The thought has been on my mind for a while: I should do a water fast; an honest to goodness water fast that tests the limits of my mind and body, helps me organize my thoughts, and lets me more clearly see the difference between wants and needs when it comes to food. Over the course of this week, I will record how I’m feeling each day, as well as some other relevant information. I will talk about breaking my fast and how that felt. Finally, I will provide a final reflection on the fast and how I’m feeling two weeks after the fast. Were the changes and revelations I experienced lasting? Read on to find out!
Why do you want to fast anyway?
Personal reasons for fasting
Fasting will help me to focus on the things I want to do and plan what I will do going forward. My attention has been diverted easily of late. It’s far too easy to plop down in front of the TV with dinner and drink a couple beers and waste an evening that could have otherwise been productive.
There’s a book I read, and loved, several years ago called The Power of Habit that talked about how it’s the small things we do every day, and don’t even think about, that shape our larger direction in life: Our habits. If you haven’t already, you really should read it. I would like to work on building the willpower to deal with my negative habits and build positive habits in their place.
For work, I am a software engineer and I work on web applications a lot. There are several domains I own that do not have websites set up for them, and, at the time I am writing this, that includes this site! It’s sad that my personal website has been neglected for so long. So if you’re reading this now, that means this fast has worked at least to some extent. It will help me make progress towards my goal of getting this up and out there for people to read. I will also create a guide that details how I set up this website.
On a similar note to my website, I would like to develop the habit of writing every day. I will not be placing any restrictions on it, other than saying I will start writing each day. That’s where this post came from. I started writing about my experience and reasoning each day. Some days I wrote a lot, others I wrote a little; the seed that is starting each day grows great things. I have tried working on a writing habit before. The other times I have tried, I have always told myself I will write X number of words a day, or I will write for X number of minutes each day. Those restrictions created a barrier and made it harder to adopt the new habit. Now my goal is simple: Just show up.
Health benefits of fasting
Some may see the first obvious benefit of fasting as weight loss. That’s a side effect more than a benefit. Most people will gain the weight they lose fasting back pretty quickly if they return to their normal eating patterns. There is evidence that fasting can help people make healthier decisions going forward and keep the weight off, but that is not my focus; I already eat healthy and am pretty happy with my current weight. When I do regain weight, I will try and put as much of that weight back on in the form of muscle. I have been working on learning how to do a free standing handstand and building the strength for that. I’m curious how much this weight loss and targeted muscle building afterward will help with mastering the handstand.
On to the health benefits of fasting: 
- Fasting causes your stem cells to start regenerating and improves your immune system.
- Fasting has been studied for the treatment of high blood pressure. It can help people lower their blood pressure long-term. High blood pressure is linked to cancer, so fasting will lower your overall risk of cancer. 
- Fasting has shown promise as a way to prevent dementia.
- Fasting triggers autophagy, which is a fancy way of saying your body starts eating the broken stuff in your body and using it as food. As noted above, fasting also spurs your body to create shiny new cells to replace the busted-ass ones it consumes for food.
- There is evidence that fasting helps treat rheumatic diseases, chronic pain syndromes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.
- Fasting can help reduce the severity of patient’s symptoms following chemotherapy.
During my water fast, I took some notes as to what I felt and noticed. I weighed myself first thing each morning on my scale, so that’s where the weight and body fat percentage numbers came from. The mileage numbers are fairly accurate estimates, as I have ran thousands of miles on these streets with my Garmin GPS running watch on my wrist. As far as how much water I will consume, and when I will consume it, I do not plan on tracking that; rather, I will listen to my body and drink water when I was thirsty. I am an advocate of paying attention to how your body feels and listening to what it has to say.
Day 1, Tuesday
Monday evening I slurped up the last of my bowl of pho. It was the only thing I had eaten all day in preparation of beginning my water fast. I went home and did some work on my blog until it was time to go to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, it was no problem to skip coffee and breakfast; I was committed. As the day went on, I felt hungry a few times. The hunger passed quickly. I was working from home Tuesday, so my physical activity was a bit limited. I did manage to get out for a three mile walk. Once again, I spent the evening working on my blog. I’m finding it much easier to concentrate on what I should be doing now that I’m fasting.
Perhaps that is because I am having to make a lot less decisions during the day? Each day we have a finite about of energy to devote to making decisions. As we burn through that reserve, we are less capable of making good decisions.  Now that I do not have to decide what I’m going to eat, and cannot plop on the couch with some booze, focus is easy. I’m also finding that most television is downright boring. Apparently I needed the crutch of alcohol to avoid boredom, and now that I do not have that, I have to find something that is really interesting to keep me entertained. This makes me recall the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Focus has become key.
Walked three miles. A light day because I was working from home.
It took me longer than usual to fall asleep tonight. My house in October can be a cold place. Usually I produce all the body heat I need to warm the bed up quickly; tonight was different. It took a while to get comfortable, but after I fell asleep I was out for the night.
Weight and body fat
168.6 pounds, 13.5% body fat
Today seemed to be about purging the rest of the food I had eaten over the last couple of days. A couple massive dumps, which is to say, normal.
Day 2, Wednesday
I woke up feeling rested, but with an ever-so-slight headache. It’s unusual for me to have a headache. Maybe it’s from the fast, or maybe it’s remnants of the bug I had Monday. Either way, a slight headache first thing in the morning. That went away after I drank some water. Perhaps I was dehydrated?
With my time freed from making coffee and breakfast, I was able to put in some quality time on the blog this morning. I rode my bike to work today. My usual five mile walk over lunch was no problem, as well, and my hunger is at bay. As far as the work day goes, I have been able to concentrate and mow through more work than usual.
Walked five miles, rode my bike four miles, and played a couple games of ping pong at the office. Felt great, no issues.
I woke up feeling rested, but with an ever-so-slight headache.
It took me a while to fall asleep tonight; I felt very cold again. I also woke up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom urgently.
Weight and body fat
166.4 pounds, 13% body fat
No bowel movements during the day, but I did have to wake up and drop a watery deuce at about midnight. It smelled really, really bad.
Day 3, Thursday
Overall I felt okay today, though I wasn’t as focused. I did manage to make some progress on my blog. Emotionally, I was up and down, and I had achy joints at times, especially as I was trying to fall asleep.
My sense of smell has become pretty incredible. It’s like a new super power! I’m noticing layers that I didn’t before: The musky scent of leaves on the sidewalk, the truffle salt in my cupboard from across the kitchen, McDonald’s from blocks away. Our sense of smell must be heightened when our body is thinking about finding food. It’s kind of amazing, almost like discovering smell for the first time all over again.
Walked eight miles, plus a shopping trip to Costco. I decided to walk to work instead of ride my bike today. I noticed slightly less energy, but nothing major; I was still passing a lot of people on the sidewalks during my walks.
I felt good when I woke up this morning. No headache. Rested.
Falling asleep tonight was challenging. I turned up the heat and added an extra blanket, so I was not cold tonight. My joints were achy and I had a lot of things on my mind.
Weight and body fat
163.8 pounds, 12.6% body fat
I had to take several nasty poops throughout the day similar to the one from the middle of the night.
Day 4, Friday
Today I feel pretty good. Lots of energy, no headaches, no achy joints. Maybe that has passed? I guess I’ll see later tonight. I worked on making a meal plan for the month of November. I am going to commit to not eating out for the month of November with the exception of going out to watch the NFL on Sunday. If I do not have food to take for lunch, I will just not eat. After this, that should be easy.
This evening I experienced a feeling of sheer joy. There was a tingling sensation over my entire body and I couldn’t help but smile and jump up and down a bit. I don’t know if this was entirely because of the fast, but I think the depth of the emotion can be contributed to it.
I’m going to start leaving out the gross bowel movements section because they have stopped now. It’s all number one for me for the next few days! If that changes, I’ll dump the section back in.
Walked seven miles, rode my bike four miles, and played a couple games of table tennis at the office. My shoulder felt a little sore during table tennis, but other than that, great. Lots of energy!
I woke up rested, but I slept until 7:30 AM. I like to wake up at 5:30 or 6, but I refuse to use an alarm clock and choose to listen to my body instead.
It was much easier for me to fall asleep this evening. There were no more problems with achy joints and I didn’t feel super cold. The heat was lower than last night and I did not use the extra blanket. It seems I’m a human heater again!
Weight and body fat
161.9 pounds, 12.2% body fat
Day 5, Saturday
I feel better this morning than any of the other mornings so far this fast; in fact, better than I would say an average morning feels like when I have been eating.
Yesterday, I had a big pile of wood chips dumped in my backyard. In my area you can add your name to a list to let the local arborists know that you would like them to dump chips at your place. That being said, I now have a good sized project of moving a lot of wood chips to mulch a garden bed. I’m not sure if I should attempt that today or not, but as good as I have been feeling, I may give it a shot.
As part of the meal planning, I’ve decided to try and limit the number of trips I need to make to the grocery store. That’ll save me a lot of time and help limit impulse buys. Today I will head out and stock up on a bunch of food that will make up my meals for the first half of November. Over time, I would like to move closer to having a monthly meal plan and only have to go shopping once or twice a month. I think my garden will play an integral role in that, and right now my garden is practically non-existent.
On the food and planning front, while I was at the grocery store I bought a bunch of steak. It was on sale and making beef jerky sounded like fun. So I’m doing that now. I am also making sourdough bread. Right now the starter is coming to life and it should be ready to make a fantastic loaf of bread Friday or Saturday.
Walked about four miles.
Hello again, 6 AM. I am well rested and ready to go.
Tonight it took me a long time to fall asleep. I don’t think it was entirely the fast; I had a lot on my mind.
Weight and body fat
160.1 pounds, 11.8% body fat
Day 6, Sunday
Today should be a bit more challenging. So far I have not put myself in any situations where I felt tempted by food. Today is different. It’s game day and football is the closest thing we have to religion in this area. I want to watch the game, but I do not have network television, so I cannot watch it at home. That leaves the bar; I’m going to meet up with friends and be the only person at the bar drinking only water. This should be interesting.
In addition to heading to the bar, I’ve planned my meals for the first half of next month, bought food, made beef jerky, and started preparing to make sourdough bread. That’s a lot of thinking about food. I haven’t felt hungry at all, though. All that food is for when I break the fast.
It turns out the smells and drinks at the bar were no trouble at all. Arriving home to the smell of beef jerky in the dehydrator was much harder. I wasn’t hungry, but I love beef jerky. I managed to fend off that onslaught; my evening was spent on the couch half asleep watching Netflix. I was incredibly tired all day.
Not much activity today. I was really tired and it was rainy outside. I did walk around the mall while my friend shopped after the game. Maybe a mile.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning. I felt a bit groggy, and was generally exhausted most of the day.
The upside of being exhausted is that it was quite easy to fall asleep tonight!
Weight and body fat
158.5 pounds, 11.4% body fat
Day 7, Monday
Last night and this morning, I’ve noticed that I get light headed and lose vision a little when I stand up quickly after lying down or sitting for a while. Apparently this is a common side effect of fasting and is usually attributed to low blood pressure. In the past, this has occasionally happened when my heart rate was very low, say 45 beats per minute, while I was sitting down and stood up quickly. I’m really looking forward to breaking the fast tonight!
Walked seven miles, and played a couple games of table tennis. Energy levels were were pretty good.
I slept okay last night, but I felt a step slow this morning. I did wake up eventually and had a lot of energy.
Weight and body fat
156.7 pounds, 11% body fat
Breaking the fast
Monday night I cooked bone broth in my Instant Pot. It takes about 90 minutes to make a basic batch, and while I generally like to allow it to sit on the keep warm setting for at least six hours after cooking, this time I made an exception. I broke the fast with a hot mug of fresh bone broth and around 8:30 Monday evening.
I slept great Monday night, then when I woke up Tuesday morning I cooked a half cup of steel-cut oats for breakfast and mixed it with several tablespoons of yogurt and sprinkled it with cinnamon. It was delicious! While that was going on I was making a simple vegetable barley soup out of the latest batch of fresh bone broth. I ate that for lunch Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday evening I ate omelets with chanterelle mushrooms and onions in them, a carrot, and an apple. It’s Wednesday now and I have started eating the beef jerky, nuts, and whatever healthy thing pleases me. My digestion feels like it is back to normal. Tomorrow morning I will make sourdough biscuits.
Reflecting on my water fast
Going into this water fast, I was worried that I would not have enough energy to go about my day-to-day life. There are stories out there about how one should spend most of their time during a fast lying down and resting. They warn that it’s very easy to overdo it. This scared me out of trying a water fast before. That fear was unfounded. I have tried juice fasting before and this water fast was comparatively easy. With a juice fast, I felt hungry every day. With the water fast, my body switched over to ketosis and I felt grand.
I will definitely do more long water fasts in the future, and I will try and include more shorter fasts throughout the year. The hardest part of the whole thing was the boredom as I adjusted from drinking, eating, and zoning out to shitty television to being clear-headed and focusing on getting things done that actually matter to me. Fasting gave me clarity to identify some problem habits, and so far, I have been able to break those and continue to accomplish a lot more than I was before the water fast.
Water fasting is an excellent way to build self control and reflect on where you are in life. I have been able to focus that self control going forward out of the fast to concentrate on improving my life a little bit every day. It opened my eyes and allowed me to do a better job of taking control of my situation instead of just hoping things will improve. I’m certainly not perfect yet, and I have a lot of room to grow, but I’m grateful that I took on a water fast and came out on top.
Mark’s Daily Apple has a whole series on the health benefits of fasting. I found some of the research there. If you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of fasting, you should definitely read those articles. There are seven of them in this series. ↩
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