This account of my eye-opening, stomach emptying 3-day fast was featured in Consider This.
It Was the Shit That Convinced Me
Ridiculous as this may sound, what motivated me to try a 3 day fast was hearing about the shit.
I had yet to learn how extended fasting would help me live longer and healthier, so I’d never considered not eating for longer than 24 hours.
No, It was a story my sister’s boyfriend told me about his own fasting experience that made me eager to try.
He told me that at some point towards the end of his 3 day fast, he went to the toilet and all sorts of crazy shit (literally) came out. It was kind of like cleaning out your garage for the first time in 30 years, he said.
My garage could use some cleaning. I was sold.
So with my girlfriend Kim away traveling, and thus unable to nag me about how I was starving myself or tempt me with delicious food, I decided to give a 3 day fast a go.
Holy shit was it a mind-blowing experience!
3 Day Fast, Day 0
The Last Meal
To celebrate (mourn?), I made a delicious and humongous Sunday night dinner, capped off with some Toblerone and a cocktail to celebrate. Then I began my 3 day fast. No more cooking, dishes, or chewing for 72 hours. Just water, tea, lemon, and black coffee.
I went to sleep feeling like a marathoner about to start his first race.
3 Day Fast, Day 1
Setting Off on a Voyage of Self-Discovery
My first day was kind of like that of an early explorer setting out in search of the New World. I wasn’t entering new territory—I’d done 24 hour fasts before—but this time it felt different. This time I wasn’t turning back. I felt anxious and nervous.
Monday morning started as usual with my regular routine of heavy lifting at the gym (and a new personal best!) followed by a bunch of online computer work.
Then things got unusual.
Normally I’d have a big early afternoon meal, but this time… nothing. Just black coffee.
What felt stranger than not eating was not having my ritual midday lunch break. Rather than catch up on sports and social media while slurping down a smoothie and some eggs, I just kept on working. Who’d have thought fasting could lead to more productivity!?
My girlfriend Kim, who was supposed to be away until Wednesday, surprised me by coming home early. And since I hadn’t told her of my 3 day fast plan, she had brought some fresh salmon for dinner. Damn.
Surprisingly though, even as I watched and smelled her cook and eat her delicious-looking meal with envy, I didn’t feel hungry. I felt good.
3 Day Fast, Day 2
What a weird feeling it is to wake up after a day of zero calories for the first time in my life. I could joke that I literally felt empty inside, but it didn’t. I felt great. My sleep-tracking ring even said my sleep quality was 95%.
From the morning of day 2 to the end of my 3 day fast, my mind felt electric. As if I was high on Adderall, I hadn’t felt more focused in ages.
This, I found out afterward when I read some books on the physiology of fasting, is entirely to be expected. My brain was running on cleaner fuel than it was used to and my entire body was benefitting from hormonal boosts.
I worked all morning in a hyper-focused zone. Then when my eyes started to twitch from too much staring at a screen, I walked to the nearby beach to unwind. I tried meditating for 20 minutes and… holy hell! I swear to God at a certain point I felt high. Amazing.
The First Negative Experience
Unlike on Day 1, I definitely didn’t make any personal bests in my Day 2 workout. I felt like I did the day I tried working out after taking the bus from Lima to Huaraz in Peru (an elevation gain of 3000 meters or 10,000 feet).
My body felt strong, but it didn’t have the endurance it normally did. After one or two lifts my strength evaporated, and at times I was lightheaded to the point of dizziness.
I was glad to have gotten some exercise, but it was certainly the first negative effect I felt on my 3 day fast.
An Unusual Day
Again, not having my ritual meal brakes for lunch and dinner was a trip. Honestly, I missed the ritual even more than the food itself. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was like double daylight saving time: normally I’m ready for bed at around 11 p.m, but this time I was ready by 9. My brain wouldn’t stop buzzing, though, so I ended up reading in bed for hours.
Oh yeah, and most importantly (and disappointingly): no shit. No number 2 at all on day 2 of my 3 day fast.
3 Day Fast, Day 3
What the Hell?
Normally I wake up around 7:15 a.m. Today? At 5 a.m I was up and ready to go. My sleep-tracking ring told me I had 90% sleep quality.
I still wasn’t hungry and my mind felt sharp. So too did my hearing and sense of smell, which felt strangely super-powered. My body, though, felt lethargic.
The weirdest feeling, though? My mouth.
My mouth was like the factory of a company that had just gone bankrupt. It’s all spic and span and ready to go, but empty. My breath felt strangely fresh and empty and my jaw tight from lack of use. Indeed, the night before I wondered to myself, “Do I actually need to brush and floss?”
Do you remember how weird your teeth felt after getting your braces off? Or your arm or leg when the doctor removed your cast?
That’s how my stomach felt the last morning of my 3 day fast. It had deflated overnight and felt completely foreign to me. I couldn’t stop touching it with my hand. Normally I can do that stupid trick of sticking out my belly like I’m pregnant, but I couldn’t anymore.
It didn’t hurt or anything. It just felt tighter than normal, in a good way.
Pushing the Limit
Feeling mentally sharp but physically lethargic, I nonetheless went to the gym to see just how much juice my body had left.
Answer: Only a few drops.
I managed about 80% of what I do when nourished. Strangely, I even felt sick to my stomach. When I shot some hoops after to cool down, I could barely make a free throw.
My weight, which normally hovers around 197 lbs, was down to 189.
That afternoon I still wasn’t hungry, but I couldn’t help but daydream from time to time about my upcoming evening meal. I had grand visions of a gluttonous feast where I’d recover all the calories I’d missed out on at once.
Those visions were not realized. I ate half as much as I thought I would and the food didn’t even taste any better.
Immediately after eating, I had my first bowel movement since Day 1. Excitedly I went to the toilet. But it wasn’t a “garage cleaning” of crazy shit like I hoped. Just a couple of tiny turds.
Despite the anticlimactic end, my 3 day fast was overall a mind-blowing experience that I will definitely be doing again.
Maybe even longer next time!
How to Make Your Own Fast Easier
If you want to try fasting, I highly recommend you go into it a little better prepared than I did.
These four things might help:
1. Read the Fasting FAQ
Simple tips on fasting for answers to common questions like:
- What am I allowed to eat and drink while fasting?
- How much muscle / fat will I lose?
- What can I do to feel less hungry?
Since I’m no doctor, all the medical info comes not from me but Dr. Jason Fung’s book (below). I just made it as concise and easy-to-understand (no medical jargon) as possible.
2. Get this Fast-inating Book
I wish I had read The Complete Guide to Fasting before I did this fast.
Not only does Dr. Fung explain exactly how and why fasting works, he provides helpful tips to make fasting easier. For example, he writes that if I had had some bone broth I might not have felt so lightheaded.
I followed this advice on subsequent multiple-day fasts and found it made all the difference.
Of all the podcasts, diet books, and articles I read about fasting, this one was by far the clearest, most compelling, and most helpful. I’ve told all my friends and family who think fasting is crazy but want to lose weight and be healthier to read it. And, though I don’t know you, I bet you’ll find it valuable too.
3. Use These Hydration Helpers
I later learned that dehydration was a big reason I got so lightheaded during my first ever 3-day fast.
Fasting purists will lose their shit (if they have any left; their bowels are probably empty by now from fasting so long), but I now throw in a few supplements to stay hydrated:
- Electrolytes. Zero-calorie powders like this highly-rated one on Amazon seem to help with the dizziness.
- Bone broth. I make some before I fast and have a cup as a treat. A reader on my fasting tips post recommended miso soup as a vegetarian alternative.
- Sea salt and lemon. I have a huge glass of water with a bit of both first thing in the morning.
4. Read Others’ Experiences in the Comments
If you have any doubts about your own fasting experience, read through the comments below and in my Water Fasting Tips, and Benefits of Fasting posts. They’re full of inspiring and entertaining stories, different experiences and opinions, and great questions.
And, of course, feel free to contribute!
“Good luck” isn’t the right thing to say, since there’s no luck involved in not eating. So let’s go with, “All the best!”
A three day fast really is all the best for your health. It’s definitely daunting for first-timers, but it’s worth it in the long run and you won’t regret it. Hopefully, this post will help you prepare mentally and understand what to expect.
If you have any questions or have different experiences on your own fast, please share with all of us in the comments or on social media.
And, once again, all the best!
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