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 articles on fasting: The Fasting Series.
It’s already been 34 days since the end of my 21-day fast. Some of you have been asking me how the post-fast experience is going – here’s my 1 month update as promised 😀
My Diet Post-Fast
If you recall, I committed to 3 key changes in my diet in my Fasting Review:
- Sticking to a vegan diet. This means no dairy (eggs, milk, cheese, etc) and no animal-derived products.
- Consuming a diet that’s as healthy as possible. No more fried, oily or deep-fried food and as little processed food as possible. I’ll also eat raw vegetables and fruits as much as I can.
- Eating based on my caloric and nutritional needs. This means firstly, matching or eating lesser than my daily energy expenditure. Secondly, the calories should be nutritional calories, not empty calories (say, white bread, white rice, pasta, instant noodles). I am to ensure that I eat foods high in vitamins and minerals.
I’m very happy to say that I’ve successfully instilled these 3 changes. There have been times when I’m not able to achieve that (say due to lack of vegan options in that situation), for the most part I’ve been adhering to the guidelines to a tee. Believe it or not, it has been effortless doing that – forget what people keep saying about how discipline is important. Thanks to the fast, I’m now repelled by food that is remotely unhealthy. I actually find it pretty disgusting when I see people eating unhealthy food laden with oil, animal fats and dairy. It has become second nature to track my daily calories, eat within the caloric limits, eat nutritional food, go for healthier alternatives, and to keep out the dairy products.
My Meal Plans
My meals are predominantly (1) Fresh fruits – Ranging from pineapple, apple, grapes, orange, bananas, and others (2) Cooked vegetables – All sorts of greens, with carrot and mushroom (3) Salad – Clean, raw vegetables with vegan dressing. Similar to the Summer Fresh Salad but without the fruits (4) Veggie wrap or veggie sandwich. Either homemade, or purchased from a sandwich bar (5) Other vegan-friendly food.
Believe it or not, the meals above make me extremely happy and contented. I vary here and there, but overall they meet my calorie and nutritional needs. When it comes to food, I like predictability – 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.
Interestingly, I’ve lost interest in a lot of cooked meals post-fast. I’ve also lost interest in rice (brown or white), noodles, bread, etc, since they’re just not as nutritionally dense as vegetables or fruits. I’ve a feeling if this continues, I might well become a raw vegan soon. The only thing stopping me currently is mainly societal reasons – many restaurants serve cooked food, and it’s the only option when I dine with friends. Also, my parents still make a point to cook for me, so I eat the vegetables and soup they prepare.
Preparing My Meals
I’m also in-like with the idea of preparing my meals now. I realized that a lot of restaurants serve very unhealthy food, even if they are supposedly vegetarian, vegan or raw vegan. Honestly, the best way to ensure you’re eating the healthiest and cleanest food for your body is to make your own meals. Every week, I look forward to the times when I do grocery shopping and when I make my meals – it makes me feel that I’m taking care of myself. If you don’t make your own meals, you should try doing that some day. It’s really fun and therapeutic!
The one challenge I’ve faced is that it’s quite hard to get vegan food in Singapore (vegetarian is okay, but vegan is tough). For example in the supermarket, almost every item has dairy or traces of milk in them, which makes it quite frustrating. When I run through the ingredient list in soups (even the vegetarian ones), 90% of the ingredients would be vegan, except for 1-2 ingredients which include whey (milk product), egg, dairy or cream. The larger marts have more variety, but the same problem exists. The good thing is I’ve other options to fall back on, such as salads, wraps or noodles.
Moving toward Healthier Options
While I’m eating a lot healthier vs. pre-fast now, I’m constantly gravitating toward even healthier options. Right now I’m in the process of cutting out mock meat from my diet, going for steamed foods over fried ones (when eating out), choosing fresh vegetables over processed ones (when cooking at home) and going for a more high raw diet. It has been an enjoyable process.
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 was bad for my skin. After breaking the fast, I slowly reintroduced different food groups, one at a time. I noticed that if I were to eat something that was processed and/or oily/friend, there would be 1-2 pimples/zits the next couple of days. After which I’d proceed to scale down / 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 skin is our largest organ in our body, and if we are to consume unhealthy food with toxins, the body will try to eliminate it through our skin.
Update: I found that my fasting series got linked somewhere as an example of how fasting can clear acne and scars. To clarify, I never had acne or pimple scars before or after fasting. I have occasional pimples and zits like any Asian living in the tropics, but my face is otherwise clear in complexion (think small zits on a clear face; they are not visible face-to-face). My skin is regarded as better than the average Asian, and I believe it’s partly because I eat a lot of fruits.
That said, improving my diet has helped me improve my complexion further, for sure. If you have acne, I believe that healthier food intake will improve your condition for sure, but I do not think that scars can be realistically healed with fasting. I don’t want people jumping onto the fasting bandwagon thinking that it is this miracle pill that cures everything, because there is a limit to the healing a body can do (e.g., a lost tooth isn’t going to grow back through fasting).
If you want to improve your acne, I recommend to work on your diet as the root cause. That’s because even if fasting improves your acne, it’ll all come back once you resume your usual diet post-fast. However, when you improve your diet directly (removing fried, oily food; reducing intake of processed food; eating more fruits and vegetables) and permanently, the effects will last. Read: 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge
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:
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 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 loss of 0.6kg in 3 days total (assuming 1,500 calories burned per day; 3,500 calories needed to burn 1 pound; 2.2lbs = 1kg).
Ever since I ended the fast, I’ve kept strictly either matching my daily caloric needs or eating below that (as I want to lose a few more kgs). 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 – sometimes more, sometimes less. Here’s the plot of my weight – Days 10-34 post-fast:
Looking at day-to-day changes wouldn’t provide much insights 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)
At this rate, I’ll reach my goal weight of 54kg in about 1.5 months’ time. 😀
I plan to continue what I’ve been doing until I reach goal weight, after which I’ll switch to toning up and building muscle mass instead.
Update May ’11: I’ve since achieved my desired weight goal of 54-55kg, and I’m now working on other health goals – namely achieving certain fat and muscle percentages. I realized that weight doesn’t give you the complete picture of how well you’re doing in your health, and you need to look at your fat and muscle composition too. I’ll recommend everyone to take 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 lesser calories than you need, you’ll surely lose the weight. In the past I’d be bothered by the daily weight fluctuations, wondering if it’s 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 observation post fast is that I now need less sleep. 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 this as a sign of increased mental clarity. There have been times when I felt 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 concurrently running MDC, Blogging Intensive Bootcamp and Apr 30DLBL, and it feels like I can still take on a lot more. I’m also a lot more energetic and upbeat as well.
I don’t think the need for less sleep is a direct effect of the fast. I see it more as a result of what I experienced during the fast. Namely:
- 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 about 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?
- Eating clean, healthy food. When I first switched from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet, I noticed my mind becoming cleaner, and also my body becoming less sluggish. This change is more apparent now that I’ve switched to a healthy, high raw vegan diet post-fast. My body just feels a lot “cleaner” and “lighter” overall.
- 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 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 were finally gone; or at least they no longer bother me now.
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 food 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 – from conversing with friends, to working, to something I’ve to do later on, to using the computer, to 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 be able 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 1 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.
Oct ’11 Update: Because I had lost so much weight in a short period of time due to the fast, I suspect it led to a hormonal imbalance in my body, as I was experiencing signs of hormonal imbalance such as missing my period and 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 ’11. My period came regularly thereafter. (My period had always been regular before the fast.)
As for hair loss, I started losing a lot of hair (about 4-5 times more than usual) from Jun to Aug ’11 (3 months post-fast). During Aug, 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 ’11 and my hair loss and hair regrowth is occurring at a healthy rate.
I never got the chance to check on my hormonal levels during the period as I was traveling, but given the situation it’s quite conclusive that it was probably due to the hormonal changes from my weight loss earlier in the year.
The above after-effects have more to do with the rapid weight loss in a short period 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.
The past 1 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, renewed relationship with food) (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 (by continuing my routine, which takes no effort on my part).
The fast has definitely changed my life for the better, and I’m glad that I embarked on it when I did. For those of you who have been reading the fasting journey with interest, and who are thinking of doing a fast, I recommend you to go ahead and do it. Read through the immense list of information and resources I’ve already compiled for you by way of the fasting series. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need. Then embark on the fast – you can even create your fasting journal in the Health & Fitness sub-forum and post your daily fast entries if you want.
For the people who resist and go ballistic at the idea of not eating for X number of days, it’s really not big of a deal. If it’s not enough proof, I went through the 21-day fast and emerged alive – in fact, better than I’ve ever been in my whole life. A lot of people’s reactions speak more about their conditioning and limiting beliefs (in this case about food and the human body), rather than what’s truly possible. Don’t let these limitations guide you. Rather, let your own experiences open your mind. Only by trying it out yourself, can you conclude whether it does work for you or not.
I went on the fasting experiment because I wanted to see how it was like for myself. It didn’t matter if people said it was bad or good – I could only tell if it was good or bad for myself by doing it and experiencing it. That I did – and I got so much more in return. I’ll never change this for anything.
This is the last “update” of my fasting experiment, and I hope you’ve found it helpful. I wish you all the best in how you decide to peruse the information you gathered from the fasting series. If you’d like to embark on your own fast and want to share your journey with others, you’re always welcome to hop on Health & Fitness sub-forum and create your fasting journal.
Update: Turns out I still have some more to write about fasting. Given the many questions and heavy interest I’ve since received from readers re: 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 ’11. If you’re new to fasting, get the full background here: Fasting Experiment. Access all articles on fasting: The Fasting Series.
Image: Meditating at beach