"My Fasting Experience"

by Frederic Patenaude

In January, I fasted 23 days on water. What led me to this challenge goes back to eight years ago, when I read my first book on Natural Hygiene. It was “Fasting” by Herbert Shelton. That book was so inspiring to me that I decided to go on a three-day fast. Having never fasted before, I was a little unsure about the experience, but Shelton was so convincing about the body’s ability to go without food and the benefits gained from doing so that I decided to go on a short fast. For three days I ate nothing, but I continued my daily activities. I biked all over town; I ran errands and called friends. I was hungry, but fully energetic. On the third day, my hunger disappeared, just like Shelton had said it would. On the fourth day, I broke the fast, without being really hungry, but unsure about fasting any more time. That little experience at least proved me that the idea one must eat three meals a day in order to stay alive was a myth. My teachers in school told me that by skipping breakfast I could pass out before noon, but there I was, three days without food and being basically okay with it!

Over the years, I had read a great deal about fasting and its benefits for human health. I went on short fasts occasionally, the longest having been 5 days. I always had in mind to do a longer fast, but I always put it off for some reason. At first, I simply didn’t have the money to cover the expenses of going to a fasting center. Then, I didn’t want to take several weeks off to fast. I also had several fears of losing too much weight, of taking too much time to recover from the fast, etc. The fast was something I was going to do “one day” — a sort of experience I knew I wanted to have but found many reasons to not do just now.

The reasons I wanted to fast were numerous. Firstly, I was greatly impressed by the various positive experiences of fasters who had overcome various health problems through fasting. I understood that the body’s ultimate healing powers are best left to work on their own, and that this process can greatly be accelerated during a fast. For me, fasting seemed the best way to rejuvenate. I thought perhaps I could heal my failing vision (I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts for over 15 years), or after a fast my skin would glow like never before. When I was really naive about it, I thought that a long fast would “turn me into a new being.” Then with time, it became something I wanted to do because I knew I could benefit from it somehow.

How I Decided to Fast

The story of how I came to go fast in Costa Rica taught me how intuition can play a great part in making choices in life. I was planning to spend 2-3 months of the winter in Brazil. I was about to purchase my plane tickets when I started getting weird dreams about Brazil. At first I dismissed those dreams but eventually they continued. The dreams seemed to be telling me that this wasn’t the best choice. One day I stopped and asked myself, “What should I do instead?” An answer came from within: “Go to Central America.” I did not know any further. I talked to a friend of mine who suggested that I ask myself the following question, “What could I do that would advance me in my life?” That day, after a random search on the Internet, I found the possibility of fasting in Costa Rica with Dr. Doug Graham, and I decided that it was what I was going to do.

My Experience During The Fast

For about 1-2 months before the fast I prepared myself by being a lot stricter with my diet. I ate very little fat and ate fruits and vegetables almost exclusively. I lost about 5 pounds doing so.

When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was psychologically ready for the experience. The ideal conditions were met: a group of nice people (we were 10 to fast), the supervision of an expert in fasting, a tropical climate, and the start of a new year.

The fast started the day after my arrival in Costa Rica. After a tiring trip from Canada (one connection had been delayed for 5 hours), I went straight to bed. The next day, we had a breakfast consisting of a little papaya and pineapple at the hotel in San Jose. After that, we drove to our location about 6 hours away. The fast started when we left the hotel. When I learned that, I thought, “I should have eaten more!” But I was okay, being more or less psychologically prepared not to eat for the next few weeks.

I thought that fasting was going to be all about cleansing and detox. But when I think about it now, fasting has rather been a slow process of going deeper and deeper within myself. It has also been a process of surrendering to the healing powers of my body.

I did experienced a few cleansing reactions. For example, after a few days, I had a sore throat that lasted a few days. I also experienced some strange bodily reactions that I even now I can’t start to understand. What really happened deep within my body during the fast seems to be of knowledge only to the inner intelligence of my cells.

To put it in one way, the fast was a progressive decline in physical powers accompanied by a progressive increase in mental clarity. As Dr. Graham explained, during a fast the body goes from a carbohydrate-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism. It relies on the inner reserves of fat to survive, converting that fat into the carbohydrates it needs. That process of consuming their fat reserves didn’t put most fasters in their most energetic state.

In the first few days of the fast, I had enough energy to walk around, swim in the pool, and have long chats with the other fasters. After 5 or 6 days, I started to slow down. After 10 days, I was definitely in the fast. I didn’t even bother to walk down to the pool (a 2 minutes walk) — it was already too much work. After 14 days, I started to take showers sitting down on a box. I was spending at least 20 hours a day lying down somewhere. My mind wasn’t inactive during those hours, but it was “horizontal” time.

In terms of mental powers, it was the opposite. My dreams during the fast were extremely clear and vivid. Sometimes I would spend hours dreaming non-stop, waking up from a dream and immediately falling asleep again into another one. The dreams often contained obvious messages. They were not scattered or confused as they sometimes are in normal life.

I had little desire to read much during the fast. But after about 6 or 7 days, I started being overwhelmed with ideas and projects that I wrote down on my computer. Otherwise, I occupied my time listening to music on my iPod (my life-savior during the fast) and doing nothing.

The Challenges

At first, the fast was relatively easy. Although the end seemed like a life away, I was ready to got at it one day at a time. Then after about a week, I reached the critical point were my mind tried to talk me into breaking this fast. Many times, I had doubts and fear. Whenever I would experience any new sensation I did not understand, it was another reason to start to doubt and want to break the fast.

Without the daily lectures by our doctor and the assistance provided, I would never have done such a long fast on my own. People who have fasted a long time at home without any supervision certainly have all my admiration now, but I would never recommend anybody to do such a thing. The right support and supervision is critical in the success of a fast.

Answer to Some Questions

Were you hungry during your fast?

After 3 days, I lost the physical sensation of hunger, but the desire for food was still there. Talking about food generated desire and awoke the digestive system a bit. During the first 10 days, I thought about food a lot. I even had dreams about food, like many other fasters. Many weird dreams. In one, I was gorging on a huge chocolate cake (something I have not eaten in at least 10 years!). I was also thinking about all the foods I would eat after the fast and I even came up with about 30 recipe ideas that I wrote down!

After about 10 days, the desire for food disappeared. After 14 days, I could have discussions about food with other fasters, without it generating any hunger sensations or desire to eat.

Was it difficult to spend all that time laying down and doing nothing?

For me, one of the best parts of the fast was the possibility (in fact, requirement) of doing absolutely nothing all day. In this regard, it has been the ultimate vacation. Little things suddenly had a lot of meaning: watching the sunset, drinking water, hearing the rainfall. It was like those weeks with the flu in bed when I was a kid, but without being sick.

How did you spend your day?

I was spending a lot of time in bed. We were going to bed at around 6 when it was dark. I stayed in bed and listened to music until I fell asleep, at around 10 usually. Then I would wake up around 6 or 7 (yes, I was sleeping 8 or 9 hours a day during the fast!), and stayed in bed until I felt like getting up, a few hours later. The rest of the day was spent reading, listening to music, chatting, sleeping, and doing nothing. At around 3 p.m. we had a talk by Doug Graham for 1 or 2 hours. Doug would lectures on specific topics about fasting and health. Those lectures were very enlightening and inspiring and were the best part of the day.

After 10 days into the fast, I discovered that my roommate had brought a complete collection of DVDs! Although this didn’t meet the approval of our doctor, a few of us watched some DVDs during the last week or two of the fast, and I must say those moments were nice treats!

Did you lose a lot of weight during the fast?

I lost 25 pounds in 23 days. Some people lost more. By the end, I was the skinniest I had been in my entire life! I easily gained 10 pounds and then took another 2 months or so to gain another 10 pounds. I am not so sure because I didn’t weigh myself very often after the fast.

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