Fairlady - - THE HUNGER GAINS -

*If you’ve ever had an eat­ing dis­or­der, fast­ing is not rec­om­mended. Like­wise, if you feel un­well, stop your fast and con­sult a doc­tor. Symp­toms like per­sis­tent nau­sea, vom­it­ing, dizzi­ness, fa­tigue, high or low blood

sugar and lethargy are red flags.

Acou­ple of years ago I in­ter­viewed Dr Ja­son Fung when he was in Cape Town, and he was so com­pelling on the im­por­tance of fast­ing that I’ve been in­ter­ested in it ever since. Not in­ter­ested enough to ac­tu­ally do it, of course – I love food, we cook ev­ery night and al­ways eat fam­ily meals to­gether, so it didn’t seem pos­si­ble. But I was keen to fi­nally try it out for this story.

I fasted from Sun­day night to Fri­day night, start­ing af­ter a lovely roast chicken lunch on Sun­day. I used the chicken car­cass to make chicken stock (Dr Fung says stock or bone broth won’t break the fast, and is a good way of keep­ing salt and elec­trolyte lev­els up). But you need to make it your­self to make sure there is noth­ing else in it.


Woke early, lots of en­ergy. Slightly rum­bling tummy but feel­ing to­tally fine. By mid­day I was grumpy as hell; but my mood was not nec­es­sar­ily lack-of-food re­lated: work over­load, menopause and com­mit­ment-pho­bic teens were all good con­tenders. I did an hour­long yoga class in the evening (loved do­ing yoga in a fasted state), cooked a meal for the fam­ily and drank a small cup of chicken broth with them while they ate.


Slept beau­ti­fully and felt wide awake, although not re­ally my glam self. (I had felt flu com­ing on be­fore I started the fast). Did a 75-minute yoga class. By mid­day I was tempted by food, but not hun­gry. Drank wa­ter and black tea. In the evening, I cooked for the fam­ily and drank a small cup of broth while they ate. Still not at all hun­gry.


I didn’t sleep well be­cause my throat was too sore (flu). It’s in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to find cough mix­ture or throat lozenges that aren’t stuffed with sugar! I saw the doc, who di­ag­nosed chronic strep throat and put me on an­tibi­otics and cor­ti­sone – I checked with her first and then took both with­out food, even though this is not the rec­om­men­da­tion. I was feel­ing too sick for yoga that evening so skipped it and went to bed early.


Woke feel­ing much bet­ter and way more en­er­getic. Mea­sured my ke­tone lev­els (which would in­di­cate if there was glu­cose in my urine – whether, with the med­i­ca­tion, I was still in a fast­ing state or not) and I was. So the med­i­ca­tion, broth, black cof­fee and tea weren’t af­fect­ing the fast at all. At mid­day I still felt very en­er­getic and well. Had a cup of black cof­fee, and a cup of broth in the evening.


I woke with a headache and was feel­ing a lit­tle dizzy at mid­day but fine oth­er­wise. I was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing car­ry­ing on and ex­tend­ing the fast to two weeks; that idea lasted un­til my friend Carin in­vited us to din­ner, when the Min­is­ter of Fun took over: I ate sal­mon and crème brulée, drank loads of wine and had a lot of fun. It felt fine to eat again, but I wasn’t at all rav­en­ous.


I found the five-day fast very easy and would hap­pily do it again. I lost about 3kg but ex­pected to put it on again when I started eat­ing (the trick is not to overeat when you do, the lit­er­a­ture says). My weight fluc­tu­ated for a cou­ple of days af­ter­wards but has set­tled at 3kg down. The fast re­set my at­ti­tude to­wards food, in a good way: I’m happy to skip a meal if I’m not feel­ing hun­gry and think more about whether I am re­ally hun­gry – or just thirsty or bored – be­fore I eat. I wish I hadn’t been sick at the time as I’d like to have ex­er­cised more: I en­joyed work­ing out in a fasted state and didn’t feel weak un­til the last day (still not sure why; maybe the med­i­ca­tion?).

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