FIVE-DAY FAST – SUZY
*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?).