Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Results Of My First 7-Day Fast

Recently I shared that I've been fasting every Monday, for the last two years. 

My last fasting day started out like every other fasting day, but then things began to get interesting. Some unresolved emotional issues starting coming to the surface, and so I simply decided to carry on with my fast, to see if I could gain clarity on the issue.

Day 1. Starts out okay, but for some reason today's fast seems more difficult than usual. I have cravings for food and I feel a bit ache-y and yucky. I put it down to all the wrong foods I've been eating lately. (Lollies and crisps, things I make an effort to avoid wherever possible). Maybe my body has more cleansing to do than usual...

I manage to resist the cravings for food and, by evening, I have some really strong emotions coming to the surface. This issue is something that I've struggled with for 2 years and remains unresolved because I've postponed making a decision either way. 

I just try to stay gentle with myself, but the emotional issues that fill my mind means my appetite disappears completely, so I make a spur-of-the-moment decision to carry on and do a 3-day fast, with the option of carrying on for 7 days if I'm feeling okay.

Day 2. Wow. So much emotional "stuff" happening today. Full of emotions, so don't feel like eating at all. Otherwise feeling fine, except for a really dry mouth. I just continue to keep up my water intake.

Day 3. Not feeling quite so emotionally charged today, but finally feeling like I'm starting to gain some kind of clarity as to the way forward on this issue that has troubled me for so long. In the past, this issue would come up, I would examine it and be afraid of what it would mean for me and my life, and then I would just shove it away again and try to carry on with life. But not this time...

Feeling really good, energy levels are high despite only having about 3 hours sleep the night before (due to a busy mind and several other circumstances conspiring to keep me awake most of the night). Still no appetite or desire to eat. I'm easily able to prepare the food for my children and don't feel the slightest bit tempted to eat some.

Day 4. Not feeling so good today. Had a poor nights sleep, for several reasons, one being two sick children. Get up feeling kind of ache-y in my back and joints, a few random pains here and there, energy levels are  low and feel quite irritable. Not sure how much of this can be attributed to my fasting, and how much to my lack of sleep the last couple of nights.

My stomach feels really "empty" (well, of course!) and starts grumbling loudly around mid-morning but I don't physically feel like eating any food. 

Emotionally, I'm becoming more and more convinced of what I need to do. It's big and scary and terrifying, but I know it's the right thing for me.

Day 5. Woke up feeling completely lousy. I'm still sleeping poorly - not sure if it's my fasting, or just my over-active brain trying to process the momentous decision I've made. I had maybe 3-4 fitful hours of sleep last night. All of me feels heavy and my joints ache and my back hurts.

When I was pregnant with my third child, I developed a patch of varicose veins at the front of my lower calf, right on the shinbone. They seemingly developed overnight. After I gave birth, they improved and are now barely visible. For some reason they are aching constantly today. 

Unfortunately, today also coincides with the day when pouring the foundation of our new house happens. From the early morning, I'm driving here and there, picking up people, organizing food for the workers, filling up big drums of water and carting them to the bush (used for mixing cement). My daughter is also feeling off, and just wants me to carry her everywhere. 

The busy-ness turns out to be a blessing in disguise, since I don't have any time whatsoever to focus on my aches and pains. I simply get on with it. Some time around mid-morning, while waiting for another water drum to be filled, I sneak away and manage to doze off for 20 minutes or so. It seems to keep me going the rest of the day.

Day 6. Feeling much better today, but I have a definite "scratch" in my throat. I had expected cold or flu-like symptoms at some point. I find myself marvelling that I have managed to go six whole days without eating food. I'm quite proud of myself. 

As my anticipation levels rise, I find myself obsessing over food. I spend the afternoon, lying on my bed reading recipe books! Surprisingly, I even find myself thinking longingly about eating some...(gasp!)...meat! Yes, for some reason, I can't stop fantasizing about a big hearty casserole with vegetables and sausages!

Day 7. I'm still thinking about food. With meat in it. And if I'm not thinking about food, I'm thinking about how to go forward with this big, frightening decision I've made. So much to think about and consider!

My scratchy throat has definitely turned into a sore throat. My nose is running too. Yay, my first "cold" (aka healing response) in years!

Day 8. I'm in two minds over whether I should continue my fast until the "cold" symptoms have cleared up, but my eagerness to eat over-rules that thought, and I eat a small finger banana. Very slowly and appreciatively! 

Then I wait.

After another hour or two, I'm feeling fine, apart from a few strange gurgles emitting from my belly. I start to look longingly at the bowl of leftover crackers and tea sitting in the fridge (a popular breakfast food here in Tonga. They're hard crackers covered with a tea made from boiling lime leaves and adding sugar, and eating once the crackers soften and absorb the tea.) I know I shouldn't. It's too soon for my stomach to handle sugar. And wheat. But I eat it anyway. And I feel okay, so then I eat some leftover pasta that I made earlier for the kids.

Within a few hours, my stomach feels like it has a pair of cats fighting, inside it. I make several desperate dashes to the bathroom to unload the contents therein. Oh dear. That didn't go to plan. Make a promise with myself to do better tomorrow. 

Day 9. (Today) Still struggling to get my eating patterns back on track. To be honest, I've always found complete abstinence to be easier than moderation. That's possibly why ending this fast has proven to be more difficult than the actual fast itself! My mind knows I need to be eating lightly, but I find myself longing for carbs and bread. 

I don't own a set of scales, but I can tell that I've lost a few kilos over the course of this week. Not that weight-loss was my intention, since I'm naturally tall and slim, and then slimmed down further after cutting out gluten a couple of months ago.

Apart from one supportive friend, nobody knew that I was fasting. Nobody in my (large) household noticed, not even my own children!! On the days I was feeling "off" they simply assumed I was sick and didn't want to eat. During other times, life was so hectic and things so unorganized with the building work starting, etc that it simply passed under everyone's radar.

But I was glad of that, because I know many people would neither understand or approve of me doing it, and I didn't want to deal with objections or encouragement to eat.

The biggest result of this fast is that I have finally reached a decision - a terrifying, life-changing decision - that I've put off making for two years or more. I don't know if this would have happened without the fast. Perhaps I would have started eating again as normal and simply swallowed my disquiet along with it, only to resurface yet again, at a later date.

I'm going to continue my weekly 36 hour fasting, with a mind to do a longer 7-day fast once per year. I'm interested to find out if my experience would be different if my circumstances were different. This fast happened to coincide with several other things happening in my life which took up a lot of energy and head-space and didn't leave much time for introspection or reflection. I'm definitely interested in exploring the more spiritual aspects of fasting.

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