My 9th day into water fasting

I started fasting a bit like Forrest Gump started running. I started last Friday night without really thinking about it, I then convinced myself that 24 hours was feasible, then stretched it to 48, and now really I just don’t know where the limit is, I mean I know where the limit is, the limit is as long as I feel good.

About me :-)

I am Italian, food is in my DNA, under and all over my skin. I talk, think and dream about food constantly -even right now-, I love cooking, and for me eating is an unparalleled experience across all senses. I look up and try new recipes obsessively, the more spices the better, I come from a family where food was the favourite topic of conversation before, during, and after any meal. Growing up, the standard lunch included a generous plate of pasta, a main course (meat/fish+ vegetables or salad), a piece of bread to polish the bottom of my plate (also called scarpetta), a tiny piece of cheese, cake and coffee. Everything prepared from scratch, nothing from a package or a can, no shortcuts.

Before starting to fast I was 71 kilos, spread more or less gracefully over a height of 170 cm. My weight has always shifted between 68 and 71 for as long as I can remember. I exercise an hour a day, at least 6 days a week, mixing strong vinyasas, swimming, and a little running, I skip the tram if I can walk, and I live on the 4th floor with no lift, which means a daily average of 200 steps up and 200 steps down.

I have a fast-paced life waking up at 6 am and going to bed at midnight or later, besides work, my schedule is packed with many activities, yoga, swimming, sewing, learning Czech, writing, reading, and a rich social life to nurture. I guess the right term is “over-functioning”, I tend to be the one always available in taking up new jobs and responsibilities, chronically over-committing, and often stretching my boundaries, yes I literally bite more than I can chew.

I eat healthy food most of the times, I read labels, and oftentimes indulge in sweets. Skipping meals has never been too difficult, the problem for me has always been the one of stopping before exploding, controlling the mind while my stomach was full, and that is really what I am hoping from this fast, to reset the pace of my eating.

Lately, I was diagnosed with two nodules in my throat. These nodules often reduce my swallowing capacity and sometimes make me feel like I am choking, the reason why these two guys showed up deserves a story on its own. In addition, I have noticed, in a state of complete awareness and total powerlessness, that I eat too much and too often, and while the daily exercising keeps the weight stable, I can not live with the idea of not being in control of my eating habits.

There is plenty of material and research on fasting, I read and watched tons of videos, (Dr Mendy Pelz YT channel has more videos that you can digest, Dr Alan Goldhamer podcast is jaw-dropping, and there are numerous TED talks on the benefits of fasting). I am a total believer in the placebo effect and the power of our minds over our bodies, for better or worse, and I decided that fasting would be the cure to all my ailments and my poor eating habits. I don’t know if it will work, but regardless, I trust that it will bring some tangible benefits to my life.

Habit — not hunger — is brutal

The challenge

It is in the manual, the first days are the hardest, habit — not hunger — is brutal, and habit is what I am targeting.

Fasting is a mental challenge, not a body one, your body can not care less and does not even know what’s going on, it has enough supplies to keep going for 40 days without food. Your mind instead is busy playing all sorts of tricks, it is like the devil on your left shoulder always ready to find a sweet spot, a moment of fear or hesitation to ill-advice you in the quest for some short-lived gratification. Especially in the first days, fasting requires you to focus and refocus on your commitment, once you are deeper into the fasting, screwing up just sounds too stupid to even think about it.

My staple diet consists of water, water, and more water. Unless I have early morning yoga or swimming, I wake up at seven, I do 2–3 pranayamas, 5 minutes of mantra chanting, 30–40 minutes of yoga, daily affirmations, journaling, and I am set for the day. Water when needed, I work my 9–6 job, a long walk in the park, I read and write, learn something new, a call my mom and friends, and I am off to bed. It may not sound exciting, but I am finding a lot of peace and love in this routine.

Gains and losses

Unless you want to torture yourself, and seriously endanger your fasting investment, water fasting means no social relationships, not even inviting myself for coffee to my favorite place. During fasting, I am managing to go to daily yoga classes, do some swimming and take myself for long calm walks in the park, and that is about all the interaction I have with the world. Despite brushing my teeth, the flavour of my breath is anything but fresh, and my throat is always extremely dry. With a mask on, I once went for a walk with a friend, and we ended up talking about my fasting and how much eating is the greatest pleasure, while I will not disagree with the latter statement, the topic is off the list until I finish fasting. In addition, when you are fasting all of your senses are super-alerted, as you take a stroll it is insane and at the same disheartening to realize that you are surrounded 24/7 by food and more food, the smell, not even the sight, of pizza alone is enough to drive me crazy. I concluded that lockdown and social distancing fit perfectly with fasting.

I lost 6 kilos, from 71 down to 65 this morning, that’s a huge gain and motivator. I gained lots of time; all the time spent in cooking, food shopping, coffee drinking and socialising, piles up to a lot of extra hours. After some initial sleepless nights, I start sleeping like a baby for longer hours (8–10), before I would struggle with 7. I have invested most of the extra time in self-care, more mediations, more kundalini yoga, more reading, finally a visit to the pedicure, and the hairdresser.

However, the biggest gain is mental, the headspace, the void from intrusive thoughts, the chatbot almost silent, deeper meditations, this alone is just amazing and uplifting. Letting go of food has meant letting go of a self-imposed pressure and pace I was enforcing on myself, a rhythm my body right now can not simply keep up with. I used to run in the park now I walk and enjoy watching falling leaves, I used to wake up and get ready in 5 minutes, now it is a long peaceful 20–30-minute process. My senses have awakened, I went swimming on my 5th day of fasting, and it was the first time I ever heard the sound of the water so close and amplified, my ears were so incredibly aware and sensitive, and the water on the skin had a completely different touch.

Fasting has meant letting go not only of food, but also of resisting, enduring, pulling, insisting, fighting, complaining. Peace and acceptance have filled in this new space, shaping my thoughts and actions. I don’t know if it is fasting, the extra time I spend on the mat, or longer sleeping, but I can hardly recognize myself.

Completely new to fasting, it has been an unthinkable journey up to now, I have discovered a new way to access my body and quiet my mind, and that alone is a success.

Before the straitjacket feels comfortable again, I hit "publish".

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