I Crushed a 7-Day Water Fast (and Why I’ll Do it Again)
Ok, shit’s about to get real. If you know me at all you know that I love food. I’m one of those “live to eat,” not “eat to live” type people. I freaking love food. All of it. Raw food, vegan food, paleo food, vegetarian food, seafood, sweet food, savory food, cold food, hot food. Seriously, I see food, I eat it. I don’t discriminate. So when I did my first water fast my friends literally thought I had gone insane. I truly think some of them thought I had gone off the deep end and this was my way of trying to end my life after months of agony dealing with my skin condition (read this post if you have no clue what I’m talking about). I know, funny, but not funny. I have a tendency to push the boundaries sometimes.
So, in case you were wondering, NO, I was definitely not trying to end my life. In fact, I was trying to do the opposite. I was trying to get my life back. I attempted my first water fast after about 8 months of living with a horrible skin condition that had completely destroyed what I had called my life up to that point. I was in pain all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I itched like a maniac 24/7, I was anxious, depressed, avoided friends and just being in public, cried all the time, you get the point. It wasn’t pretty and I wanted my fucking life back. I had been to so many doctors, tried so many different medicines, creams and remedies but nothing seemed to help. I was desperate. I would try anything at that point. Enter, the water fast.
I came across the idea of water fasting during one of the many hours I spent reading support boards on this condition. Some people had tried it and reported that it had helped them. Just a quick sidenote here – I now know that there’s nothing that actually cures this condition, but the body is supposed to make a full recovery within 1-4 years (fingers crossed as I’m almost there! But not 100% yet.) At the time I tried the water fast I didn’t think it would miraculously heal me but I’d hoped that it would at least speed up my recovery and/or provide some relief from my symptoms. And, I am happy to report that it did, and had some extra added benefits as well.
I’ve done 2 water fasts now, one for 7 days and one for 5 days and every time I do one my friends are uber curious and ask a million questions. I totally get why. I get hangry if I miss even one meal so they all wonder how Matt hasn’t mysteriously wound up dead yet when I’m without food for days on end. I’ll dive into the details of my own personal experience shortly, but first I want to lay out the benefits of water fasting and why I not only do it but why I recommend everyone try it too.
Benefits of Water Fasting
Fasting is not a new concept. Most religions have been practicing fasting in one form or another for centuries, from Roman Catholics to Buddhists. A water fast is where you refrain from all food and drink except for water. A dry fast is when you refrain from all food and drink, including water and it’s NOT something I recommend. I don’t think anyone really recommends it come to think of it..? Anyway, water fasting for several days or even just 24 hours is known to have some really amazing benefits. I recommend starting out with just a 24 hour water fast to gain some confidence, then do a three day water fast, and then move up to the longer 5+ days water fasts. I jumped into a long 7 day fast with no prior experience and it worked great for me – but like I said, I was really desperate so I was committed to making it work. Here are the benefits of of water fasts, including the ones I noticed the most with my own experience:
- Your body detoxes, like majorly. I know, I know, not very scientific, but it’s true. The first 3 days of anyone’s water fast are the worst. They are when you’re the most hungry and your body is flushing out all the toxins its accumulated over the years. We’re constantly eating and drinking things that aren’t good for us, mainly sugar and alcohol, but even things you wouldn’t expect like fresh fruits and veggies that have pesticides and chemicals on them. So you get the headaches, caffeine withdrawals if you’re a big coffee/tea drinker (not me), tired, irritable, you will get a white tongue (gross, but yes!).
- You start craving pure, really healthy food. After the first 3 days of a water fast you stop feeling hungry. Your body starts using the extra fat stores as energy and instead of feeling hungry you might just start having food fantasies like I did, lol. For some reason I had “day dreams” sporadically featuring a lot of raw and vegetarian food. Just lots of fresh chopped salads and things sounded amazing. It was like my body was just craving proper nutrients. It stopped thinking about the processed foods and sugars and I really never craved such rich foods unless I saw a commercial with something like ice cream or saw someone eating a donut.
- You give your digestive system a rest. During a water fast, your body’s digestion system shuts down, enabling all that energy that used to be spent digesting food to be spent on healing. I’m not sure what percentage of your body’s energy is spent on purely digesting food but I’ve read and heard estimates anywhere from 10-15% all the way up to 70%. Regardless, your body spends a ton of energy just digesting food literally 24/7. So during a water fast, your body “uses its energy not for digesting food, but for cleansing itself of accumulated toxins and healing any parts of it that are ill. As a fast progresses the body consumes everything that it can that is not essential to bodily functioning” (source).
- It may help you live longer. Studies have shown that intermittent water fasting in rats extends their natural lifespan (study) and rats that fasted lived up to 83% longer than those that didn’t (study). Additionally, regularly repeated 4-day fasting has been found to increase the life span in normal and immunocompromised mice (source). I mean, we’re not rats but this is pretty promising, right!?
- It reduces inflammation in the body and improves immune function. Water fasting helps reduce inflammation so your body becomes more resistant to illnesses (study, study) like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, type II diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rosacea, chronic urticaria, and acute glomerulonephritis. Other diseases that have responded to fasting are: psychosomatic disease, neurogenic bladder, psoriasis, eczema, thrombophlebitis, varicose ulcers, fibromyalgia, neurocirculatory disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, bronchial asthma, lumbago, depression, neurosis, schizophrenia, duodenal ulcers, uterine fibroids, intestinal parasites, gout, allergies, hay fever, hives, multiple sclerosis, and insomnia (source).
- It improves brain function and may help protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Water fasting has been shown to increase the growth of new nerve cells in the brain (study). It also increases the production of the brain protein (BDNF) which may help protects us against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s (study).
- It may help prevent and/or combat cancer. Multiple studies have shown that intermittent water fasting helps to enhance the body’s resistance to harmful stress (study, study). It also helps to fight free radicals by improving the body’s protective chemicals (source). Intermittent fasting (2 days weekly) has shown an inhibitory effect on the development of liver cancer in rats (source).
- Raises the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Intermittent water fasting has been shown to raise growth hormone by up to 2000% (study). HGH helps prevent muscle loss, speeds up muscle recovery time, helps prevent effects of aging, burns fat, among other things, which is why HGH injections are banned in sports.
- Spiritual and emotional cleansing. As you can imagine, water fasting is difficult. It’s a time for deep introspection, reflection and understanding. You can observe the mind more closely and get to understand your eating habits and cravings better. You have to bear witness to the various thoughts and emotions you have during your fast, overcome fears, and prove to yourself how strong you really are. It can be quite a liberating experience.
- Helps improve skin health and prevent acne. By speeding up the waste removal process (autophagy) and removing toxins from the body, water fasting can improve the condition of your skin health (study, study). Autophagy is the process by which a cell recycles itself, getting rid of anything that isn’t working properly so that it can function at its best. When our cells are constantly restoring themselves, it has positive effects on our skin, slowing down the aging process both eternally and internally.
Ok, have I convinced you it’s worth trying yet? Also, I didn’t add it as a benefit because I don’t want to promote fasting as a weight loss tool because it’s just not sustainable or healthy, but you do lose a lot of weight. I really didn’t have too much weight to lose as it was but I lost about 10 lbs. Granted about half of that is water weight so it was gained back after I returned to a regular diet, but I was able to keep off an extra couple pounds afterwards just by eating my normal healthy diet.
My Experience Water Fasting
So just last week I completed my second water fast, it was five days long. And no, it won’t be my last one. Besides the health benefits, I’ve experienced some amazing spiritual and mindful benefits too that I obviously want to share with you guys.
Overall, my mentality towards food changed. Even though I’ve had a healthy lifestyle and have been eating quite clean for the last 6 years or so, it still changed the way I see food in a positive way. Water fasting definitely highlights your attachments to food and flavors so it really helped me to see how much my cravings were in my head and not actually physiologically necessary. It really helped me to have a better understanding of my mind and my thought processes when it comes to food. On top of that, you really learn to appreciate food more. Even simple things like carrots have a magnificent flavor when you haven’t eaten in a week. Trust me, when you reintroduce foods after a fast, it will blow your mind.
It also really helped me feel more in tune with my body, clear my head and feel a greater sense of joy and fulfillment in general. There’s such thing as a fasting high and, let me tell you, it’s totally awesome. I learned that my mind is more powerful than my body. I learned that I could not only control my thoughts more, but that I had more awareness about them as well. So I became much more self-aware which is really important in maintaining a sense of happiness and fulfillment in the mind. Being aware of your thoughts and how they influence your mood is one of the first steps to lasting happiness in my experience. There really is something profound that happens when you’re not relying on food for anything – whether it’s comfort or just nourishment. You have to look deep inside yourself and nourish and/or comfort yourself with your mind. I definitely felt like I ended my fast with a deeper connection to my soul.
Lastly, my water fasts have greatly impacted my self control and willpower. If you want to feel unstoppable, like you can achieve or do anything, just try a water fast. Your confidence will skyrocket, you’ll feel capable of anything, because let’s face it, you went without food for a week and that is some tough shit. I feel incredibly strong after every water fast and the feeling lasts. It sticks with you. When you’re confronted with a tough situation or some difficulties, you stop and think “shiiettt, I got this! I friggin fasted for 7 days, homie I can do anything!” Or, you know, something along those lines. That’s just what pops into my head, not sure what yours will come up with.
In both my experiences, the first 3 days are really tough. This is when you’re hungry and have to force yourself to drink extra water to stave off the hunger pains. At times you’ll feel weak, light headed, nauseous and tired but just know that after day 3 it’s pretty much smooth sailing! On day 4 I sometimes felt a rumble in my tummy but I didn’t feel hungry, I mostly just missed food. The hunger pain was gone though. By days 5 & 6 I was feeling energetic, light, clear headed, and had tons of creative thoughts. On day 7 I was euphoric, pretty crazy right? It was like a mental high similar to the feeling you get after you’ve just accomplished something that was really tough, except it lasted all day.
I think for my next fast I will try 10 days just to get to an even more heightened state of awareness and euphoria and see what it’s like. I’ll report back then. 😉 In the meantime, happy fasting everyone!
P.S. I recommend everyone try water fasting EXCEPT if you:
- have an eating disorder
- are only doing it to lose weight
- already have an extremely low body fat percentage
- are pregnant or nursing women
- are diabetic
- have severe anemia
And please, I am not a medical professional, so please seek the consultation of a doctor who is supportive of fasting before you start. It’s a really safe practice, but it’s always better to be safe then sorry.
I would love to hear your thoughts about fasting in the comments! Have you tried it before? Are you planning to try it? Have I convinced you to try it? Share your experiences with us! 🙂
If you’re interested in trying it out make sure to download my free water fasting checklist & planner below! Click to download.