Disclaimer: Fasting is something that should be approached with care. There are ways to prepare physically and mentally before, and ways to ease out of it carefully. If you plan on attempting a fast, make sure you know exactly what you’re doing, and always listen to your body.
It’s been about five months since my shoulder surgery. Because of overuse at the gym and lack of recovery (and a couple of other stupid mistakes), I had to get an arthroscopic bankart repair to reattach a torn labrum in my shoulder. Within these past five months, I’ve seen the doctor multiple times, routinely performed physical therapy, and have treated my body very carefully. But unfortunately, for a recovery that is supposed to take around three months, five months later my shoulder is still giving me problems. My thoughts are that the torn labrum wasn’t the only issue and that something else is wrong, but at this point, I’m too stubborn to head back to the doctor (he wasn’t the most help in the world), so I decided to take it into my own hands.
Through a random chain of events, I ended up interviewing Jasmine Torok on the Early Risers Podcast (the episode will be out in a few weeks), and she mentioned how she was able to heal a torn meniscus in her knee through fasting. I had heard about the benefits of fasting before, which is why I set a 2018 goal to fast for 24 hours once every week, but I had never heard of fasting for healing. I started doing some research, and I was pretty surprised at the benefits. For one, the fact that human growth hormone (HGH) can spike anywhere from 500% to 2,000% blew my mind. Just insane. HGH is basically responsible for helping the body build. But what really caught my attention was the fact that when animals get severely injured, most of them will only drink water until they’re healed. Fasting for healing is innate in animals, which definitely gave it some validity in my eyes. So, because I really wanted my shoulder to heal, because fasting fastinates me (haha get it), and because I kind of weirdly like torturing myself and taking on tough challenges, I decided to try it out by attempting a 72-hour dry fast.
The full diet was a week long, alternating between dry fasting days, meaning no food or water (one day of fasting without water is thought to have the same benefits of fasting for three days with water — I know it sounds crazy but just hear me out), and juicing days, where I used a juicer to extract and drink the actual juice from different fruits and veggies, avoiding the pulp. This allows for micronutrient consumption but no macronutrients. The juice I used during the week was from spinach, oranges, lemons, ginger, apples, carrots, celery, red cabbage and strawberries.
Here’s a recap of my week:
Day 1 — Friday, 2/23: (24 hours of juicing) — It was a pretty normal day for me. My energy levels were fine, and I only fought some small cravings for actual food. I also really looked forward to my juices (if you haven’t tried them, they’re delicious).
Day 2 — Saturday, 2/24: (My first ever 24 hour dry fast) — My day was spent being a guest on a podcast (releasing soon), relaxing at home, and then spending some time with my cousin at his house and at the movies. I was occupied all day which kept the cravings low, but my energy levels slightly dropped without water, as my body hadn’t experienced this type of fast before. For the short period that I was home, I found myself staring into my pantry at some walnuts and almonds.
Day 3 — Sunday, 2/25: (24 hours of juicing) — Drinking that first glass of water was the most refreshing thing I think I’ve ever tasted, and then of course following it up with some delicious juice was a nice treat. I questioned my motives for why I was doing this a few times, but just thinking about being able to workout pain-free was a solid motivating factor. Sundays are usually for relaxing for me, so that’s exactly what I did.
Day 4 — Monday, 2/26: (24 hours of juicing) — I decided to make plans for the next weekend, so instead of dragging out the process for an extra day, I decided to do one last day of juicing before entering my 72-hour dry fast. Besides skipping the gym, this was a normal weekday for me. I was pretty active, and only took an hour or two of rest during the day. That time was spent watching The Punisher on Netflix, which has now become my new favorite Marvel TV show (sorry Daredevil). I ended this day with a special tonic to help me enter the 72-hour fast: warm water, lemon, and a teaspoon of baking soda. This helps alkalize the body, and basically prepare it for the next few days (thanks for the tip Jasmine). I also made sure to journal — there is a lot of evidence regarding the benefits of confronting your emotions when you’re fasting, so I decided to try it out and write about some things that had been on my mind. Working through that stuff was really cool. At this point, I was pretty emotionally drained.
Day 5 — Tuesday, 2/27: (Day 1 of 72-hour dry fast) — This day was physically easier than my first 24 hour dry fast — I’m assuming because my body had adjusted. I wrote in my journal “no food, no water, no fun”, so I don’t think I was very emotionally excited for the upcoming days. I also started to realize why gratitude plays such an amazing part in our life. As someone who is blessed enough to be able to eat whenever I want, not being able to eat really puts things into perspective of how good I really have it, and how gratitude can really show that without giving these things up. We live in a culture of abundance, and sometimes we seem to really take that for granted. As for how I felt, I was pretty physically and emotionally drained, but mentally I felt very active and ready. I also noticed that I had a slight feeling of hopelessness when it came to my shoulder. It was starting to hurt more, and I began having these negative thoughts that it would never get better. I had to make a conscious effort to put myself in check and realize that I had another two days left, that I couldn’t expect it to fully heal within a few days anyway, and that negativity could only hurt it further. I did find myself fighting off some cravings during the day, but at the end of the day I still had energy, and I felt pretty good. I also started making bone broth for when my fast was done. This wasn’t a smart move, because it would be done 24 hours before I could eat, but I did it anyway. I also slept like a rock that night.
Day 6 — Wednesday, 2/28: (Day 2 of 72-hour dry fast) — This was a weird day. I made the decision to attend a networking event in the morning, and found it pretty difficult to speak just because of how dry my mouth was. My lips were crazy chapped (supposedly it was just dead cells that were shedding), and my body started to struggle to get adjusted to having no water. When I washed my hands, I could physically tell that my body was absorbing the water. I also felt more inclined to emotionally ‘go with the flow’. I really didn’t have much energy to put to resisting things, so I found that my conversations were a little more bland and reactive. As far as my energy levels, up until about 3pm, I felt a lot better than I had expected. When that time hit, everything plummeted. I didn’t want to move, but I forced myself to take a short walk around the block. At this point, just staring at a screen felt like it was taking up too much energy. My cravings hit, and the thought of eating one strawberry seemed like the greatest thing in the world. Shelving my bone broth (which smelled amazing) at around 6pm probably didn’t help either. But I had committed, so I didn’t have an issue resisting the cravings. At 7:30pm, I was so physically tired that I decided I would try to sleep it off. I laid down in my bed, and unfortunately, wasn’t able to fall asleep until about midnight. I blame it on my lack of movement or mental activity during the day, but I was able to listen to a few podcasts during that point, so it wasn’t the worst thing.
Day 7 — Thursday, 3/1: (Day 3 of 72-hour dry fast) — Before this day started, I made a personal commitment that it would be my rest day. The majority of it was spent either walking around my block or laying down watching Netflix. I wish that I could have done something more engaging, because this was an extremely slow-moving day, but I just didn’t have the energy. The first few hours were fine (sleeping really helps the body adjust to the situation), but after being awake for a few hours, I started to struggle. The closer it got to 6pm, which was when I was breaking the fast, the slower the day went. I took about 3 walks around the block throughout the day, if I stood up too fast I found myself close to blacking out, and my physical, mental, and emotional energy were all pretty much nonexistent. I think the worst part of this entire experience was the anticipation and the excitement for being able to drink and eat again. At 5pm I started journaling — at that point, emotions just started flooding in. The main thing I got out of it was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. I just started writing and truly acknowledging how many things I have to be grateful for in this life, and how insane the odds actually are that I am alive in this exact situation in my life at this exact point in time, and that grateful feeling flooded my body.
6pm: (Breaking The Fast) — Okay, I waited until 6:10 just to be absolutely sure that I had made it a full 72 hours (I didn’t want any asterisks by my accomplishment). That first cup of water was heaven. I sipped it extremely slowly to allow my body to adjust. I then warmed up some bone broth that I had cooked, and drank some of that. Pretty foolishly, I couldn’t resist the cravings any longer, so I had a few strawberries, a few dates, and a few apricots. My stomach wasn’t ready. For the next hour I felt nauseous, and I could feel my body fighting to try to digest it. I then focused back on water, and when I started feeling better, I eased into eating the following over the course of the next two hours: strawberries, a banana, banana pancakes (banana and eggs) with hemp hearts, cinnamon, almond butter, and walnuts, and some more dates and apricots. At this point my body was adjusted, my energy was back, and I was truly content and grateful.
What I learned during this experience:
1. The Body Is Crazy Durable — Yes, I struggled with energy issues throughout the process, but the fact that my body could run for 72 hours without food or water completely blows my mind. It adjusted to using other parts of my body for energy, and was a trooper throughout the process.
2. People Struggle With Keeping An Open Mind — Throughout the process, I told multiple people about what I was doing and why, and most people didn’t understand or disagreed with the idea that fasting could bring on healing. We are brought up thinking that food and water are extremely important on a daily basis, and that food is necessary for the body to repair itself, so I understand people’s points of view, but what I found is that most people shut down when you try to tell them different. Some wouldn’t even hear me out when I tried to explain the science-backed evidence.
3. You Lose Weight — Like, a lot of weight. Throughout the process, I lost a little less than 10 pounds. Yes, I’m not too happy about this because I’m always fighting to put on weight, but I think it was a necessary sacrifice to endure the process for the long-run. I definitely lost some muscle, but I also lost some body fat as well. Let’s hope I can put back on the weight slightly easier than normal.
4. Fasting Actually Heals — Before the fast, not only did I feel misaligned, but my shoulder would also pop and experience some pain with certain movements. After the fast, that pain and popping has gone away for a majority of those movements. I’m definitely not at 100%, but the fact that I can now do bicep curls without any pain or popping is pretty cool (10 lbs brought on popping before, and I tried 30 lbs today with no issues). I’m still working on reducing pain and popping in any over-the-head movements, but I’ll get there. I also still want to work on that feeling of misalignment. But in general, my basic pain and discomfort went away.
All and all, this was probably one of the harder things I’ve put my body through. Yes, I was physically drained, and yes, it was very uncomfortable, but I think the hardest part for me was the anticipation of eating food again. The fact that I was surrounded by it, and that I had to smell it every time my roommates ate dinner was not easy. I think that if I knew that I couldn’t eat food for another few days, it would be slightly easier just because of that loss of anticipation. Regardless, I am truly grateful that I was able to endure this experience, and although I’m not totally sure if I’ll ever do a 72-hour fast again, I do want to continue doing 24 hour fasts each week, and I am still extremely fascinated by the benefits of fasting.
Do you want to fast? Have you tried fasting? Leave a comment below!