I was one week into the new year and started to feel off. I wasn’t myself.
With short random bouts of nausea and my appetite not being at its healthy norm, one look at any food or treat leftover from the holidays and I would lose my appetite completely.
What my appetite was trying to tell me
In my previous blogs I often touch on how your appetite is one of the most powerful indicators of your overall health status. Your appetite goes beyond even your hunger and physical needs. It is a powerful innate ability that your body, mind, and spirit are designed to have to tell you important things.
I tried to identify the source of my symptoms. I was probably feeling a bit weighed down by all the sugar I had (and consciously enjoyed) over the two week break. I had indulged in a couple of cravings including late night pizza and salt-laden take-out like ramen.
I was feeling the after effects of putting a bit of a shock to my system. Prior to the holidays, I was on a pretty good run of eating clean, mostly plant-based, and mostly home cooked meals. Lots of whole ingredients, fresh produce, and healthy fats.
Don’t get me wrong — I have zero regrets.
I don’t believe in neglecting yourself the occasional indulgence and pursuing things that give you enjoyment and pleasure. You deserve whatever your heart desires.
I felt the need to reset
At this moment in time post-holidays, I’m simply ready for a system reset.
I ran through my mind all the options I knew of for detoxing, either from personal experience or by proxy. There are so many out there that it can be a confusing and noisy space.
Planning your nutrition or dietary changes should be an intuitive exercise. You have to discover what’s right for you.
I didn’t feel the need to do anything extreme or for an extended period of time. I had only spent 2 weeks in holiday indulgence mode.
I’ve been on the master cleanse, where you consume nothing but water mixed with maple syrup, lemon, and cayenne pepper for 10 days.
I’ve been on juice cleanses, where you consume nothing but freshly pressed juice for a couple days. I think the last time I tried one I was on it for 7 days.
I’m a firm believer in ongoing detoxification. Differently from cleanses, which by definition are short-term interventions, a detox lifestyle is maintained by opting for putting clean ingredients and products into your body.
This time I felt guided to fast.
I had tried intermittent fasting two years ago when I was trying to get into shape for a boxing match. I would reduce my eating window gradually until I was eating my 3 meals a day (plus snacks) within a 6 to 8-hour window, instead of the usual 12 to 14-hour.
While I wouldn’t recommend intermittent fasting for weight loss — it’s not its purpose, I would recommend it for physical and mental performance. Extending the hours during which my body was in “fast” mode allowed for a longer recovery period that then improved my energy, clarity, and focus.
I did a little research on people who practice intermittent fasting. Some people, especially athletes and trainers, swear by it. Others will go on the occasional fast to reset their system. There is also the centuries-old fasting for religious or spiritual reasons under the belief that fasting cleanses your spiritual body as well as your physical body.
On the day I decided to do this 24-hour fast, I consciously ate my last meal at 6:30pm. I had a veggie wrap.
The remainder of my night was pretty straightforward.
I assumed my weeknight routine: yoga immediately after work, followed by some catching up on reading, writing, and relaxing.
Normally I prepare my dinner after yoga, so this time I simply had to remind myself to skip this step.
I drank lots of water, especially when I felt like having my routine 8:00pm snack. I made a tea to keep me occupied. I did not feel any cravings or hunger.
I get ready for bed. I noticed my stomach feeling lighter than usual at bedtime. It just took some getting used to when falling sleep, but overall, I think I liked going to bed feeling lighter.
I wake up and follow my usual routine getting ready for work.
Upon arrival at work, I make a green tea. This is normally when I will have a light breakfast of fruit and nuts, or something equally nutritious.
I feel my first wave of hunger. Normally at this time, if I haven’t had breakfast yet, my hunger really kicks in and I’ll go make a breakfast. Today I instead made a second tea to keep me occupied.
During my morning meetings I feel my mood and energy are on point. I feel just as energetic, if not, more energetic than usual. I’m also feeling very calm and grounded.
My second wave of hunger hits, especially as I’m stimulated by the smells and sounds of food in the office at lunch time. This was the strongest wave of hunger I felt during the 24-hour fast. My stomach grumbles a bit but I remind myself it’s still not quite my time to eat yet, and that that time was coming soon (that evening). It was not a big deal for me to get back into the zone focusing on my work.
I drink a tall glass of water, ensuring that for the rest of the day I’m either sipping on a tea or water until I leave the office.
I actually have this habit of refilling my teas with hot water to moderate my caffeine intake, so despite this recount so far sounding like I am a caffeine addict, I actually had only gone through two (really tall) servings of tea spread out.
My third wave of hunger hits. It’s less intense than my lunch time hunger wave. I see on the clock that I’m close enough to 6:30pm and start thinking about what nutritious dinner I would like to enjoy to break my fast.
Overall, shifting my focus away from my hunger to looking forward to breaking my fast was a great trick for keeping my mind positive and on track.
On my commute home from work, I reflect on my past experiences fasting. I wondered why it was so much harder when I went on that juice fast 3 years ago, or why doing the 30 Hour Famine in high school seemed so excruciating.
I concluded that fasting has everything to do with your mental game. How strong are you mentally to not let your thoughts take over and to just surrender and commit to the process?
I prepare dinner. I mentally prepared myself to break my fast without shaking up my usual eating habits at this hour (no binging, unusual indulgences, or abnormal portions).
I made a roasted vegetable soup with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli, seasoned with turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I added into a miso-based broth the roasted vegetables with some kale, lentils, and other random veggies, before blending everything in a food processor.
After having one big bowl of soup, I’m full and feel very balanced.
The effects of this fast became most noticeable the following morning when I woke up feeling particularly refreshed and light. All my symptoms of nausea, discomfort, and lack of appetite I experienced before the fast were gone. I felt refreshed, and these effects seemed to have sustained over the course of at least a few days.
The most helpful tip I can offer about getting through any fast is that hunger comes in waves. And these waves don’t last very long. On this 24-hour fast, I experienced three waves of hunger each lasting 10 to 30 min max. Barely a drop in the bucket.
Fasting for 24 hours is something I would do again, either once a month or even once a week. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a simple, easy way to reset your system and eliminate unwanted symptoms tied to your energy, appetite, or gut health.