A Holistic View of My First 24-Hour Water Fast
I had never actually done a full 24-hour water fast until living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Like many, I love eating — I have an affinity for flavors and textures. Food is grounding and comforting (think roasted potatoes, pumpkin soup, curry with spices and rice.) Eating helps bring me back down to earth when I’ve been in my mind or the ether for too long. The problem is that instead of dealing with my stress and triggers in a healthy way, I would resolve to binge eating. Even if I was eating healthy it wouldn’t always be out of hunger.
The underlying motivation was to satiate my emotions, stuff myself with food to deal with anxiety or stress. Especially since I had just moved to another country being in a new environment meant I was prone to resuming my unhealthy eating patterns if I didn’t restructure them first. My intention for this fast was to break these patterns and allow my body to digest my emotions instead of ignoring them.
One of my main reasons for doing it was because fasting is said to improve energy levels, enhance mental clarity and help to stabilize your mood. Usually I become irritable when I miss a meal, but I realized this was due to my conditioning of eating certain amounts of food at certain times of the day. I knew undergoing this fast would be a gesture of self-love and that by choosing to be in my body through feeling and experiencing without any distractions would be beneficial in the end.
When we fast our body goes into ketosis, which means all the toxins and dead cells in our kidneys, liver and stomach are eliminated and released from the body. It gives our digestive system a break and time to “reset” focusing on regenerating your immune system getting rid of old, stagnant cells.
Our gut is said to be our “second brain,” the seat of our emotions and intuition, whose microbiota control the amount of serotonin we get, affecting our levels of happiness. According to Dr. David Frawley from his book The Yoga of Herbs, “undigested experiences become toxic like undigested food.”
I was ready for a deep clearing and re-setting of my temple spiritually, mentally and physically. In what other way can we view our bodies if we do not view them as a home and a sacred space? How can we keep our studios, apartments and houses clean and not do the same for our physical vessels that allow us to breathe and think?
When beginning any fast (not including dry fasting) the most important advice to remember is to drink loads of water. Don’t let your body get dehydrated. I especially had to be wary of this living in a hot and humid tropical climate. If you are a heavy meat eater, start by eating lighter plant-based meals and fruit a few days before to ease your body into fasting mode.
9 a.m. — I had began my fast at 4pm the evening prior, and in the morning woke up with a slight headache. I usually feel nauseous when I skip a meal in the morning. I have tendencies to emotional eat and this causes me to feel lethargic and sluggish quite often, as well as experience brain fog. I get very irritable and have a tendency to blame others. I wanted to explore this and visibly recognize where this was stemming from.
I also did this as a challenge to myself to exercise willpower and discipline. A few hours upon waking, I did not feel any hunger yet but my left temple was throbbing. I definitely felt my energy became more focused with the task at hand. I kind of felt like I was buzzing.
I chose to not do too many strenuous physical activities, just some light yoga to get my heart pumping and walking to a local cafe for a co-working meet-up. It’s easy to minimize thoughts about food when you are totally immersed in crafting, learning or creating.
I unwittingly envisioned going to my favorite vegan restaurant in Chiang Mai and having a creamy mango coconut milk smoothie, but I realized I just wanted to have an excuse to go and fill my time with eating instead of being present with myself, my writing and going about my day.
1:30–2 p.m. — The afternoon was more challenging when I joined a co-working space. Conversing with others and listening was difficult when I was focused on the visceral pains and feelings in my body. The true test of my own willpower. Everyone had ordered food or a drink — passion fruit juice, frothy full-bodied coconut milk coffee, beautiful layered avocado spread out on a bagel, and the smell of my neighbor’s fried rice permeating my nostrils.
I wasn’t going to focus on it. I came here to visualize, organize and materialize my career as a writer. For about an hour and a half I updated my resume, revamped my profile on Upwork and applied to a handful blogger/content writer positions. Instead of feeding my soul hunger with food, I fed myself with writing and marketing about my passions. I fed myself with my own creativity, with musings and actions instead of foggy, disillusioned ideas. I allowed everything to settle in and be digested.
5:30 p.m. — I walked to a lunar flow yoga class at Wild Rose Yoga, where the poses were a sequence that corresponded with Moon Salutations, Chandra Namaskar. Similar to Sun Salutations but slower, cooling and soothing. Feminine, yin energy. I dropped into Easy Pose (Sukhasana) on a teal mat. We began with singing a mantra and the lights were dim as we flowed through the sequence, as if we were phases of the moon. At times I felt a bit light-headed. Although we moved slowly, I felt dizzy when coming back up after a forward fold when blood was rushing to my head. What helped me get through this feeling was my slow and steady breath.
7:30 p.m. — I made it past the 24 hour mark!! My plan was to continue fasting solely with water until the next morning, but I met up with a friend and had a sweet, succulent coconut full of coconut water straight from source for potassium and electrolytes.
I honestly felt nourished and fresh upon fasting. I felt my mental clarity was heightened, my creativity felt more focused and it helped me become conscious of my thoughts of when I was consuming food and what my cravings were telling me. It is something I would like to implement a few times monthly or even once a week. I realized that true nourishment not only comes from organic, unaltered food sources, but from listening to yourself and your intuition.
Food should be a pleasurable experience. It should be consumed as energy to be fully embodied in your body instead of used as an escape or distraction from shame or unwanted emotions. I learned how to be more gentle with myself and my body, especially when re-adjusting and transitioning the day after by eating fruit and drinking lots of water.