A couple of months ago I completed a 10 day fast and I’m feeling the need for one again. As I prepare and set my intentions for the fast, I want to start by reflecting on what fasting has been for me. I want to share with my community the gift it has been for my family and to invite you along with me for my next fasting challenge.
Different kinds of fasts for different purposes.
In the past, I’ve used fasting to draw attention to a specific cause as well as for silent self-reflection. I’ve also used intermittent fasting, with much success, for weight loss. The most important lesson coming from each fast being this: if I try something and fail, I can always try again until I succeed in achieving what I've set out to achieve.
Roll the tape:
In 2016 I scaled in at a whopping 248lbs. At 30 and a father of three, it was a pretty hard wake-up call having weighed in regularly at 180 just years prior. My health was deteriorating and my asthma-ridden lungs weren’t giving me a whole lot of room for comfortable exercise. In retrospect, my asthma was the result of several life choices, which at the time, I refused to believe. For me, the Canadian prairies are a horrible place to live with asthma. With most towns being surrounded by wheat or canola fields, there are A LOT of chemicals being sprayed regularly. These sprays are paired with pollens, dust, and winds to blow them around. Here’s a little fact that is not spoken of very often: Saskatchewan uses more than 35% of all pesticides sold to Canada. Unsurprisingly, the latest public info I could track down was from a 2007 report that cited data from 1997. This stated that at least 18 Million Kgs of pesticides were used in the province of SK in 1997. Another report I reviewed from 1990-1997 showed usage increasing year over year.
These alarming stats are a side note to my post and deserve a whole article of their own. However, they do back up my point of needing to cleanse my body when I transitioned to BC. (No person should live needing to use Ventolin daily, if you have asthma that acts up every day, you need to look at changing your lifestyle and location).
My job painting and location amidst farmlands made my breathing difficult. My difficulty breathing made exercise uncomfortable. My lack of movement made me fat.
The power of intermittent fasting for health and weight loss.
Now, for some, 248lbs fits great and I do not judge that. For me, it fit big and it felt big. Even when I was getting enough rest, I was constantly tired. I needed a solution that didn’t involve exerting myself to the point of needing 5 hits of blue puffer before and after a half-hour workout. I turned to intermittent fasting and cut down to 200 lbs in less than 40 days. This process involved cutting out alcohol, any meals after 2:00pm, and any meals before 10:00am. I gave myself 4 hours a day to consume, anything I wanted, save alcohol.
Barely a week into the effort I started reaping the rewards of my discipline. On average I dropped just over a pound a day until reaching a weight of 190 and managed to maintain steady at that weight after that. I felt amazing, in control, and mentally sharper than ever. When the body isn’t using energy to digest all day, the mind can take back some of that power and use it elsewhere.
If you want to practice discipline and experiment with fasting for health reasons, I highly recommend researching intermittent fasting.
Water fasting to cleanse.
If you are like me, you’ll probably think “water fast” sounds like it means not drinking water. In fact, it means only drinking water. Whereas intermittent fasting is a lifestyle decision, the length of any given water fast depends strictly on the participant‘s purpose and goal for the fast. (Shout out to my sister-in-law that just completed a 25 day water fast!)
There seems to be a misunderstanding around water fasting with many believing that cutting out food for any length of time is unhealthy. A belief that it couldn’t possibly benefit one’s overall health to cut out nutrition for an extended period. However, multiple studies show that old cell tissue is given a chance to shed and regenerate.
“Essentially, fasting cleanses our body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present. When we fast, the body does not have its usual access to glucose, forcing the cells to resort to other means and materials to produce energy. As a result, the body begins gluconeogenesis, a natural process of producing its own sugar. The liver helps by converting non-carbohydrate materials like lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose energy. Because our bodies conserve energy during fasting, our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy our bodies burn while resting) becomes more efficient, thereby lowering our heart rate and blood pressure.”
-Excerpt from Boulder Medical Centre
Water fasting to meditate and reflect
Water fasting is an amazing way to make space for needed changes in your heart and spirit. In October we decided as a family to raise money for Charitywater.org, an organization that is tackling the global water crisis effectively and with unprecedented transparency. We set out to raise money, and awareness by pledging to shut off our home’s main water valve, hauling our water daily in 5 gallon pails from a spring about 1km away.
We did this for 10 days. I also fasted for the duration of this time. I consumed no food, tea, coffee, or juices. (Full disclosure: I did add salt to my water which was important for retention and had a few ounces of beet kvass in the evenings of days 7 and 8 to keep my body from becoming dehydrated.) Read more about beet kvass here.
There were several reasons for my decision to pair the water shutoff with the water fast but the main one was for personal growth. I wanted to be able to relate to feelings of extreme poverty as much as possible while we raised money. Every time I felt hunger during those 10 days, (which was a lot!), I was allowed the opportunity to connect with a spirit of gratitude for the things I regularly take for granted.
For me, the hardest parts of a 10-day-fast are days three and seven. I love coffee and the caffeine withdrawal symptoms of headache were almost unbearable on day three. On day seven I got very grumpy in the evening and was very thankful for the support of my wife and kids who simply gave me the space I needed to create and play music.
The advice I would give to anyone fasting for over three days is to make sure that you have communicated your intentions clearly with your family and to have their full support going into the challenge.
The other piece of advice that I wouldn't want to miss offering is finding a cause to support for the duration of the fast. This will give you a higher purpose outside of yourself for the times when your willpower is low.
On day 7 of the fast, after not having a bowel movement for 5 days, I... crapped my pants!!! And ohhhhhhhhh boy! I was not expecting that! This was strong proof of the cleansing properties I had read about. Peeing becomes an hourly task when consuming the amount of water that I was taking in. I was driving into town and pulled over for a quick lil’ tinkle. Little did I know, I would soon be turning around, driving butt clenched and raised off the seat, soiled pants, to a home with no running water and thus no working laundry machine, or filled toilet tanks. The temptation to cheat and briefly turn on the main water valve was strong. I’m proud to say that I stuck to my guns, and even had to haul water from the spring to wash up. We had not yet done the haul for the day. This incident, no matter how gruesome, turned out to be my personal highlight of the fundraiser. I connected with an incident of regular life for those without access to running water. The sanitary conditions and the rarity of these problems in our culture are a huge luxury.
Anyhoo, I think I’ll end on that note! I’m sure I’ve done a terrible job of convincing anyone that hasn’t attempted a fast to do so, but adults crapping their pants always make for a good story!
Please visit charitywater.org to check out the amazing work they are doing around the world. Together with our community of family and friends we raised over 10,000CAD to provide the equivalent of a village of 250 people with clean drinking water! It is an experience we hope to repeat regularly as a family.
If you'd like to read more about the journey that started with this fast, please check out our first blog post here.
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Finally, here is a video of our family on day 6 of hauling water.. I want to show this for insight. Often we look at other families and it looks like they have things all figured out. I also tend to paint a rosy picture of what my family life is like as I'm naturally pretty optimistic. But, here you go. Our oldest daughter, Faye, was HATING it! What a great learning experience for her to look back on in the future. (If you can't make out what she's yelling, it's "You don't even love me!!!" (I do)
Sources of information:
Pesticide use in Canada - https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/Saskatchewan_Pubs/2007/sasknotes6_2_pesticides_primer.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1gHqKE9glIEfFjkX_KbHicPbfTwj8hrFVT0hQWxMUtVP05bjP1Ua_h0FE
Stats on child death due to water disease -
Process of gluconeogenesis -
PS: The first thing I ate after not eating for 10 days: A tomato and 3 kalamata olives. Best meal ever. :0