It has been a lot tougher breaking the fast than I thought it would be. As it turns out, it was actually much easier to enter the fast than to get out of it.
Challenge in Breaking the Fast
What happened was that during the 21-day fast, my stomach has (a) shrunk considerably (b) become very thoroughly cleansed, which has made it sensitive to anything I introduce post-fast (c) entered into sleep mode. In Day 1’s post fast update, I mentioned that I ate 3 x 2 oz of watermelon. Well as it turned out, the watermelon remained in my stomach for the whole of Day 1 and a good chunk of Day 2. I had a bad headache and strong feeling of nausea as a result. The worst thing was I had a 4-hour workshop on Day 2, so it aggravated the situation.
One of my workshop participants was really sweet and bought me food during the break, but I couldn’t eat due to my situation, so I passed the food to my co-organizer instead. At the end of the workshop, I felt very nauseous, so I had to cancel my coaching session after. When I tried to take the bus home, I had to alight after a few stops because I felt like throwing up. After resting I took the train home instead, and slept for the rest of the day.
So for the whole of Day 2, I decided to give my stomach a break and not eat anything. At about 1am on Day 3 (I had slept through half the day on Day 2 by then), I decided to try eating again – this time with 4 oz of apple. Like with the watermelon on Day 1, I chewed and ate very slowly. Everything went well, and for the next few hours I felt good and energetic.
After that though, I got completely knocked out into a deep sleep, waking up every now and then with a severe hangover. It felt like my head had been run over by a truck. My stomach also felt very “stuffed” up and uncomfortable – I could feel the apples sitting in my stomach the whole time and there was completely no activity in the digestive system at all. I could also feel the smell of the apples and it was very nauseating – it felt like the apples were all the way up at my throat the whole time. The feeling was horrible.
When I woke up in the late afternoon (Day 3), I tried rubbing my stomach in a clockwise direction, hoping the warming action from the outside would trigger some sort of reaction. That seemed to do the trick, because I started to throw up after that. Since the food wasn’t moving downwards, I guess my body decided to move it up instead. Nothing came up though when I was trying to throw up.
Immediately after the empty vomits, I finally felt my digestive systems kicking into action (with great relief too, may I add!). My stomach started to churn at this point. For a while there I was starting to panic because I felt I was in some kinda limbo – where I wanted to eat but the food was just stuck in the body! Honestly, little things like the body’s ability to digest food can be taken for granted when they happen by themselves every day.
I mentioned in Days 20-21 that Loren had recommended to break the fast via fruits, but at this point I figured even fruits were too heavy for my delicate post-fast stomach. So I decided to go slow and just take diluted orange juice (without pulp). Got a slight headache after that, was somewhat groggy and got knocked out with a few hours of sleep, but it was nowhere as bad as in Days 1-2 post-fast. Same thing today (Day 4), so it seems that everything’s moving along well now.
If all goes well tomorrow, I’ll move on to proper fruits for a few days, followed by a clean salad and wrap, then finally cooked meals. I think it’s safe to say that the worse is over now. 😀
Importance of Breaking a Fast Properly
I did quite a bit of research on breaking a fast while I was dealing with my situation in the past 2 days, and found that my difficulty in breaking my fast wasn’t isolated. Turns out that breaking a fast is harder than entering one (especially when you’ve been fasting for a long time – defined by anytime longer than 10 days) and it is very crucial how you break it. This is not a laughing matter and not something to be taken lightly. There have been many reports of people who died from breaking their fast wrongly.
Some excerpts from Breaking the Fast (by Herbert Shelton, Hygiene Review):
The proper conduct of the fast is vitally important. There are really very few practitioners of any school who know how to conduct a fast or how to properly break one. A naturopath in New York City broke the fasts of a mother and daughter, who had been fasting sixteen and thirteen days respectively, on chocolate candy. The gastric and intestinal acidity resulting from this caused great distress throughout the body. I was called in on these cases, and it required four to five days of fasting to get them back into a comfortable condition. This method of breaking a fast is nothing short of criminal.
Dr. Wm. F. Havard records the following cases: “A young man twenty-four years of age who had suffered from chronic constipation and indigestion, fasted twenty-seven days after reading an article in a popular health publication. On the twenty-eighth day he ate a meal of beefsteak, potatoes, bread and butter and coffee. He was seized with violent vomiting spells and could not tolerate even a teaspoonful of water on the stomach. When called on the case I discovered an intense soreness of the entire abdomen and every indication of acute gastritis.”
“A young man about thirty who had fasted on his own initiative for forty-two days attempted to break the fast on coarse bread with the result that vomiting occurred and the stomach became so irritable that nothing could be retained. There was marked emaciation and extreme weakness and every indication for immediate nourishment.”
An Associated Press dispatch dated Aug. 28, (1929) recounts the death of Chris. Solberg, 40 years old art model, following a 31 days fast, which he broke by “consuming several sandwiches.” The sandwiches, a later report stated, contained beef. Ignorance and lack of self-control killed this man.
“Prof.” Arnold Ehret tells of seeing two cases killed by injudicious breaking of the fast. He says “A one-sided, meat-eater, suffering from diabetes broke his fast which lasted about a week by eating dates and died from the effects. A man of over sixty years of age […] his first meal of vegetarian foods consisting mainly of boiled potatoes.”
These cases help to influence many against fasting and yet they are the results of the worst type of ignorance and inexperience. Who but an ignoramus would feed a diabetic case a meal of dates after a week of fasting? Surely fasting cannot be blamed for this result. Before we talk of the evils and dangers of fasting let us be sure that these really belong to fasting and not to something else.
Another account of a guy who broke his 30-day fast improperly and was bed-ridden for a week after that (from Fitness Through Fasting):
Breaking a fast should definitely be planned in advance. Waiting until the last moment to determine what one is going to eat and drink is a recipe for disaster. Take it from me. I have done amazingly-foolish things in years past. One time I broke a thirty-day water fast at a friend’s birthday celebration with burritos, pizza, hot dogs and soda. What a great guy, huh? NOT!
The “celebration” was short-lived. I was bed-ridden for almost a week afterward and my stomach blew up like a balloon. I had severely irritated the digestive system which was NOT prepared for all of the trash I had abruptly dumped into it. I thought I was giving myself a “reward” for reaching my fasting goal. Instead, I got egg in the face and one heck of a health scare. What I did was not only ridiculously-foolhardy but also VERY dangerous.
Breaking a fast voluntarily and not by the return of true hunger is tricky because your digestive system is still asleep. From my experience, the digestive system doesn’t just wake up via throwing food into the stomach, especially when you’ve fasted for a long time. It’s sort of like a bear that’s in deep slumber – it’s too deep in its sleep to be aware of wha’s going on. The longer you fast, the more caution you’ve to exercise in breaking it. Also, your stomach and digestive system after the fast are no longer the same as they were before the fast. It’s like that of a newborn’s. Hence, jumping straight into a regular meal post-fast is nothing short of disaster.
The best advice I can provide is to transit from the most easily digestible foods to the less digestible ones, in this order:
Orange juice (diluted, no pulp) -> Orange juice (diluted, with pulp) -> Orange juice (undiluted) -> Mono-fruit diet (juicy fruit, less acidic type to minimize aggravating the stomach) -> Variety of fruits -> Fresh, raw vegetables (no dressing) -> Cooked food -> Meat (if you consume meat)
Please do not try something crazy like drink milk to break your fast. If you don’t throw up, you’ll at the very least damage your delicate stomach walls. Read proper fasting literature (refer to links in my fasting article) for advice on how to handle your fast, not advice from friends/family (however well-intended) who have no knowledge or experience with fasting whatsoever.
Keep your servings small and light at the beginning, consuming only a quantity your stomach feels comfortable with. I went with just half a glass of diluted orange juice (with no pulp) on Day 3 post-fast. Drink very slowly and be sensitive to the sensations in your stomach the whole time. There are many different recommendations on how long to wait before your next consumption – my personal recommendation is an 8-hour interval on the first day, followed by 4-hour intervals the second day, then switching to a frequency you’re comfortable with thereafter once your digestive systems have kicked into gear.
The reason why I recommend an 8-hour interval on the first day is because I tried eating every few hours on Day 1 post-fast and I only realized at the end of the day that everything I ate was never digested and was stuck in my stomach the whole time (since my stomach was asleep). Just 3 pieces of 2 oz watermelon in my stomach was able to make me feel very sick – very bad hangover, nausea, and the near throwing up on Day 2. By consuming very little over a longer period, you are giving your body more time to respond to the food you’re reintroducing to it.
Food will always be around, so there’s really no hurry to rush back to eat. Just take things slowly. The most important thing is to be healthy and get your systems up and well.
Since I didn’t eat on Day 2 and I’ve been slowly easing out of the fast, I continued to lose weight in the past few days. My current weight is 55.4kg / 122.2lbs, which leads to loss of -0.9kg / -2.0lbs post-fast and a total loss of -10.1kg / -22.3kg since I started the fast. I imagine the loss will slow down once I resume regular meals (soon).
As I mentioned above, my stomach post-fast is now very different from pre-fast. For one, it’s very cleansed, in a very good way. The sight of oily food / unhealthy food honestly repulses me now. I absolutely can’t stand the thought of filling it with anything that’s fried/deep-fried/oily. The thought of doing so is like contaminating my body with junk. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how I even allowed myself to eat all those unhealthy, highly processed and junk food in the past.
The second big change is that my stomach has shrunk quite a bit, so it doesn’t take quite as much to fill me up now vs. before. Just a small amount is sufficient to satisfy my palate and have my fill.
For sure, I’m going to use this to my advantage in my new healthy diet. More fruits, more fresh vegetables, healthy veggie wraps, clean vegan food, preference for organic vs. processed, less spices and less oil, etc. I’ve been doing more research on ingredients of common foods, and realized that many food I ate in the past contain milk and eggs, much to my surprise. These are going out of my okay-to-eat list from now on, that’s for sure. Also, I realized that just because an establishment offers vegetarian/vegan options doesn’t mean that the food is really vegetarian/vegan – many times they’re cooked using the same oil as the non-vegetarian meals, so that’s something to watch out on. I used not to care about that, but now as I’m going for a cleaner diet it’s become important to me.
Plugged Left Ear
I didn’t mention this earlier but since the middle of the fast I’ve been having a plugged left ear. Like there’s air stuck inside or something. It comes and go by itself. It doesn’t cause any major issues but it sure can get quite annoying. Anyway, the plugged sensation is still there. I’m hoping it’ll fix itself once I resume my normal eating routine.
That’s it for now – I’ll be posting another post-fast update in a couple of weeks time to update on the status!
Update: My Overall Fasting Review is up
Image: Meditating at beach