*** Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or expert in fasting. If you are considering any kind of fast, please do your research and consult a medical practitioner!
Let’s start with why I chose to do a prolonged fast. By chance, I came across a YouTube video about a young woman who fasted 7 days with only water, and was curious about the effects. Curiosity piqued, I did a lot of research into water fasting and decided there were quite a few health benefits I wanted to pursue including: ketosis, autophagy, and spiritual/mental clarity.
*Tip: this was my very first water fast and it’s generally recommended that you start with a shorter fast than I did, but I, being the jump in the deep end kind of girl, decided to go for it!
I was genuinely surprised by how much I wasn’t hungry during this process. In fact, the hardest part was the act of not eating food purely out of habit…and boredom. It’s the boredom that kills you. You come to realize that food is more than just sustenance. It’s fun. A passion. The bright side was learning control over those thoughts. Does my body really need or want this right now? Or am I just reacting to a thought? Those are the things you become more conscious of while fasting. And yes, let’s just say that by drinking all that water, I was…cleansed (use your imagination).
My stomach is flat. My skin is really smooth. Like really freakin’ smooth. As an adult who struggles with acne, it’s pretty refreshing to discover that I don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for medications. The plus side of re-introducing food to your body, you figure out pretty clearly what you don’t react well to. I found out my favorite (store-bought) almond milk brand has ten ingredients in it for a product that only requires two (reading is fundamental). So guess what? I make my own almond milk now and it’s delicious.
Beyond the physical changes, I learned new and invaluable lessons I wish to impart:
Love Your Body (Seriously)
I used to cringe when people said this to me. “Ooo, love your body. Thank you genetically-gifted, Instagram model, standard of beauty for telling me to love my body. No, I truly appreciate it.” What the hell did that mean anyway? Especially when you instinctively internalize that as a superficial command to accept your outward appearance, operating in a world that literally bombards you with daily messages of how you can enhance your life if you buy this attractive product or follow this attractive person (who’s holding/wearing/drinking an attractive product). But the answer isn’t applicable to the aesthetic AT ALL. Let’s get into what is.
Your body is a freakin’ miracle. Acknowledge that right now. All these tiny living cells, organs, muscles, and tissues, come together to straight up kick ass. They fight disease, relieve stress, increase/reduce heat as needed, etc. All these tiny employees working non-stop in order to keep the business of “YOU” running so that you can focus on that big promotion or booking that next Beyoncé concert. Bodies are mighty and majestic. Treat them as such.
One way to do that is by getting a handle on how you fuel your body. Seriously, you don’t know how much gunk (good and bad) you put into your body until you end a prolonged water cleanse. Something as simple as your favorite condiment can pack a ton of chemical ingredients that your body has to process. On top of that, workouts? Travel? Work? Our bodies put up with A LOT, so the least we can do is appreciate it. Hell, you can even talk to your body: “Oh you thirsty, bruh? Here, let me get you some water right quick…You feelin’ a little dry, fam? Let me get you some lotion… Aw dang, you lookin’ good bruh. Keep glowin’ bruh.” Acknowledge your body and love on that thing like your favorite childhood blankie.
This experience has given me more awareness of my body. Every limb, right down to the finger tips. I already thought I had a pretty good relationship with my body, but the truth is I’ve been downright negligent. I’m not saying you have to go as far as giving your vessel another name (I have since dubbed mine “Eloise”), but I’m just saying, extra tricks like this to re-wire your thinking are how beautiful and lasting relationships are born:
Eloise: I don’t want that block of cheese.
Me: Girl, you gonna take this block of cheese and you’re going to love it!
Me: Who you think you talking to?
Eloise (teary): What’s the matter with you? Do you want me to be in pain? Do you have any idea all the things I do for you?! I literally breathe for you without you having to even think about it and you do THIS to ME?!
Me: Dang…why you gotta take it there?
Eloise: Why you yell at me?
Now she’s crying. You’re crying. Everybody’s crying and all this could have been avoided if you had just listened to your body. So listen to your body, folks and respect her/him/them.
*Pro tip: I don’t know if we’ll ever discover a fountain of youth (at least the one we’ve been told about in story books), but if there is one out there, I know the main ingredient: WATER. So feed that sucker everyday with this magical, medicinal stuff. Your bod will thank you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Enjoy Your Life
During my fast, I swore I was going to travel the world, tasting all the beautiful amazing meals straight Anthony Bourdain style, but the truth is, half the time, I don’t even want the foods I used to eat because my body has changed for the better and demands healthier options.
That being said, even though I’m more conscious about what I eat, I’m not going to restrict myself like a mad woman. I think so many of us drive ourselves nuts with thoughts of how many calories we ingest. “I can’t have this. I shouldn’t have that.” Stop it! If you want that slice of pizza, have that slice of pizza! If you want that cupcake, eat a cupcake. You can be health conscious and enjoy what life has to offer. Relax. You got this. And also? There are LOADS of health conscious meals out there you can genuinely enjoy! The food industry has changed and there are more vegan restaurants and recipes than ever! Use your imagination. Natural food is a blessing, so when I tell you I’m just as excited about a kale wrap from Tassili’s as I am for a slice of pepperoni pizza from O4w, I mean it!
There Are More Than Enough Hours In A Day
You will experience time differently. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself in the kitchen asking myself, “what am I doing here?” The amount of time it takes to plan your meal, cook it (or go get it), and then finally sit down and eat it, takes a big chunk out of your day. Even more than that, you realize what efficiency actually means when you’re trying to stay busy not thinking about food.
That mental focus people were talking about during a fast? I certainly found it and was able to get a lot of work done on top of answering life questions that kept me in a state of anxious paralysis. 24 hours in the day is nothing short of a gift. Use them.
Keeping track of my activity forced me to set certain goals. For example, on the first day I drank just over 2 quarts of water (about half a gallon) and one cup of green tea (I read that tea and black coffee can aid your fast). The next day I set a goal of 3 quarts and the following day, 4. Careful not to force anything my body didn’t need, it was nice to see myself progress throughout the week. Make a habit of progressing, not perfecting.
Know (and Enforce) Your Limits
I began originally planning to fast for a total of seven days. It was on the fifth day that I decided to break my fast. I was weak and could barely make it up and down the stairs, much less concentrate. I was determined not to quit, but my body told me she had enough and I listened (see point B).
In addition, this experience as a whole has given me the chance to examine and appreciate my self-worth beyond a physical way. A new friend I was getting to know and whose company I genuinely enjoyed, disappeared for two months – no responses to texts, nothing. Then out of nowhere I got a text wanting to reconnect. Normally, I would receive such a request with arms wide open – ready to offer my forgiveness and attentive ear to listen to how they had so much going on in their world. This time, however, I politely declined.
Life happens, it’s true and people do get busy, but life is happening for me too. So I must believe that there are people out there willing to go through life with me without a question mark of when they’ll be present. That’s not a friendship I deserve. That’s not a friendship anyone deserves.
***Bonus lesson: have gratitude…for everything. Your food. Your water. Your friends. Your family. Everything. The mental clarity thing is no joke. I don’t want to sound too much like a hippie, but everything was much more pronounced – objects I have in my home. I didn’t just walk by them. I appreciated the comfort and energy they contributed to my living space. My puppies. THANK GOD FOR PUPPIES, people. The shape of fruit (I dare you not to stare in awe at a blackberry). I mean really, no wonder people are painting bowls of the stuff. They’re genius!
The fact that I had the privilege of being able to water fast knowing that I could return at any time to a supply of food when so many in the world cannot was a blessing. Don’t take your life for granted. The universe is bountiful and precious, which means you’re precious too with limitless potential. How amazing is that?!
While it’s unlikely I’ll attempt another prolonged fast such as this anytime soon, I’m quite proud of myself for making this journey and look forward to more of what this year has in store.