Water Fast Post #7: Fast Begins

I wake hopeful. Even though it’s my second day at True North, it’s the first legitimate day of my water fast, assuming doctor approval.

But first, breakfast. To do things get moving, so to speak. See my last blog post for what that’s all about.

Under direction to consume as much fiber as I can, I have big plans as I head to breakfast. There, I am confronted with a salad bar. Arugula for breakfast! At 8:30 am. Meh.

Bypassing the salad station in favor of the oatmeal, I ladle two scoops into my bowl. Then, like I’m on autopilot, my subconscious actively searches for cream and brown sugar.

Right.

Someone suggests mashing an overripe banana in to the cereal; which, in addition to a few walnuts, makes breakfast somewhat palatable. Add a gigantic bowl of fruit, and voila!, I have “moved” away from the eaters and joined the fasting team.

At my 10:45 am doctor’s appointment, Dr. Sultana reads me the rules. The first one gives me pause: No showers for the duration of my stay. I start to point out that I am, in fact, booked here for two weeks and my suitemates might appreciate that I bathe. Before I can, he explains: Standing up while fasting can lead to fainting. Which in itself isn’t a problem, rather the ER visit because of a concussion when your head hits the cast iron bathtub.

Actually, no prolonged standing at all, he says. Forget leaving the grounds because one might get confused, lost or may just collapse on the sidewalk…. Where you may not be found for days, or worse, be eaten by wild dogs.

Also, no toothpaste, no lotions. And no deodorant. For we wish to eliminate all foreign toxins from the body, and many personal grooming products are shown to be filled with toxins

We finish logistics and the fasting protocol; after which I head to a chaise in the courtyard, waiting for hunger. While hunger doesn’t happen, sweat does, and I curse the no deodorant or shower rule.

A water fast is not a cushy cleanse. It’s no juice fast or a honey-lemon-cayenne fast or any sort of plan touted by the latest best seller. There’s no “eating clean” with this protocol. There’s no eating, period.

They are serious here, and part of me feels smug. Juice? That’s for pussies. I’m here to eat nothing! NOTHING, do you hear me?? And I will like it! Then I realize such thinking is often the entrée down the rabbit hole of an eating disorder, so I check myself.

The folks at True North define water fasting as the complete abstinence from all substances except pure water, in an environment of complete rest. And rest we do. All day long.

Many people who find out I went 10 days without food comment that they don’t think they could do the same. Which I totally agree with, not because I consider myself a badass, but because I’m pretty positive I couldn’t have pulled off the fast had I been at home, going about my daily business of life.

Excruciatingly boring that it is, the rest is what makes this do-able. Fasting properly means following the natural model: a sick animal lies still through the fast.  Plus, while fasting, any activity can lead to an increase of metabolism, leading to fasting sabotage: Unnecessary mobilization of nutrient reserves.

The remainder of the day passes by slowly. In this do-nothing setting, seconds last forever. I’m not really hungry; rarely am I with my slow digestive fire Kapha constitution.

But what I do find – right off the bat on day 1 – is that in the absence of meals, there is no rhythm to the day. For me, lunch generally occurs around 1pm, and I wrap my schedule around the lunch ritual. I caught myself several times on my first fasting day falling into the automatic thinking pattern that it’s time for a snack. Or dinner. And when we take away food, what is there to do??

Later, it occurred to me –because the only thing to do here is ponder – just how much time we actually spend in a 24 hour period that is associated with food: Thinking about food. Planning meals. Grocery shopping. Cooking. Cleaning. Making reservations. Cleaning after cooking. Planning the social aspect. And that doesn’t even include the process of eating.

When all of that is absent, I was surprised to feel how long and empty the day was. And that was a surprising revelation, how emptiness was not only a literal part of this process, but also a metaphor. Because when we take away food, we remove something that distracts us from living in the present moment.

And that realization serves as a call to wake up; to notice all of the unconscious patterns we do – addictive and otherwise – that keep us hurting and sick.

Because, as my doctors (plus the entire animal kingdom as well as a few important historical figures, like Jesus) say, fasting helps people get back on track to healthful living. The idea behind it, essentially, is to get out of your body’s way so that your own healing mechanisms can go to work doing what it does best: healing itself.