potatoes.
This was an amazing experience and I will be playing around with more fasting. I learned that a little hunger did not in fact kill me. It really wasn’t even that uncomfortable. (The fasting part at least The “cleansing” part is a whole other blog.) I actually liked the feeling of being a little more empty than full. Knowing in advance I wouldn’t have the energy to do much I seemed to have more compassion and understanding for myself. Instead of pushing myself, I was gentle, sweet and forgiving. I let myself sit and write some of this. I journaled. It was 40 hours of self love, not punishment. At least this was the mindset I had.
I am not a nutritionist and I am not recommending anything here. I’m just sharing my unique experience. I am not sad that the Dr doesn’t want to see me for another 10 years (Praise Jesus!), and I do not plan to go 40 hours again just for fun… but I’m open to the possibility. This experience taught me I’m capable of something I did not think I was capable of before. I can do hard things.