Fourteen days! I hope you are exclaiming out loud. That’s a lot of time. (cue soundtrack, feel free to click and listen in the background). I’ve had lots of questions from the few people I’ve shared this experience with, so it’s a long post. Feel free to comment with more questions.
Faithful readers of this blog know that I’ve been experimenting with and following a variety of intermittent fasting regimes for a few years. I really enjoy fasting, and when I was on the sailboat I was even featured in a cookbook on 5:2-loving vegetarians, which way how I originated started. There are so many methods. Let me break down the most popular intermittent fasting styles in the debatable order of serious business:
- 16:8, which limits the eating window to just eight hours of your day.
- 5:2, which is eating up to 500 calories two days per week.
- Alternative Day Fasting, which is what I did for a few months in the last year.
- One Meal A Day, which limits that eating window to a single meal.
And then there’s the extended fast, which is what I just completed. Why? There’s lots of reasons, but honestly the biggest motivator was that I really needed to drop some weight I gained while having a simply fantastic time, freewheelin’ around and adventuring in Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand over the last six months. I was really in a nice, introspective space when I lived in Argentina, and I fasted regularly and was healthy there, while also drinking copious amounts of Malbec, which was produced 10 minutes from where I was living. But I could barely care about fasting and my weight once I sat down to my first meal of beans, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole and margaritas in Mexico. New Zealand was filled with a massive amount of hiking, as well as dinner dates. And, if you don’t know, Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise with perhaps the best Indian and Chinese food found outside those respective countries. And Thailand? Forget about it! Without a doubt, these months were filled with a overwhelming lust for life.
Don’t get me wrong, I also run or do a HIIT workout almost every day, or, when I was in New Zealand, I was hiking an average of three hours every day. I still looked beautiful, so it wasn’t some intervention by friends or me having a case of low self-esteem. In fact, the decision to fast for two weeks was divinely guided, coming from meditation. Fasting is super-good for you. I can’t go into the whole thing, because it’s amazingly easy to go down a black hole with this. And trust me, over this fast I’ve watched so much on YouTube! Here’s a link to a science-y ripped dude you may enjoy.
My fast was also divinely timed. I started two weeks ago when I moved to Korea. That’s the ideal time because the first day was travel, and it’s pretty easy to say no to airplane food. Also, I didn’t know anyone in Korea! There would be no awkward social invitations or opportunities that I would “miss out” on by not eating. Finally, Korea is known for their BBQ. No thanks.
Plus, everyone who knows me knows that I love a good challenge. I was born ready.
My allowances over the fast were tons of water, of course, along with one shot a day of drinking vinegar (My supplies were limited by the Korean grocery store options), a tablespoon of salt in warm water if I got light-headed, a multi-vitamin, jasmine tea and black coffee, the latter of which, quite interestingly for a former barista, I lost the taste
for by Day 6.
Each day, I ranked my state of Mental Clarity, Physical Strength, Sleep, Energy Levels, Stress Level and Overall Feeling. I also took notes, so I’ll condense below:
Day 1: With the last delicious taste of vegan khao soi and hot ginger tea at my favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai, the fast began. I hopped on a red-eye to Korea, and just basically stayed in the blur the rest of the day. I politely declined an offer by the owners of the cat I’m caring for to go out to eat and crashed hard.
Day 2: I had hunger pangs a few times during the chilled morning (they left first thing), but it was nothing insurmountable. I took a bath, did some yoga and a little work. Felt overall pretty good.
Day 3: In the morning, I took a long walk around my new neighborhood of Songdo, Incheon, which is just outside Seoul, and it ended up being longer than originally planned. I arrived home, did a little more work, another bath (decided this was to be a daily thing) and watched a movie. I wasn’t hungry, but I started to feel a little rundown.
Day 4: I had the straight-up keto flu! This is infamous for people who follow a ketogenic diet, which is a whole other thing besides intermittent fasting. But it’s complementary because it mimics what fasting does to the body regarding the way it produces energy. I was down and out, but still mentally sharp. I worked a little from bed, watched a movie and had some time to think about my life. I dragged myself to my mat to do a gentle yin yoga class. In the midst of this deep rest, I had some good divine guidance regarding relationships in my life. I was cold with muscle soreness, but my mind was churning wonderfully.
Day 5: I started having crazy dreams, really vivid. I felt a little better and did a bunch of work. But I was still too tired to take a walk around the park, as I had planned. This was the only day that I didn’t do some movement; it really did feel like I had the flu, minus the sniffles or stomach ache.
Day 6: I was hanging in there! I went to a yoga class held at the park next to my flat, which was lovely but knocked me out. I headed home and took a three-hour nap. I was dizzy in the morning, but the salt drink solved it. I worked and really didn’t think too much about food.
Day 7: I woke up from more crazy dreams still feeling sluggish and weak. Slowly got up and discovered that coffee didn’t really taste that great. I noticed my sense of smell was keener when I washed my hands with lovely vervain hand soap. I did some more yoga, did some more work and watched another movie. I was in good spirits this entire time. I was getting things accomplished with my work, enjoying the light, airy flat.
Day 8: A week in, I finally felt like I had rounded the corner. I walked to the pharmacy and picked up an enema, hey, and even took an hour-long walk around the park. Had a great time playing the ukulele. I took another nap, was starting to feel better physically.
Day 9: This was when it all started to feel worth the challenge. Even though I had a dream about “missing out” on a vague cultural event involving food, later in the morning I actually had the thought, “I don’t even need food.” I wrote steadily all morning, then took another, brisker walk in the park. I didn’t even take a nap!
Day 10: On this day, I felt amazing! At one point in the afternoon after a little more work (did you think I was retired?), I got a burst of energy. I had a great yoga practice, played the uke for a bit and walked to the grocery store. There I bought provisions to break fast and simply wasn’t tempted … I didn’t wander down the candy aisle or sniffed around the bakery. I was fine. I even lugged my groceries home. I ranked my Overall Feeling a 9 out of 10. I was making friends through other friends around the globe and online, but I pushed everyone off. Each night I chilled at home.
Day 11: Sleep was so amazing. It felt like a cool night in late October when I was growing up, when you left the windows open even though it was chilly enough to need to add an extra blanket to be all snug like a bug in a rug. I awoke early and refreshed and worked steadily until the afternoon, when Spotify somehow shuffled to Madonna’s “Lucky Star,” which resulted in a dance party for one in my living room. I was really feeling that great!
Day 12: The awesome routine continued, waking up feeling awesome, working a bunch, having a long walk in the park, followed by a bath and a nap. After the nap, I had a great brainstorming session regarding some of my personal projects, including marketing my new book. I was thinking so clearly and with forethought, seemingly crisper than ever. This, by the way, is also a famous effect of going into ketosis, proof that my body was now switching over its fuel-burning system, becoming more efficient.
Day 13: Grateful that I felt so wonderful, I had the opportunity to teach a yoga class in the same pavilion in the park to a nice class. It was a blissful, long class; afterward, I had to politely decline the offer to go to Indian food with some students. For the last week, my skin had broken out, but today it had basically healed. I did a lot of work on personal projects and stayed busy. But I also remembered how much I enjoyed cooking and preparing food. I missed that hobby.
Day 14: Today! As I write, I’m an hour away from breakfast. Not that I’m counting or anything …
I spent the morning working a little on my projects and took a long walk in the park, then made myself a wonderful salad with the produce that the homeowners had left. They left a bunch, and frankly I just pushed it off, dealing with it. I was really surprised that a lot of was still perfectly fine! I also cut up a quarter of a watermelon, which is what I will eat first. Then I plan to wait an hour, let that insulin spike settle down. Then I’m enjoying a huge green salad with homemade Italian salad dressing, macadamia nuts and some kimchi. Now I know I will be exploding then, but I also discovered that the homeowners had left some bananas, which I froze weeks ago. You can puree frozen bananas and turn them alone into creamy vegan ice cream! Dessert!
Tomorrow, after some kefir and blueberries, I’m heading to the jjimjilbang, where I will be getting a body scrub by an old Korean woman who also will be naked, before returning to the baths and later putting on my issued pajamas and enjoying a sikhye and a nap in the oxygen room. In the evening, I am meeting up with a friend and trying steamed veggie dumplings and a Cass beer. Honestly, I could have continued fasting … but I’m keen to explore!
So, does that mean nothing happened, that I’m back to my normal ways? No. This has been a time of deep rest and introspection, and it’s been a gift I’ve given myself. Physically, I dropped the 12 pounds – or about 5.5 kg – or two pounds shy of a stone. I’m almost exactly the weight I was a year ago. All the extra energy I stored has been burnt, which makes me think about the impermanence of things. Experiences do not require any sort of holding on to be in your heart, no souvenir, no picture, no ounce. So, while of course I’ve been a minimalist for a while, I’m different mentally, too. This, my first long fast, has been a wonderful learning experience about myself. I know fasting isn’t for everyone, but trust me, when I bite into that first sweet taste of watermelon, I will be so happy. In fact, I still have an hour to go … and I’m already happy.