6 days of fasting

I have done quite some water fasting this year. A few ‘shorter’ ones of 36 and 72 hours and one long one of 144 hours (6 days).

In this blog post I like to share my experience, the reasons why I did the fasting and the potential benefits I believe it has. I will share what were the hardest moments, what I experienced in my body and how I did it.

So, I did water fasting.  That means; no food, no juices; the only thing I was drinking was water, tea and black coffee. With water fasting you can drink sparkling water, but no flavoured water etc or cola zero.

So, for the ones who start reading this and thinking I’m crazy; it does sound quite crazy to me too, to not eat for 6 whole days! However, it felt surprisingly good and relatively easy.

Lets get started why I did fast for so many days, how each day went for me, what I struggled with, how I prepared and how I broke the fast.

Why is fasting good for you?

Fasting has been practiced in many major religions for centuries. Much of the benefit of water fasting hinges on the fact that fasting can help induce a state of nutritional ketosis, which is when your body stops burning glucose (carbohydrates and other sugars) as energy and instead burns fat for energy.

Some of the health benefits of water fasting may include:

Improves and lowers your blood sugar levels. Lowers cholesterol in your body. Promotes autophagy. Autophagy is a process where cells break down any old or damaged parts and then recycle them within your body. Fasting is a well-recognized way to encourage autophagy, meaning occasional short fasts could reduce your risk for several diseases (like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease). Studies show that fasting may make your cells more sensitive to insulin. Researchers think that occasional fasting may protect against heart disease by reducing oxidative stress in your body, and inducing nutritional ketosis. And of course it helps with weight loss.

Quite a list, right? 🙂

And that’s just the physical benefits of fasting. For me, I also believe it really has some mental benefits. Choosing to fast requires mental strength and the ability to resist short-term gratification to pursue long-term goals. It’s such a mind game. It changes our perspective on food, on the idea of being ‘hungry’ and it helps a lot of becoming mindful of how much, how fast and how often we eat. It helps us with realising how long the body can be without food, that we don’t need food the moment we think we are hungry. We nowadays always have acces to food. The moment our body gives a sign that it’s slightly hungry we can grab something out of the fridge, get some take away food, it requires no effort to get food. I mostly take something healthy when I feel like eating, but still, most of the time my body doesn’t really need food at that moment and it would be better to give my body some time to digest.
And I can often eat without really be mindful of what I am eating.. I can eat while watching something, doing some work on the laptop and  I can finish my food without noticing.  So for me it it’s also about appreciating the moment of eating again and really taking the time for my food.

And when you fast, your body has less toxic materials flowing through the blood and lymphatic system, making it easier for you to think. While fasting, the energy you’d normally use to digest food is available to be used by the brain.You likely won’t notice this mental change until the first few days of a fast because your body takes time to adjust. You might have headaches or pain points at the beginning of the process. But after your body clears itself of toxins, your brain has access to a cleaner bloodstream, resulting in clearer thoughts, better memory, and increased sharpness of your other senses.

When not to waterfast? 

Water fasting carries risks, including side effects such as mood changes, migraine headaches, and disordered eating. It can make you feel physically and mentally drained, too.

And this type of fasting can be particularly dangerous for certain people. For example, pregnant people, those with type 1 diabetes, and anyone who needs to take medication with food should avoid it. Always listen to your body and never start with a long water fast without any experience – or consult your doctor.

I did a fast of 36h,  3 days last year, 4 days in January and after that I knew I wanted to do it again. Together with a friend of mine we decided to give it a go in May, not having any social activities planned for a few days. I wasn’t sure how long I would like to fast this time, and the days before I am always looking up against it. So for me, I prefer to have the option of a long fast (so I am not planning any social activities or very physical actions that week) but I like to give myself the opportunity to stop the moment it doesn’t feel good anymore.

The day before. Sunday:

My plan was to start fasting on Sunday evening after dinner. However, I had a very bad start of my fast (and I do not recommend this). I started the day good with some yoghurt and fruits, gave a yoga lesson and after that I drove to my sister for my nephews 2nd birthday. I had a terrible night of sleep and felt like sugar. Sooo, I had two pieces of birthday cake, coffee, chips and some veggie snacks. On the way home I felt quite full and not hungry for dinner at all, so I decided to skip dinner and just start with the fasting already.

This is not an ideal start of a fast – at all! It’s better to start preparing your fast. Eat less carbs the week before starting your fasting, eating lots of veggies and fruits, quit alchohol and lower your caffeine intake. It will make the fast easier and you will have less  detox symptoms or headache. If you already lower down on carbs the days before it will help to get earlier in ketone.  However, I failed at that part! Which isn’t really a problem but it would have been better for my body (and my mood) to work towards the fast the days before.

Day 1. Monday:

I wake up 7 AM and I am feeling hungry already. Oh no! Still not feeling mentally ready for the fast and I am already having 2nd thoughts. I cook some oats for my daughter and it smells delicious. I drink some water with sea salt and lots of tea as my ‘breakfast’. Luckily I am doing this fast together with a friend of mine. She lives far away so we just have contact by WhatsApp, but it will be a huge support during the week. I remember from previous fasts that the first two days were the toughest days, so that’s what I keep telling myself. We decide to order a ketone and glucose measure online, because it’s important to measure yourself during a longer fast (and it’s interesting too!). It’s funny to realise how much more time you have in a day, not spending it on buying food, preparing meals, eating and doing dishes 🙂

63.1 KG

Day 2. Tuesday: 

I remember from previous fasts  (of 3 and 4 days) that I found this  the most difficult day. But this time I feel quite good, it’s just some moments that the feeling of being hungry comes up.  I have a little headache. I realise I should drink even more water and tea than on normal days because you can dehydrate much quicker when you don’t eat. It might also be because I normally drink three cups of cappuccino a day but I almost stop drinking coffee. The black coffee just really doesn’t take good on an empty stomach for me. To ‘treat’ myself I buy many different sparkling water bottles in the store, a few cheaper ones and some fancy ones. The bubbles in the water can give you a bit of a fuller feeling in your stomach. It helps me to drink more, because I don’t like regular water so much. I spend the whole day with my daughter at home. We have a walk, go for a bike ride, do a picnic in the forest (well she eats it-not me) and it’s a nice distraction for me. In the evening I feel good and I have a good night of sleep.

Ketones level 0.6 / 61.5 KG

Day 3 Wednesday:

I wake up very nauseous. It reminds me of my nausea when I was pregnant, and that’s not a good memory to have. I take some water with salt and lay down a little more, hoping it will fade away within an hour. I already decide that I will break my fast if the nausea doesn’t go away within that hour, it shouldn’t be a competition and I want to listen to my body. Luckily the nausea goes away and I can start my day. The rest of the day I feel very focussed and I have a clear mind. I feel very good!!  I also find some good electrolytes online that I order, which don’t raise your glucose levels. I go to the gym for a very light gym session, just to keep the muscles active.  For a longer waterfast like I do it’s good to take electrolytes as your body will miss some essential minerals from food intake.  I go to bed quite early and have a good night of sleep. Thinking of it, I actually might sleep better than on normal days, but I have to force myself to go to bed early because I feel less tired in the evening. Normally I feel quite tired after eating a warm and rich meal in the evening and when not eating I keep feeling very awake in my mind.

Ketone level 1.6 / Glucose 3.9 / 60.6 KG

Day 4 Thursday:

Today I have a busy day, which I am quite happy about. Lots of distraction! I start the day with some warm water with keltic salt. I cook my daughter some banana pancakes and it doesn’t make me go crazy for it. First a meeting at Aya her daycare, then a meeting with my business coach (drinking two cups of mint tea) and then driving up to Amsterdam to see a sportdoctor (buying some sparkling water on the way). The news from the sports doctor is not what I was hoping for and on the way back I do feel like buying myself some (a lot) of chocolate to feel happy again. I don’t do it, but it stays in my mind the whole drive back.

I feel significant better than the days before. Less hungry, no headache and full of energy. My mind is really clear and I don’t feel tired at all. In the afternoon I decide to go to the gym. I do half an hour on the bike and another 20 minutes of very light machines. It feels good to exercise but I definitely feel much weaker than normal. Not pushing it at all, just enjoying it.  In the evening I go to see some friends. They feel bad of eating in my face but I really don’t mind. Drinking two more cups of tea. But back at home just before going bed I don’t feel great. I have a headache and feel tired. I send a message to my friend that I will break the fast tomorrow,  I want to listen to my body and I’m done with it.. time to eat again!

Ketone level  2.1 / Glucose 3.6 / 59.6 KG

Day 5 Friday:

I wake up energised and with more energy than all other days so far. Taking some salt water again, trying a cup of coffee (but only finish half of it – detox on coffee it is because I really don’t like the taste anymore). I go for a half an hour bike ride and even though I feel I could go on way further I decide half an hour is enough.  Still feeling good…doubt starts to kick in to break the fast today. My friend is going for the 6 day fast. It feels  tempting  to add another day because  I feel so good now and  it’s nice to finish ‘together’  so I write her that I’ll join another day.  I do some shopping for my first meal tomorrow, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep looking up recipes, what to eat after breaking a fast and daydreaming what I am going to eat the next few days. In the evening I feel very hungry. Finally my electrolytes that I ordered a few days ago have arrived, so I am taking them. They are unsweetened and will not harm the fasting. But they are very important to maintain hydration because you get most of your electrolytes from food normally. It tastes good.

It feels that the closer I am coming to the end, the more hungry and impatient I get. It’s 100% a mind game, this entire week. The mental part is sooooo much harder than the physical part.

Ketone level 3.7 / glucose level 3.3 / 59 KG

Day 6. Saturday

We are going to the Zoo with a friend of mine and her child. I make a breakfast box for Aya in the car, and for myself I take the electrolytes and I  bring a big bottle of sparkling water as ‘breakfast’. I feel good, the hunger feeling is in the background and we are having a lovely day.  I think the electrolites help me against feeling dizzy in the morning because today I have no problems at all. During lunch my friend buys herself something nice to eat and for a moment I regret my fasting; I feel anti social of not being able to share a lunch together. Funny how we connect being social with food and drinks. The children are tired and around 2PM we’re done at the Zoo. My plan was to drive home and start preparing my food, but instead I go home with my friend to stay the night there. I bike (again) to the store to buy food to break my fast.

Around 4PM I take some biological Chicken bone broth. It tastes delicious and it’s very healthy to break a fast with.

I waited a bit to see how my body reacts but it feels good, so one hour later I eat half of an avocado. Around 6PM we all have dinner together. We eat shrimps, asparagus and steamed courgette. The others have potatoes and sauce too, but I skip that. I make sure to eat a small portion and to eat very slow.

It’s funny to realise how much I enjoy and to be conscious about the taste, the flavours. To eat slow, really chew good and be aware of the speed / amount that we eat!

Ketone level 3.6 / Glucose 3.3 / 58.5 KG

The downside of fasting: 

For me one of the worst things of not eating is that I am getting cold so quick! My body struggles to keep myself warm. And although I safe a lot of time cooking food, I spend all that time thinking of food and looking up recipes. I miss the social part of eating together and for me it was hard making sure my daughter did not notice that I wasn’t eating. I even faked eating pancakes, putting them in my mouth and spitting them out again afterwards 🙂

My personal reasons to fast: 

My main reasons to fast are because of the health benefits. I believe it’s very healthy for the body to get some time to digest and to ‘clean up’ the body with the autophagy that is happening during a long fast. Also, I have very sensitive intestines and often pain in my belly and I wanted to change the microbiome in my intestines. But this long fast I mainly did because I am suffering from a knee injury (I had a crash with winging) and my knee was inflamed. The fasting works against inflammation, or at least for me it was worth giving it a try!

My knee did feel better after the week of fasting. Of course, that could also come from doing less sports (I did take it more easy than a normal week) or it could be just in my mind, but even if that’s the case it means it still worked for me 😉

The week after:

I have to get used to the ‘after dinner dip’ – that after eating I feel tired again. I kinda miss that balanced energy level all through the day. I keep eating very healthy and light the first week. No gluten, very little amount of carbs and a lot of veggies and fruits. It really helped me to enjoy and cherish every meal and all the food. And I totally got rid of my caffeine addiction! Very happy with that. I will definitely start drinking coffee again at one point, because I simply love coffee, but it feels good that I am able to get rid of the addictive part of it.  Of course my weight went up a bit- it was only that low because I wasn’t eating anything – the moment you eat again (especially carbs) your body holds more liquid again which makes you heavier again on a scale.