When you tell most people you’re thinking of doing a dry fast – that is, a fast in which you eat or drink nothing at all – they think you’re crazy. That either you’re a crazy religious fanatic. Or that you’re just crazy-crazy, with a tendency towards suicide. Here in the modern world, we’re conditioned to believe that fasting without water is plain and simple stupid, if not dangerous A száraz böjt – Dry fasting részletei…
Let’s talk about food!
The transition out of a fast is at least as important as the transition into a fast. Once your stomach and digestive system have been asleep for a few days, you can’t just immediately pack it full with a deluxe pizza – no matter how attractive the thought of a good meal! I made the mistake of doing exactly this after my first 7-day water fast. I suffered with that pizza in my stomach for the next two or three days…
You need time to wake your digestive system up again, otherwise you’ll just overload it. This means being careful in both what you eat and how much you eat. The best thing is to follow your appetite. It could easily take a week for things to return to normal.
So what’s my plan for transitioning back at the end of this fast, this evening? I’m going to try no transition at all. Sounds stupid, I know, but if my system can switch off so easily (as it’s done the last couple of fasts), I’m hoping that it will have learned how to switch back on equally fast. I enjoy experimenting with my body – it’s the best way to learn! The fact is that if your eating a vegan diet, there’s no real need for much of a transition into a fast. Without meat and dairy clogging up your system, it’s just a question of grains and especially gluten products like wheat to think about. If you’re vegan and not too sensitive to gluten, then you can start a fast any time you want. On top of that, today is my 40th day of water fasting, if you add up the individual 5, 7 and 10 day fasts that I’ve done. I think the body reaches a point where it knows what to do, and maybe the magical number of 40 days is what you need.
I feel good this morning. A little weak in the legs, it’s true, but energy levels are good, and I was simply able to walk off the dull feeling in my kidneys this morning. The more intense detox period yesterday lasted through until about midnight. I was freezing through most of the evening! After that it calmed down, and everything has gone smoothly since then.
So I soaked the mung beans overnight, and they’re pre-boiling now for a couple of hours. My recipe is at the end of this post.
In the meantime, I’m going to be sending subconscious messages to myself through the day: that it’s time for the digestive system to wake up soon. When everyone else is having lunch, I may also have a taste of carrot juice and literally just a nut or two. Again, another reminder to the stomach without significantly affecting the biology of the fast.
It’s strange that during this fast I’ve been craving protein and salts. During most fasts I’ve craved sugars: instant energy to compensate for a lack of energy. But this time I can’t complain about that, even if physically I’m not as strong as usual. No: this time I think a deeper craving is going on. Maybe my usual diet is too low in protein. After the fast, I’m also thinking about lowering carb content and raising fats, so that the process of ketosis (direct burning of fat) initiated over the last few days can continue in combination with the usual glycogen-based (carbs and sugars) metabolism. This should help during longer runs, because the most efficient use of energy during aerobic endurance activities actually occurs though ketosis.
I’ll post tomorrow on whether the no-transition exit of the fast succeeded or back-fired! In the meantime, here’s my own recipe for curried mung beans and rice (serves 5-6 people):
Mung beans and rice:
500g mung beans
500g basmati rice
@400ml tomato passata
2-3 dl. soya or oat milk
3-4cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons coriander paste (if available)
toasted sesame oil
Soak the mung beans overnight, replacing the water as often as possible.
Fry the onions and garlic, and add the curry powder towards the end to prevent burning. I use mostly Korma mild curry powder and add about 4-5 heaping tablespoons, but you can play with the quantity and type of curry powder. Today I also added some Tikka, which is a little spicier. Add a heaping tablespoon of garam masala as well as some salt, and fry for another couple of minutes. When the flavours have cooked through into the onions, add the passata and soya/oat milk into the frying pan Alternatively, tinned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes also work. Continue to heat for another few minutes.
In the meantime, place the mung beans in a large pot and cover with about 3 litres water. Add the mixture from the frying pan and bring to the boil, scooping off any foam which forms. Boil for at least an hour and a half. (At the end of this, you can use a blender to soften the mixture into a more soup-like texture if you want. I usually blend just a little, leaving the original texture of about most of the beans.)
At this point, you can leave the pot for the rest of the day, until dinner time, when you’ll add the rice and finish the dish. The main thing is that, once you’re about 10-15 minutes before you want to serve, you should add the rice to the boiling pot. Add a few tablespoons of cinnamon and coconut oil, a dash of toasted sesame seed oil, and the coriander paste. Now you just need to pay attention to the consistency of the fluid. The rice should absorb most of the water, leaving a wonderful mushy mixture. If there’s too much water, you’ll have to pour some off (which is a shame). If there’s too little water (which is the better option), you’ll need to add water little by little until the rice softens and you have the right consistency. Basically this final part of the cooking is like when you make risotto, adding water to the rice as it boils.
If you’re not vegan, you can also add yogurt, as in the picture above.
This is the last full day of my fast, since the fifth full day actually ends tomorrow at dinner time. I find myself looking forward to cooking dinner tomorrow and getting back to normal again. It’s like the opposite of what happened before the fast, in saying goodbye to food before the actual fast. Now it’s a funny combination of the clarity of consciousness while on a fast, and yet with the frequent pull away from being here and now by thinking about the menu…
The day started a little slower than yesterday. In the end, I think yesterday’s activity did tire me out a little. But I can’t complain. In earlier fasts, I always paid the price for too much exertion: tiredness through the whole next day, probably with muscle aches too. Last night, I did have trouble controlling my body temperature, and felt cold – something which I’ve often experienced in the past during fasts. I also woke up with low blood pressure and a feeling of weakness in the legs. My kidneys were aching a little, as well as my spine for the first time during this fast. (In earlier fasts this has always been a typical feature of detoxing.) So I did some yoga warm-ups for the back and spine, put on a winter coat and then took the dog out for a half-hour walk. Someone in the park commented that they’d never seen me dressed up so warmly! Very true 🙂
Movement definitely helps to move the toxins out, so I had a bath afterwards too. Since then I’ve been feeling fine. I wonder about why I felt so slow after waking up this morning… Ketosis definitely affects energy levels differently from when you burn sugars and carbs (glycogen). Running on ketosis, your metabolism reacts more slowly to your energy needs. On previous fasts it would take literally an hour to an hour and a half to reach normal ‘speed’ and feel a normal energy level in the morning. Similarly, at the end of the day I’d need a long time to fall asleep at night, because it took longer to reduce the ketosis-powered energy. I definitely feel that, with each fast, my body gets more efficient at using ketosis – and this is one reason why the transition into burning fat at the beginning of this fast has gone so smoothly. So maybe it isn’t ketosis per se which is slower in reacting to the body’s needs, but rather the body’s inefficient metabolism. We simply don’t use ketosis in modern everyday life, so we need to learn to adapt. And of course this takes time. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many ketones are flowing through your blood if your cells don’t know how to metabolise them efficiently.
I’ve gone into some deeper detox and cleansing this afternoon and evening. I’ve been wearing a sweatshirt and been wrapped up in a blanket for a lot of the time, because I just can’t stay warm. I feel weaker than usual, my kidneys have been present there in the background, and my tongue is really detoxing a lot at the moment, with this crazy frothing stuff. I’ve needed to drink a full 3 litres so far today, and will probably end up closer to 4 before going to bed. I’m just glad I don’t feel generally lousy, as would have happened in the past. Basically, I feel good, just cold and weak.
In any water fast you get periods of really active detox like this. It’s something to expect. There’s no way to know when they’ll occur. They just appear – and then, a few hours or half a day later, things calm down again for a while before the next more active period kicks in. Body knows best. Maybe today, since I was resting for most of the time, it meant that more energy could be focussed on detox rather than on physical energy – which is happened yesterday, when I was running all around the place.
I’m just finishing the fourth day as I write this. By bedtime I’ll already be into the fifth and last day.
I’m running on ketosis already, burning energy released directly from fat cells. I could feel the process beginning late afternoon yesterday, because there’s a special state of consciousness which goes along with this. You feel a little light-headed, but everything you look at feels alive and special. It’s a clearer, deeper state of being. I took our dog out for a walk last night, and all the lights were alive. Traffic lights, Christmas lights, traffic lights, the clouds in the sky, illuminated by all the light from the city…
The interesting thing is how quickly the change towards ketosis began to occur: while there was still glycogen (see yesterday’s post) left in the liver. I think that the moment I missed lunch yesterday, my body knew what was going on and it responded. Not like my first couple of water fasts! Then my body was completely clueless. It took at least 3 days to get ketosis running decently, and in the meantime my body had to devour muscle for energy. I felt pretty lousy most of the time, with muscle aches, headaches, and all the while a dull pain in my kidneys – at times it was even hard to sleep because of this. This time there are no physical symptoms at all. I feel great.
The process of detox also began yesterday afternoon, and is now running ahead at full steam. I know because there’s a special taste in my mouth. As digestion shuts down, the entire system goes into reverse. Instead of allowing nutrients through the intestinal wall and into the blood, the body allows the toxins circulating in the blood to pass through the intestinal wall, where they are stored in the intestine itself until digestion starts up again, and they can be safely released from the body. The tongue also follows a similar procedure, which is why it now has a funny taste. When I’m detoxifying strongly, it’s almost like frothing at the mouth!
Another thing: because my digestive system is already mostly shut down, I haven’t been hungry since missing lunch yesterday. I just need to keep drinking. Yesterday it was 3 litres. I expect about the same today too.
Just had a long, hot bath. Baths feel really good during a water fast, because they increase circulation, which allows the toxins to find their way out of the blood stream more quickly: either into the kidneys, intestines, tongue or sweat glands. The detoxifying sweat from sitting in a hot bath means I really stink! The sweat coming out of me now smells completely different from usual. My breath must also really stink…
Besides this, for some reason the bath has really knocked me out this time. I feel heavy. No energy. Blood pressure too low. I think I’m going to lie down and take it easy: maybe read or snooze. Maybe I’m dehydrated?
Had a nap. Feeling fine again. Good energy levels. No hunger even though it’s lunchtime. During my first few water fasts, the hunger took 3-5 days to subside, and even then there would be moments in every day when my stomach would rumble long and hard.
The kids just arrived back from their last day at school. I’m up to their energy levels, which are on a massive sugar high from all the shit they ate during the osztály karácsony!!! They also came back loaded with chocolates and gingerbread which everyone at school gave each other. They want to show me everything!!! Luckily, the sight of all this food doesn’t bother me (although it is a little tempting, I have to admit…). But it doesn’t make me hungry. Lia even forced me to have a nibble from the corner of a gingerbread someone made her. The taste was sweet and rich – almost too rich! I don’t want the taste of anything, let alone anything in my stomach to start up digestion again, along with feelings of hunger. So far, though, it hasn’t had any effect.
Just returned from giving a two-hour consultation in the yoga studio. Energy good. With ketosis my body is a little weaker than usual, but my mind is working more clearly than usual. Speaking Hungarian feels easier than usual. Hál istennek…
Still no hunger. Still no signs of my kidneys aching, working overtime to flush out the toxins.
Time to go to the shops and buy some food to cook dinner (for everyone else!!!).
Tegnap elbúcsúztam a ételtől… It wasn’t anything ceremonious or even anything planned, but at lunch I noticed myself saying goodbye to the food I was eating: “this is the last lunch for the next five days…” And then again at dinner, a final feeling of farewell to food: my last meal of any kind for the next five days.
I’ve been water-fasting for the last five years, usually once or (more recently) twice a year. A water fast (vízböjt) means not taking any calories into your body for the duration of the fast: drinking only water or, at most, an occasional herb or gyógy tea. It’s a wonderful way to detoxify the body and appreciate food for what it really is, starting on a “clean slate” at the end of it: freer from the usual addictions to food we all suffer from, as well as from the addiction to eating itself.
The day before a water fast I’m always filled with feelings of both excitement and trepidation. It’s like standing on the starting line before running a marathon. There’s a long road ahead, and you can never really know with complete certainty what’s going to happen along the way – as much as the uncertainty is itself part of the fun! In many ways, undertaking a water fast and running a marathon are similar, not only psychologically but physically as well. More about that tomorrow…
Over the next five days, I’m going to post daily about how I feel and what it feels like to live off water alone. Right now, it’s nearly 4pm, and my last meal was dinner last night. I feel good. Yes, at lunchtime today my biorhythm kicked in with a rumbling stomach. Yes, I was hungry – but the funny thing is that it’s a different kind of hunger when you don’t expect to be eating anyway. When you allow yourself the luxury of expecting to eat lunch (and who doesn’t in the modern ‘developed’ world?), when you feel that it’s your right to eat lunch, then your ego starts shouting the moment lunch is late. And this makes hunger feel much worse.
The worst hunger I felt was on my very first water fast. My body had never experienced 24 hours without any calories. An instinctive, animal part of me panicked through the entire day, as if I would die of hunger – even though my rational mind knows that, just like everyone else, I have enough calories stored in fat cells to last a full 40-day fast. Now my body is wiser, and my ego gives less resistance. It’s ok with the thought of not eating for the next five days (or at least it’s ok at the moment!). So my stomach rumbles. Ennyi. Or, more precisely, it goes like this: stomach rumbles, ego immediately jumps in with: “I want to eat!” Then, in the same moment, a deeper part of me recognises the ego-game and responds with: “Jól van, jól van! It’s ok!” And that’s it. Done. Yes, it happens every time my stomach rumbles now, but over the next few days my ego is going to get used to not eating, and so it’s going to stop complaining. On top of that, the entire digestive system shuts down over the first few days, which shuts down a lot of the feeling of hunger along with it.
During the first 24 hours of any water fast, there’s enough glycogen stored in the liver to compensate for any lack of energy through the lack of eating. The real question is what happens tonight when my usual fuel tank hits empty. I’m hoping my body is already switching over to ketosis (the direct burning of fat cells which happens only during a water fast or special low-carb diets). This takes practice, and on your first water fast you can expect to feel pretty awful at this point, with headaches, cramps, a total lack of energy, and possible nausea as well… For me, the transition towards ketosis has become smoother with each fast. My last water fast in April-May went so smoothly that I hardly noticed the transition at all.
Well that’s all for now. Ma délelött a jóga óráktól is elbúcsúztam. Now there’s nothing more to do than… not eat!