Why I Want to Attempt a 7-day Water Fast

Having alternate day fasted for the past 9-months, the benefits of fasting are now irrefutable to me, quite literally, life-changing. Having seen a whole slew of health issues resolve themselves month-by-month, I have begun recommending alternate day fasting to everyone I meet. However, after speaking to many people, I have concluded that realistically there are very few people who will have the will power and resolve to attempt alternate day fasting, even though I do believe that it is in the realm of most people’s abilities. On the other hand, from my research on the Internet, it does appear that a lot more people are willing to attempt a one-off 7-day water fast. As I firmly believe that ANY fasting would be greatly preferable to NO fasting, I figured that it would be worthwhile to give a 7-day fast a try, so that I can “walk my talk” and have some personal experience with it when recommending fasting to people.

Alternate day fasting is incredible, but a longer continuous sustained fast is quite likely beneficial in ways that alternate day fasting cannot meet. From a healing perspective, a 7-day water fast may be the equivalent of 2-months of alternate day fasting. Furthermore, giving the digestive system a continuous rest will quite likely provide the opportunity to resolve issues that alternate day fasting cannot achieve. Who knows? Maybe I still have underlying issues that I’m not aware of that may be healed by a 7-day water fast.

As a form of health maintenance, the idea of quarterly 7-day or even 14-day cleansing fasts is appealing to me. Surely, no harm would come from it, and a routine maintenance cleansing of the digestive track seems to me a good way to ensure good health throughout one’s life. Our foods these days are full of artificial ingredients, toxins, pollutants, and chemical pesticides, not to mention the viruses and parasites that exist naturally around us. Any process that helps rid the body of these can only be viewed as beneficial. If maintaining this routine on an annual basis helps keep me out of hospitals and helps save me all the associated expenses of being sick, then I am more than willing to adopt this simple lifestyle change.

It’s a challenge. Going without food for 7-days straight, in a sense, seems incredible. In today’s world of 24/7 eating, almost unfathomable, magical or superhuman. I want to see for myself that I can do it, too, and demonstrate that the human body is naturally designed to be much more resilient than we give it credit for these days.

July Alternate Day Fasting Update

July ended up being a throwaway month because I traveled to the US for three weeks and gorged myself endlessly on all the things that I can’t eat back home. In fact, in a matter of a mere three weeks, I managed to gain 4kg, which is a testament to my eating ability and the insanely huge size of American portions! If I had been traveling with my wife, we could have easily split one dish between the two of us, but alas, she wasn’t there, so I had to eat it all by myself! And once I realized that the month was going to be a throwaway, I ate with complete abandon. Any urge I had, I satisfied it. I did things that I would be ashamed to tell my children. Continue reading

June Alternate Day Fasting Update

From a weight perspective, nothing changed. It looks like I’ve flatlined at 61kg. Having said that, once again, I did eat generously during my feeding days. Perhaps if I cut down on my food intake, my weight would drop. But presently my goal is still to try and put on muscle, so that’s not the route I’m taking just yet. Continue reading

May Alternate Day Fasting Update

The biggest news of May is that my gums have finally stopped bleeding. For the past 3-years, every time I brushed my teeth, a small amount of blood would be mixed in with the toothpaste when I spit it out. After 6-months of alternate day fasting, I am happy to say that this no longer happens! This, I believe, is the last health-related issue I had to cure. Everything that could be fixed has now been fixed. Actually, I did go to the dermatologist for a couple of longstanding (since the age of thirteen) skin issues I had that I was waiting to see if alternate day fasting would cure, but as one of them was slowly spreading with time (itchy psoriasis on my shins), I thought it best to see a dermatologist, and I’m very happy that I did as it is now completely under control. I had read that longer fasts of 2-weeks plus in length are known to cure various skin conditions and I was hoping to try one at some point, but I’m presently not ready to try anything of that length, and consequently decided to see a dermatologist, instead. However, as my psoriasis has historically tended to flare up every winter, I most likely will have another chance to try a longer fast as a permanent cure. But if my psoriasis doesn’t come back, after suffering from it for the past 33-years, that would be pretty incredible, too. Time will tell. Continue reading

April Alternate Day Fasting Update: No weight loss

April was the first month since I started alternate day fasting four months ago that I did not experience any weight loss, but there could be several factors involved.

Firstly, one week of the month, while visiting relatives, I ate every day. Presented with the opportunity to eat some amazing food that I wouldn’t be able to get back home and because food is so central to social interactions when traveling and visiting friends, I thought it appropriate to stray from my strict routine and fully enjoy myself. This was my first week off from alternate day fasting in four months. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say that it was a feeding frenzy, where I consumed massive amounts of food with complete abandon.

Upon returning home, I managed to transition back into my usual routine without too much difficulty. I wasn’t able to just jump from completely gorging myself for a week to no food at all. I had to throw in a few incremental days where I reduced my food intake gradually to more normal levels before I made the full transition back to complete fasting. More importantly, my weight did not noticeably increase from my one week of splurging. I did burn quite a few calories during my trip through some substantial walking and biking, but I’m fairly certain that even with those calories accounted for, I ate way more than I burned off.

What I actually think has been more problematic to my lack of weight loss in April was the fact that on my feeding days, I found myself eating much more than usual. This can be attributed to the following reasons:

  • An increase in social engagements on my feeding days, several being all-you-can-eat.
  • After four months of steady weight loss, an unfounded feeling of invincibility that I could consume as much as I wanted on feeding days with no negative consequences.

Obviously, the scale has proven that I haven’t mysteriously developed any magical powers and the laws of physics still apply.

However, there is one last factor that needs to be considered. I do believe that I have seen some strength gains during the past month, so perhaps some of my weight is due to an increase in muscle mass. Despite the scale not showing any weight loss, I do believe that my waist has shrunk, and overall, I’m looking a bit more defined. I can now fit comfortably into waist 28″ pants, which is something that I was last able to do 22 years ago when I graduated from university! This in itself, in my mind, is enough of an accomplishment to justify alternate day fasting.

In May, I will attempt to eat more normally on my feeding days, although so far this month, I’ve failed. It’s plausible that since I’ve reached what my body considers its ideal weight, I’m now feeling more of an urge to eat than I did the first four months of alternate day fasting. Since entering university, I have never actually ever weighed less than I way now, so perhaps I have reached my steady state and continued alternate day fasting may no longer lead to weight loss. If that’s the case, though, it’s most disappointing because I still have a substantial amount of body fat that I would like to lose. I still have love handles and there is a layer of fat that jiggles when I jump up and down, far from what I would consider to be my ideal physique.

I’m looking forward to reporting back in another month when hopefully some of this ambiguity regarding the lack of weight loss can be better explained.


Variations of Alternate Day Fasting

Depending on what you hope to achieve by alternate day fasting, there are a few ways to approach it.

Weight Loss

If your main goal is weight loss, then you have two options. You can either completely refrain from eating on fasting days, which is the fastest way to lose weight. Or if you find this too hard, you can opt to eat roughly 500 calories on your fasting days to help keep your hunger at bay but still have a substantial enough caloric deficit to induce weight loss.

Personally, I find it just easier to not eat anything at all because once I start eating, it’s a slippery slope for me. Not only is counting calories a hassle and an inexact science, but once I start eating, there’s always the temptation to eat more. It’s very easy to unconsciously convince yourself that it’s okay to eat just a little more because you probably haven’t eaten 500 calories yet, when in fact, you’re already over 500 calories.  Or you could accidentally sabotage your efforts to lose weight by just simply being really bad at counting calories. Even after trying numerous caloric restriction diets over the years, I have no real confidence in my counting ability. On a 2000 calorie diet, I think I could easily be off by as much as 500 calories. But if you simply decide that you’re not going to eat anything, then there’s no two bits about it. No food enters your mouth. Fullstop. There’s no ambiguity to deal with. Caloric intake: 0

Health Benefits

If your main goal is health benefits, meaning detox and healing of your body, or health benefits and weight loss, then the only way to go is to completely refrain from eating on fasting days. This will give your digestive system a complete rest and a chance to heal your body.

If you have a cut or gash or wound on your skin, you know that for it to heal quickly and properly, it’s of the utmost importance to first clean the wound before bandaging. Similarly, if your digestive tract has any cuts or nicks that need to heal, the wound has to be clean for it to be given a chance to heal. If you’re constantly consuming food, it’s akin to putting dirt in your wound. It’s never going to heal.

Therefore, if you’re looking to heal your digestive tract, then it’s imperative that you completely refrain from eating on fasting days. While it might be harder for you, the benefits are well worth the extra effort.

Dry vs. Wet

There is one more decision to make when completely refraining from eating. Do you also want to completely refrain from drinking water?

Dry fasting is refraining from not only eating but also drinking.  Some people believe that one day of dry fasting is the equivalent of three days of wet fasting. I’ll explain this concept in more detail in a separate post, but personally, I find that I have absolutely no issues with dry fasting during the winter. As I sweat very little, my body requires very little water. In fact, I often feel no thirst whatsoever. For me, it takes no extra willpower or effort to dry fast during the winter.




How I Alternate Day Fast

It sometimes bemuses me how complicated alternate day fasting can be for some people to understand. It’s really quite simple. I eat one day and then I don’t eat the next day. Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over.

Actually, to be fair, most people get caught up with the window of fasting. They want to know how many hours I actually fast. Well, for me, it usually works out to 30 hours, roughly from midnight to 6am. But I’m not religious about it. Sometimes my last meal might be at 1am in the morning or my first meal after fasting at 10am. I do what feels right on that particular day. Sometimes on fasting days I tend to sleep lighter and get up earlier. On these days, I might eat at 6am. On other days, I might sleep in and eat later. I do find that I tend to eat up until I go to sleep on feeding days, though, as mentally I’m aware that I’m not going to eat for the next 30 hours, and I enjoy eating – a lot. Some people shop till they drop. I eat till I sleep.

More importantly and interestingly, most of the time, even if I go to bed feeling slightly hungry on fasting days, usually when I wake up in the morning, the feeling of hunger is gone, and I’m in no hurry to eat. It seems that the body manages to refuel itself while sleeping. As I still have fat to burn (17% body fat), I’m presuming that presently my body is burning stored fat while I’m sleeping. I’m not sure whether or not this phenom will continue if I have a lower body fat percentage. This is something I’m looking forward to verifying, provided my weight loss continues and I get to a low enough body fat to test this hypothesis.

From a practical point of view, I can’t imagine anyone needing to reduce their fasting window to anything less than 30 hours as most everyone sleeps at least six hours a night. More likely than not, your fasting window will be longer. In any case, this is absolutely nothing to get all worked up about. Just do what comes naturally. There’s no such thing as fasting too long. To the contrary, I would suspect the longer the better, allowing more time for your body to heal itself.

Alternate Day Fasting Benefits

The benefits I have experienced from fasting are numerous:

  • The most obvious benefit is weight loss. For the first 5 months of fasting, I experienced a steady 2kg per month loss in excess weight. This is the same amount of weight that I usually lose from performing a lot of exercise, but by fasting I experienced the same weight loss with no extra time commitment.
  • Saving money! I estimate that by not eating half the days in a month, I am saving somewhere between $150-300 a month. And I don’t drink anything except water, so for someone who consumes coffee, alcohol, or soft drinks, the savings would probably be even greater.
  • More appreciation for food. I truly enjoy eating now. Every day that I eat, I am thankful for the food I eat. And it tastes delicious! I regularly say out loud, “This is delicious!” while eating a meal. Often times two or three times during one meal.
  • A lot of people eat because they’re bored. As I work from home and have ready access to food all day long, I think I’ve been guilty of this at times. But now this is no longer the case.
  • In terms of a diet, it’s extremely convenient because you don’t have to count calories or watch what you eat. On days that I eat, I eat whatever I like, within reason. I don’t read labels or avoid fat. I eat dessert every feeding day, most often twice a day; both after lunch and dinner.
  • The occasional binge eating day doesn’t derail your progress because the next day is always a fasting day.
  • Save time. I actually don’t save much time myself as my wife usually prepares food for our family, and even though I don’t eat, I still sit with the family during meals. But if you do prepare food, eat and clean up, then you could potentially save a lot of time on your fasting days.
  • For the first time in my life, this feels like a sustainable diet plan. I can’t foresee anything throwing me off this path. I guess time will be the ultimate test, though.
  • Better physique. With weight loss and body weight exercises comes a better physique. Whilst I have already lost 10kg and gone down two belt sizes, this is still a work in progress. I will update periodically.
  • Not a slave to sugar. As I can go an entire day without consuming any food, that obviously includes sugar, and means that I have some semblance of control over my sweet tooth. Although I must admit that on my feeding days, I still consume a fair amount of sugar in both the form of fruit and desserts. By no means am I living a sugar-free lifestyle.
  • People think you are superhuman because you only eat every other day! Well, at least the ones who are impressed.
  • Less body odor. I need to verify this as I am still using deodorant, but I sense that I am producing less underarm body odor.
  • Fixed numerous health issues.




Exercise and Alternate Day Fasting

Many people wonder if it is okay to exercise while alternate day fasting. I personally have had no issues whatsoever. I regularly bike 50km or walk 10km on a fasting day. I don’t feel any difference in strength or speed.

More importantly, I have a set routine of bodyweight exercises that I cycle through on a weekly basis in order to ensure that I don’t lose muscle mass as I lose weight. I perform my bodyweight exercises regardless of whether or not it is a fasting day. Basically, I focus on one exercise every other day. So I do one day of pushups, one day of pull-ups, one day of dips,  and one day of abs. Within each exercise group, I try and do different types of variations to work out as many muscles as possible. So for example, for pushups, I do standard, wide, military, elevated, and staggered. During the day, whenever I feel like it, I will whip out a set of one type or another until exhaustion. Over the course of the day, I end up completing at least one set of each variation and sometimes two, depending on whether or not I am home all day or out most of the day.

Using this routine for the past four months, I have seen consistent gains in every exercise group. Even though my numbers are going up, though, it’s hard to actually say that I am getting stronger as the exercises are getting easier as my weight steadily goes down each month. At the minimum, though, I believe that I am not getting weaker. And the fact that I can now perform 70 consecutive pushups and 15 chin-ups at age 46 is by anybody’s book an indication of an above average fitness level. Furthermore, as these numbers are the best that I have achieved in my entire life, I think it fair to say that alternate day fasting is proving to be beneficial from a fitness standpoint.

Diet is an important factor in maintaining muscle mass. On my feeding days, I make it a point to consume a fair amount of protein. My breakfast is a huge salad, usually with fish, or sometimes chicken. Then over the course of the day, I try and eat chicken and beef or pork, in addition to other less protein dense foods such as bread or nuts or tofu.  I’m not fanatical about it. I don’t count calories or grams of protein. I just make a conscious effort to eat nutritionally well on my feeding days because my body only has half the opportunity to get the proper nutrients. Right now my focus is seeing how far I can progress in terms of muscle development using purely natural protein sources so I don’t take any protein supplements. I want to try and keep my eating habits as normal as possible so that I can live anywhere, shop locally, and live healthily.

Hopefully, this should help allay any fears that anyone has that alternate day fasting will be detrimental to their fitness level unless of course you are an elite athlete, in which case your experience may be different. Having said that, I do feel that it is important to stress that regular muscle training in some shape or form should be performed in order to maintain muscle mass. Otherwise, you will not only lose weight, but you will also lose muscle mass, and losing too much muscle mass will prove detrimental to your health.

Maintaining your muscle mass as you age should be one of your key fitness goals. The exercise routine I have described above takes very little time; at most 30 minutes a day, spread out into five-minute blocks at any time of the day. By splitting it up into small chunks over the course of the day, it doesn’t even feel like exercise. The amount of time you will save every other day by not eating should be more than enough to fit in some good solid exercise. No matter how you cut it, there really is no good excuse not to exercise your muscles if you do alternate day fasting.