It proved to be too much for my body—ten days. Ten days without food, drinking only water (no electrolytes, no broth, no NOTHING). Five days would’ve been perfect, and six days was a bit too much, so I had to stop. I started feeling very weak as my body has virtually no more fat to lose, after years of ketosis, and I was losing 1-2 pounds a day, so after six days I’ve lost seven pounds and got down to 107 pounds or 48.5 kilograms, the weight I haven’t been since I was sixteen. And even then I was 50 kilo, which is 110 pounds, which was my original goal (fret not, after eating for three days, I’m quickly back up to 110 pounds).
Well. What an adventure (here is why I have decided to do it).
The experience itself was incredible in that it made me realize several things:
I eat mostly out of fear, and that’s why I overeat. I was often hungry as a child, and the uncertainty of where the next meal will come from has generated so much anxiety, I’m still living it. After not eating for six days, I didn’t die.
I eat to stuff myself, to feed myself, often not tasting the food. After the fast I can’t eat food in the quantities I ate it before, and now it’s more like tasting it, savoring it, like it’s an exquisite delicacy every time.
I buy too much food because of the same fear: what if there will be no food to eat tomorrow? Now I know I can skip a meal and be fine. Hell, I can skip eating for a whole day and be fine. I’ll describe to you what it was like below.
My writing and my eating are intimately connected as in, the anxiety spans over both. When I’m anxious about food, I can’t write. And when I’m anxious about writing, I can’t eat. I drive myself too hard, get too hungry, freak out even more. It’s a dark circle. Once freed from it, I felt relaxed while writing. Wow.
My body needs very little. I’m not growing anymore. I don’t need much, really. And quite often I don’t need to finish eating what I started eating, but the upbringing of finishing what’s on your plate, plus the fear of THERE MIGHT BE NO FOOD TOMORROW is what drives me to finish eating something if I started it, even if I don’t like it! Same goes for throwing away food. I can’t. I’d rather eat it then throw it away.
There were more tiny revelations every day. Like how I crave my favorite foods, foods that gave me comfort when I was a child, and how important it is to follow these cravings and indulge my inner child who still lives in me. Th habit of eating. This need to eat because it’s lunchtime, when in fact I’m not hungry. All the frameworks around eating have crumbled in the absence of it, and my body felt light, like air. But my armpits did turn blue in the end. Really.
WARNING: I’m not a doctor, and all my experimenting documented here is for entertainment and education value. So if you’ve been down this road and want to read more, or if you’ve never done it and want to try, proceed with caution and at your own risk. In other words, don’t do it if you’re unsure, stupid. This is dangerous stuff that can damage things in your body. Okay, I warned you. Let’s proceed.
Here is what happened.
I stuffed myself with food the day before, so this was easy. And some work trickled in, though I scheduled not to do anything. It was hard for me to unplug mentally to do nothing. I ended up working and reading and feeling proud of myself. Look at me! A whole day without food! Lost 0.5 pounds.
This is when it got bad. I woke up so hungry, I thought I could eat a mammoth. But I couldn’t eat, so the entire day was a struggle. I tried doing work, and that was a struggle, because I couldn’t stop thinking about food. Watching movies helped pass the day. The inflammation and burning in my wrists subsided. Lost 0.5 pounds.
The best day of the entire fast. I was weak but felt no hunger anymore, and I went out of the house, delisted promising myself not to, did a few errands, and felt strangely fine and empty and serene. My energy level was low but it was steady, and nothing hurt. Even my bladder calmed down. It was wonderful. Lost one pound.
I started dreaming about food again. I realized I missed the idea of eating more than actual eating. The ritual. The enjoyment. Also, my energy level dropped again, and all the books I stocked up on, to read, sat sadly in a pile next to the couch where I reclined, unable to concentrate on anything. Getting up fast made me dizzy. And, on this day I stopped pooping (I did all the previous days, as if there was anything to dispose of). My face was strangely flushed and looking very clean and pink, as if after a facial. Bladder back to being irritated after I drank hot water instead of tea. So it wasn’t just caffeine, it was hot water? Wrists pain-free, though. Lost one pound.
It was a good day again, and though I couldn’t walk fast without needing to sit down, the whole idea of eating evaporated. It was like I’d never need food anymore. I felt fine. Though not able to concentrate on anything, even on watching movies. Once more, pain was gone. But I lost two pounds. This alarmed me a bit. Two pounds in a day??
On this day it got suddenly bad. My energy level dropped dangerously low. Even getting up from bed was a chore. My throat got extremely sore. And the worst, when I was wiping my armpit with a white towel, it came away blue. I had to blink, to make sure I was seeing right. I went to look at the sheets. Where I sleep, there was a blue stain from my back rubbing on cotton. I looked al over my body and noticed my elbows started turning blue, as did the heels of my feet. Whoa. What the hell was happening? I decided this was the last day of fasting, and I’d start eating tomorrow. (The explanation about the blue follows.)
I started off with coconut milk, drinking it all day, and then some broth. Then I had a spectacular bout of diarrhea and had to stop. But I started perking up.
The blue stuff started disappearing, and I shifted to soft food, like soft avocado and pureed chicken from baby food jars. My stool was still out of whack, but I was perking up more.
First day back to real food! It never tasted this good before. The feeling of satisfaction was different. I got full faster, and I could taste all the nuances of the flavors, which I didn’t taste before. And I noticed that of all the weigh I’d lost, I also lost the fat off my face. Not that I had much left there, but it made me look so young, I blinked. It was the cheeks. After my accident, when I was biking and was hit by a truck, one side of my face got disfigured. Barely noticeable for anyone on the outside, but very much for me. The fat in the cheek shifted back from the impact. Weird, I know. It became asymmetrical, and it was driving me crazy, this asymmetry. Now it’s back to how it was before. Incredible.
So, about the blue stuff.
When you go into deep ketosis, your body disposes of long-stored toxins, and your hormones go out of whack, shifting to this new deep ketosis mode. Google “chromhidrosis” to read more about blue sweat. Water fasting has different effects on everyone. My body decided to produce lipofuscin in excess, as my glans kicked into hyper-production mode. Lipofuscin is the aging “wear-and-tear” pigment, and as my liver and kidneys got cleansed of whatever fat was stored there for decades (unsaturated fatty acids), they got over-oxidized, and…basically, the blue thing signaled dead cells disposal. Or plain cell death, like brain cells and nerve cells. Right. RELAX. I’m pulling your leg here. The truth is, I’m still unsure what the blue stuff was, and I’ll be talking to my naturopath to find out if I ended up playing a dangerous game and went too far.
We shall see. I’m still alive, and feeling fabulous. Really. It’s like I was renewed. I plan to do this again next year, and maybe every year. With experience I’ll get better.
THINGS I DID WRONG
Stuffing myself before the fast was a bad idea. It put stress on my body.
Not moving was a bad idea. I had to move every day so my body wouldn’t think it had to atrophy. I started losing my muscle tone in the last two days.
Not clearing out my schedule completely added to anxiety (all those books staring at me, “Read me! Read me!”).
Planning on 10 days without first trying a shorter, 3-day fast.
THINGS I DID RIGHT
Prepared by doing extensive research about how others did it, and prepping my body with nine years of paleo, then keto eating.
Got support: asked Royce to cover everything as if I was gone, so I didn’t have to worry about anything and could just rest.
Listened to my body and stopped when it told me it had enough.
Drank lots of water and watched lots of movies!
Some other things happened too, more private. I won’t be discussing them, and I’ll be quietly reveling in them because they were life-changing. Not to keep you hanging there. Rather, to inspire you to look at what you eat, why you eat it, and how you want to eat, and what’s stopping you from getting there. And maybe how it all is connected to your writing, because it is. It’s all one body, as much as we writers like to separate our bodies from our minds.