I’ve just realised I’ve never written an article about water fasting. I’ve fasted quite a few times in my life, going from single day fasts up to a seven day fast at one point.
Water fasting (which I normally just call fasting unless I need to be specific) is so called because you don’t consume anything except for water during the time you fast. The human body can last up to about fifty days on just water, and you can generally fast safely for easily thirty days. Long fasts should only be done by those with experience, or else supervised by a professional.
Why Water Fast?
Why do water fasting? Well, after a heavy meal the human body spends about 65% of its energy just on digesting. The theory is, that while fasting a lot of energy is freed up which the body uses to give extra strength to its natural immune and detoxification processes. After all, when you’re sick you often don’t feel like eating, right? This may be the body’s natural wisdom, asking you to let it focus its resources on the task at hand. It has plenty of nutritional stores, so we don’t need to be feeding it at every moment for it to function.
If you do a bit of a search, and avoid overly mainstream sources, you can find some interesting documentation for the use of fasting to heal different diseases. I use it to clear up symptoms of my Crohn’s disease, on the occasion that they still come up. In the future, in the relatively likely event that I might deal with cancer at some point (just cause I’m human, I mean) fasting will be my weapon of choice.
As well as healing from illnesses, fasting may help with preventing future illnesses from rearing their head. Problems which exist but haven’t shown symptoms yet can be cleared up by the strengthened immune system and detoxification system.
That’s the theory anyway. There are other benefits, though. One is weight loss, of course. Many people find it much easier to fast than to restrict calories. It takes less mental energy to say “no” to every opportunity to eat, than to have to weigh up every opportunity and make sure you’re being rational and not caving in to temptation. Besides, hunger tends to mostly disappear after 2-3 days of fasting. Metabolism goes down to 80% after some days, but that’s still plenty of calories being burnt and no calories going in to replace them.
There are also so-called “spiritual benefits”, which I had never experienced… until recently.
Spiritual Benefits Of Water Fasting
So, a week or so ago, I experienced a peak of Crohn’s disease symptoms and resolved to fast for a day to help myself recover.
It’s been at least three years since my last fast. I know this because I sort of stopped fasting since I started transgender hormone treatment, being unsure what effect taking pills while fasting would have. (Now I think I may have been overzealous about the “purity” of my fast, but nevermind).
Another issue is that since taking hormones, I sometimes feel really bad if I don’t eat for long enough. I get nervous, stressed out, and very uncomfortable. I’ve even had panic attacks after being unable to adequately feed myself for long enough. (Say, while travelling, poor and having to stick to a gluten-free vegan diet).
This would seemingly make fasting a really bad idea, but in fact I didn’t encounter any bad feelings this time, quite the opposite.
My theory is that the negative feelings I’ve experienced while hungry came from the fact that I was trying to maintain my usual rhythm. While fasting, it’s common to need to rest in bed, and even when that’s not the case, I find it’s good to have the luxury to take things at as slow a pace as you need to.
This time, I also discovered something really interesting. I found that my nervous feelings seemed to occur when I focused my attention too much on the outside world. If I simply placed my attention inside my body and meditated, I no longer felt nervous. Actually, I felt really good and at peace, and it was easier to access a meditative state than usual. I soon found that it now took some kind of effort to NOT meditate. There was a kind of “gravity” naturally pulling my attention inwards.
I didn’t take this too far this time, doing some meditation and some other activities, but a few days later I decided to undertake another fast. Partly because I was still a bit sick, and partly because this meditative effect had fascinated me so much.
This time, I spent rather a long time meditating. I went to the park and enjoyed the sunlight, while taking deep breaths and feeling the glow inside my body.
I observed that while fasting, I felt rather more sensitive to my environment. The park was wonderful in the morning, the sensations of nature helping me find a feeling of harmony. Later, more people arrived in the park, and between barking dogs, arguing couples, and men who felt entitled to my attention, I eventually felt more comfortable going home.
Breaking The Fast
For this day, I felt generally like being alone. I’m rather more of a loner than usual recently, but I also had the intuition that with my extra sensitivity it might be uncomfortable to be around others, who would surely stimulate me to feel negative emotions at some point. The few times I triggered myself to feel negative emotions with no one around was hard enough to make me want to avoid that. (Thankfully it was easy to return to a rather neutral state after these little events).
I broke the fast gradually that day, and noticed how this meditative glow slowly disappeared. To start with it was hard not to meditate, then it became easy to meditate but not so compulsive, and then finally it was relatively hard to reach that flow. My mind became a bit sharper though, and I had the sensation of waking up from sleep or coming down from a drug trip.
The day after my fast, I noticed that I was still relatively “glowy” and at peace compared to before the fast. I lost the glow a little over a few days, looking forward to my next fast to get my next fix.
After these new experiences, I started thinking seriously about maybe making fasting a regular thing for me. I’m not sure about fasting during working days (though I might experiment with that when I have enough experience) but one day a week over the weekend would surely be beneficial.
Asides from the very promising feeling of being able to develop spiritually in new ways, I also feel excited that perhaps a regular fasting schedule will allow me to finally lose weight.
I try to break down my social conditioning in this regard and feel to okay with my weight, but it’s work. I wouldn’t mind having more defined facial features, a lighter body that lends itself better to sports, and an enhanced ability to find a casual fuck. Sometimes it’s hard to separate my feelings from what society tells me I should feel, but these benefits at least seem to be real. And when you don’t have the extra strength to fight society, then sometimes it doesn’t make any practical difference whether it’s what society wants or what you personally want.
I had basically given up on losing weight at this point because I had to prioritise a lot of other things. I was even unsure whether I’d ever want to prioritise this. But if I can fast comfortably and gain other benefits from doing so, perhaps I will end up losing weight after all.
Some say that fasting helps shine a light on your eating habits, and I’ve started to notice that recently. For example, today I found myself feeling both a bit sick and a bit hungry, and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to eat. Unusually for me, I came to the decision that I could skip eating until I felt more sure. Previously, I would have simply eaten whenever the smallest opportunity arose, almost compulsively.
The meditative state arose after a couple of hours, and I enjoyed it enough to keep it going until now. I think I will break the fast soon with a light dinner. But it’s nice to know now that I have other options when I want them.
Note: this article is not intended to be a full guide on water fasting. Long fasts in particular can be dangerous if done incorrectly. I recommend googling for practical advice and starting with several shorter fasts (i.e. single day fasts) before you try longer ones.
Related: Crohn’s Disease