How drinking nothing but water propelled me into total greatness
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I love food. I mean I REALLY love food.
Imagine my internal shock and horror when my church announced that we?d be fasting. Continuously. Just water. For 21 days.
Yep. Nothing but water would enter my system for 21 days.
I was secretly terrified. I knew I had an attachment to food. Even though I ate relatively clean, I?d let myself go a little bit more as I was currently in a bulking period. I was used to eating lots of food, to satiety and beyond, every single day. I was either eating or very full. I don?t think I had experienced hunger for at least 6 months.
As a Christian, fasting is a necessary part of the relationship we build with God. In fasting, we deny ourselves the indulgence of the flesh in order to open our spirits to greater intimacy and dependency on God.
In non-religious circles, fasting has been used as a detox tool to cure illnesses reset the system, and kick-start the journey back to a healthier lifestyle emotionally and physically. Being the nerd that I am, I spent days on end in the lead up to the beginning of the fast trying to amass as much information as possible.
It is very weird to say, 4 weeks post fast, that I completed it. There have been some crazy changes and, although fasting is such a controversial topic in so many circles, I cannot recommend the experience enough.
I have fasted before, but for nowhere near as long. I learned so much about myself, about my relationship with God, as well as completely broke off all unhealthy compulsions around food and other habits.
1) Physical detox:
The first two weeks were hard. Getting used to the bitter taste on my tongue as my body detoxed, the profuse sweating in the first week, the breakouts and the waxy tongue. I felt disgusting and showered often, but by the middle of week two my body did a complete 180 turn.
I did not sweat at all. My skin was clear, smooth, sharp and defined. My breath started to smell and taste sweeter, and my skin tone started to even out. My breakouts subsided and for the first time in a lifetime, my T-zone was not oily. I felt like I had swapped my body for a new one. TMI ? I did not use the bathroom to do a number 2, but number 1 came pretty often. Eventually my number 2?s came a lot more regularly when I started eating again.
Although I felt nasty for the first week, it also felt like I was doing a necessary spring cleaning I had not done in years.
2) Weight loss:
I lost a lot of weight very quickly. In total, I weighed in around 30lbs lighter by the end of the fast. The first few pounds were water weight, which was regained pretty quickly when I returned to eating. However, my weight has stabilised at around 20lbs less than what I started the fast with. This means I lost quite a bit of fat weight and retained a lot more muscle than I thought. When you fast, after around day 3, your body switches to ketosis which means that your primary energy source is fat. Man, did I have fat to burn. I had definitely taken my bulk too far.
In maintaining my post-fast weight I have been incorporating strength training and weight lifting 4?5x per week, and cardio at least 2x per week. I?m still eating very high protein and have cut my Carbohydrates back by half. I?ve also given up red meat and dairy, and I am currently in the process of transitioning to plant-based meals (due to the hormonal profile of meat and dairy, and their contribution to inflammation.)
My goal is to get down about 5?10lbs before Christmas as a buffer. I don?t know about you, but I do not want to be dieting around Christmas time. There is a sticky toffee pudding (or three) with my name on it.
3) General energy:
My energy level had a lot of dips and spikes. Sometimes I felt so energetic that I wasn?t really sure what to do with all the extra energy. Since I wasn?t going to the gym, I walked a lot and took stairs to burn off excess energy.
Sometimes I felt so dizzy and tired that I wasn?t sure I?d make it through the whole working day. I?d sleep for hours on end, take naps in the middle of the afternoon and find myself falling asleep on the London Underground.
4) Spiritual and emotional cleanse
This was probably the most surprising effect of fasting. At first, fasting was a breeze as I didn?t feel hungry on day 1.
But, by day 3, my stomach was a raging monster demanding food. This continued for a whole week, up to day 10, and I found myself needing to draw deeper and nearer to my internal spirit and God to keep going.
I prayed and journalled a lot more, which was so necessary and helpful in keeping my resolve and processing my emotions.
I dealt with really deep waves of emotions I had no idea I was burying ? anger, sadness, depression, hopelessness, hurt and pain. It would come as crashing waves, pulsing through my entire body before leaving and subsiding.
Now the fast is over, I?ve maintained my weight, stuck to my diet, still journal and have a new outlook on life. I have so much more energy and gratitude, and will definitely be a lot less daunted as I incorporate fasting into general practise. I currently practice 16/8 intermittent fasting on the weekdays, and 20/4 fasts on the weekends. It gives me an opportunity to use my time and headspace efficiently and has helped me stay cognizant about what I put my body through.
If you?re up for it, I?d recommend starting off with intermittent fasting and then transitioning to small scale daily, three day and weekly fasts to get your body used to it.
Are you up to the challenge?