Updated: Apr 9
March was a strange month, and I ended it on a strange note. Having started, this time last week, to prepare for a medically-supervised weekend fast, I am still slowly coming off with results that have led me to more deeper truths than losing a few pounds.
At the doctors' suggestion, I started preparing several days before by cutting out prepared foods and not eating after 7pm. By Thursday, I had eased into only raw foods and on Friday I was completely on juices and broth.
Vegetable broth, that is. It was a vegan weekend entirely, mostly green, which matched the pallor of my face right through Sunday. In short, I felt awful.
Friday morning was normal enough, despite having drastically reduced my calories by then for several days. A bit more tired than usual, but that was expected.
On Saturday I started the day hopeful, but as evening drew near I was feeling more tired than on Friday, and the slight headache that had begun on Tuesday was now growing more pronounced. Nausea set in. Still, I was able to stick to the fast and keep to the program, which included some movement exercises and a long nature walk.
By Sunday, I was in no condition for a walk of any kind. I woke up exhausted, and the nausea and headache continued. I was more achy than ever. I took a three and a half hour nap and completely missed several midday activities that I was looking forward to doing, including another nature walk.
The fast ended at 5pm on Sunday, although there was plenty of discussion afterward. Around 6 there was a light dinner broth. At 7, with the end in sight, I sheepishly stepped into a jetted tub, my first external cleansing of the weekend. I had been looking forward to the experience the entire week. Knowing a hot tub "spa" experience was awaiting me at at the end of the fast - a reward for all the work I had done -was great encouragement. I stepped in full of hope, too, that the intense heat would wash away the last of any toxins left lingering on my skin. As I settled into the water, however, a wooziness washed over me. Fifteen minutes passed, then 20. I sat up. I saw bright spots. I returned to full immersion. Woozy was better than spots.
Bed called early Sunday but the jetted tub must have worked. I awoke at 4:44am on Monday and I could not go back to sleep. I remained awake the entire day. It was, in fact, the first day in a long time I could remember that I didn't feel the need to nap midday. In fact, I felt downright renewed and energized.
I perhaps should have continued the fast, and I did to a degree. I only had a very small amount of food, hardly more than 200 calories on Monday. Tuesday, about 400. Wednesday, 500.
This "weaning off" has been an eye opening experience. I am sheepish to reintroduce any offensive foods. For now, at least. So, coffee is out, and with it the only dairy I regularly ingest. Packaged foods are out. Sugar, except in produce, is out. Conventionally raised produce is out. To date, I have kept away from anything containing copious amounts of oil, such as fried foods. Eggs are out. Butter is out. All meat is out. Yogurt is out. Grains are out.
Eventually, I am sure, these will all work their way back into my diet. There will be chocolate. There will be ice cream. And there will definitely be bread, and very likely I will make it myself, however poorly I conduct myself in the kitchen.
I am not a great cook, as I may have mentioned once or twice. Kitchen chemistry eludes me and that suits me. I am not a foodie. A slice of crusty bread, fresh fruit and a slice of cheese is as appealing to me as a meal prepared in a five star restaurant. So these changes in my diet were not as devastating as they might be for some.
Already gluten free, I am used to no-nos. I also have some food allergies. One of the more eye-opening revelations as I was preparing my body in the days ahead of the official fast is that I became acutely aware of changes to my body after I had eaten one thing or another. For example, while I had lately noticed that coffee has started my heart to race or pound, I also discovered that without it I get a headache. That is common, I know, and I had expected it. But I became aware, too, that the dairy I used - a fair amount of half & half - was causing issues. My stomach became bloated.
When I reintroduced solid foods to my food repertoire on Monday, I began with a stalk of celery. No one is allergic or intolerant to celery, I assured myself. Thankfully I got that right. Next was a banana. Now, occasionally I have found myself allergic to bananas. Generally, if they are underripe or overripe, my body doesn't care for them. They have to be just right. So I purchased, and ate, a just right banana. I won't say I wasn't worried about this - bananas are full of sugar. But my body seemed fine with it. It was a small banana, after all, and organic. I didn't feel a sugar overload at all, although later in the day I only ate half an apple, finding the sweetness too much.
On Tuesday I ventured a handful - and when I say handful I mean no more than can fill the cup of your hand - of mixed nuts. I became acutely aware within a few minutes, of a warm sensation washing over my skin. This is not normal for me. I am an always-cold person and this new warmth was - while physically welcomed - a surprise to my brain.
That evening I took note of my "intolerances," and I use the term in the most loose manner possible. I am not necessarily allergic to these foods, nor do they cause any kind of discomfort. Just changes. In that respect, my body tolerates certain foods but seems not to care for them. I made a list of known food allergens and next to this I added a list of "very occasionallys": nuts of any kind, milk of any kind, coffee, potatoes and starchy foods, even gluten-free breads.
My list is getting longer and my mind is growing stronger in the knowledge of how foods are affecting, not only my body, but my psyche. When I weighed myself on Sunday, after the fast, I had gone down five pound over the course of less than a week. I knew that would be short lived and, sure enough, as I begin to eat more normally - even without all the untouchable foods - the weight is creeping back.
So the scale is a no-no, now, too. I might occasionally bring it out as a curiosity but for no other reason as it seems to provide more defeatism than anything else. I have a mirror and, better, a brain that can tell me if I am feeling good or not.
I do feel good, and that is how this strange March ended. I am aware of the irony that feeling good is strange. I often think that, should I be catapulted back in time to my younger days, that the gratitude would not be so much for the innocence or the freedom of youth, but for the feeling of a body at its most agile, most contented. No aches, no degenerating disks or bursitis or tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, whatever that is. I would not say I feel as buoyant as youth but I feel much better. My eyes are not heavy.
When I asked my husband (my partner in fasting,) how he felt on Monday, he noted the strangeness, too. In his wisdom he pronounced that he learned not just about his body's reactions to food, but that discovering this new knowledge in itself has caused a change of heart. He said to me that he learned there is more for us in this life. That, after having checked off all the boxes on the list of life goals - college, marriage, family, home ownership, career, etc - that we are not on the other side of the bell curve waiting for the plunge as we plod our way through the next few decades of our lives. There is more.
There is more to learn and there is more to do. We have been given a gift of regeneration and we cannot waste the knowledge that has come with this experience. There is more that our brain have not conceived of, and more that our bodies are capable of. We are more awake and more alive than we have felt in a very long time. And that is where the strange becomes wonderful.