Intermittent fasting, OMAD, water fasting, dry fasting… seems like everyone is doing some sort of fasting outside of religious reasons. As we near the end of 2022 and feel the excitement and renewal of 2023, I’m experimenting with different adherence and time intervals to see what type(s) of fasting could help me heal from a recent injury.
My limited experience with water fasting.
I first attempted a 72-hour water fast last August (2021). It was rather torturous. I felt none of the perceived benefits (mental clarity, boundless energy, resetting my hunger cues and cravings), and instead experienced insomnia, body chills, lightheadedness and constant hunger. Definitely don’t try water fasting for the primary goal of weight loss. Keeping the weight off is much more nuanced than actually losing it in the first place. It sort of messes with your mind if you do it for weight loss - only. The weight loss could be mostly water weight and the weight rebounds once you begin eating… unless you’ve developed healthier eating habits that will help sustain the lost pounds. Learning how NOT to regain weight after a water fast is more fascinating and a personal trial and error to see what works for you. What worked for me 10 years ago, no longer works for me now.
My second attempt to water fast just happened. Why do something I sore off? I hear it takes several tries to get it right. I didn’t take electrolytes last time during the water fast or lead into it with S.O.S. (no sugar, oil or salt), or eased my body into it with longer intermittent fasting periods such as a 4-6 hour window period or only eating one meal a day (OMAD). All methods I did this time around for a more tolerable water fasting experience. My biggest motivation was to give it a go with my cousin who wanted to see if it would help her for health reasons. Bingo! Doing this with someone else will definitely feel less dreadful. The plan is to start water fasting after I return from my final trip of the year: a ski trip in Utah.
Prepping for a fast during a vacation.
I was visiting my older brother, Winston who teaches Asian Art History at the University of Utah. The trip was in the middle of my prep to start a water fast, but I was excited because I snack less when I travel because I’m not surrounded by all the deliciousness of P.S. & Co. My hunger also seems to go away at high altitudes while engaging in endurance activities. As usual, I brought plenty of my own food to make sure I was nourished (this time I brought organic amaranth porridge, organic muesli, organic miso soup packets, and supplements like Vitamin D and B12).
Winston helps me become acclimated to the elevation with snowshoeing in the Uinta Mountains on Day 1, then a winter hike in Mill Creek Canyon on Day 2. By the way, I didn’t enjoy snowshoeing. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to use them to keep me on top of the snow. Instead, I sunk in and had more snow to carry through as snow piled up on top of my snowshoes. Someone tell me what I was missing!
Luckily, I don’t seem to have issues with altitude and felt good and energized the first two days. I felt like I could go faster, longer and at higher elevation. I’m ready for my first ski lesson.
Our first choice was Alta, but their beginner ski lifts were under construction. Second choice: Snowbird, which was recommended by Winston’s good friend and ski enthusiast. Why not Deer Valley or the other popular ones in Park City? We learned from locals that the ski conditions are better in Alta/Snowbird. There’s at least another foot of snow or more. The slopes are also steeper and longer. And the best part, you’ll be dodging fewer tourists - while saving money! But, what you get on the mountains you may not get in terms of apres ski or amenities at the higher end resorts in Park City. I haven’t been to Deer Valley or the others and would hope they are much more luxurious for the price, but was also reading recent reviews how some of those high end resorts have gone downhill under new management.
I only cared about the lessons and have 5 days to learn and have it stick, because I’m not planning on keeping up skiing on the East Coast. I luck out and have an entire lesson to myself. Took me 2 hours to drive the last 9 miles up this mountain due to the best “pow day” in a decade. No surprise the lessons weren’t crowded. I almost turned back, too. I brought my own snacks as usual because I like good food: Bon Appesweet date sweetened organic dark chocolate bars, Cuties Mandarin oranges and Seaweed snacks with Avocado Oil.
My instructor has been teaching for about 10 years. He’s starting me easy on the “magic carpet”. This powder is so thick and soft, I’m not getting much speed. We advance to the next level, a beginner’s slope that requires a lift. Learning how to get off the lift is kinda scary, but we do it.
I’m learning how to turn and glide across the slope! It’s a miracle. I’m not falling. I’m learning how to ski across the slope and how to put weight on only one ski. Best part, I learned how to ski without poles. Where learning how to stop was my initial goal, stopping isn’t even a concern when you can finally glide! We go almost the entire 3 hours and I’m being prepped to advance to the next level. Then, *POP*! I started going faster and didn’t trust myself to glide out of the steep slope and fell backwards. My right knee didn’t follow. I heard a loud pop and know that’s not a good sign. There was only sharp pain for about 5 seconds, and then it was gone. I told my instructor, I think I’m okay. Let’s keep going. I keep going down the runs and up the lift. *BAM* I got knocked into as we got off the lift. I fall again and hear another pop. I tell the instructor, I think this is my last run down the slope.
I was able to walk with a slight limp off the slope and back to the car. I learned I may have torn my ACL. I cancel my remaining ski lessons the rest of the week and change my flight to return home early to see the orthopedic doc.
Water fasting for healing.
Que, “water fast”. Now, this water fast plan has an even more meaningful purpose. I’ve been reading that water fasting is one of the most ideal ways to heal an injury, recover from surgery and/or let your body heal from chemo, diseases, etc. My motivation is high. Perfect timing to give this a second go. I get the next available flight back to Philly to see the orthopedic doctor and begin more serious fasting to help repair damaged cells in my knee (and anywhere else).
My knee is healing relatively fast. Each day, I’m walking with less of a limp and can do more. I’m keeping up with Iyengar yoga which is my version of PT while I wait for my doctor to give a diagnosis (we have to wait for the MRI results). I also believe OMAD fasting is making a tremendous difference in my recovery. Each day, I’m gaining mobility. My energy is high and my body feels light and limber. I’m not tempted to indulge in holiday treats and sweets with an impending knee injury on my mind. I need my knee to function for long hikes and trail running trips I have already booked for next year.
It takes me 4 days to actually get into the water fast. During the first 4 days, I unintentionally did OMAD with light broths, electrolytes and teas because of hunger. Looks like I wasn’t very fat adapted, which makes sense because I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and protein, but not as much fat. After about 4 days, I managed to make the first 24 hours without feeling hungry. I knew if I could make it through the first 24 hours, the water fast had begun. By the way, I prepared for the water fast for about 2 weeks before doing OMAD by eating very cleanly. I ate out about once a week due to social engagements (which is more than my usual), but I did not enjoy those meals out. The restaurant meals were too heavy, salty, and left me feeling bloated and lethargic. I preferred my soy milk-spinach-fruit smoothies, salads, rainbow veggies, P.S. & Co. muesli and hearty soups.
Here are photos from a decadent vegan meal at in Park City. Twisted Fern near the Uintas Mountains had a large plant-based menu that fit my vegan needs.
My daily supplements to help with healing and fasting were: Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, glucosamine, and these electrolytes, fun sparkling waters, and teas for hydration.
After my water fast, I ate either 2 meals a day or OMAD and felt great, but was gradually indulging in sweets from P.S. & Co. I love our desserts - which is why I started P.S. in the first place! By Christmas Eve, I let myself enjoy and eat whatever and however much because it’s a holiday! The lasagna and crab cakes from our holiday menu were better than ever. All the flavors and textures were dancing on my tongue.
Did you see this Gingerbread house? My Christmas fantasy came true by picking off the candies and eating pieces of this dry, week old gingerbread! The sour YumEarth candies were so fun to pop off the snowy roof and right into my mouth. I overdid it with the candies and refined sugars and felt it the next day.
I’m not sure if my body is more in tune from the water fast, but my holiday indulgence was not worth the aftermath. Diarrhea, stomach aches from being too stuffed and worst of all pain in my knee was suddenly constant and throbbing. I didn’t have this kind of pain after the accident. The only thing I could think of is inflammation in the body. I also felt incredibly achy and stiff the next morning on Christmas Day. All that excess food and most critically sugar was too much. I also slept for 13 hours straight. I was in a food coma! *I did not feel inflammation, aches or pains when I was enjoying organic maple/coconut/dates from P.S. & Co. sweets. I only noticed the pain when I ate white sugar and other people’s sweets.
On Christmas Day, we have dinner reservations at Tommy’s favorite Sicilian restaurant in NYC: Piccolo Cucina Uptown. We’re trying their uptown location (which turned out to be much tastier in terms of vegan options than their Spring Street location), and I’m excited to share with you, my favorites. Everything tasted fresh and authentic. Not overly salted, oily or junky like typical restaurant fare. I filled up on a fresh spinach salad, grilled vegetables, caponata and steamed spinach before indulging in their freshly handmade pappardelle pasta with mushrooms - and they happily modified all to be vegan for me. I had to blanket the pasta with freshly ground red chili flakes because it's my favorite way to eat Italian and Sicilian fare.
Here’s to an on-going experiment with fasting, healing and optimum functioning. My knee pain and body aches were gone after fasting another 24 hours and not consuming any more sugar. I was happy to see gluten didn’t cause inflammation or pains in my body because that fresh mushroom pasta was heavenly.
My follow-up with the orthopedic doctor happens just after the new year to see if I will need surgery. Until then, I’m motivated to continue eating in the most advantageous ways to help my body with cell repair and healing.
There are so many sites on the pros/cons of water fasting and different forms of fasting. I’m purposely not including the whys here - that’s for you to read and decide for yourself. Fasting for women vs. men can be quite different (our menstrual hormones affect us differently). Please research for yourself what is safe, appropriate and healthful for your individual needs and goals.
Here are my take-aways from this recent water fast:
Ease into it gradually by eating SOS (no salt, oil, sugar).
Stick to whole foods.
Try to be fat adaptative before starting the water fast to minimize hunger during the fast.
Eliminate sugar before and after.
Learned that too much protein can turn into glucose.
Minimize or avoid insulin spikes as much as possible.
Incorporate more fat and less carbs (for me) to prevent insulin spikes.
Have no added sugar electrolytes ready during the water fast.
My body is now attuned to sugar and overeating which immediately causes inflammation/aches/pains.
Fasting facilitates healing and recovery.
I plan to do water fasts regularly and see how my body responds.
Starting routine fasting in my mid-40’s: how will this affect my future and prevention of Alzheimer’s and common chronic diseases?
Negatives from during this most recent water-fast:
Craving food I normally don’t crave (pizzas, breads, Chinese take-out!). Is this a sign of withdrawal symptoms? I usually don’t crave this type of food when I wasn’t fasting. The urge was strong. I’m glad I didn’t cave in. I indulged with our own P.S. & Co. foods which satisfied my cravings in a much more healthful manner.
Too much salt from broth (pre-fast) made me feel dehydrated and retain water. I’m used to eating very low salt (and feel good doing so). Prepping with salty broths didn’t work for me.
Learning how to regulate electrolyte intake. I may have taken too much which caused diarrhea during the 3rd day of my fast.
Poor sleep the more days I fasted. I was mentally wired.
Feeling incredibly cold and having trouble sleeping due to feeling cold.
Dry mouth overnight - maybe ketone breath?!
Mentally obsessing about food and being able to last the fast.
I’m expecting these negatives will lessen the more I attempt a water fast.
Positives from prep/during/post water-fast:
Didn’t feel hunger during the first 48 hours.
Didn’t lose drastic weight - felt like I maintained my strength and lean mass. Yay!
I like to believe fasting was helping my knee injury heal faster than if I wasn’t fasting by reducing inflammation.
Relearning what true hunger cues feel like instead of misinterpreting hunger for routine, ritual or “thinking” I need to eat.
Swapping more healthy fats back into my daily diet in exchange for sweets and natural sugary treats.
Learning that I’m truly hungry only once a day. I believe I can sustain OMAD without feeling deprived.
Hoping to create autophagy with OMAD.
Plan on short weekly/monthly/quarterly fasts with the seasons. Will adjust frequency based on how my mind and body are responding.
Some of my favorite articles or interviews on fasting and water fasting are linked here:
There are many articles and interviews with Dr. Jason Fung and Dr. Berg as well. They promote an animal-based ketogenic diet with fasting which is interesting to hear a different perspective, but I will continue experimenting with a fasting regimen based on organic/plant-based/gluten-free/whole-foods ingredients. Wishing you a safe and healthy journey into discovering what works for you to live optimally.
Trying another water fast since the New Year because I was so full of eating all the yummies at multiple NY festivities last week. My cousin, Nisa, reminded me of Dr. Mindy Pelz and her expertise on fasting for women - especially about timing fasting and carbs around one's menstrual cycle.
I'm happy to report that the third time is a charm! I'm not experiencing cold chills, hunger or constant thoughts about food, or insomnia. I'm apparently during the prime time to be fasting according to my menstrual cycle this time around (I recently learned I wasn't the previous two times). I'm finally experiencing the good parts of a fast: mental clarity, high energy - enough that I want to work out hard, deep sleep albeit short (maybe because I don't need as much sleep), and not feeling hungry. I'm just passing the 72-hour mark today and will see if I can go for another day or two, before my progesterone level will spike. Once I'm in the sweet spot of high progesterone, I will end the fast and nourish my body with carbs and rest. I will honor my body's cues to tell me, but wanted to share that Dr. Mindy's advice has helped me tremendously with enjoying water fasting this time around.
Also, good news about my knee. My ortho doc examined me yesterday and said I'm healing very fast and won't need surgery. If I'm feeling great by our next follow-up appointment, he said to just cancel it and not bother coming in! He also reassured me I will be totally fine for all the endurance adventure trips I have lined up this year. I love a physician who will respect my holistic tendencies. I firmly believe practicing Iyengar yoga with Gabi Sigal and water fasting is helping me heal at the rate I am and will continue to heal my knee to full recovery.
I felt great completing a 5 day water fast in the beginning of January and then rolled into a 7 day water fast in the middle of January to seal the deal with healing my MCL sprain. I started feeling weak by the end of Day 6 and was happy to complete by Day 7! These consecutive water fasts seemed to have sped my healing process, or at the very least did not hinder it.
After my 7 day water fast, I was very hungry and cravings seemed abnormal. I took a break from prolonged water fasts to regulate my gut and hunger signals. I'm happy to report that after multiple 24/36/48/72 fasts since mid January, my bowel movements are back to normal (every morning), my cravings have seem to be dormant, I'm able to regularly enjoy P.S. & Co. desserts, and consume nutrient-dense carbs such as Japanese white sweet potatoes, ube potatoes, peanut butter, nuts, edamame pasta, tempeh and beans without feeling weighed down. My glucose levels are staying within optimum range and out of curiosity, I was also tracking my ketones which I couldn't believe were hitting the high range while enjoying a rainbow, carb filled, plant-rich diet with occasional desserts from P.S. & Co. The difference this time is that I've added back in my exercise routine since my knee seems to be healed and just needs to recover in strength and flexibility. Daily exercise has done wonders for my glucose and ketone readings without feeling like I have to deprive myself from my favorite foods or even follow a "keto" diet. I'm late to discovering that high activity can also help burn enough carbs and sugars to regulate our metabolic levels.
I love the mantra that no supplements or diet can replace the long-term, cellular benefits of movement and exercise. I experienced it for myself. A combination of a nutritious, plant-rich diet with consistent exercise helps my mind and body work optimally without feeling restricted. I hope we all discover what works for each of us to sustain healthy habits to live our best life. For me, that's a recipe of organic, whole-foods, plant ingredients, daily outdoor hiking/running/walking, bodyweight training, yoga and meditation. With our busy lives, I'm happy if I can get this in 4-5x/week. I need to learn how to wake-up earlier, so I can make sure these daily habits rarely feel compromised!
Here's to good health!