Water Fasting for Wellness - A Beginner’s 21 Day Experiment
“What’s that you say? Water fasting for wellness?! Never heard of it.” And neither had I until recently. Sure, we’ve all been aware of fasting as a ‘thing’ in religious and cultural circles. But for actual wellness and healing?? So, here’s how it came about that now I am in the midst of this 21 day experiment.
It was about 3 months ago that I was trawling around Google and discovered something I didn’t know I had even been looking for . . . water only fasting.
You may wonder why that would pique my curiosity. Well, my health has been at a low ebb this past year with a chronic sinusitis inflammation that would not heal, among several other chronic ailments. I’d tried all sorts of remedies and prescriptions but to no avail.
So, as I usually do, I thought I’d check out what other lesser-known options there were. Water fasting has claims to heal the body at a cellular level, particularly the longer the fast is. It’s a bit like a re-boot of a computer. When things aren’t going right, what do we all do? Turn it off and reboot it.
I thought - “Perfect! That makes sense. I’m all about simplifying things, and what could be simpler than just stopping eating for a while to let the body heal? Let’s give that a go.”
Needless to say, I’ve been doing heaps of research online and watching all the Youtube videos about fasting with much interest. And here’s what I decided - to undertake a water fasting experiment myself starting 22 December 2018 and lasting for 21 days with updates regularly journaling my experience.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is only provided for informational purposes. I’m not a fasting expert or medical doctor and I’m only sharing my own personal experience with fasting. Fasting has its risks. By continuing to read you agree that you use this resource at your own risk.
So, What’s Water Fasting?
Fasting is the process where you abstain from food and/or water for a period of time. In water fasting, you don’t eat but you are free to drink as much pure water as you want with nothing added to it . . . no lemon juice, ACV or supplements. A popular form of fasting is juice fasting, where you consume nothing but juices. But to my way of thinking it is not a true re-set as your body is still receiving sustenance requiring the digestive system to continue functioning, and not getting nutrients from the fat already on our bodies. What I wanted was a total rest from consuming anything additional so that my body could heal as much as possible.
Fasting should also not be confused with starving, a common misconception. During fasting, your body burns your fat reserves (adipose) for energy. You don’t suffer any deficiency of protein, vitamins, minerals or fatty acids. Starving happens when a body has no fat reserves to burn, for example someone with body fat from 7-10%. The following quote sums it is nicely:
“Fasting is a scientific method of ridding the system of diseased tissue, and morbid matter, and is invariably accompanied by beneficial results. Starving is the deprivation of the tissues from nutriment which they require, and is invariably accompanied by disastrous consequences.”
Starving happens when fasting ends. The amount of time one can fast without going into starvation mode depends on the individual, such as their percentage of body fat, their body, body condition and so on. Believe it or not, the average person can last 40 days (!!) just by drinking water alone (but please do not attempt to do this yourself without doing your due diligence and research).
The Benefits of Fasting
So why did I want to fast? That’s a perfectly valid question.
It’s no secret that fasting has been around for millenia in all different cultures and religions. Clearly it has been used as a beneficial practice for varying reasons, although it’s not been so commonly seen in today’s society. I can’t help but wonder if that’s due to our overabundance of food, our all consuming desire to have it all when we want it, and the heavy reliance on doctor’s knowledge and medications for anything that ails us.
However, I’ve noticed online there is a small but actively growing interest in fasting as a holistic form of wellness and therapy. (I’ll include links and resources at the end of this post where you can check out my research.)
When left to its own devices, our body is more than capable of healing itself of many ailments and illnesses. Eating and taking medication interfere with our body’s natural ability to heal. This is why we rarely have an appetite when we’re sick — it’s because our body does not want to ingest anything and wants to go through the self-healing process.
Toxins are kept in our fat cells or adipose tissues. Since we’re constantly eating every day, we provide our bodies with a ready stream of glucose for energy which leaves our bodies with little reason to break down our adipose tissues. Glucose is our body’s immediate preferred fuel. Only by cutting out our glucose source (by not eating, eating less carbs, or eating less) will our body turn to our reserves for energy. This is when the toxins get processed, broken down and released, resulting in a physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthier you.
This all made perfect sense to me especially when I discovered the following more common benefits listed below:
Improved physical complexion
Increased mental clarity
Emotional detox / Purging of past baggage
Physical detox / Body cleanse
Vividness of dreams
Increased spiritual connection
Improving one’s relationship with food
Reset poor eating and poor lifestyle habits
My Personal Reasons
My interest in embarking on a fast is multi-fold, as outlined below.
By nature I’m very curious about anything that is a bit out of the ordinary. I’m a big believer in giving things a go and challenging myself to do experiments. And I wanted to test out the various claims for better health myself to see if they’re true.
For most of my life I’ve suffered from low energy, with no apparent reason why. I thought it’d be nice to cleanse my system through this fast, as I said earlier like a system reboot, and see if that alleviates my general lack of stamina. Other specific health symptoms and issues I’d like alleviated or eliminated are listed below:
Chronic sinus imflammation
Loss of smell and taste, resulting from the above issue
Inflammation of joints, especially fingers
Elevated blood pressure
Digestive issues - IBS, gastric reflux, microscopic colitis
Weak, splitting nails
To encourage others
Because I’m always discovering new and interesting ways of doing life, I see this as another opportunity to share so that others can learn from my experience. By fasting and publicly sharing about this here at Simplify to Magnify, I imagine that this will be a helpful resource to those who might be interested to try it in the future.
In recent years, especially since menopause started 9 years ago, my weight has steadily been creeping up. I’ve tried all sorts of eating programs and diets: a brief stint as a totally raw vegan; the Whole30 Program; the 21 Day Diet; and several times on the 4 Phase HCG Protocol. These programs were all great while I was doing them, but didn’t seem to be sustainable for me in the long term.
At the beginning of my Pre-fast Cleanse, I weighed 61.3kg. For my height of 160 cm (5′ 3″) that’s at the upper limit for my ideal weight range of 48 - 63 kg. And I haven’t felt at all comfortable for ages. For me, my ideal weight is when I feel most comfortable, clothes fit well and I have more energy, which is generally around 52-53 kg.
For most of my adult life whenever I’ve undertaken a new eating program to shed excess fat, I’ve been judged and told: “But you’re not overweight!” Seriously! As if others know what it feels like to be in my body better than I do! Generally I have kept my dietary changes and experiments to myself to avoid this criticism and judgement, so embarking on a very public forum this time is actually a huge challenge for me!
I believe that through this fast, I will remove my excess weight and reset my diet once and for all. As I mentioned above, there are many reasons why I’ve embarked on this fast. Weight loss is simply one of them. There are many — arguably more important — emotional, mental, physical and spiritual benefits that can come out of a water fast, so bear that in mind!
Of course, it’s important that you change your relationship with food and switch to a 100% healthy diet after your fast. If you use fasting as an excuse for quick weight loss and you don’t resolve your eating issues and continue your bad eating habits before the fast, then whatever weight you lose during the fast will surely return.
So I’ve decided I will be transitioning from a vegan diet to a vegan ketogenic diet post-fast as that seems to make the most sense to me at this time, which is what I’m always looking for - things to make basic common sense!
Building a New Relationship With Food and myself
Lastly, I believe all eating disorders across the spectrum come from a dysfunctional relationship to food and ultimately your Self. So paramount in this experiment is to build a new relationship with food, starting on the inside.
Food is a very emotive topic and is often used to compensate for avoiding emotions that need to be addressed. The fact is that most of us in today’s society eat to fill an emotional need rather than out of true hunger.
Someone who has a true ideal relationship with food and his/her body eats only when truly hungry, not when they’re bored, stressed or feeling emotional. They know how to stop eating when the body says it is full. They will not experience any sudden cravings or desire to eat, and they will be able to maintain a healthy body weight and fat percentage, because the body has no use for any excess fat whatsoever.
How Long Should a Person Fast?
Our body has sufficient fat reserves to last us for 40 days, with some stretching as long as 10 weeks. As long as we have healthy amounts of fat reserves, our body will not burn large amounts of muscle as an act of natural preservation.
Many people complete shorter fasts such as 3, 5 or 7 days. Although they are beneficial, to attain the full effect of detoxification and healing that I’d like, I’ve decided 21 days was the perfect time for me.
As already stated, I started this 21 day fast on Saturday 22 December 2018 and will complete the actual fast on Friday evening 11 January 2019. During this time I’m only drinking Pureau water, which I’ve found is probably the purest water available here in Australia.
I will then spend the following 10 days post-fast doing a re-feeding protocol to ease back into eating again. Because a fast is best undertaken without work commitments I have taken off 4 weeks from my job to allow full rest and recovery to take place. I’ve so enjoyed just being at home, without the drive to go out and “do stuff” and resting when needed and using various self-care practices as listed below.
I’m posting about my fasting experience every few days via logs here at Simplify to Magnify. During this experiment, I’m sharing what I’m going through as transparently as I can, all the good, the bad and the ugly. This includes anything that I experience, including emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual, where relevant. I’m also including my daily stats of blood pressure, blood glucose, ketones and weight, with a weekly summary of my body measurements. My hope is that these logs may be helpful to those who are curious about fasting or who intend to try out fasting for themselves in the future.
Fitness and Exercise
During a fast, the body is in healing mode. It’s burning away the waste in your fat cells, unlike the normal days when it’s burning from glucose.
To experience the full benefits of a fast, you should rest as much as you can and limit the physically challenging aspects of your regular routine. I will go for daily, light strolls around the block, practice qigong, do my usual stretches and perhaps a few minutes of weights. But otherwise, that’s about it.
Self care practices
Other practices I’ve been using include:
Cleansing - sinuses, tongue and skin (exfoliation)
Magnesium baths and magnesium body spray
Reading + Reflection
Most reactions surrounding a fasting decision are rooted in fear. “What? You want to fast? But you’re not overweight! No! It’s dangerous! You’ll die! You’ll starve yourself! What about the electrolytes and nutrients you need? It’s not good to go hungry!“
I appreciate whatever concern may be sent my way, but honestly, I’ve been researching extensively on the subject of fasting and I’m very informed about what I’m doing right now (well as informed as I can be without having gone through the entire process yet!)
Thanks to all the research I’ve already done, I know more about the topic than most people do. I’ve named it as an “experiment” not because I’m just jumping in and winging it — it’s because I see this as a first-time trial and I’m curious to see if the benefits claimed by fasting experts are true.
At this point, the only way for me to truly know whether this is good or not is to do it myself, which is what I’m doing now. Anything else will really just be speculation based on hearsay, personal beliefs, and mental projections on whether it’s good or bad. Right now I’m keeping an open mind on the merits and the downsides via the results I experience on this journey. This is also why I’m transparently sharing what I’m going through here on the blog.
As I’ve said before, our body has sufficient fat reserves to last us for at least 40 days. I’m well in the acceptable weight range with sufficient body fat that can be burned before I could ever enter starvation mode.
I’m doing fasting at my own risk, and by sharing this guide I’m not endorsing fasting or telling you to fast in any way, but simply sharing my own experience.
If you have any concerns about fasting or what is a healthy fasting duration, I highly recommend you re-read what I’ve written above and also check out the resources at the end. These include materials by doctors and experts who have been doing it and overseeing others’ fasts for a very long time.
DISCLAIMER: Above all, do your own research before trying any fasts!
I’m not a fasting or a medical expert. I also cannot be made responsible for the decisions you make for your health.
What I’ve shared is the best knowledge I have based on my extensive reading on the topic at this point of writing. I’m writing this series and journaling my fasting process as a way to share my fasting journey in case any of you are interested. It is meant as an informational guide only and not the primary resource to use should you decide to fast yourself.
Finally, introducing ‘Belle’
Through my many years of learning about and using various personal development practices, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of psychological archetypes.
Now before you think I’ve gone completely crazy and ‘woo-woo’, please stay with me on this. In simple terms, we all have various parts or aspects of our personality that contribute to us as a whole, functioning individual. What I’ve found is when I incorporate a particular archetype during a time when I’m going through something major (such as a water fast) it’s easier to sense and see where my patterns might be entrenched and holding me back. More importantly, I can learn how to best bring balance to that area that needs it.
So I’ve called upon my own Body’s Wisdom, whom I’ve named Belle. She’s always there beside me, encouraging me in this journey, and actually delighted she’s been invited! :)
If you want to learn more about this fascinating aspect of ourselves, go online . . . there are tons of resources. Enjoy!
Some Fasting Resources
If you’re interested to learn more about fasting, here are some excellent resources I’ve come across that you may find of interest:
Dr Group of Global Healing Centre undertook an 18 day water fast. You can check out his daily vlogs
Tyler Tolman is another health guru who shares about fasting on his webinar
Dr Alan Goldhammer of Truenorth Health Centre has several interviews well worth watching
I’m also following along each day Marianne Williamson’s excellent book A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering your Weight Forever