Photo credit: @VerbekeProductions
Last Friday night, I ate dinner and that was the last regular meal I ate for the week.
I had decided to fast. I wanted to flush my system, detox and remove anything that might have been exacerbating the headaches I have been getting and my general “off feeling.” Fasting can be good for weight loss, but while I may have lost a pound or two, that was not my goal, and it is not sustainable nor healthy for long-term weight loss benefits. In that sense, it could be called a “crash diet.” I was very much not trying to crash this week! I would never advocate one to fast in order to lose weight, but if that is your goal, a coupe days of fasting MIGHT be a good way to start it off.
Fasting has a long history that is unrelated to weight loss. Plenty of religions fast in one way or another; some consider fasting an important cleansing ritual prior to entering a holy place. Lent in the Christian tradition, going on now, is not necessarily a fast, but some choose to fast for it. Ramadan, in the Islam tradition, is a sunrise to sundown period of strict fasting. There is a 25-hour fast associated with Yom Kippur in the Jewish tradition. Fasting in Hinduism varies broadly, but is often practiced. Yoga includes fasting as a part of the broader practice, which includes breathing, postures and meditation. There are also a number of cleanses in the yoga tradition, ranging from the mild to insane. I did the latter, and that was an experience I personally care not to repeat!
I mentioned before that after once doing the Master Cleanse for 5 days two Januaries in a row, I started drinking the mixture each morning before I eat. While I agree that this alone for 10 days would do nothing other induce deprivation, unnatural weight loss and malnutrition, I do like it in the short term. I am a terrible water drinker! I’m likely always slightly dehydrated, so by starting my day with this dose of fluid, I feel like I am off to a good start!
Adding lemon to water has some added benefits anyway, and many people believe the same of apple cider vinegar. Those together with water would be nearly undrinkable if not for the maple syrup, which yes, is sugar, but has many touted benefits. Every morning for years, I have started my day with a big mug of warm, not hot, water and 1 T each of fresh lemon, AC vinegar and maple syrup. I am convinced it boosts my hydration, helps my skin look plump, keeps my system regular and generally is good for me. After that, I eat breakfast (a smoothie most mornings) and then have my beloved coffee! The rest of the day varies, but that is constant. Call me a creature of habit! lol
For my fast this past week, I did only that concoction for 2 full days. After that, I continued to drink that throughout the rest of the fast, but I drank a super green smoothie on day 3, an orange digestive smoothie on day 4, a fiber filled beet and berry smoothie on day 5 and 6 and a yogurt (for the bacterial benefits), berry and banana smoothie on day 7. Additionally, on days 5-7, I ate a salad in the early evening of avocado, celery, cucumber and tomato with just olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper on it.
I definitely had moments of being hungry, but I worked a full day at my pretty intense job, which has me up at 5:30 am, and I was on duty at night and over the weekend, so my sleep was disrupted. I took yoga on Tuesday and Thursday, and it is a fairly rigorous class. I taught a less rigorous class on Wednesday. I had energy throughout the week and never felt weak or anything else. My focus was fine at work.
However, I was still getting occasional headaches. In the absence of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy, preservatives, artificial stuff etc., and in the face of being very hydrated, this frustrated me. I still have no idea what is causing or triggering these headaches. I am aware that hunger can cause a headache, but that is not normally what happens to me, and I never felt uncomfortably hungry.
I don’t know if I lost weight. If I did, only 2-3 lbs. I would guess. A pic of me in a bikini today revealed that the little layer I had over my abs was reduced, and there is more definition there, but again, while losing a few pounds on this is one thing, doing this long-term for massive weight loss is dangerous.
At any rate, beyond seeking the possible health benefits of flushing my system, I was also glad to have the challenge of the fast. We don’t NEED nearly as much food as many of us eat and often the cravings that lead us to eat snacky junk can be overcome with will power. I LOVE my sweets, and I have no intention of giving them up nor wine nor coffee, but I am planning on reducing the amount of coffee I drink in the morning to about 8 oz, so that I am less reliant on it, and react less when I don’t drink it. I’m also drinking Americanos rather than French press because I will get less caffeine that way.
I had planned on easing back into food. I had whole grain toast with hummus after my workout on day 7, and then was snacking on toasted chick peas when my neighbor showed up with her sister, who is visiting, and a bottle of Cava. This was not likely the BEST choice, but I indulged. Obviously, the next morning, I had a slight headache. LOL. Oh well. I enjoyed my first cup of coffee all week and then after a day at the beach, went to a vegetarian Asian-fusion restaurant with a friend where I had a couple of cocktails. I feel great this morning and am enjoying a relaxing Sunday.
Life is about enjoying it; health is about choices. I believe we can find that balance where we can both enjoy our daily life and live a life free from disease and pain by choosing moderation. I don’t plan on living a life of sacrifice; I’m not a monk, but I do plan on living a long life that doesn’t leave me suffering from something I could have prevented by making a small sacrifice when I was younger. A fast is a good reminder of just how great we can feel!