Never break your fast if you don’t have an ample supply of toilet paper on hand.
I broke mine last night and could barely manage to shower this morning as I was so dizzy and nauseated I had to sit down several times. Soon, unavoidable and thunderous tailwinds alerted me a move to the toilet was of utmost urgency. I promptly exited the shower and, still dripping, took up residence on the porcelain throne.
I’m surprised the sheer, brute force of what came out of me didn’t shatter it into a million pieces.
This probably isn’t the life-changing fasting success story you hoped to hear, sorry about that.
As I sat there increasingly light-headed, I tried to recollect where I had put away the bucket as I was sure projectile vomiting was imminent. Alas, the bucket was in the garage, which by that point might as well have been another country altogether.
I waited for the moment to pass and as soon as I was able, I toweled off and crawled into bed, shaking with what felt like fever. My stomach had turned into a home for belligerent rodents racing around and throwing punches.
And yet, I had been careful to break my fast with homemade, healthful, easily digestible vegan food, namely a small cup of soup and a little smashed avocado.
Fasting isn’t for the faint-hearted.
I’m not new to it, having learned during times of extreme hardship in Portugal that I could go for ten days without eating.
On the surface, that I should have deliberately turned to fasting for something other than weight loss can be surprising. I’m a US 4, 5'7'’, and a 27in waist so losing weight isn’t necessary.
However, digestion isn’t my forte and therein lies the often crippling problem. Extreme digestive distress, I reasoned, could only be addressed with extreme measures.
Why starve yourself for ten days if you don’t have to?
Short of being able to take a holiday and go relax somewhere for a week, I saw no other viable solution.
I’m inclined to think my brain isn’t located in my skull but in my stomach as I experience stress viscerally. The more stressed I am, the harder ingesting and digesting food gets until my body just rejects it. Even swallowing soup requires bypassing the hockey puck in my throat, which turns dinner time into an ordeal.
And this can happen despite eating only one meal a day.
If stress levels are off the charts, I need to be able to focus on work rather than digestion, something that is difficult when feeling queasy or being in pain.
When food became torture again, I knew it was time to give my digestive system a break.
Living on water, light tea, and a daily coffee or two for ten days was surprisingly restful.
Bar for the first three days when I occasionally thought about food, it soon stopped registering. I had no appetite but drank a lot. Fasting will make you thirstier than usual as your body goes into ketosis and starts burning up your fat stores.
The mental fog brought on by stress cleared and I was a lot calmer as a result as my blood pressure dropped.
Alas, the better sleep I hoped for didn’t happen. Stress found an outlet in nightmares and mine were particularly vivid and disturbing, the kind you remember upon waking and that can throw you off balance for a few hours.
Because I’m home in America for a few weeks, work as a location-independent freelancer, and do not have a family to cook for, the logistics were easy. And the timing was ideal. There’s no way I could have done this in France while staying at my Dad’s, who abides by the three daily meals rule. While I sometimes stop eating for a day when I’m there and feel unwell, he doesn’t understand why anyone would do that unless under doctor’s orders.
But fasting wasn’t without issues. What it granted me in terms of mental clarity, it took away in physical power. Walking up the stairs left me winded and even picking up my tuxedo cat, Trudeau, felt uncomfortable and arduous.
Nearly 24 hours after breaking my fast, it’s as if I had been run over by a ten-ton truck. Every muscle hurts, my internal ecosystem is still out of kilter, and I’m hoping the cup of tea with almond milk I had a couple of hours ago stays down.
By fasting, I was hoping to give my body a rest while going about my daily business as usual. But the aftermath is proving quite debilitating and not something I expected.
While the benefits of fasting are well documented in medical literature, this left me wondering if individuals who hail fasting as a panacea for all ills tell the whole story. As with everything health-related, proceeding with caution and listening to your body is key to making the most of your experience.
If you’re at all able to find and afford alternative ways of healing, maybe consider those first and see what works.
And whatever you do, don’t forget to stock up on toilet paper.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.