The Dangers of Fasting
Having recently finished a 30 odd day juice feast/fast, followed by a 4 day water fast, there were a couple of things that deeply concerned me.
To be clear, I don’t think these are procedural issues – that water or juice fasting are inherently bad – but rather things that, perhaps due to my personality, worried me. I suspect these may also be dangers for others.
There is a lot of talk, if you look around, of people being on fasts, feeling clear, light, connected to everything, full of energy and so on.
The problem is – if you don’t feel like that, it’s very easy to start thinking “Maybe I’m doing something wrong?” This is a very dangerous & slippery road.
After a couple of weeks, I got it in my head that perhaps my digestive track still had too much crap in it, left over from bad diet earlier in life. As per “official recommendations”, I was taking cascara sagrada (a low key natural laxative). In addition, I regularly drank psyllium and bentonite shakes (which help detox heavy metals, & generally cleans you out). It didn’t help that I would “slip up” and occasionally eat something – this would then spiral into a cycle of “I need to clear that out” and “once it’s gone, THEN I’ll feel light”, etc.
I never did feel that lightness (except when meditating). But the drive to empty my stomach? Isn’t that anorexia?
My lifelong habit has been: I eat whatever I want, whenever I want it. I eat until I’m full, and then I stop. I don’t stress about eating healthily, but I do make a point of avoiding rubbish as much as possible (excepting a very stressful period in my early 20’s where I ate complete junk & generally treated myself & my life badly).
Since going raw, I’ve learnt a lot more about what is and isn’t healthy, so those boundaries are moving (cooked food in general being less healthy than uncooked – whereas before I would eat, say, japanese because rice is more healthy than burgers), but the attitude remains. To eat healthy: think healthy; avoid rubbish; chill out.
I never get sick. I’m fit enough that I run half marathons every decade or so – I’m not a runner, and never run other than the half marathons, it just seems to work out that way (don’t ask, I can’t explain it. I get spontaneous). I always have tons of energy. These external indicators tell me that while my diet can definitely improve (& has been), generally it’s working for me, and my behaviours are reasonably sound.
So, for someone like me to be exhibiting anorexic tendencies? That’s VERY scary.
When I went on the water fast, I knew it would be rough.
Typically a water fast works like this. You eat nothing, but drink lots of water. Your body survives by using up (in order):
- whatever food is still in your digestive tract
- your fat cells (which is where you store toxins, so these then get released – this is desirable)
- your muscles (a 10 day fast you’ll lose maybe 0.5->1kg/1-2lb of muscle)
- tissues from your internal organs, in reverse order of importance
Now, because I’d just been on a juice feast, I didn’t have any food in my digestive tract. What little fat I’d had to start with had mostly disappeared. I went straight into hardcore exhaustion. I spent 4 days pretty much unable to get out of bed.
Remember also, I was still doing colonics every week. Now, if my intention in doing these was to empty my digestive tract, I’d be more concerned about this, but what they did do was both help me clear toxins out faster, and also remove long term build up (I won’t get into details here). Plus, from a healing perspective I’ve found them.. surprisingly effective. Suffice to say, I don’t think they, in themselves were a bad thing, and they probably saved me a lot of pain. However, the combination of all of these things (fast, colonics, laxatives, internal cleansers) did have side effects.
One of the things that made me realise that I didn’t NEED to be fasting was the inimitable Dhrumil. That what I was seeking wouldn’t be found “out there” or by chasing some ideal goal of (mental) lightness, (digestive) clarity, or anything. No, this was an internal game, and you only win by letting go.
The other thing that made me decide enough was enough was seeing this in the mirror:
That doesn’t look so bad. What’s scary is, this is me deliberately relaxing my stomach, and letting it expand out as much as it possibly can.
To give this some perspective. For 20 years, my weight has been between 57kg and 65kg (126-143 lb). This doesn’t matter how much, or what I eat. My lifestyle. Whether I exercise once a year, or three times a day. I eat three dinners to try and gain weight, and it’s gone in two days. If I hit 65 kg I know it’s time to do some exercise. I walk a bit more and I’m back down to 62kg (my longterm average, +/- 1kg) in a week. I’m STABLE. I’ve given up trying to gain weight, since it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
Now, I don’t have scales in the house – where’s the point? But I did weigh myself at a friends, before I started the water fast, and I was down around 52kg. I only got lighter after that. What really scared me though? Was this (again, this is as far out as I could comfortably push my stomach):
That? That’s unhealthy. And damn scary. And that was enough.