I am on day two of a water fast. Words I never thought I would write.
I have done some juice cleanses in my past which I remember being uncomfortable and irritable for the first few days. I wasn’t eating food but was flipping pancakes and making lunches for my kids and trying not to think about the coffee I didn’t have or the leftover meatballs in the fridge — But I had six hearty juices and nut milk to sate my craving for salty or sweet.
What I wouldn’t do for a nut milk. Words I never thought I would write.
Water fasting is a whole other thing. The idea came to me via my husband who is a bonafide bio-hacker which means that on any given day I arrive home to a brand new discovery he has learned and adapted to nurture our bodies to its highest functionality. As he installs a top of the line water filtration system into our home adding potent minerals drop by drop into the canister that holds our now prized water; and prepares all of our pasture raised farm to table meals; I enjoy the second-hand smoke of his healthy choices and happily benefit.
It was my idea to initiate the water fast though. The decision came after a weekend I spent eating artisanal donuts and making popcorn and drinking Shiraz for dinner. My husband was away on that particular weekend. And in all honesty, it wasn’t the lapse in judgment in my diet which I can often forgive and allow on occasion; it was this emotional call to move the existential boulder out of my way — this huge weight in my gut that derailed me from getting past my old shit. I was sick of my persistent low-level anxiety– A feeling that some people on my Instagram feed understood. We reply “amen” with clapping hand emojis to the daily quotes that speak to the source of our lack. Today, I want you to think about all that you are instead of all that you are not. 432 likes.it.
I figured removing everything — all the distractible tendencies including solid food would force me to stand still, slow down and lean into this gloom and heaviness — in essence, learn about all that I was.
Before day one, I read everything I could about fasting: The history that regaled this age-old tradition as at one time a necessity because our ancestors did not have the luxury to eat three meals a day nor have copious amounts of food at their fingertips the way we do. Fasting was part of our lineage and thus our bodies still had the wiring to acclimate to the lack of caloric intake. I read up on the science that praised the importance of something called autophagy, where our bodies’ cells go into clean up mode and erase all the built-up toxins and waste to lay the ground for renewed energy. Apparently, our cells can’t do this when they are buried and distracted by any major digestive event.
I watched YouTube videos of a young man who water fasted for five days. After 36 hours he admitted he wasn’t hungry anymore, but time seemed to stand still. “Time definitely feels like it’s moving slower. There’s much less urgency.”
I enjoyed one woman’s blog who reported that on days 2-3 she felt like she had the flu, but days 4-7 she was positively euphoric. “Energy came back with a vengeance and hunger disappeared. I was easily at 2-3x my normal productivity!”
Reading with an obsession about my impending famine I liken to the way I read about What to Expect When Expecting when I was pregnant with my three children. I scrutinized every symptom, sensation, and compared what I felt inside to what I read. If I could just know, was the source of motivation for reading the same lines over and over again, then I might know when this baby will arrive.
My husband reminds me that reading about others experiences fasting while understandable could set me up for disappointment. “Let your experience be yours.” He was right even if I tried to tame the part of me who believed if I could just know maybe I would be able to deflect the impending pangs of hunger.
Let’s say this, hunger is hard. And it’s painful. And for me, there was a profound lump of loneliness to this feeling of need. The first 36 hours I suffered. I was glad I took the day off because on day one I could barely get out of bed much less face the energy and demands of teaching yoga. I could barely tolerate people in the elevator next to me when I willed myself to go for a walk to ward off the persistent fatigue and fog.
Doubt crashed in announcing that this was a very stupid idea. I was ten hours in. I felt isolated and out of synch with my child who ran into our home asking for his afternoon snack. I trembled buttering his bagel. Chugging cold water no matter how mineralized and pure was a temporary and lame excuse for nourishment. My mind was not fooled. When are we going to chew, Tracy? When are you going to feed us something salty? I am cold.
Thirty-Eight hours in I decide to go tanning. Words I never thought I would write.
I consult my dear friend, an Ayurvedic teacher and talented intuit who has a lot of experience with cleansing. “Lean in,” she told me. “Nourish like crazy.” She gave me permission to add things in like tea and broth for their grounding qualities and to soothe my mental battle with copious bathing. My first sip of hot tea felt like cheating. Her soft advice about self-massage and loving myself through the pain was welcome but part of me perceived these remedies as weak responses to the loud sensation that was begging for a hot meal. My expectations reminded me of that demon half crushed underneath the foot of a smiling Shiva. I was the demon trying to be Shiva.
“Just really check in,” my friend texted after I confessed my struggle, my thoughts of caving. “Is it your ego deciding or your deeper wisdom?”
It took a lot of leaning in to decipher. It helped that my husband was profoundly supportive and while he had a less strenuous fast, he reminded me that it had been 48 hours of just water. “There is no failing,” he said.
We decided last night to make broth. Just the smell of onions softening in our dutch oven and the way he soaked our kale and diced the turnips were indulgences felt to my core. The presentation of a modest bowl of soup set in front of me, a profound relief. It was time to transition and I trusted that. This morning that trustworthiness dispensed all kinds of virtues into my system. It was the same life but seen through the eyes of a much lighter, clearer woman.
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