Post Fast: 1 Month Update

This is the 1 month post-fast update of my 21-day fasting experiment in Feb 2011. If you’re new to fasting, get the full background here: Fasting Experiment. Access all my articles on fasting: The Fasting Series.

Meditation at the beach

It’s already been 34 days since the end of my 21-day fast. Some of you have been asking me how my post-fast experience is going — here is my 1-month update as promised. 🙂

My Diet Post-Fast

If you recall, I committed to two key changes in my diet in my Fasting Review:

  1. Committing to a healthy diet, or at the very least consuming a diet that’s as healthy as possible. No more fried, oily or deep-fried food and as little processed food as possible.
  2. Eating based on my caloric and nutritional needs. This means first, matching or eating less than my daily energy expenditure. Second, as much as I can, the calories should be nutritional calories, not empty calories (say, candy bar, cookies, etc.). Ensure that my food intake is high in vitamins and minerals.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve successfully instilled these changes. There have been times when I was not able to achieve that (say due to lack of options in that situation), but for the most part, I’ve been adhering to these guidelines to a tee. Thanks to the fast, I’m now repelled by food that is remotely unhealthy. It has become second nature for me to track my daily food intake, eat within my energy needs, eat nutritional food, go for healthier alternatives, and to reduce the amount of processed food in my diet.

My Meal Plans

My meals are predominantly whole foods with a high amount of nutrients. I go for food that is as close to the source as possible, such as actual meat rather than sausage, actual seafood rather than some mish-mash of additives, organic butter, organic yogurt, fruits, and some vegetables. I opt for organic where possible, and I minimize highly processed foods. I try to avoid foods with a high amount of sugar and additives unless I’m deliberately seeking a dessert (once a week or two). I eat rice (or noodles) as needed to meet my energy needs for the day.

Believe it or not, the meals above make me extremely happy. I vary here and there, but overall they meet my calorie and nutritional needs. When it comes to food, I like predictability with some variance after a while. I prefer sticking to something I’m familiar with and eating it until I want a change — usually after a couple of weeks. I know that when I stick to these foods, I’m eating the healthiest foods for my body.

At the same time, I’ve lost interest in very processed, oily, and non-organic food. The only thing making it difficult to follow this lifestyle all the time is a societal one — most food sold in shops today is highly processed and non-organic, which is the only option when I dine out with friends and family members.

Preparing My Meals

I like the idea of preparing my meals now. I realized that a lot of restaurants serve very unhealthy food. Honestly, the best way to ensure you’re eating the cleanest food for your body is to make your own meals. Every week, I look forward to the times when I grocery shop and make my meals — it makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself. If you don’t make your own meals, you should try that someday. It’s really fun!

Moving toward Healthier Options

While I’m eating a lot healthier vs. pre-fast now, I’m constantly gravitating toward even healthier options. Opting for organic food options where possible, cutting out (or reducing) food that I seem to have a negative reaction to (like outbreaks), going for steamed food over fried food, and choosing whole foods over processed ones. It has been an enjoyable process.

Complexion

In my fasting review, I wrote that my skin has improved a lot over the 21-day fast. It has largely stayed that way. The good thing about the fast is that it gave me a chance to single out food that is bad for my skin. After breaking the fast, I slowly reintroduced different food groups one at a time. I notice that when I eat something that is oily/fried/high in sugar toxins, there would be 1-2 pimples/zits the next couple of days. After which I’d reduce/remove it from my diet.

On the other hand, when my diet is clean, my complexion would be clear and smoother. Clearly, what we eat has an effect on our skin quality. It’s not surprising since our skin is the largest organ of our body, and if we consume unhealthy food with toxins, the body will try to eliminate it through our skin.

Improving my diet has helped me improve my complexion further, for sure. If you have acne, I believe that healthy food intake will improve your condition. If you are dealing with acne scars, I do not think that fasting will magically remove them but rather the scars will likely fade away with time, with or without fasting (as part of the body’s natural healing process).

If you want to improve your acne, I recommend working on your diet as the root cause. That’s because even if fasting improves your acne, it will all come back once you resume your usual diet post-fast. However, when you improve your diet (removing fried and oily food, reducing intake of processed food, eating more fresh food) and make a permanent shift, the effects will last. Read: 45 Tips To Live a Healthier Life

Weight

Since I’ve kept to a healthy diet that’s either equal or lower than my daily energy expenditure, I’ve maintained my weight. In fact, it has decreased post-fast. Details below.

Firstly, here’s a graph of my weight during the 21-day fast and 9 days after:

Graph: Fasting Weight Loss — after refeeding

The weight increase from Days 6 to 9 (post-fast) was because I resumed eating normal meals on Days 6-7. Due to the sodium content in food, this resulted in increased water retention in the body, which led to the increase in weight.

It’s the same reason why people easily drop 2-3kgs during the first 3-4 days of a fast — it’s the loss of water weight. Some people may rejoice at the loss initially, but bear in mind it’s not an organic loss and will return after you resume eating. Even if someone doesn’t eat anything for 3 days, that would only result in a real weight loss of 0.6kg in 3 days total (assuming 1,500 calories burned per day; 3,500 calories are needed to burn 1 pound and 2.2lbs = 1kg).

Ever since I ended the fast, I’ve kept strictly to either matching my daily caloric needs or eating below that (as I want to lose a few more kgs from my non-fasting weight). Taking a BMR of 1,250 and an activity level of 1.2, that means my daily energy expenditure is about 1,500 calories at resting state. My current daily consumption averages 1,100-1,300 calories a day — sometimes more, sometimes less. Here’s the plot of my weight on Days 10-34 post-fast:

Graph: Fasting Weight Loss

Looking at day-to-day changes wouldn’t provide much insight since our weight fluctuates with a 1kg variance each day. However, if we look at it trend-wise (the blue line), we’ll see that my weight has been decreasing over time. Here’s my average weight each week:

  • Week 2 post-fast: 57.4kg
  • Week 3 post-fast: 56.5kg (-0.9kg)
  • Week 4 post-fast: 56.3kg (-0.2kg)
  • Week 5 post-fast: 55.9kg (-0.4kg)

Having achieved my desired weight goal, I’m now working on other health goals — namely achieving certain fat and muscle percentages. I realized that weight doesn’t give you a complete picture of how well you’re doing in your health, and you need to look at your fat and muscle composition too. I recommend everyone to take your weight as a secondary health goal and instead focus on achieving certain fat loss as key instead.

What I’ve learned here is that as long as you stick to consuming fewer calories than you need, you’ll surely lose the weight. In the past I’d be bothered by my daily weight fluctuations, wondering if it was because I overate the day before, or I was off in my calculations, etc. This resulted in me abandoning the weight loss plan mid-way when I had been on track! Looking back, I had given a lot of power to the number on the scale. Having gone through the fast, I now know better. Our weight is the result of our calorie consumption vs. our daily needs. Follow this guideline, and you won’t go wrong with it.

Needing Less Sleep

One interesting occurrence post-fast is that I now need less sleep. This is likely a temporary effect though, as I rested so much during the fast. I’m sleeping 4-5 hours on average nowadays, sometimes less, sometimes more. Usually, I feel quite rested after 3-4 hours.

My dreams have been very vivid — which I take as a sign of increased mental clarity. There have been times when I feel like I had slept one whole night even though it had just been 2-3 hours!

Of course, this is a huge benefit — very much welcomed. I’m now able to get more things done; it feels as if I’ve been granted extra free time every day. I’m now running the Million Dollar Challenge, Blogging Intensive Bootcamp, and April 30DLBL all at the same time, and I feels like I can take on a lot more. I’m also a lot more energetic and upbeat as well.

I see this current need for less sleep as a result of what I experienced during the fast. Namely:

  1. Cleared out emotional baggage (namely on food/weight/eating). I had spent so much energy every day thinking/worrying/planning/battling myself about weight/food/eating in the past, that I wasn’t even aware of it until after the fast. Looking back, I feel so free and liberated now. The clearing of these issues has left me with a lot of free energy every day to pursue things that I want to do, and things that empower me. It’s akin to what I had mentioned about weeding our disempowering routines in Is Your Routine Empowering You?
  2. Eating clean, healthy food. When I first switched to a cleaner diet, I noticed my mind becoming cleaner and my body less sluggish. This change is more apparent now that I’m switching to an even healthier diet post-fast. My body just feels “cleaner” and “lighter” overall.
  3. Losing weight & Moving on in life. Losing weight has always been one of my goals, and not be able to get the weight off (permanently) despite numerous attempts had created a lot of mental baggage and issues. Now that I’ve finally achieved this goal, I really feel like I can do anything. I feel like a huge rock had been lifted in my path and I can finally move on to my other goals. This has made me extremely excited about what’s up ahead.

Experience with Food

Initially, I was afraid that the emotional eating behaviors might resurface post-fast. That perhaps I might revert to eating unhealthy food, or that I would regain the weight (for whatever reason), or something. I was glad to see that the past issues are finally gone, at least as of the one-month post-fast mark.

Being Conscious of Food

My experience with food today is very different vs. pre-fast. In the past, I was largely unconscious of the effects the food I ate had on my body. I also was unable to appreciate the benefits of eating healthy vs. unhealthy food. Because of that, I would eat a lot of unhealthy, processed food, including chocolate bars and biscuits, without knowing I was damaging my body.

I was also not present when eating in the past. I would think about anything but the food — such as conversing with friends, working, using the computer, something I’ve to do later on, or watching videos. Ironically, thoughts about food would creep in after I finished eating. This created an extremely lopsided relationship.

Now, I’m a lot more conscious of the relationship between food and my body on a physical, mental, and emotional level. When I eat, I’m aware of what I’m eating — its taste, the burst of flavors, how it’s giving my body energy, the nutrition it’s providing, and how appreciative I am to eat healthily. Buying my groceries and preparing my own meals has also helped me appreciate my meals better.

If anything, I actually prefer to eat quietly nowadays. I find it the idea of conversing over meals quite disruptive to the eating experience. If others want to talk I’m okay with listening; for me, I prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time and not talk and eat at the same time.

There was a time when I was eating with a friend (this was post-fast). Because I was answering a lot of questions during the meal, I realized that it took my attention away from the food – specifically being present to the food and appreciating what I was eating. After the meal, I realized I was very unsatisfied — I felt as if I had missed out on the whole eating experience. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to be mentally present whenever I eat.

Healthy Relationship with Food

I’m also happy to report that I now eat whenever I need to and stop when I’ve met my caloric needs. The bingeing, emotional eating, etc. issues from the past no longer bother me now.

Hormonal Changes

(This section is added in October 2011, 6 months after my fast.)

Because I lost so much weight in a short period of time due to the fast, I suspect it led to a hormonal imbalance as I was experiencing signs of hormonal imbalance such as missing my period and severe hair loss for several months after the fast.

After my fast ended in end Feb, I missed my period for 3 months after that, following which it resumed in end May 2011. My period came regularly thereafter. (My period has always been regular before the fast, and I never miss a period.)

As for hair loss, I started losing a lot of hair (about 4-5 times more than usual) from Jun to Aug 2011 (3 months post-fast). There was constantly a lot of hair in the drain after I showered and in the sink after I combed my hair. Even just brushing my hand through my hair would result in a lot of hair coming out. During Aug, while traveling in Germany, I went to the doctor to get my thyroid and blood levels checked, and was presented with a clean bill of health. The problem has since resolved itself in Sep 2011 and my hair loss and hair regrowth have been happening at a healthy rate.

I never got the chance to check on my hormone levels during that time as I was traveling, but given the situation, it’s quite conclusive that the above issues were due to hormonal changes from my sudden and large weight loss during my fast.

The above after-effects have more to do with the rapid weight loss in a short period rather than the fast per se. According to fasting experts, the imbalance is normal, temporary, and will normalize itself about 3-6 months after the fast, which was exactly what I experienced.

Conclusion

The past one month has been an amazing start to a new journey. My biggest concerns post-fast were (a) keeping the weight off, (b) maintaining the benefits (complexion, physical/emotional detox, a renewed relationship with food), and (c) staying on track in my healthy diet plans. By weeding out all the issues I could address during the fast and creating a proper action plan post-fast, I’ve successfully maintained all the key benefits, and continued to lose weight even after the fast. I’ve also achieved my goal weight since then.

The fast has definitely changed my life and I’m glad that I embarked on it when I did. If you are thinking of doing a fast, read through the immense list of information and resources I’ve compiled for you through the fasting series. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need.

If all you are looking at is weight loss or to eat healthily, I personally would not recommend fasting. I feel that you can accomplish these more effectively through a proper diet change rather than a one-off fast. Fasting, at the end of the day, will only last for a few weeks at the most. A diet shift is forever. Look at fasting only if you have properly assessed the role of fasting and its benefits, and you determine that it is able to help you in unique ways that other things can’t.

I went on the fasting experiment because I wanted to see what it was like for myself. I have gotten a lot in return. This fast has been a starting point for me to dive into my emotional eating issues (and I finally addressed these issues later on as per my emotional eating series).

 

Update: Given the many questions and strong interest I’ve since received from readers regarding fasting, I’ve written a new article with my tips for fasting success. Read my fasting guide here: 12 Tips To Achieve Fasting Success

This is the 1 month post-fast update of my 21-day fasting experiment in Feb 2011. If you’re new to fasting, get the full background here: Fasting Experiment. Access all my articles on fasting: The Fasting Series.

Love,

Love, Celes

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