My bride, Julie, and I found a newspaper article extolling the virtues and health benefits of a five-day water fast in early June. As the author explained, water fasting is actually the opposite of that image. Instead of fasting from water, you fast from everything but water for five full days. All for 5 days.
At first, I thought it was kind of funny. I get a little ‘hungry’ when I eat late, so this seemed like a difficult proposition. We’ve heard about fasting before, but it’s often short-term or fasting for specific things that can affect us, like sugar, soda, or alcohol. did. In years past, our family had chosen certain items to give up during Lent, but none of those activities were far enough to prepare us for our fasting adventure.
What made us want to try this was a brilliant explanation of all the health benefits you can get from fasting. The author of this article, Emma Roberts, a health coach, warned readers to only attempt fasting if they are healthy.
Given our fitness level and her description of the benefits, which included the removal of old damaged cells from the body by autophagy, we took the plunge and gave it a try.
Luckily, we made a positive and fateful decision. We were to begin the fast on the day my sons went to visit relatives in Florida and complete the fast upon their return home. Both of us could not imagine anything but pain and self pity to fast this while our sons were eating around.
After the first day of fasting, I was already worried before I left for work. I usually don’t eat anything in the morning, but I’m already hungry. I thought my mind was just playing tricks on me, but I spent most of the day battling hunger pains. It was even worse with Julie.
She started the day with a headache and bouts of dizziness. It wasn’t until later in the day that perhaps we both realized we were experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms. As expected, I felt a little “hungry” and had mixed thoughts throughout the day, but overall it wasn’t too difficult.
Luckily, I hid all my office and car snacks the day before, so the temptation was minimal. By the end of the day we were exhausted and went to bed very early. We were already tired of the water too.
Days 2 and 3 were very similar. Sudden hunger, but manageable. We tried to avoid talking about food as much as possible. We drank as much as we could, but strangely enough, the water seemed to cause acid reflux and indigestion.
Unfortunately Julie suffered severe back pain on the evening of the second day and by the end of the third day I had the same pain. In the article, the author stated that he experienced a breakthrough change on the third day, so we waited anxiously for it.
did not come. After all, all we had was each other’s lower back pain, which was severely affecting our sleep quality. Not a great combination given our fatigue levels.
On the 4th day we woke up with serious concerns about each other’s back pain. Are we actually harming ourselves instead of getting all the health benefits we hoped for?
It turns out that back pain is probably the result of toxins excreted through the kidneys and dehydration causing the discs in the spine to shrink.
We worked on a systematic water consumption plan, which was very difficult given our aversion to having more water. We weren’t as happy as we expected.
It’s been a long day since the end is in sight. We found ourselves talking more about the food we were about to eat, which only made our misery worse.
This situation got worse when our sons returned in the evening of the 5th day and were given a wonderful explanation of all the meals we had on our trip. Last night of intermittent sleep caused by back pain.
An article we read suggested slowly breaking the fast by drinking soup before meals. At 6am we each had a bowl of soup and drank it like coffee.
It turned out to be a horrible experience and neither of us will ever look at soup the same way. By the end of the day, we were both back on our normal diet, but I noticed that my craving for coffee hadn’t returned and I was avoiding my usual candy treats.
I’ve seen triathlon shirts say, “Oh my god, what time do you start?” That’s how I feel about fasting.
We both hated the experience but wanted to do it again. We didn’t feel euphoric, but we both felt slimmer and healthier afterwards. When you’re in ketosis for a long period of time, it seems that you’re burning residual fat that doesn’t work no matter how much you run.
I think I lost about 5 pounds by fasting. I don’t think Julie lost any weight because she was already on a very strict diet.
We are not yet back to our pre-fasting coffee consumption patterns. In fact, I haven’t had caffeine in over a month. We didn’t expect this to be the result, but it was a good exercise in ridding our system of addictive substances.
If I had to do the same thing again, I would definitely plan ahead in terms of increasing my water intake and cutting out caffeine a few days before I started.
I couldn’t do a good job the first few days. I drank an average of 6 ounces of water per hour on the first day, but increased to 12 ounces on the second and third days I was at home. After doing some research, on day 4 and she increased to 32 ounces per hour on day 5.
Whatever your plan, you can’t expect it to be any more fun the second time around. I can’t recommend this method to everyone, especially from a medical point of view, but I’m glad I jumped in with both feet after reading this article.
If the new stem cells we supposedly generate keep us clear for even one more day in old age, it will be well worth it.
Brian Bertram is on the board of trustees at a private North Carolina university and spends his spare time training for half marathons and triathlons with his wife, Julie.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author.
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