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April 13, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Any tips for a seven-day fast?

I am beginning a seven-day fast for spiritual and self-discipline purposes (not to lose weight).

My plan involves using the first couple of days to ease into it with juices and other liquids and spirulina supplements (but no food) and then for the middle days simply water, tea, and supplements. From there I plan to ease back in reverse, beginning with juice, and then enjoying my first real food a week from today.

I have heard many variations on what people consume during a fast (lemon juice, cayenne, maple syrup [?!]), and have read all related AskMe threads about the various myths regarding detox and fat loss (not that relevant in my case).

What I'd like to know is whether any of you have past experiences you'd like to share or tips in general for what you think constitutes a good fast. I am height/weight proportionate and of sound mind, and am hoping to make this my first successful fasting attempt. Any recipes/supplements you recommend will be more useful to me if they include your firsthand experiences.
posted by hermitosis to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The best book I know of on the topic is Joel Fuhrman's Fasting and Eating for Health He's a real doctor, and has real advice--beware, because there's a lot of pseudoscientific advice out there, as well.
posted by curtm at 3:11 PM on April 13, 2006

I think the lemon juice, cayenne, maple syrup thing is for weight loss, and it has some pretty nasty side effects that probably won't leave you feeling very spiritual.
posted by leapingsheep at 3:15 PM on April 13, 2006

It is very easy to fast if you don't let being hungry bother you. A week isn't hard, just stay hydrated. It might not be the best thing to do to your body, but it isn't as hard as you might think.

It is also very easy to go longer if you take a multivitamin or some (fresh) wheat grass juice every day.

Sorry, no real tips on doing it properly, but I've done it the wrong way many times.
posted by bh at 3:30 PM on April 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are you also planning to ease into and out of liquids to solids by having one fruit day, and one fruit & veg day? meaning, last day of regular food, fruit & veg day, fruit day, liquids for 7 days, fruit day, fruit/veg day, regular food (preferably grains then non-animal proteins). This is how the stuff I've read recommended handling transition periods, and it's worked well for me.

have you done shorter (3-day, eg) fasts before? Many people find it's better, especially if fasting for the first time without supervision from someone knowledgable, to do a short one first so they get the hang of things, then do a longer one later.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2006

sorry I just noticed you said "my first successful fasting attempt."

Seconding wheatgrass, but go easy on it at first (1 to 2 ounces). It's powerful, as in, nausea (personal experience) or diarrhea (someone I know) could happen with overdoing it.

Light exercise during the fast is good.

I've found the first 2 days are worst re craving food all the time, then after that the hunger recedes into the background and I can be more productive.

Have some prune juice or gentle laxative (sennokot, or something) on hand for the transition out, in case your guts are slow and cranky at processing solid food again. (My husband, poor guy, needed a suppository and a Fleet ready-to-use enema too, but his guts are cranky at the best of times. Mine have never given me a problem coming out of fasting.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:18 PM on April 13, 2006

I fast about every two years, for about five days. You'll survive. After two days you won't feel hungry, just light headed. When hunger hits you, some water (or water with juice, lemon, or soup stock) will put you right. It really feels good that you realize you can conquer hunger. But don't overdo it. And drink fuckloads of water. Lemon really helps.

A good reason for fasting is to clear out your lower intestine gut, there is stuff in there in there you would not imagine existed. Pardon me for being graphic, but you sit on the crapper five days after eating anything - completely empty - and stuff is still coming out yo' butt. It looks like coffee grains, actually, when it comes out. It is all this stuff stuck - allow me to use the colloquial - up yo' ass, undigested.

It is all forgotten shit. It is gross - but as long as you drink water or other liquids you will keep going to the bathroom and flushing shit out and asking yourself "I haven't eaten in four days - what the heck is this shit?"

You will be happy it is gone, and after a fast you will have shrunk your stomach and your appetite.

It is always good to give your digestive system a rest and a cleaning-out.

Actually, I'll be doing this in about a week myself...
posted by zaelic at 4:42 PM on April 13, 2006

zaelic writes "Pardon me for being graphic, but you sit on the crapper five days after eating anything - completely empty - and stuff is still coming out yo' butt. It looks like coffee grains, actually, when it comes out. It is all this stuff stuck - allow me to use the colloquial - up yo' ass, undigested. "

Isn't this most likely bile that hasn't been reabsorbed in the small intestine? I think you produce like a liter of bile a day, and though most of it gets reabsorbed, some of it makes it all the way out....
posted by mr_roboto at 5:20 PM on April 13, 2006

The lemon juice, cayenne, maple syrup thing is actually the Master Cleanser and is for detox, not weight loss. My neighbor has done it several times, and speaks highly of it. My sister is a nutritionist and feels differently.
posted by sanko at 5:41 PM on April 13, 2006

I've done this a few times, on a lark, just to see what it was like. I took in just water for the week, and nothing else. The peak of hunger pangs would hit around day 2 - day 3; after that, it subsides a great deal and is relatively easy to keep going.

On transitioning out, I just sat down to a regular meal again. You may be surprised by how little you feel like eating - I mean, you'd guess you'd be ravenous, but your body will probably send you pretty clear "that's enough now" messages, which heed.

I'm not too mystic about magical health improvements attributable to this. I never noticed anything. It was just a mental exercise, and not a very big deal.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:05 PM on April 13, 2006

You may want to dissolve a bouillion cube in some water and have some daily. It's true that your hunger will subside after two or three is crucially important that you are as careful going off the fast as you are going on it.

BTW, I really would recommend that if you have never successfully fasted before that you actually start with fewer days. A one day fast first, for example.

There is also such a thing as a Daniel fast (short definition: no meat, no sweets.)

Anyway, light exercise is okay, but move slow, as you will probably indeed have some lightheadedness.
posted by konolia at 7:03 PM on April 13, 2006

I had a corned beef sandwich fast once. I ate nothing except one corned beef sandwich a day for a week, along with tons of liquids. It went extremely well. I flushed a whole ton of weird stuff out of me and felt great.

It might be against the 'spirit' of a fast, but I'm reasonably confident that you can get the benefits of a fast but maintain one small staple of food throughout. Thoughts?
posted by wackybrit at 1:29 AM on April 14, 2006

Straight Dope: Does fasting help the body get rid of toxins?
posted by madman at 5:23 AM on April 14, 2006

I find that freezing lemon water and having either ice cubes to munch on, or shaving it into a sno-cone-type treat is very helpful when I'm craving something solid. Have a good fast!
posted by Alpenglow at 7:09 AM on April 14, 2006

I attempted a five day fast a couple of years ago, but it became obvious on the second day that I was also coming down with a cold, and hence by the third day I was a total wreck and had to begin eating again in order to deal with being sick.

I already don't eat sweets or meat, so I guess I'm already on the Daniel fast :)

I have thought of consuming a small amount of food every day as wackybrit suggested, except I'm afraid that with that to look forward to the hunger pangs would not ever really go away-- I'd be constantly looking forward to that day's ration.

Thanks a lot, folks. This has been helpful. I'm in the middle of day 2 and feeling pretty good.
posted by hermitosis at 7:18 AM on April 14, 2006

zaelic writes "Pardon me for being graphic [etc]"

Feces consists of more than just undigested food. Besides bile, a large percentage of the matter consists of dead red blood cells. No matter whether you are eating or not, these cells will die and will have to be expelled.

Fasting for spiritual purposes makes a certain amount of sense, but I don't buy into the whole "resting the system" argument. The only time the digestive system needs "rest" is when you are recovering from something like amebic dystentery.
posted by La Cieca at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2006

After doing four 4-5 day fasts, I decided fasting wasn't for me. There's this overall thread in our culture: self-denying, puritanical, considering the body something impure that we should purify or spiritually separate from. It's not good for me (and it's much worse for those with eating disorders) -- so deciding not to fast was part of rejecting that mode of thinking and embracing my own personal messiness. I found the more concerned I was with personal purity, the more self-absorbed I was. Also, the extreme "cold turkey" approach to food undercut my efforts to improve my long-term eating habits by creating a sense of deprivation and that I deserved a treat.

Hope you don't mind getting this response to your question. But when you ask what "constitutes a good fast," I want to share my personal perpsective that, for myself, there may not be one. Since coming to that conclusion, I've found annoying the healthier-and-holier-than-thou attitude of some who promote fasting (though no one in this thread has been that way). For me, deciding not to consider fasting again was a tiny part of a really healthy mental change.

All that said, I really wish you the best -- some people really like fasting. Re: the fast itself, in my first fast, I didn't expect the sense of calmness and mental stillness. In future fasts, I wouldn't schedule activities and instead read, meditated, or took walks in the woods. I also agree that it is better to ease out of the fast -- your body just got unaddicted from a lot, so you might want to take advantage of that. Good luck.
posted by ruff at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2006

Oh, and about getting sick, I think some would suggest you were just feeling toxins leaving your system, or withdrawal. And that you might respond by trying to cleanse these toxins faster by drinking detox teas or (if it doesn't drain you too much) visiting a sauna/steam room.
posted by ruff at 9:35 AM on April 14, 2006

I actually do appreciate the comment, Ruff. And while I see your point culturally, I also think that most people don't really know why they want the things they want, but that doesn't keep them from attaining or consuming. I want to understand hunger and I want to see my regular habits from a completely different perspective. For example I was walking through one of my favorite neighborhoods today and I realized that almost every fond memory I have of that place is food related in some way. Am I drawn to this neighborhood because I truly appreciate it, or am I drawn there simply because my body knows that it is likely to get something great to eat?

Just because our culture is negatively rooted in that self-denying ethic doesn't mean that one should neglect to learn how to deny oneself almost anything. How far it goes is really up to the individual. Too distracted by hunger to work much today, I turned on my boss's television and got to watch a little of "Real Housewives of Orange County" and was pretty intrigued by how different people's concepts of self-denial can be. People who want for nothing still play the puritanical game, feeling noble for denying themselves luxuries and then rewarding themselves for it as soon as they can.

As for getting sick last time, it did turn out to be a genuine bona fide cold-- just really poor timing on my part. I feel pretty good today and think the worst might be over. Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by hermitosis at 2:40 PM on April 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

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