Health

I Fasted for 4 Days this Week – Dr. Audrey Nieswandt

…and I didn’t die

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

A buttery breeze wafted from the kitchen, carrying the allure of salt, fat, and puffed white corn.

The microwave dinged, and my son walked in with a heaping bowl of steaming and seductive popcorn.

“Arrrg,” I groaned. “Did you have to make that?”

“Want some?” he asked, tossing a handful into his mouth.

“No, I ‘m fasting, “ I grumbled. “Remember? And now the whole house smells of buttered popcorn.”

“Sorry,” he said, walking away. “Why are you not eating again?”

He retreated into his gaming den before I could formulate a reasonable response.

In my head, I pondered the reasons I was fasting.

1. I was fat –for me, anyway.

I’m a bit shy of 5’ 8” tall. When I’m being ‘good’ — working out, eating well, managing my mental health — I weigh in around 138–144, which gives me a BMI of 21.7 (the ‘Normal” BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9).

Recently, my weight crept up. I’m usually a bit of an exercise nut, but I went on hiatus last year. I actually stopped working out. That, combined with too much eating (and wine drinking) resulted in my new weight of…. 156. Seriously, I haven’t weighed that much since I was pregnant. 156 pushes me up to a BMI of 24.4, dangerously close to the next level: overweight.

I felt fat, my jeans didn’t fit, I was uncomfortable. It was a combination of Ug’s-and not the fluffy kind you put on your feet.

I needed to lose some pounds fast.

2. I’m hugely impatient –I want fast results.

I hate waiting around for long-term results. I’m impatient and demanding — ask my ex-husband. He’ll affirm.

3. I felt more brain fogged than usual.

Grief is hard. Single parenting is hard. Doing both is sometimes a tad overwhelming.

Since my son died 3 years ago, I know what it’s like to experience the cognitive dysfunction called brain fog. Some days, it’s hard to organize my thoughts, never mind figure out how many calories are in a flippin’ grilled chicken breast. So much for traditional dieting plans.

But my weight gain was adding to my foggy head and to my depression. I thought fasting could help me feel more cognitively clear.

4. I wanted to snap out of my current not-so-great eating routine.

Too much cheese. Too many olives. Too much wine.

That about sums that up.

5. Fasting is supposedly good for you.

There’s good and still emerging research about the benefits of fasting, including:

  • ketogenesis a biochemical process that produces ketone bodies by breaking down fatty acids and ketogenic amino acids.

6. Self-discipline gives me a deep feeling of accomplishment.

I love a good moment of self-control. There’s something about knowing I’m hungry but not letting myself eat that just gives me a heady shot of dopamine. I may be a bit of a sadist at heart.

I’m a control freak, but sometimes it works in my favor.

7. I love a challenge.

Tell me it’s hard, and I’ll do it. Done deal.

Day 0

You know how sometimes things work better if you just fall into them?

It’s that way with me for fasting.

Mentally, I was stuck. I needed to refocus my brain and my life. Physically, I was teetering toward being overweight. I felt chunky. The excess weight around my middle was dragging me down. My ass didn’t fit in my skinny jeans.

I knew I needed to do something. Soon.

On Monday, I indulged in an over-the-top brunch in Portland (aka Foodlandia). Albacore tartare with house-made chips. Boutique coffee and heavy cream. A fancy schmancy bourbon cocktail. Dessert was chocolate covered hazelnut glacé pooled in dark chocolate sauce and drowned in rum-soaked bananas.

That night, I was still full.

The next morning, I felt roly-poly. Sluggish. Ug.

I wouldn’t eat for the rest of the day, I decided then and there. And so my fast began.

Day 1

I water-fasted for the first 36 hours. For newbies, this means I had nothing to eat and nothing but water to drink. I decided to go without coffee, which I thought might be challenging, but it was fine.

I felt hunger pangs, but ignored them — or tried to.

A good trick is to stay busy. I worked, wrote, scheduled students, did laundry, picked up my youngest from school, shipped Ebay items, made dinner (not for me!), and raked some leaves.

It’s much easier to suppress hunger when your mind, hands, and body are busy doing something else.

I went to bed, and tumbled into sleep.

Day 2

Technically, I cheated.

On day 2, I stopped to visit my coffee guy, and he whipped up my double-shot breve latte with half-and-half. Heaven.

During my research on fasting, I realized that hard-core or fundamentalist fasters would consider my espresso drink a no-go. By taking in calories and fat, I had broken my fast.

But you know what? I didnt’t care. I chalked the drink up as liquid. My goal was to not eat any food, so — to my logic — I was still in the game.

That afternoon, hunger pangs. Harder to ignore.

For dinner, I stopped by the BBQ spot to get tri-tip sliders for Sebastian so I wouldn’t have to make dinner — or be tempted to sneak a bite.

That evening, I sipped a glass of wine: Pinot Noir.

See above: it’s liquid.

Day 3

Waking up, I decided to keep fasting. I felt fine. No light-headedness or other symptoms the online experts mention.

By afternoon, my stomach began to feel achy versus pang-y, if that makes sense. Since I’ve fasted before, I recognized the sensation. I wondered if I’d make it through the day.

The truth? I didn’t. I had a few blanched, slivered almonds that afternoon — maybe equivalent to 6–7 whole almonds. Chewing and swallowing those did make my stomach feel less hollow.

Another admission: I had a glass of wine too.

Day 4.

I knew this day would be challenging.

Counting backwards, I determined that my day 4 would end around 4:00 p.m. That deadline kept me going.

Day 4 is hard. I think the body- mind link is at fault: your stomach hurts and your willpower wanes. At least, mine did. It gets harder to resist. Maybe I’m not Zen enough, maybe it’s a lack of true Stoicism.

Today: no breve. By noon, my stomach tingled and ached: a low-level lingering throb. It was hard to ignore.

By 3 p.m., I knew I’d need to eat something.

I held off until 4, then steamed a bowlful of cauliflower, dousing it with olive oil and salt.

Heaven. Really and truly. That cauliflower was the most fragrant, crispy, delightful vegetable I ‘d ever consumed.

This is one positive you don’t read about — at least, I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere: food tastes so much better after fasting! Your taste buds are citizens on a new planet: every bite is delicious and remarkable. Every spice seduces the tongue.

That night, I ate a salad of baby spinach, feta, almonds, and chicken breast tossed in a lemony vinaigrette. I closed my eyes and savored every green leaf. I could only eat half.

I made it 4 days with super minimal food intake.

Okay, okay. Some of you may call it cheating. Technically, I drank two breve lattes, quaffed a few glasses of wine, and a chewed a half-handful of almonds.

But you know what? I consider it a victory.

Stepping on the scale, I noted that I lost 4.2 pounds. Not quite the five pounds I had wanted to take off, but pretty dang close.

Results

  • 4.2 pounds off = bonus!

Lessons

  • Fasting is a great way to jump start a weight-loss decision.

Tonight, my chef friend is hosting a pop-up 5-course dinner. I’m so there.

In preparation, I restricted my calories for breakfast and lunch. I drank a breve and ate a small spinach salad.

Life’s all about balance, I’ve decided.

Our bodies are too.

We rely on our bodies. We must treat them with respect and consideration, like a good friend.

Fasting is a decent and doable method to befriend your body and treat it right.


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