• Thu, Jun 14 2012

Why I’m Trying A Water Fast

Skinny like this guy

So, a group of friends has tried doing three day water fasts, which are supposed to be good for you for a variety of reasons. The basic idea is that you consume only water for three days, which is why it is called “a water fast.” It’s supposed to eliminate stored toxins. The only trick is that you have to do it for longer than a day – 3 is advised – as your body begins consuming fat reserves only after 24 hours. The fast is also supposed to allow your digestive tract time to heal. Everyone I know who has done this says that it’s pretty great. Some benefits supposedly include:

Better regulated sleep

Decrease of headaches and joint pain

More energy

Loss of excess weight

Less anxiety

IT MAKES FOOD TASTE REALLY GOOD AFTERWARDS (This does seem kind of obvious).

Anyhow. I think they might be liars. They seem like the kind.

But I am pretty curious. I’m going to try chronicling this as a real person who enjoys eating real food (real food is, in this case, defined as “chocolate covered Oreos” and “brownies made with bacon”). I’m not really great about healthy eating, so I think this process could be an exciting ride to nightmareville. Alternatively, it could work really well! And I could end up with a lot more energy as a result of having fewer toxins! And a new appreciation for food!

Right now, it’s one hour in and I already hate everyone in the office (breakfast is important, you guys). I feel like my hatred might spreading and hitting other people too. Just waves of hatred going out the window, like lightbeams. I don’t care if it hits people on the street. I don’t care because I hate them.

I’m giving my digestive tract the freedom to be the kind of digestive tract it wants to be.

Ashley claims that it’s going to be really great when I have lunch, today.

WE’LL SEE.

(No, really, I want to chronicle whether this is actually a nightmare or not. Seems like it probably is. But I only say that because of the crippling headache I already have. And whether I can do it at all. 71 hours to go!)

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  • Fabel

    Oh my god, this sounds awful. But at least when I’m on my juice cleanse next week, I can think about how I’m at least not on a water fast?

  • Eileen

    I’m pretty sure the toxins thing is completely bogus…and I hope you don’t faint! When I was in middle school, a bunch of my friends tried fasting for a day to try to experience being hungry (it was an empathy-with-the-poor thing they did through their church), and at the end of the day they were all completely miserable.

    I think sometimes diets are like religion. People who’ve found veganism, paleo, Atkins, etc. are like people who’ve found God. They proselytize, and try to find meaning in their diets…sometimes, I think, to make up for how miserable those diets can make them.

    • Jamie Peck

      I think veganism deserves to be treated separately from those other diets (says the vegan). They are geared towards health (or if we’re being honest, weight loss). I’m not a vegan to be healthy, I’m a vegan because I think it’s wrong to kill animals for food. Or makeup, shoes, etc. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. It’s a holdover from when I used to care about things!

    • Eileen

      True. And some people are vegetarian because they just don’t enjoy meat. I should have clarified that I don’t mean “people who abstain from using animal products because they think it’s cruel.” I may not agree with their conclusion, but I can understand their reasoning and it makes sense. But there are people who try to convince me that being vegan is healthier and better for me, no matter how crappy and over-processed the vegan food they are eating is. These are the same women who tell me in the same breath that they lost twenty pounds switching to their plant-based diet. They are also occasionally my coworkers.

    • Jamie Peck

      lol, veganism only makes you skinny if you were eating super unhealthily before and you eat super healthily as a vegan. I wish this weren’t true, but it is. I was counting calories last month, but now I’m in Berlin and I’m surrounded by exciting new restaurants to try and it just…ain’t happening. I mean, how many times am I going to be in Berlin?

  • Jamie Peck

    You’re funny when you’re hangry, but this makes the champagne diet look healthy and reasonable.

  • Tania

    Does this water fast include not drinking a caffeinated beverage in the morning?

    I would cheat and drink something caffeinated anyway, if so. Or it’s a one-way ticket to migraine-ville. No one likes migraine-ville.

  • Maggie

    I would recommend doing the clean program detox rather a water diet, i just read clean and it totally changed the way i think about food, my body & stress- totally serious! have no connections to them whatsoever

  • Lauren

    This sounds like expiration anorexia.

    Seriously, not eating for 3 days cannot be good for you. You will get out toxins, but also nutrients. Your body will go into starvation mode and your metabolism will slow down. Be careful on this.

    • Miss C

      Sorry, “starvation mode” is pseodoscience usually churned out by people who feel that going 3 hours without a meal is deprivation… people can and do fast all over thwe world for all sorts of reasons, for example, have you heard of Ramadan

      There’s a British obesity specialist, a surgeon who deals with really severely obese people, I forget his name now, he was on TV saying he thinks this myth that normal hunger is dangerous is responsible for more human suffering via obesity than any other food myth.

  • kjon

    I can get down with fasting but this sounds miserable! Like someone else said, I can’t start my day without a little caffeine (in the form of coffee for me) and three whole days!!! I would do a little research on fasting as it can be a legit practice when done right*.

    *”right” can of course be wrong for someone else. I will say that I do a weekly 24-hour fast (just coffee, water and milk if my stomach growls) and it feels great for me. I don’t recommend.

  • MM

    How are you going to function for three days without food? Maybe I’m just weak but every time I’ve skipped 2+ meals in a row it’s ended in public fainting.

    • Lemona

      Not for me –I believe a lady should always faint in the privacy of her own home, so I rush home before keeling over.

      Just kidding –I also become abominably weak if I skip 2+ meals. The trouble with fasting is that I can’t *do* anything else. I could wander into the desert and spend the time in contemplation, but that’s it –activity is out of the question.

  • Lastango

    The payoff for a diet like this is how fast your weight will drop. After a few days your stomach shrinks, and you won’t feel as hungry. Even after you start eating again, you may find you’re content with meals that are only half as large as before.

    BTW, you don’t have to give up diet cola, coffee, tea, etc… there’s no calories in any of that so it won’t affect your weight loss. If you’ve been taking in a lot of caffeine in the past, and you give it up, you may have some withdrawal symptoms unrelated to not eating.

    One tip: before starting a diet like this, it helps to stop buying food. When there’s not much in the fridge, there’s less temptation. It’s also easier to reduce your food intake once you start eating again.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      It’s not a “water fast” if you consume coffee and diet soda.

    • Allison

      Why so snarky, Ashley? I like Lastango’s comment, he/she is trying to be helpful and give Jennifer advice!

  • Lindsay

    Are you in my head? Yesterday I was going on about doing a water fast to my friend on Gchat. She thought I was crazy but is too nice to say (type) it. There really are health benefits and it is not all about losing weight. I was shooting for 36 hours. I ate a hand full of raw almonds at about the 16 hour mark, grabbed 5 cookies to eat while I ran an errand after work, then ate a sandwich and a serving of mac and cheese. FAILED MISERABLY. If you make it even a full day, please share how. Do you just take a sleeping pill and wake up when the fast is over??

    • kjon

      I do the one day thing per week. I try to do it on days where I do not have a bunch of errands because it gets incredibly hard driving/walking by french fries (my weakness). I drink lots of water and try to distract myself with various things. When the hunger really hits, and it will, it sucks for about 30 minutes before it just kind of fades. I try stretching, showering and reading when it gets like that.

      Easier said than done bottom line.

    • Lindsay

      I made the decision at the last minute. I will put more thought into and try again next week. I almost think I would be better off with a packed schedule because I tend to eat out of boredom when I’m home.

    • kjon

      I just reread my reply (I’m freaking paranoid) and I sound a bit out of touch. Also, I’m generally terrible at dispensing advice without sounding like a haughty asshole. I realize people have jobs, kids and lives that require them to be out and about (and around lots of food) during much of the day. I’m a student and a bit of a homebody so most free time I have I spend at home. And I do sleep off an hour or two if I can on my fasting day but I don’t recommend using sleeping pills regularly.

    • Lindsay

      I wasn’t actually planning to take sleeping pills…just my joke about how impossible I found not eating yesterday!

  • L

    this sounds completely fucking psychotic. you have more energy?! where from?!

  • Niki

    You’re offering pro-ana tips not-so-cleverly disguised as ‘detox fasts’ on this site now? How dissapointing. Consuming nothing but water for 3 days is called starving yourself, and isn’t healthy no matter how you want to slice it.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Well, actually, research indicates there are a fair number of health benefits. For instance – I hate to quote the fasting Wikipedia page, but it groups them pretty well -:

      Benefits include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance, immune disorders, and more generally, the slowing of the aging process, and the potential to increase maximum life span.[1] Besides these health benefits, research by Valter Longo has also uncovered a potential link between fasting and improved efficacy of chemotherapy.[2] [3] [4] According to Dr. Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the US National Institute on Aging, fasting every other day (intermittent fasting) shows beneficial effects in mice as strong as those of caloric-restriction diets,[5] and a small study conducted on humans at the University of Illinois at Chicago indicates the same results [6] According to the US National Academy of Sciences, other health benefits include stress resistance, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced morbidity, and increased life span.

      I don’t have any desire to do it for longer than three days – I like food too much – but an increasing number of studies seem to show that periodically fasting is benefical to your overall health. And it’s certainly not called starving yourself so much as its been thought of us as a religious rtual for much of history.

    • Ashley Cardiff

      I don’t think it’s fair to equate fasting and anorexia. For one, anorexia is an illness. For two, fasting has a long history of medical use, prescribed to everyone from cancer patients to children suffering from epileptic seizures.

  • Ugh

    This commend feed doesn’t read like a pro-ana board at all!

    Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear that you have cancer. Or religion? Or is it just an inability to find real medical info to back up your decision to starve yourself for 3 days anywhere but Wikipedia?

    You guys rag on other sites for being irresponsible about stds and drug use, but turning your unhealthy obsession with binging and purging into blog fodder is totes cool, right? Plus, hey! You put a trigger warning on it so you get a free pass to tell people that it’s healthy to stop eating and share fasting tips. How responsible of you! It’s too bad you don’t have an editor to tell you to go to rehab for your body and eating issues before you spew ignorant garbage like this.

    • Fabel

      She’s not “binging and purging” & I actually don’t think this comment thread reads like a pro-ana board AT ALL

    • Jennifer Wright

      Well – I don’t have cancer, or much in the way of religion, but I do have, I think, a healthy curiosity about different practices. Most studies do concur that periodic fasting can improve your life span (and lower your stress levels) and that doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. I also think you’ll find a very hard time finding anything that says that fasting specifically for three days is the same as anorexia – and I frankly think that’s a bit demeaning to the struggle anorexics are dealing with.

    • kjon

      I know it’s hard when you feel like everyone is judging you for whatever serious issues you seem to clearly have. That last sentence said a lot.

      Fasting for ONE day during the week is not pro-ana, anorexic or even an eating issue. You made that up because you have felt attacked like that in the past. Stretching, showering and reading is not a pro-ana “tip”. You made it that way in your head.

      I can handle a little harsh judgement. We have an internet culture where everything seems extreme and everyone needs to go to rehab apparently. I’m perfectly fine with someone like you thinking *I* need serious help because it’s exactly what I’d expect someone like you to do. I’ll keep fasting for one day a week and you keep doing whatever you’re doing that makes your editor want to put you in rehab.

    • Emily

      I’m with “Ugh.” A little disgusted right now.

  • Donna

    Congrats on trying this, my stomach is cringing at the thought, I’m excited to read about your results. Are you allowed to have tea (herbal?) what about lemon water? Or is it like a fast for your taste-buds as well?

  • Lindsay

    Jennifer is just tired of cooking, you guys! I need an update on how this is going. I’m about to go get a sugar-laden vanilla latte in your honor.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Oh, God, you’re on to me. (But I’m going to make brussel sprouts Sunday morning when this is over).

  • Miss C

    I look forward to reading the dire warnings about Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Over-Eating, insulin resistance and similar come Thanksgiving & Christmas!!

    Oops – or is it only experiments in NOT constantly stuffing oneself, that raise all this “concern”?

    And yeah this looks contradictory to my comment over at article #2 on this, whatever… I just can’t believe the ire any post anywhere on the internet about restricting food intake gets.

    More people are suffering within 5, 10, 20 miles of every poster here in the developed world from an excess of eating than from starvation; and horrible as anorexia, bulimia & ed-nos are, the quiet misery of being severely overweight, hungry constantly and living in a society that enables, nay actively PUSHES, over-consumption 24/7, is never really addressed.

    /rant