The idea of not eating for 10 days sounds like a nightmare, right? It’s eye-watering, almost like depriving yourself of oxygen. Who would commit to such an ‘unappetising’ ordeal? That would be me. I believe food has morphed beyond its role as a source of daily sustenance into something many of us use to suppress our mental problems and emotional deficiencies. When I feel emotionally fragile in some way, I unconsciously devour food. In the process, I mask my true feelings in an attempt to numb the existential void.
The flip side to unconscious gorging is mindful eating. Easier said than done, but there is a process, a life hack, that can help you reboot your eating habits. It’s called extended water fasting or extended healing. No food. Just water. For an extended period.
The more I read up about it, the more I realised I was living a life that revolved around food. I was living to eat. What kind of existence is that?
What if I eliminated the primary form of consumption in my life – the thing that ties together all my mental obsessions, addictions and behavioural patterns – for
an extended period of time? What would happen to me physiologically, mentally and spiritually? I decided to find out. I would water-fast for 10 days. That’s 240 hours, 14,400 minutes, 864, 000 seconds. That’s worth noting because I would be present for every single one of them.
I wake up around 6am and run a brush over my skin for five minutes. This is called dry body- brushing, a priming exercise that promotes circulation. I focus on brushing my skin towards my heart. It’s weird at first, but I find it helps awaken the receptors in my skin. I then boil some water, squeeze in a quarter of a lemon, adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt. Sodium assists in the regulation of your blood when it’s deprived of electrolytes. I didn’t take sodium on previous fasts and paid the price because my muscles started twitching.
Next, I head outside to drink my potion, exposing my body to light and igniting my circadian rhythms, before meditating in the sun. This will become my ritual over the next 10 days.
RAID YOUR RESERVES
On day two, I notice that time begins to feel like it’s slowing down. I’m elated because I realise my days won’t revolve around eating. No morning snack, no lunch or dinner. The pressure of eating disappears. It’s exhilarating. I have so much more time on my hands.
I also have plenty of energy. When you start fasting, your body begins to derive energy from the natural nutrient reserves in your fat cells. It’s energy produced through ketones, instead of glucose from carbohydrates. Scientists say we have over 400,000kJ stored in our reserves. And the most efficient way to tap into this natural storehouse is to awaken your body to what is present and accessible. Your digestive system will soon learn to rely on what it has stored instead of anticipating the next outrageous meal.
My sleep is incredible, my mood joyful, for the first five days. I fall asleep in a good mood and wake up feeling great. At times, I think about food, but I quickly refocus and my cravings vanish. It’s a constant mental exercise.
From day 5 on, though, sleep becomes a struggle. I have so much energy at the end of the day that suddenly I can’t fall asleep.
Without the security blanket of food, I feel emotionally and physically vulnerable. I begin to ask myself questions I’ve long suppressed. Who am I without my dependencies? Is food an emotional addiction? It makes me look deep inside myself. I cry several times. An emotional cleanse. It feels like past trauma being released. I’m beginning to see why people call this process ‘extended healing’. The longer the fast, the deeper the cleanse and the potential for spiritual healing.
On a lighter note, I’m drinking 1.5-2 litres of water a day and my urine is crystal clear. That indicates that I’m drinking enough, as grotesque as it sounds.
EAT YOURSELF UP
When I’d read up on fasting prior to commencing my challenge, the thing that fascinated me most was the phenomenon of autophagy. Derived from the Greek words ‘auto’ which means ‘self’ and ‘phagein’, which means ‘to eat’, it loosely translates to self-eating.
Autophagy occurs when the body experiences cellular stress or nutrient deprivation. When you fast, you induce the process, as your strong cells begin eating the weak and dying ones. It’s kind of like internal landscaping of your cellular environment. As autophagy is activated, you’re able to capitalise on your body’s natural regenerative mechanisms to draw good energy from recycled cells and eliminate those that aren’t serving you anymore.
There are also some appealing practical benefits. Autophagy improves mental cognition and brain health. It also reduces oxidative stress, with some research showing it can minimise the neural dysfunction seen in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It could also help counteract aging. As I fast, my skin and eyes are as clear as they have ever been. People ask me what I’m using and my answer always surprises them: literally nothing. During a fast, your body produces extra testosterone, helping maintain muscle growth. I certainly don’t lose any muscle density over the course of my fast.
You might wonder how you can even contemplate a workout when you’re running on empty? Well, I work out on seven of the 10 days, doing an array of high- intensity workouts. When I fade in the afternoon, a session helps bring me back to life.
FAST TO THE FINISH LINE
It’s day 10 and with the end in sight, I once again experience a surge of euphoria. I’m keen to resume eating but I’m not craving junk or a ridiculously decadent meal. Just a simple soup or some vegetables. It’s like my perspective on food has been rebooted at a cellular level. I feel calm and in control of my appetite in a way I’ve never felt before. It wasn’t my intention but I’ve lost weight – beginning at 70.7kg, I finish at 63.8kg, a drop of 6.9kg.
But the benefits extend far beyond the physical and mental. I believe that fasting has had profound effects on my self-awareness and spiritual consciousness.
I don’t want to take food off your plate, but after 10 days in which I’ve been able to sustain myself from the inside out, I believe that sometimes you need to explore deep within yourself to truly change your perspective.