On February 1st, I arrived at the True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, and embarked on a 7-day water fast. This is my story of what happened.
I’m not new to fasting. I’ve done a few short fasts (2-4 days), many one-day fasts, and one 23-day water fast. Two years ago, I also visited True North for a 5-day water fast.
Over the past few months, I’ve even been fasting one day a week for 36 hours. It might sound like I’m addicted to fasting. But in fact, if you exclude the one-day fasts, I’ve only fasted a few times in my life.
Most people who try a long water fast do so for therapeutic reasons. Water fasting is extremely useful in assisting the body in healing hypertension, auto-immune diseases, acute illness, and many types of chronic health problems, especially if they are caused by the Western diet. Fasting could also be a powerful tool to prevent cancer, boost the immune system, and possibly even slow down the aging process.
When I fasted for 23 days on water, I was sold on the benefits of fasting and thought of it as a potentially “miracle” therapy. I was 28 years old at the time, and I thought that fasting might heal my nearsightedness, and the acne I tend to have on my back since my teens. It did none of that. However, I discovered that fasting was a powerful spiritual tool.
Although my 23-day fast was very challenging, I came out of it with a new sense of direction for my life — a newfound power and energy that lasted me for several years and propelled my business and my life in a new direction.
The reason I sometimes go on a water fast for more than a day is because I believe in its therapeutic, preventative and spiritual benefits. It’s worked for me in the past, and that’s why it’s part of my life.
I decided to go on a 7-day water fast because I’m going to turn 40 next month. I figured it would be a great way to create a sense of ‘fresh” energy in my life and also enjoy some of the physical benefits of fasting.
Before the Fast
I prepared myself for the fast by eating a very clean diet throughout the month of January. Not only did I eat my usual plant-based diet, but I also made sure to avoid eating out and not eating a single drop of oil. I also avoided nuts, seeds, and avocados as an experiment.
In the two days leading to the fast, I ate only fruits and vegetables.
The only thing I could not give up was caffeine. You see, I was still drinking green tea every day and coffee once or twice a week. This caffeine addiction is very hard to break for me. I knew I had to give it up for the fast, to avoid the caffeine-withdrawal headaches. But I didn’t manage to do so. The best I could do was to switch to green tea exclusively the week before the fast, and reduce somewhat the quantities that I drink.
I arrived at True North on February 1st and got settled in my room. That night, I had a big migraine headache from the caffeine withdrawals (and all the traveling from Montreal). At that moment, I wished I had given up caffeine before the fast!
The next day I met with Dr. Klaper, one of the great doctors working at True North. He did my initial consultation and declared me “an expert on fasting” and wasn’t too worried about my fast. Blood tests would be done in a day or two to go along with my consultation.
The next day, my water fast started. Here’s what happened…
My Fasting Diary
Note: I also recorded daily videos during my fast that I posted on my Facebook page.
Day one was no big deal. Fasting an entire day and going to bed on an empty stomach? No problems, I’ve been doing that once a week for the past three months. But it’s only “easy” when you get to eat the next day.
Hunger games. Though determined not to spend any time thinking or thinking about food during this fast (after all, I’ll be able to eat all the food I want after the fast), I end up being hungry all day and images and thoughts of food pop up all the time. I go to bed at 7 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m. and sleep maybe 9-10 hours. In my dreams, I’m sharing a giant granola bowl with my mom and we dice a huge mango in it, which surprisingly has a white flesh.
I wake up feeling great and end up having a long chat with my roommate James, who’s already several days into his fast. I feel positive and as energetic as someone can feel during a fast. The only issue is a mild, low-grade headache that probably is a remnant of my green tea habit I just gave up before coming to True North.
The morning starts out a little rough with low energy but gets better as the day progresses. I end up going for a nice walk in the afternoon, despite the center’s warning for fasters not to leave the property. I feel like a kid skipping class. I thought I would get some writing done during the fast, but I’m not. Concentration is difficult when the body is running on ketones instead of glucose. One faster told me “I couldn’t fast without Netflix.” I find the same. I end up watching an entire season of “Better Call Saul” in 2-3 days. Overall, an easy day. Hunger is gone!
I’m entering a new stage of the fast. I’m deep into ketosis now. I’m still sleeping like crazy, unlike other fasters! Again, spent 12 hours in bed last night. In the first few days of the fast, I drank because I had to. Now, I’m thirsty like crazy and end up drinking twice the amount that I usually drink. My pulse is higher. My blood pressure is higher. I can feel some acidity in my stomach.
I’m in deep detox mode! I feel like my body is doing a deep cleansing. I’m much more tired today, and the roof of my upper throat is inflamed.
Great doctors and interns at True North visit you twice a day. Dr. Roberts — a real gentleman — discussed with me that during a fast, many health markers go up (cholesterol levels, pulse, blood pressure), as the body does its “thing,” and then go down.
The mystery of the sore mouth/throat? Dr. Klaper explains to me that during a fast, saliva chemistry changes, and different, not-so-friendly bacteria start dominating. This change can occur in as little as two days, and changes as the fast goes on. This is a common symptom that will clear out after the fast.
I had officially a horrible night last night, making officially day six the worst day of the fast. I couldn’t sleep because all the aches and pains I ever felt in my life (it seems) came back to haunt me with a vengeance! For example, tooth pain where I had repairs done, leg pain where I had an accident 15 years ago, upper back, lower back, you name it. Doctor told me that old injuries and pains often come back during a fast. Looking forward to breaking the fast and counting the hours.
Day 1 of breaking the fast
Day of juices only! My first watermelon-celery juice hits the spot and tastes better than any juice I remember having since my last fast. I’m allowed four juices today, every 3 hours. Still, I’m not feeling like myself still! However, I know better. You have to be patient…
Day 2 of breaking the fast
Today on the menu: raw foods and some steamed vegetables. My morning fruit meal does the job. Fruit tastes amazing, of course, but I also feel the energy coming back soon after eating it! I make sure to eat fruit before every other meal, along with the salads and greens, which don’t taste any better than they normally do without dressing.
Day 3 of breaking the fast
The inflamed throat that was bothering me in the last part of the fast is starting to heal quickly. My body chemistry is changing back to those friendly carbohydrates! Yay! Don’t let anyone tell you that ketosis is the body’s natural state.
Today on the menu: same as yesterday, but add cooked potatoes and other mild starches.
Now, I’m almost feeling like myself! But a bubblier version of myself! My physical energy is not back 100%, but I’m in a state of deep happiness. Last night, I watched “Crocodile Dundee” for the first time since I watched it as a kid and ended up crying in the cheesy finale.
Thoughts About the Fast
Fasting is a process of preservation, rejuvenation, and revival. It’s part breaking down and building back up. The revival phase feels particularly good regarding mood and spiritual benefits.
The first 4-5 days of my fast were particularly easy, and the last few days were very challenging, because of the aches and pains I was feeling. Was it worth it?
It’s been now almost seven days since I broke the fast, and I can already report a few benefits
Benefits from the fast
The “High” — First, you can’t beat the “post-fast” high. For 4-5 fast after the fast, I was walking around in a state of elevated mood and heightened mental and spiritual awareness. Although my body was still “recovering” from the fast, I was feeling better and better every day.
Mood and energy — The mood enhancement seems to be lasting beyond the first few days after breaking the fast. I noticed that even when I get less sleep, I seem to function better during the day with higher levels of mental and physical energy.
Improved digestion – My digestion is noticeably better since I broke the fast — which surprised me. Every meal has digested perfectly, and elimination is perfect. I was doing well in those areas before, but I’ve noticed that it’s even better now.
I’m Off Caffeine! I can’t believe that I managed to give up caffeine completely. I tried to phase it off at home, but couldn’t. Since I broke the fast, I’ve had no desire for caffeine at all.
Mobility & Pain — I told you about the lower back issues I experienced during the fast, as well as the body aches and pains. All of that disappeared after the fast! But even better, my body feels even more mobile now and feels better all around.
Improved Taste Buds — You might have heard that natural foods taste better after a fast. My experience was a little different. Fruit tasted amazing after the fast, but vegetables tasted like they normally do. However, what has truly changed for me is my interest in salt is noticeably down. I just don’t want any! I’m turned off by any food that contains salt or too many strong seasonings (except natural spices). Before the fast, I was still using salt and seasonings (like salsa) that contained it, but now I’m determined to eliminate them or cut back significantly, and my taste buds are leading me in that direction!
Fast Loss — Although I was at a good weight before the fast (between 163-166 pounds), I probably lost 2 pounds of fat during the fast. I do enjoy my slimmer, trimmer body!
There are probably other benefits of the fast that I can’t pinpoint because they are happening on a much deeper, physiological level. All I know is that it was a worthwhile experience, in spite of the level of difficulty in doing a fast longer than 3-4 days.
Here are a few questions I received about water fasting. If you have more, please write them in the comment section.
How much water to drink?
It’s recommended to drink 2-3 quarts or liters of water a day.
Have you ever done a juice fast? And if so what are the differences for you between a juice fast and water fast?
Yes, I’ve done many juice fasts, although none longer than five days. When doing a juice fast, I never felt any of the benefits I have felt with water fasting, except for the higher energy during and after the juice fast. Even that was short lived.
A juice fast is not a true fast. It’s a 600-1500 calories a day liquid diet. It can lead to some benefits, but in general, I don’t recommend it for more than a day. You’d be better off eating a whole, high-raw, low-fat, oil-free vegan diet instead.