I ATE NOTHING FOR FIVE DAYS AND DIDN’T DIE!

blue-swimming-pool-rippled-water-detail_1258-710.jpg

WARNING: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, PLEASE DO LOTS OF RESEARCH AND SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE DOING A WATER FAST YOURSELF. THIS IS JUST MY EXPERIENCE.

When I told my friends I was doing a water fast they started Googling the nearest hospital. See, people get uncomfortable when you don’t eat. As a society we’ve become conditioned to stuff our faces all day long. At the very least, we’re ‘supposed’ to consume three meals a day, and it’s not how our bodies were designed to function (hence why we have a means of storing fat reserves).

In caveman times food was scarce. We’d eat a huge meal when we had food, then not eat again for days, maybe even weeks. In 2018 times, food is just a quick walk to Tesco away. Because of that, we’re constantly grazing, and never really feel true hunger. Especially when we’re consuming empty-calorie, processed foods, which leave us feeling hungry constantly because our bodies are searching for nutrients (hoping that if you eat more, they might eventually come).

So I decided to stop gorging myself on delicious junk food, and start living off the packed lunch I’ve been carrying around for the last 15 years or so – my stomach and thighs!

For five whole days, I consumed no food whatsoever, just water, a little lemon juice, and some salt. 

When I first discovered water fasting I couldn’t believe an actual human could go days, even months, without eating anything. I used to get ratty and headache-y if I didn’t eat for five hours, let alone five days! But then I did it and realised how easy it is, and how natural it actually feels. 

At first I was legitimately scared. “Could this kill me?” I thought. “Surely it’s not that safe.” But then I started to feel incredible, and the first three days with no food were a breeze. Once ketosis kicks in (the process where your body stops using consumed glycogen for energy, and utilises stored body fat) I didn’t feel hungry at all, and my anxiety and depression temporarily vanished! And four/five days in I started feeling something I’d always wished I could get on a juice fast (of which I’ve done many), spiritual enlightenment. I started feeling all ‘at one’ with the universe, and like I didn’t have to worry about anything, because, what was the point? Whatever will be will be. Boys being twats? Who cares! No idea what I’m doing with my career? It’ll sort itself out…. It felt awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a little discomfort in various forms, but on the whole I felt amazing! And I can honestly say, that first water fast turned my life around.

After 16 years of dieting and binge eating, it showed me I do actually have will power and self-control, it’s the food that was controlling me. The fast showed me I can be free of anxiety and depression, offering me mental peace for the first time in, well, forever. And after years of trying and failing, it helped me drop a dress size and keep it off.

As of today, I’ve done three water fasts: two five-day ones, and one four-day one. And I’ll absolutely do another in the future.

 

SO, WHY WATER FAST?

There are a million potential benefits to water fasting (just have a Google), but the ones that got me motivated to do it were:

  • That it can cure cancer (obviously a hot potato topic, but studies have been done where they’ve given mice cancer, and then completely cured them by putting them on a water fast. Fasting is also proven to make the side effects of chemotherapy far less aggressive and easier to cope with). As a hypochondriac, I love the thought that a water fast might starve off any cancer cells that I might have lurking inside me (since they feed on sugar, and there is no sugar in plain old water).
  • It’s meant to be able to help Alzheimer’s – my memory is horrendous, and one of those stupid 23AndMe tests told me there’s a good chance I’ll get Alzheimer’s, so the longer I can preserve my brain, the better. 
  • Some people say water fasting can heal cavities, and in super-long term fasts there are instances of teeth growing back completely (since they are just a bone after all, and our other bones have the ability to heal themselves). As someone who’s terrified of the dentist, that was worth fasting for in itself.
  • Autophagy – this is where the body starts to eat dead tissue, and quite literally heal itself. I could really save on physio bills for my old shoulder injury…
  • Weight loss. Something that had completely evaded me since I hit 30. Plus, where else was I going to get the motivation to eat nothing for days?
  • Some other things I’d hoped to cure: Insulin resistance (probably the reason why I can’t lose weight), food allergies, PMS, tinnitus (this one hasn’t been proven at all, but hey, worth a shot). 

 

THE BENEFITS I ACTUALLY GOT FROM WATER FASTING

  • I felt a prolonged sense of peace for the first time in my life. My anxiety and depression dissipated, and I just felt zen. That’s the only word for it. I wasn’t stressed. Nothing bothered me. I felt this way on my first two fasts, but not the third (although I had a lot of life stuff going on for the third one, and also had to go to work). I’ve always been a worrier and an over-thinker, so being able to mentally switch off was definitely my favourite benefit of fasting!
  • Weight loss – around 1lb of solid fat loss per day of fasting, which after not being able to lose weight in years was amazing, and super-motivating. Obviously you’ll lose a lot more on the scale (on my first 5-day fast I lost 9lbs, on my 4-day fast I lost 10), but much of this will be water weight, lack of actual food in your stomach, and lack of poop. So you will put a good amount back on when you resume regular eating, but I found I kept a good amount off too. Since you’re consuming no calories whatsoever, it’s true fat loss. 
  • Fasting made me incredibly mentally sharp. I’ve always known food makes me tired and mentally lethargic, hence why I always want a nap after lunch, so not having any meant I was super ‘on it’ the whole time! I even did a job interview on my second fast (something I was a bit worried about – imagine passing out…), but I must have smashed it, ’cause I got the job, didn’t I! I’m not sure I’d have been as mentally alert had I not been fasting.
  • Pre-fast I’d been waking up every day with terrible toothache in one of my teeth. After 5 days water fasting, it was gone! And so was all sensitivity. Sensitivity has since returned now I’m eating junk food again, but that terrible morning toothache has not, so some healing has definitely taken place. You also don’t need to brush your teeth for as long when fasting, which is a nice treat for lazy people like me.
  • I experienced the beginnings of healing. I had lots of aches and pains in both my kidney and my shoulder. Years ago I had a horrific kidney infection, and I’ve got an ongoing RSI injury in my shoulder, so I could literally feel my body eating the old, dead tissue and healing itself. Although sadly I think I’d have to do a much longer fast for the shoulder pain to properly heal and go away forever. 
  • Clear skin – my skin looked glowy and incredible after the fasts, and felt super smooth. The annoying bumps on my upper arms completely disappeared, which was interesting. 
  • The whites of my eyes went super white!
  • It completely reset my eating habits, and I became a big fan of salads post-fast! I’ve gone back to eating not-the-healthiest diet now (because life!), but I’m still craving vegetables, and really enjoy eating salad and veg, which I did not before as I’d been eating badly for so long. 
  • Improved my IBS – in the week after my first fast I had ZERO IBS, which is incredible. I’ve experimented with eating OMAD (one meal a day) since the fast, and that also helped my IBS. I now firmly believe IBS is just the result of overloading your gut to the point where it literally cannot process all the rubbish you’re putting into it so it starts acting up. 
  • I slept really well. 
  • It made me finally deal with my emotional eating (more later). 

 

THE SHIT SIDE OF WATER FASTING…

  • On every fast I got an achy mouth for the first few days where I wasn’t chewing anymore. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was really uncomfortable.
  • Lethargy and dizziness. When you’re not eating for five days, you’re not going to feel great the whole time. While I always had a good amount of energy days 1-2, the days after were always a bit more of a struggle for me. Taking Himalayan pink salt definitely helped with the tiredness and dizziness though. The dizziness is supposedly down to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and also the fact that it’s harder for your body to take energy from fat, and it needs to steal some of your oxygen to do so. 
  • You get a gross white coating on your tongue which you need to brush off every day. They say that once the white coating disappears, your detoxing is complete, but that might just be silly made up rubbish. 
  • You get smelly – I had proper stinky pits from the detox, and had to take lots of showers. I literally disgusted myself.
  • Pins and needles in my hands and feet – this is quite normal apparently, and down to low potassium, which you can supplement with No Salt if it bothers you. 
  • Crazy cravings for food – this was hands down the hardest thing I dealt with on the fast. I never, ever had physical hunger, just pure mental cravings, and non-stop pretty much. In fact, I broke all three fasts because I was just bored of not eating, and just missed eating food, so that’s something I still need to work on. It’s interesting to see what a powerful mental hold food has over us. And how evil food advertising is!
  • Re-feeding was hard. You’re meant to only eat a tiny amount of natural foods like watermelon and salad for the first few days, but I’m a greedy binge eater, so that was never gonna work for me. Every re-feed I did involved some time spent in the toilet, and feeling very fat and bloated. Maybe one day I’ll learn…
  • Your sense of smell gets EXTREMELY strong. I put this under negative points, because I had to travel on the London Tube a few times, and it was the most disgusting experience of my life. Everyone around me sickened me and I wanted them all dead. 
  • Random aches and pains – there’s lots of these, but I actually enjoyed it, because I could just feel it was my body healing itself.
  • It doesn’t mix well with periods – you can’t take ibuprofen on an empty stomach if you suffer from cramps, so just do it another time.
  • You can get heart palpitations – I found I got very mild ones when I didn’t bother to take my salt. They went away soon as I did.

 

MY PERSONAL TIPS FOR WATER FASTING

Here’s what really helped me…

  • ONLY FAST WHEN YOU HAVE TIME OFF WORK – I don’t know how so many people stick to their regular schedule when fasting. I find I need to be laying around the house, doing nothing to be able to enjoy it. I worked a few random days on my fasts and it was rough – not fun at all. Your body is doing so much healing, I believe it’s better to have full rest. Get ready to take lots of naps!
  • DRINK LOTS OF WATER – when you’re fasting, water is the answer to everything. Got a headache? Drink more water. Hungry? Drink more water? Lightheaded? Drink more water? Boyfriend acting up? Drink more water (Lol, not really).
  • KEEP YOUR ELECTROLYTES TOPPED UP – Himalayan pink salt is a must if you’re fasting for more than two days. The amount you need will depend on the person, but a general guideline most people say is 1/2tsp per day. The salt will help with headaches and light-headedness, and stop you getting heart palpitations. Some fasters say it’s important to take potassium (which you can get from No Salt) and magnesium, but many people don’t, and I never bothered with these. Maybe I’d have been able to last longer on my fasts if I did, but No Salt tastes like death, and magnesium just seemed hard to get hold of when I did a half-hearted Google for it. 
  • GET UP SLOWLY – once you’re two/three days in, you will start to get lightheaded. This is completely normal, and you can combat it by getting up extremely slowly, and doing lots of deep breathing to regulate your oxygen. 
  • LEMON AND LIME JUICE IS YOUR FRIEND – these really kept me going when I was bored of drinking plain water. They have lots of detoxing properties, and as long as you’re just squeezing the juice in and not shovelling whole lemons down your throat, they won’t break your fast.
  • DON’T EXERCISE – lots of people do, but I think they might be insane. I get weak just watching people exercise when I’m on a water fast, so there’s no way I’m headed to the gym. I did try 15 minutes of hula hooping at one point, and definitely needed a little lie down afterwards. Don’t bother! Yoga and light walking would be find if you could be arsed. I could not. If I’m not eating, I’m not moving m8!
  • EDUCATE YOURSELF – read every blog you can find, and watch every documentary there is on fasting (there’s several on Amazon Prime). I found it really motivated me, and reminded why I was putting myself through this. And it also stopped me feeling mental for doing it, knowing that millions of people had fasted before me (many people do it for religious reasons). Reddit is also great if you have any random questions! There’s a huge water fasting community on there. And I also watched lots of YouTube videos on the subject. Check out TheProGamerJay’s video about his 30-day fast – it’s really informative, plus he’s hot. 
  • JOURNAL – lots. If you’re an emotional eater, you’re going to have a lots of feelings surfacing during your fast, and you’re going to need to do something with them that isn’t mainlining a packet of Oreos. Journaling really helps when you’re being tested, and it’s a thing I’ve definitely stuck with since I stopped fasting.
  • NETFLIX – Bates Motel was my best friend for all three of my fasts.
  • WRITE A LIST OF THE FOODS YOU’RE CRAVING – this is my favourite tip. You will think about food LOTS while fasting, so just write the foods down and get them out of your head. Those yummy things aren’t going anywhere, so just keep telling yourself you can have them when you’re eating again.
  • RE-FEED CAREFULLY – look this up yourself, because I’ll likely never be able to do it. It is extremely important on long, long fasts, but you can definitely get away with taking the piss a bit on shorter fasts.
  • TAKE A PROBIOTIC POST-FAST – do some research on this as probiotics are extremely important for gut health, and mental health in general (the gut and brain are intrinsically linked), and I think I read that all bacteria dies when you don’t populate it (aka when you go on a water fast and don’t eat), so you’ll need to build the lil’ buggers back up.

 

WATER FASTING AND BINGE EATING DISORDER

Now, perhaps the main thing I was hoping to ‘cure’ with water fasting was my BED, but sadly it’s not a magic fix. And actually, I’d say tread very carefully with water fasting if you’re a binge eater because – as you will know – any form of restriction can lead to a binge.

After all of my fasts, I binged. And probably ate quite badly for a week or so. Maybe two.

But the good news is:

  • I managed to keep off around one pound of fat for every day fasted, something I’ve struggled to do on other ‘diets’, since I was only ever losing water weight, and then gaining it all back when I started bingeing again. 
  • I definitely shrunk my stomach, and reset my eating habits, which means my binges were much less worse in the week (or two) post-fast. I would feel awful after eating far less food than I used to, so I saw that as a weird improvement.
  • I have more of a sense of control now, since I know I can go five days without any food at all. It’s the consumption of junk food, and the way it makes me feel when I eat it that is the problem, not me having no will power. So that’s good to know.
  • Most importantly, taking five days away from food meant I had to deal with the emotional challenges that arose on those days in a way that didn’t involve food at all, something I’d never managed before. I spoke to friends, I journaled, and I distracted myself. And every single time, I felt better… without food. Food might be my drug, and my coping mechanism, but I proved I CAN cope without it. And I just need to do a little more (well, probably a lot more) work on that. 

BED will never be fixed overnight. I think it’s going to be a long road, complete avoidance of trigger foods (sugar and carbs for me, so a vegan keto diet) and maybe an OMAD meal plan, so I can still get my fix of eating loads at one meal a day. And also lots of journaling, exercise and meditation.

Thanks for reading! And good luck on your own fasting journeys.

 

 

Nobody cares that you’re depressed (and that’s okay)

_86220913_stuartedwards

I woke up yesterday and felt nothing. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and the person staring back at me in the mirror had completely checked out. The lights were on but nobody was home and EDF were loving it.

Since my dead-behind-the-eyes days are cyclical in nature – meaning they come and go, usually due to hormones, or when I have nothing to distract me from my long-term, underlying unhappiness – I don’t like to class myself as ‘depressed’.

I enjoy the days when life seems brighter, and I think, “Maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me?”. Even though it’s always there, running quietly in the background like an iPhone app I can’t close.

Because of that I don’t talk about it much. Only when things get really bad – the days when I feel like things will never get better, and I don’t want to deal with it alone anymore. On this particular day (in June 2018) I told two friends, “No, actually I’m not good today, I’m depressed”.

One made sure to call me on their way home from work (the other said they’d call, but never did). After commenting on how dead inside I sounded, they offered some much-needed distraction from the tornado of despair whirling inside my head, by chatting through all the things that were making me feel so awful. It even incited the one, albeit small, laugh I did that day.

Aside from taking that call, all I was able to do was lay around comatose, like one of those little wooden horses, where you push the base in and they collapse. I’m a little wooden horse, and depression is the thumb.

But none of my other friends – who weren’t the two I told – knew I was in a dark place, because they didn’t happen to get into contact with me that day. And nor did I reach out and strike up a conversation with them.

And how could they know? They’ve got their own lives to lead, and their own shit going on. They can’t be worrying about whether I’m okay 24/7.

Same with me when it comes to their well-being. I’m 100 per cent there and present and on the person’s case, ready to assist if a friend tells me they’re feeling down or depressed, but, on reflection, that’s something that rarely happens.

But when I’m stuck in my own head, with my own problems, I probably haven’t been that proactive in seeking out issues in others. In regularly checking in when they’re going through a shitty life event, or being on high alert when they haven’t posted an Instagram story in a few days… So maybe I’ve not been there for them when they’ve needed me either. I like to think I have. But maybe not.

And maybe that doesn’t matter, because what can someone who isn’t a trained therapist or doctor really do to help? Friends can tell you, “Oh, don’t be depressed… your life isn’t as bad as you think it is” and then you’ll be magically cured. Not.

They can offer sympathy, and make you feel even more pathetic and useless than you do already. No thanks.

They can tell you “everything’s going to work out”, which is based on no truth whatsoever and essentially a well-intentioned lie.

All they can really do, is offer distraction, which in itself is pretty powerful. And a good thing to remember if you’re dealing with someone who’s depressed.

What I’ve realised is: depression is your problem. And if you have immediate loved ones (a spouse, children) then I guess, unfortunately, their problem too.

For the most part – unless you’ve sought help from medical professionals – you will be dealing with your shit alone. And perhaps quite rightly, because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can pull you out of it.

One of the scary things about depression is that it means you never feel truly content with any situation. Earlier this year I walked away from a full-time job to go freelance, because I thought the job was making me unhappy, only to find out I was even more unhappy being freelance.

When you’re depressed it’s impossible to judge whether it’s your current situation making you depressed, or the mental illness.

Depression is permanently having your finger on the self-destruct button. Pushing it over and over again in a desperate attempt to make things better, but mostly just making them worse, and then having to suffer the consequences of that.

Depression is wondering if you’ll ever be happy again. And feeling like you probably won’t.

And as much as I want to be mad at my friends for not being psychic and rushing to my aide when I’m having a dark day / week / month, I can’t be.

This is my storm to weather. And all you can really do is look after yourself and wait it out. Wait for those better days, because they will come. Eventually. It’s statistically impossible that you won’t have at least one good day in the future. And maybe those good days won’t stick around, but hopefully they’ll offer you just enough respite to get you through your next eight-season boxset of Bullshit.

They say if you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. And it seems there’s only room under the umbrella for one.

giphy