Sorry for the delay in posting on the final days of my 7-Day Fasting Challenge, but I had a sick doggie and husband that needed some attention. Plus while going through the last 4 days of my fast, I thought they were uneventful. The intense hunger I felt on Day 3 was gone. Once in a great while my stomach might grumble a bit, but a sip of water took care of it (Day 3 I was obsessed with food thoughts).
I even stopped opening up the fridge.
But my little notes to myself indicate there was a lot more going on than I realized at the time. Physically, my menopause symptoms were gone. I could easily get 8 hours of sleep each night. The hot flashes and chills disappeared. My anxiety dropped through the floor. Mentally I was crisp.
Worrying that my fast would cause more stress on my body (thus raising cortisol levels and stress me out further) was unfounded. Yes, I lost weight not eating for 7 days, but that really was side benefit.
Below is the highlights of days 4-7 of my fast.
Day 4: Mental Clarity
Unlike Day 3, I woke up with lots of energy. I went out to run some intervals (yep, running while fasting…I am hardcore!). I felt great and ready to take on the day.
If there was one downside to this bundle of energy I possessed is that my mindfulness exercise was a bust. When you wake up with the urge to go-go-go, not thinking of anything isn’t possible.
But it didn’t matter. That day, my energy level hogtied my stress and left it on the curb. I zipped through the day feeling fantastic.
After the run it was time to work on some projects – bills, the monthly budget, research, and organizing closets. Keeping busy during a fast is key (can’t stress this enough).
It wasn’t just my energy level coming back, so did my mind. I felt mentally sharp, something I hadn’t felt since my surgery last June. I zipped through my mental “to-do” list, easily moving from task to task without forgetting anything. I was a machine, moving rapidly from one project to the next. Mental clarity is an awesome thing.
While I started the day as if I was shot out of a cannon, I ended it as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Day 5: Finding Balance
Day 5 had me feeling a bit like Goldilocks. On Day 3 I was too tired. On Day 4 I was a blaze of energy. Day 5 was just right. Gone was the previous day’s go-go-go. At the same time, there was no desire to curl up in a chair and veg out.
If I could put a word to describe how I felt, it would be “calm.” The busy work I planned pre-fast got done. But I was way more relaxed. No anxiety. I didn’t push myself to stay on task. What got done got done.
I had one moment of stress. In the early afternoon I stressed out that I wasn’t stressing out about…something!
This is what menopause does to you!
At that point, my Old English Sheep Dog nudged me. It was time for her afternoon walk. I laughed at myself and made a mental note (thanks to fasting, I could remember it!): “Stop freaking out over not freaking out.
Day 6: No Hunger
After going through my morning routine (resistance training, cleaning, dog walks, shower) was when I realized I stopped thinking about food for 2 days straight. Unlike our ancestors, I’m not out in the Serengeti hunting to feed the tribe. My food was 10 feet away waiting for me. And I couldn’t care less.
I did run out of projects to keep me busy. Something to consider when planning out a 7-day fast. Yet my thoughts didn’t go toward food (other than realizing I wasn’t thinking about food).
How badass did I become? I took my mother grocery shopping (oh, yes I did!). I even cooked for my husband. Sure I felt some hunger, but I always had hot tea or water by my side. To be honest, both were big nothing burgers on the hunger front.
I stopped feeling hungry. WTF?!? I never thought that was possible.
Day 7: Breaking The Fast
On Day 6 I decided to come up with a small to-do list. Anything to keep me busy on my last day. The morning of Day 7, after some stretching, I looked at the list and chucked it. I didn’t need it. I still wasn’t hungry and gave serious thought to continuing the fast a few more days.
Instead I started thinking about what I want to do with my life.
Granted, I did that with the cancer diagnosis. Who wouldn’t? But this was different. I wasn’t trying to make a bargain with God or myself on things I would do if I lived. No, this was the mental clarity kicking in from the fast.
I started thinking about happiness.
- “How could I be happier?”
- “What would bring more fun in to my humdrum little existence?”
- “Am I don’t what I can to bring joy to other people?”
Those questions started my noodling on my goals for 2017…until the late afternoon.
That’s when I started thinking about how to break my fast. We were going out to dinner for my birthday dinner. Now my birthday was two days before my fast ended, so we postponed the celebration for breaking my fast.
I picked the location – a seafood restaurant – but needed to plan how to break my fast. When doing an intermittent fasting or a 24-hour fast, no planning is needed. You just eat normal. But for an extended fast, you need to plan. I couldn’t just eat a meal without messing up my tummy. My digestive system was off line for 7 days. I needed to ease it back into operation.
Here’s where I wished I planned better. By mid-afternoon I started thinking about what small snack to have to break my fast. Should I have a small salad or some nuts? Do I need protein? How small is too small?
When you start dwelling on food, they hunger and stress come back with abandon.
Anyway, I settled on a handful (1/4 cup) of macadamia nuts about 30 minutes before we left for the restaurant.
For my birthday I ordered sea bass (with butter), steamed spinach and French green beans. A normal sized meal. I read that it’s common to eat more than normal when breaking a fast. But I really wanted to not over do it. I ate slowly, focusing on talking to my husband to make the meal last.
It worked. I got full and I wasn’t able to finish my dinner. Sweet!
For the last 2 years, I’ve done intermittent fasting and that will continue. However, I’m thinking about moving from 18 hour intermittent fasting (eating twice a day) to 24-36 hour fasting (eating every other day). I still think I eat according to schedule rather than because I am actually hungry. It is certainly something I intend to test.
I think my previous fasting helped me with this challenge. That includes my failed attempts at weeklong fasting. To do an extended fast your head really needs to be in the game. This time I didn’t just want to do it. I knew that I could do it.
As for menopause symptoms, I feel so much better. I know the symptoms are not gone for good. Things in my diet will creep in and send me off the deep end again. But now I have a tool I can use to help restore some hormonal balance.
Will I do a weeklong fast again? Heck yeah. I’m debating whether I do this once, twice or four times a year. Plus I want to move towards a water only fast, completely eliminating coffee (and cream) and broth.
Extended fasts are here to stay.