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Getting into fasting is for sure one of the top five most important things I’ve done in my life
Here it is, the one you’ve been waiting for…..Buckle up. Grab a cup of tea and settle yourself onto your sofa cos in Part 3 I’m taking you on my Fasting Odyssey. The Good. The Bad and The Ugly.
Re-Cap: Lockdown UK Covid-19
I did this Seven-Day Water Fasting Experiment during early Covid-19 Lockdown in the UK as a Solo Mum, to a beautiful, super-cute, assertive, high-energy and of course immensely demanding two- and three-quarter-year old boy.
THIS was going to be a mega test of my patience and skills as a parent.
My nerves were a jangled mess and my confidence was taking an unexpected nose-dive
The thought of looking after my son 24/7 without my usual support mechanisms (i.e. grandparents, nursery school and others) had me in a complete and utter panic. I had no idea how long lockdown or the pandemic would last for. And to top it off, I had zero face to face adult interaction which probably wasn’t the ideal place to be mentally, either.
In one way these were all excuses so if I failed I could blame it on those things. But the truth is I needed to do this. I needed to prove I could do this. For me.
Maybe doing this would help me feel like I had some control and choice in my life, something Covid-19 had me feeling like I had less and less.
Travel. Soul connecting with others. Having my village support me and my son. Hugging. Kissing. Growing. Creating. Working with Others on Projects that Matter to Me. Achieving. Going on Adventures. All those things seemed to be on pause for now. But the one thing I did have and the one thing I cared for above anything else on this planet was with me 24/7. My son. And he needed me to be on my game.
I had to do this water fast to get my mojo and confidence back so I could make sure my son remembered this time as amazing, incredible, special. Even if I felt lonely, scared and immensely angry at times, inside. I wanted us to make magic memories, lots of them, so he remembered this as a time when he got to spend loads of quality time with mummy, dressing up in superhero costumes, learning to cycle and doing new tricks on his scooter.
We baked cakes, raced cars, built robots, went for long walks watching sunsets and took the time to watch the pink clouds glide across the sky in the mornings from my bed. All topped up with oodles of snuggles, kisses and soul connecting.
To be clear the reason why I succeeded this time around where before I had failed, multiple times, is because of my son. He’s my muse. He’s my anchor.
My Fasting Odyssey
I’d like to say that I prepared well and started reducing my consumption of sweets, carbs, chocolate, and meat so that the landing into my fast was smooth sailing, but no. I had a home-delivered burger via Deliveroo from Five Guys with obligatory cheesy fries and a packet of the fizziest Haribos I could find for my last supper.
Not exactly the smartest move in the book. And to top it off I even had a glass of wine in what was supposed to be, a booze-free 2020, as a celebration of my fasting prowess before I had even started. I know I know pretty stupid huh. To be fair I’ve only had wine 6 times in the whole of 2020 so far as part of my no booze experiment, but that’s a whole other story.
STAGE ONE = FEEDING As we absorb food, blood sugar and insulin levels rise. Insulin responds by moving glucose into cells of your body for energy. Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver or converted to fat.
STAGE TWO = POSTABSOPTIVE PHASE (6 to 24 hours after fasting starts). At this point, blood sugar and insulin levels begin to fall. The liver begins to break down glycogen, releasing glucose to supply energy. These glycogen stores last for approximately 24 to 36 hours.
I woke up feeling confident. Bright and ready. And then around early afternoon BAM! I felt totally crap. I just wanted to chew something. Anything. And so, whilst my boy was napping, I napped too. Unheard of for me. I woke up forgetting I was fasting and nearly blew it, as I almost ate D4’s leftover snacks, but managed to stop myself just in time.
I got to thinking that whether you realise it or not, we’re always thinking about when and what we’re going to eat for our next meal. It’s true. Really. I do it for my son of course but I also do it for me ALL THE TIME.
It has its’ positives. I love cooking. I love food. BUT it also has its’ negatives. Like, I spend a fortune on food, and it takes a huge chunk of mental and physical time out of my day to shop, prepare, eat…and clean away.
The main downside is I tend to use up my daily allowance for optimum cognition on food and eating whereas I could use it to write, to create, to do something else.
On Day One I drank only when I was thirsty and chugged through about 2 litres of water. Needless to say I spent plenty of time in the bathroom. All that water weight going going GONE! My body started to feel slow like a slug during the afternoon and into the evening. I still had energy to do what I had to do but the volume in my brain was definitely lower. I basically had less capacity to deal with stuff.
I went to bed at 9pm. Exhausted. But chuffed that Day One was over.
STAGE THREE = GLUCONEOGENESIS (24 hours to 2 days after fasting starts). At this point, glycogen stores have run out. The liver manufactures new glucose from amino acids (a process called gluconeogenesis). In nondiabetic people, glucose levels fall but stay within the normal range.
Day Two is renowned in fasting circles as a really hard day mentally and physically. The novelty of fasting has worn off and now the hunger pangs and boredom kick in. I was textbook. I spent the whole day like sludge in the way I moved my body, the way I thought and I was ridiculously hungry. A lot. I had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach which wouldn’t go away. No physical symptoms but definitely a vacant feeling and my ability to focus was zilch. Seven days started to feel like an eternity.
So I did what you should NEVER do when you are fasting.
I spent the evening browsing my cookbooks and various food blogs, bookmarking the recipes I would cook and devour when I was eating again. Man I was drooling and boy what self-torture.
There, right there is the opposite of self-care! Why do we do that? Why do we do things in the moment that we know aren’t good for us. What drives those decisions? It got me thinking.
I was determined not to give up and trust me, I was damn close. I sat in my kitchen and just stared at an apple for what seemed like ages but was actually only around five minutes. I was obsessed with slicing it up and dipping it into Pip & Nut’s Almond & Blueberry nut butter. In the end I succumbed to slicing up the apple. Looking in the mirror made me see failure again. I could even hear it. BUT I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up at the first hurdle.
What would that say about me? That I am weak. That I can’t go through with things when it gets tough. That I am not focussed or determined enough. And so on……I had to go on. As painful as it was I had to put the apple back.
Stay away from the fruit bowl isn’t exactly a punchline is it?
Physically I’d had a little light-headedness, my body was moving slower than usual which actually made my evening yoga and meditation practice really strong. On the other hand my mind felt very sharp and upbeat. More focussed. More single-pointed. Less here, there and everywhere. I was able to play with Dylan and be much more present. I didn’t have the energy to be anywhere else and so I just lived more in the now. Something I am always aiming to do more of in my life and yet, it’s invariably an uphill struggle as I always seem to have one eye on the future.
Today my glass really was half full.
Neuro-chemically, fasting increases catecholamine levels, such as dopamine, which amplifies your happiness and confidence whilst minimising any anxiety you may be experiencing.
I’ll take that.
What I was realising is that self-esteem and confidence is built upon keeping promises to yourself even when you don’t feel like it. If you do what you say you are going to do then it builds your self-esteem muscle.
It’s as simple as that. If you constantly self-sabotage and not follow-through on those promises you made to yourself to do X or Y or Z, then your self-trust erodes, and you experience an internal conflict.
Internal conflict corrodes your willpower. It certainly leaves me exhausted, angry and on the defensive — both with myself and other people.
But when you see yourself act in ways you intended, your self-esteem and confidence blossoms. You build trust in your own potential, and this prompts you to take on bigger challenges, goals and risks. This even gives you the self-assurance that allows you to control your destiny and future. I guess it’s about building complete faith in yourself.
Now that’s POWERFUL.
STAGE FOUR = KETOSIS (72 hours after fasting starts). Low insulin levels stimulate lipolysis which is basically the breakdown of fat for energy. The body uses fatty acids to produce ketone bodies, which are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and is used by the brain for energy.
I woke with a metallic taste in my mouth. I was definitely transitioning to ketosis now which is like a double-edged sword, because on the one hand that means my body will soon be burning fat for fuel and my brain will be running on ketones which tends to make me way more creative and productive. I was excited and nervous.
On the other hand this is the hardest part for me. This is when I have failed many, many times before. This is my weak spot.
My body’s fuel tank is officially ‘running on empty’ Yet my mind is still. Detached. And Hyper-Aware.
Around lunchtime, I had this sudden and intense urge for food. My hunger had skyrocketed and food was all I could think of. Everything from Nduja Pizza from Pizza Pilgrims to kale drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to chips, beans and cheese, even sweet treats like Häagen-Dazs strawberry and vanilla ice cream. The list of foods was endless actually. I remember the Nduja because I was about to order one online and make payment when I realised that was a BAD IDEA. A very bad idea.
I was one click away from fail station. AGAIN.
The feelings we’ve been conditioned to associate with hunger isn’t the emptiness of our stomach, stomach growls, or thinking that you need to eat. You feel true hunger from the throat (not your stomach or your head). Suffice to say most of us will never experience this in our food-heavy culture today, where we eat based on external factors.
Fasting allows me to experience the many different feelings of hunger and my hyper awareness has made me acknowledge their differences. This knowledge and feeling is something I must remember to tap into once my extended water fast is over.
By mid-afternoon I also experienced skyrocketing energy levels. BOOM! One good reason for this is because when I’m not using my digestive system I’m left with a tonne of energy for other areas.
When I fast my productivity definitely increases.
As I neared Day Four I started to experience the process of detoxification truly start hitting the higher gears. I could tell I was detoxing by the colour of my tongue. It was white, which meant my body was trying to purge toxins. As I entered ketosis, the white coating on my tongue got thicker and thicker as my body and mind cleared out more and more toxic waste. My mind felt more at peace. Calm, happy, hopeful. My body cleaner and leaner. My spirit stronger.
In total, I upped my water consumption to 3 litres today, which might seem a lot but it felt right for me. I wasn’t guzzling water. I was listening to my body. Whenever my mouth felt dry, I’d take a sip from my water bottle. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated throughout the process especially as you’re entering ketosis as water helps flush out the toxins.
I was sleeping like a baby and went to bed when my son did this evening, real early at around 8pm. Getting lots of sleep definitely helped my healing process and I loved the extra slumber. In fact, I’m having quite a lot of fun doing this fast right now and I’m even more happy to hopefully transform some of my bad habits through doing this. Mostly I’m delighted to make it to Day Four.
The only thing I have to watch is low blood pressure. I’ve felt quite dizzy standing up a few times so have chugged back more water and done things slower than usual to compensate. I have to keep an eye on that. Light-headedness is a natural occurrence when fasting as blood pressure lowers. It’s good for people with high blood pressure. Mine is usually in the normal to lower range and the fast has definitely lowered it further.
Fasting over diets any day
I’ve never been one for dieting per se. Yes I do keto sometimes, but it feels more of a lifestyle choice and I only do it for a month at a time and shift to a moderate version of ‘keto lite’ for most of the time, mixed with intermittent fasting.
It got me thinking. Fasting is so much easier than sticking to a diet.
You just don’t eat. You only drink plain water. Straight and simple. If you eat, you break the fast. There’s no I can have this but can’t have that. With dieting you’re focus is on food and what you can’t have. Ironically you’ve made peace with the fact that you aren’t having anything with water fasting. You get used to it and it makes life simpler, easier somehow. Everything is off the menu.
If you’re someone who’s an emotional eater then diets must be super hard — always a sense of depriving yourself. Food restrictions can mean you feel as if you are keeping certain emotions and feelings at bay. Once you eat the food that you’ve deliberately not allowed yourself then there is this sense of filling the void, the vacuum, experiencing the emotion again.
We probably all have a complex relationship with food. Mine for years during my teens and early 20s in particular was ‘I can eat anything because I don’t put weight on’ so never considered how certain foods negatively or positively impacted my wellbeing.
By my late 20s I really got into clean living and was hyper aware of everything I ate. I tried to stay away from pizzas and simple carbs but it was hard because I was so used to eating what I wanted, whenever. These lazy carbs were sources of comfort (well sugar actually) and reminded me of so many happy, carefree memories of my 20s.
Now in my mid-40s I’ve had to deal with an evolving hormonal landscape where I’ve noticed I’m becoming a tad insulin resistant, with fat beginning to make itself home onto my mid-section despite not changing anything in terms of eating and exercise.
I exercise a lot and eat healthy and well. It made me put a microscope on it. I realised that fasting always got me results, at pace and for the long haul. It works on so many levels. Which is why I intermittent fast daily with the odd day off and have started doing more extended fasts with greater frequency.
I fell asleep on Day Three with zero bloat and a massive sense of achievement. I knew my body was detoxing well, my brain was being energised by ketones and the process of autophagy would now accelerate. This is when the real inner clean up job happens and I was properly excited about what was coming next.
In the final part of my Seven Day Water Fast I’ll take you through the last four days through to Day Seven when I stop and start re-feeding. Join me.
A bientôt de te revoir
DISCLAIMER: Do Your Research Before Trying Fasting
If you want to do a fast, definitely spend some time reading up on it and proceed at your own risk. I am not a medical expert. I am not responsible for the decisions you make for your health. I’m writing these fasting articles based on my research and experience.
Needless to say pregnant and breastfeeding women, children should NOT undertake fasting. Also anyone with an underlying health condition should also consult a medical professional before attempting to embark on a fast.
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