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Fasting

with Caryn, the Whole Food Dietitian

I have recently finished my first ever 3-day fast (well 72 hours anyway) and I wanted to give you my reasons for doing it and relay my experiences – in brief. So here goes.

Reasons for doing it:

The science around fasting for a range of health benefits is compelling, and includes benefits for weight loss, blood sugar control, immunity, anti-ageing and more. For me it was mainly about four aspects:

  1. Mental clarity that comes with being in deep nutritional ketosis.
  2. Benefits of “Apoptosis” and “Autophagy”, essentially cell death and cell clean-up and rejuvenation of cells that have passed both their best before and use-by dates. I believe this is something I can do a couple of times a year along with the other things I do more regularly (eat well, sleep well, live well) as well as shorter fasts to ward off degeneration of the brain and any cell-waywardness.
  3. Longevity and anti-ageing properties. There are only a few things we can actively do for anti-ageing, so I’m taking this one.
  4. Simply, just to experience it. The value in exploring your relationship with food (even if you think you have an ok one) is a total eye-opener and is very worthwhile – if you are a reflective person that is.

My experiences and musings for those who care…(written in the present tense – purely for dramatisation ;))

Day 1.

This is easy (as I’ve done it before). I actually started off doing a planned 24-hour fast. But now I’m thinking well, I’m 1/3 of the way there, I might as well. I really want to do a 3-day, but I don’t actually want to do it. The environment is not right, I’m working at home, by the kitchen. Oh stop making excuses and just do it. I can’t stop thinking about what I’m contemplating to do. Just do it! Ok, I’m doing it!

Night 1:

Husband Mark makes an omelette for dinner, no problem for me, I feel fine, but dreading tomorrow as I believe day 2 is hard. Still obsessing that I’m actually doing this. Keep thinking about the next day and the next day.

Overnight:

Not a great sleep as I woke up a few times stressing about what I was doing.

Day 1 Blood ketones: 
9am: 0.1 (not in ketosis)
3pm: 0.4 (on the cusp of ketosis)
9pm: 1.1 (in ketosis)

Day 2:

Working like a trojan. I’m totally coping, don’t listen to what they tell you, everyone is different. It’s now 2pm, and oh no, here comes a hunger wave. 10 minutes later: It’s over, ok not so bad. Brisk walk with dog – Pepper, I feel good, great even.

Night 2:

Mark cooks dinner. Lamb, my favourite. Hmmm, now it feels hard. I see a chocolate tasting on TV, oh dear, now my mouth is watering. Then Mark eats chocolate. Mini-torture. Ok, just move to another room temporarily (out of sight, out of mind). It works. No problem. Come back for cuppa tea and some Netflix. All back under control.

Overnight:

Better sleep as I stopped stressing about it.

Day 2 ketones: 
3pm: 1.2 (in ketosis)
9pm: 2.1 (deep in ketosis)
(only two readings as I had to ration ketone strips, as I only had a few with me).

Day 3:

Wake up. Feel tired and have headache, maybe I should stop. No, just have more salt and fluid. What do you know? Headache is gone, and by 10am I feel great.
All day 3: No hunger, what..so..ever, just feeling empty. (Empty- not hungry, an interesting feeling). Again working well, keeping busy.

Day 3 at 7pm

End of 72 hours – I could’ve continued as there was no hunger at all, but social activity arrived and I was only psyched up for 72 hours, so that’s where it ended.

Day 3 ketones: 
8am: 2.4 (deep in ketosis)
7pm ketones: 4.1 (deep in ketosis)
Followed by a delicious, super-nutritious meal!

Parting thoughts:

  • Did I get more clarity? I might have, but I’m not totally convinced of it – just being honest here, but that might be because I generally eat LCHF and feel energised when I work a lot of the time, because I love my work, it energises me. I’m also never tired during the day, despite getting up most days at 5:35am. I worked well over the last 3 days, for sure, but then again, I always do when I work from home and I get no disturbances. So maybe…maybe not.
  • Did I reflect on how often I usually eat and why? I sure did, a fascinating, introspective experience, even for me who doesn’t have any real food issues (apart from knowingly eating too much chocolate). From this perspective, it was a profound learning experience.
  • Was it hard? On the whole, it was tough, but a lot easier than I expected.

Bottom line: It’s really interesting what you can do when you put your mind to it. Apart from talking, reading and writing about food every day, I really love eating food and going without it for 3 days was a real challenge for me, not physically, but mentally. I wasn’t hungry at all, just “psychologically hungry”, an incredibly interesting concept.

Would I do it again? yes, but not for a couple of months. Back to the short stuff, where it’s easy, you still get some great benefits and it’s not so taxing on the psyche.

The best piece of advice I can give when doing longer fasts? Just don’t overthink it!

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