Where: The Sanctuary, Koh Phangan, Thailand
When: 3 days in March 2009 (plus a total of about 7 pre- and after days)
My fasting experience and the positive health effects of fasting
You havent heard from me for a long time. I have been busy with work and holidays in different parts of Asia. I could write more about my other experiences since I have had so many amazing experiences since we left India early January, but then I never catch up. So more here about more recent experiences.
A short while ago I finished my first ever fast.
I probably skipped a day of eating some time in the past when I was sick, but I never fasted when healthy. Not even a day. I am also pretty skinny so people tend to think that fasting, for me, is not a good idea. But fasting is not something you do to lose weight as the weight generally comes back afterwards. Fasting is something you do to detox yourself. Something you do for your health. Fasting could, so I have been told, even remove the imbalances from your body that disabled you to gain (or lose) weight.
Why I wanted to fast
In recent years I have met several people who fasted and who told me they felt amazing after doing it. Others told about how beautiful people look after doing a fast. There is no beauty treatment like doing what brings you vibrant health.
But more importantly, I had met people who fasted for spiritual development and healing. That really triggered my interest. My interest to fast could succinctly be summarised as follows:
- Pure curiosity what it is like not to eat for a couple of days
- Getting to know what it is like to not have meals to bring structure to your day
- Finding out how my body reacts to not eating
- Finding out how my mind reacts to not eating
- Finding out what emotions are triggered by not eating
- Emotional healing
- Detoxing and getting more healthy
- Maybe clear myself from my allergies and asthma or other (minor) health problems
A long list. I will write later what the results were.
My plan was to fast only for three and a half days. Possibly even for one and a half day.
I ended up doing the three and a half day fast. That was more than enough. Since the fast started with one day preparation (only eating salads) the detox started already earlier. The same was true for the hunger. I got hungry already on this day of only salads.
One thing I did not discover was what a day without the structure of meals was. Although there were no meals the programme was a lot more busy than a normal day of eating. Psillium shakes (to cleanse the colon), herbs, special juices and a special, but tasteless watery, broth for diner. On top of that I took a steam bath almost every day. And then, the highlight of the day, in the afternoon: the colonic. Colon cleansing I had done before but what comes out when you fast (and take all the shakes, juices and herbs) is something else.
Anyway, the whole programme made the fast to a nice social experience, bonding with fellow fasters in the special fasting pavilion on our lovely beach.
Detoxing is the most important reason for most people to fast. Everyone, even someone like me with a relatively healthy meat-free diet accumulates toxins. They come from air pollution, coffee, sugar or alcohol consumption, pollutants in water and products we use. But also, or even primarily, and we tend to forget that from stress, unhealthy thought-patterns, negative emotions and so on.
Stress a major source of toxins for many people. I am quite sure it is for me, even though I work much less and get not as stressed as before. But toxins can accumulate over a lifetime.
I noticed that I was detoxing in a number of ways.
- One was that my sweat started to stink horribly. Sweat is a normal way to detox. That is why sauna or steam baths are so good for you.
- Another thing was headaches. I dont know how this works but people who know about it told me that it was a good sign. A sign of detoxing.
- And then there were the colonics. With some rubbery horribly stinking stuff coming out of me. The experts say that that is mucus and it could have accumulated in the colon for years leading to all kinds of disease. If this came out of someone who does not eat meat and a lot of vegetables and fruit I do not want to see the result of someone who fills himself regularly with steaks. And then people are surprised they get cancer.
Anyway, as far as my understanding goes, mucus is not all bad, but if too much accumulates it is of course not healthy.
- Apart from that, a lot of the time, I felt physically rather horrible to be honest. Weak with little energy, stomach aches from time to time. But I did not mind too much as I did not do this of course to feel good during the fast. Although some other people did.
Emotional and psychological effects
Interesting to notice was how the brain was effected. It looked to me as if that was the first part that gets deprived of nutrients as my thinking became slow and, often funny, misunderstandings became common. Forgetting things was also part of it. Sometimes there were beautiful moments of no-mind also.
The emotional effects where not less spectacular. For me it was an emotional rollercoaster. A lot of the time I felt rather grumpy and not that happy but other times where pleasant and relaxed. The grumpy moments triggered little fights with my girlfriend out of which we both, as ever after talking about it and shining the light of awareness on it, came enriched with more self-knowledge about emotional wounds (patterns) were triggered in us. All in all an interesting experience!
The after effect(s)
After the fast the build up was slow. One day only fruit, then only salads (and fruits), then a day in which you can add cooked vegetables, than on day four adding simple carbohydrates such as rice, than adding proteins and only on day 6 is your diet back to normal. Considering this and the preparation my detox was more like a 10-day detox than a 3-day detox.
Although I still felt weak and shaky the first days, I quickly noticed that I felt lighter and that my body felt exceptionally loose. Many parts of my body that had tensions and that made little noises when moving where suddenly so loose.... Great.
A less pleasant after effect, but in my opinion, a positive sign, was that upon return in Bangkok, about a week after the end of the fast and after leaving the jungle, I felt very tired for a few days. My idea about this extreme tiredness was that the contact with all the toxins in a polluted city like Bangkok was a bit too much a shock to the body. We also had taken some alcohol, not much, but still and might have taken on the retox a bit too fast.
Why I think this is positive? Because it shows the system is clean. The pollution and toxicity-levels we face in normal city-life are not healthy. The fact that your body notices that is a sign of health. Just the way I remembered when I did loads of sports. One beer was enough to knock me over...
Concluding, do I think it was a good idea to do a fast? My answer would be 'yes'. It was a lot of the time not a pleasant experience and that a vegetarian with a very healthy lifestyle like me would still have so many 'detox-effect' was something I had not expected.
But it was a very interesting experience and believe it has made me healthier. I don't think Iwill do this at a regular basis, but neither do I think this is the last fast I ever did.
One last after effect? As you are so clean you can test out how you react to certain food-stuffs. My discovery? Sweet milk makes me bloated and feel sick. Yoghurt, however is no problem and neither is soy-milk. So sweet cow milk is something to remove from my diet...
All the best,