I just hit a reset button and it was exactly what I needed.
Toward the end of last month I was starting to feel really unhealthy. I know that’s a relative thing and anyone from the outside would be surprised to hear me say that, but I had begun to relax on my diet, allowing myself to indulge on little snacks, or a treat here and there and it was as if I had slowly opened the door to some old habits. While being too strict on a diet can cause stress-induced physiological problems, I was noticing that my little indulgences weren’t just occasional anymore.
Going six months between PET scans is certainly nice, because I am not experiencing “scanxiety” this month, but the accountability to be compliant to my diet has relaxed. Little twinges of discomfort in my abdomen a few weeks ago was a signal that I needed to take some time to fast, pray, and reset my mind and body.
I spent last week in Idaho by myself for three days fasting on water and herbal tea. I did allow myself a little organic coffee as well as I had read that would not interfere with ketosis which is a metabolic state in which the body breaks down fat for energy. My main goal was to get my body into autophagy, when your body breaks down unnecessary tissues and damaged cells, which happens during ketosis. The body can heal from many chronic diseases through fasting based on this interesting book I read by a doctor who has fasted many patients with much success. I reference it below if you’re interested.
How did it go?
The first day was mostly a travel day where I drank some coffee at the airport, but mostly had water during the day and some tea in the evening. I was a little hungry, but because I was distracted by travel and then arrived in an environment with no food, and no people eating food and no smells to entice me, it was easy. I was able to rest and relax.
On day 2, I was really tired when I got up. I honestly didn’t feel very well (low energy) and weak but I think that was probably because I was a bit dehydrated. After drinking some water and tea, my energy was a lot better. It was interesting to experience such low energy and lightheadedness when I think this was when my body most likely was transitioning to ketosis, and it started to burn fat for energy because my glycogen stores were depleted. Midday I felt pretty well and walked over to the gym to stretch and weigh myself. I have done two-day cleanses before and since fasting has always been a very effective way to lose weight for me, I was curious how much the scale would change over the course of a few days. Unfortunately I hadn’t weighed on day 1, but on Day 2 the scale said 123. I was pretty exhausted by 8:30pm and went to bed early. I slept well and only got up once to go to the bathroom.
Day 3, I got up feeling pretty well. My friend Scott, who is a physician, told me to add some salt to my water so as not to get too dehydrated. Oh my goodness, do you know how good a little sea salt and a sprinkle of pepper is in hot water? After two days of just water, coffee and herbal tea, I was seriously one happy camper. It was like I had been given hot delicious soup and I was so grateful for it as I wrapped my cold hands around the mug, snuggled myself up in a blanket and savored every sip. I didn’t venture out on Day 3 because the reality hit me that I was alone and not eating and I had no food. If I passed out, that wouldn’t be very good and I was at times feeling really lethargic. My body was starting to get a little achy as well and I could tell my blood pressure was low. Right before bed I had read in this book that it was important not to fast longer than 72 hours without being monitored by a physician. If electrolytes drop too low, then the fast should immediately be broken, but that can only be monitored through bloodwork. And here I was by myself alone in this place with no food.
Hmmm… maybe I should have better prepared? I had my friends Shari and Scott on call in case I needed them, but they were both over an hour away from where I was. It was best to be smart about this.
At two a.m. I woke up feeling my pulse in my ears. This was a familiar feeling I have had many times in the past during the days that followed chemotherapy when my blood pressure dropped. I knew it was time to break my fast and I luckily had some orange juice in the refrigerator, so I drank a cup and went back to bed.
Day 4, in the morning I was feeling pretty well and luckily had two small containers of organic turkey bone broth. I had another cup of OJ and a cup of broth along with a cup of tea and half a cup of coffee. At this point I wasn’t hungry and with the little bit of nourishment from the juice and broth, I was honestly feeling like I could’ve kept going for days without food.
I weighed on Day 4 at 118, and the pictures of myself that I sent to my sister got me responses like “OMG Kay.” It’s not like I looked malnourished, but relative to what I looked like a year ago, I guess I was looking a little on the thin side.
My sweet friend Shari came to my aid around 4:30 and brought me fruit and more bone broth to start eating again. Mmmmmmm… it was such a treat to eat an orange and I distinctly noticed just how sensitive my tastebuds were to the sugar in the fruit …it was super sweet.
I was a bit disappointed at this point to read in the book that fasting was pretty effective for non cancerous tumors; however, cancerous tumors have their own agenda and cannot be expected to respond to fasting. Well… bummer. This particular book did not encourage cancer patients to fast. But I have read in another book that fasting before chemotherapy treatments can increase the efficacy of the treatment while protecting healthy cells and minimizing side effects (The Longevity Diet, by Walter Longo, Ph.D).
Oh well, I still feel like it was a good experience for me personally though, I may wait a little bit before I do it again.
Shari and watched TV, gave ourselves facials, and chilled out for the rest of the evening. I had a very restful night’s sleep with some nourishment back in my system. Mission accomplished (or somewhat anyway)!
Regardless, I was a happy girl.
Resetting my body was exactly what I needed to feel back in control of my health. I have always found the holidays to be a hard time to eat well and in the past was even at risk of just giving myself a hall pass to indulge for the entire 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But because cancer isn’t taking a holiday from growing, I won’t be taking a holiday either.
I have so much more to share about this week than just the fast, but you’re probably ready for me to wrap this up. If you’ve ever considered a fast, I am here to encourage you to do it! The holidays are actually a great time to do it for a couple of days because of all the holiday food and parties.
Here are a few tips from my experience:
1. IDEALLY go somewhere away for your fast where you can get away from people who are eating and/or the responsibilities of having to cook for other people. A place where you can lay low and rest when you feel tired or weak. This is not possible for most people, and was the first time I have ever done this, so if you can’t get away, then just plan to give yourself a break from your typical daily demands, (housework, cooking, heavy exercise, work).
2. Rest. If your motivation for fasting is healing, your body needs rest. As a type A person, this is really hard for me, so putting myself into a place where I was purposefully healing, allowed me to give myself permission to rest.
3. Hydrate a lot. If you’re physically not feeling well during a fast, it’s likely you’re not staying hydrated. I would say drinking at least half your body weight in Ounces is key. Consuming water with added electrolytes could be beneficial (I.e. like Smartwater). Adding some sea salt to water after two days really helped.
4. Listen to your body. If you start feeling light-headed that may be a sign of low blood pressure, so lay down and reduce your risk of falling or passing out. Cramps can be a sign of low potassium.
5. Read up on side effects you may experience and be prepared. The more educated you are on what to expect the more likely you will be to successfully complete your fast. Being cold, light-headedness, headaches, back pain etc are all types of side effects one can experience. On my third day, my joints and lower back got really achy. I read that fasting can cause the immune system to trigger the production of white blood cells generated from the bone marrow in the hips often causing pain. Knowing that made me feel better about the fact that I was literally moving around like a little old lady.
6. Break your fast gently. When your body stops digesting food for a couple of days it stops producing digestive enzymes, so don’t expect to go eat a juicy hamburger and fries right after you fast or you will be paying for it, most likely in the bathroom! Juicy fruit like oranges and watermelon and veggie juices are the best foods to reintroduce into your body when you break your fast.
7. Do not fast for longer than 72 hours with doctor supervision. Fasting can have many healing benefits and one of the most desirable ones is of course weight loss/fat loss. I mention both because while you will be losing according to the scale, your body will be burning fat for fuel resulting in actual fat loss. And because of that, it will also be detoxing simultaneously because many toxins are stored within our fat cells. As you reintroduce food, you should expect to see the scale go back up, but if you eat a clean diet most likely you will be able to see a sustained difference in your physique. I am really happy to be able to wear my dress from my wedding rehearsal dinner 14 years ago.
*Most of my information is sourced from Fasting and Eating for Health” by Joel Fuhriman M.D.
Side note: many people worry about the body going into starvation mode, but if you do a proper water only fast (according to this book), the body actually spares lean muscle mass. It is actually called “protein-sparing” and discussed on page 12 of the book. It occurs with water fasting, but not other types of fasts like juice fasts where you are still consuming calories.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician, or an expert in this field. These are my notes from my own personal experiences. Please consult your doctor to discuss whether this is safe before undergoing your own fast.
I feel awesome as I fly back home to my family ready to tackle the next few weeks before Christmas. I topped off the great week with a Jim Gaffagan show with Shari and her daughter Ivy in Salt Lake City and catching up with our dear friends in Idaho at the Annual Christmas Crawl.
I am so blessed for this amazing life and a journey with cancer that keeps me living consciously everyday. A huge thank you to Shari for “driving Miss Kay” through a snow storm,
and being the best caretaker, to Scott who was my doctor on call and even fasted in solidarity for a couple of days, to Mama B (my sweet mother-in love) who took care of the girls and Ozzy all week in Tucson, and to Brandon and the girls who encouraged me to go away to have this time for myself… YOU guys are my reason for living.
And while most of this post talks about the physical experience I had while fasting, I had a dual purpose last week. I needed to get quiet and pray, so that I could hear God’s voice. Much like in Acts 13:3 “they had fasted and prayed” and it was exactly what I needed to continue this journey with vigor.
Onward and Upward this holiday season!