Most people would think that not eating for an extended period of time would be the most difficult part of a water fast. I beg to differ! In my experience, the most difficult part of fasting has been refeeding correctly. After breaking a 7 day water fast, I realized how difficult it really is to control portions and unhealthy cravings once your appetite comes back. That was a main reason (but certainly not the only) why I chose to be monitored for my first extended water fast.
Why is refeeding so important?
Breaking a fast with the wrong foods can be detrimental to your digestive health, extremely painful, and can even cause death. If your digestion has been stopped for an extended period of time, and you decide to have cooked or low water content foods, your stomach will not know what to do with it. It will likely sit in your stomach like a rock and make you feel very ill. A guy who was here with me had done a 20 day water fast on his own, broke it with sushi and salty soup, and got so ill that he had to take the next flight down to Tanglewood to fast 10 more days with Loren. He then broke the fast correctly and had a much more positive experience.
Your metabolism needs time to get back into full gear. When refeeding slowly and in a controlled way, you are much more likely to maintain excess weight loss, and even continue losing excess weight. Amazingly enough, people who are underweight will begin to gain weight quickly. It also gives you time to reflect on your eating habits, your emotions and the thoughts that come up while you are reintroducing food. For me that was incredibly helpful for deciding what new diet and lifestyle choices I would be committed to when getting back to everyday life.
The body continues to heal and detox when you begin eating. Giving your body more than it can process is counter-productive to that healing process. By eating small amounts, you are most likely to have your first bowel movement in the first four days. The old material you have rehydrated throughout your fast will be much easier to eliminate, because it will be mixed with new material.
How I was refed at Tanglewood Wellness Center
We refed 1 day for every 3 days fasted, so I refed for 9 days. We began by having 5 meals the first day, two hours apart, with two ounces of the same fruit each time. We could choose between papaya and watermelon, and had to stick to that choice all day. The following day we began eating 4 times a day, every 2.5 hours, and about double the amount as the day before. We could choose between watermelon and papaya, switching throughout the day if we pleased. By the third day, we got on the schedule that we would continue on til the end, eating 4 times a day, every three hours. The amount increased every day, but stayed the same throughout the day. Our options included coconut water, various types of melon, mango, and one acidic meal a day (pineapple or mandarins). These options stayed the same throughout the refeeding period, and could not be mixed at one meal. Our last night we celebrated with a green salad with tomato, red pepper, 1/4 avocado and papaya-lime dressing (no salt, vinegar or oil).
We still needed to drink water, as our hydration levels don’t tend to go up during a water fast, ironically enough. However, we could not drink 30 minutes before meals or 45 minutes afterwards, so we didn’t have much time to get our water in.
After refeeding, we are asked to follow a six-week fruitarian protocol, which pretty much includes all fruits, some veggies, and few fats, nuts and seeds. Basically it’s the 80-10-10 diet, very clean and simple, lead by our intuition. We must also continue to drink a lot of water while our bodies achieve maximum hydration.
What was my refeeding experience like?
I was incredibly grateful for the refeeding period. It was fun, and I had a great appetite from the beginning, which was not the case with some other fasters. Some felt nausea or fullness. The nausea and acidity that I had the last week of my fast completely went away at my first meal. The flavors in the first few days were out of this world, I can’t even explain how sensitive tastebuds become after a fast. I began noticing layers of flavor in fruit that I had never noticed before, a caramel or maple syrup flavor in papaya, vanilla in mango.
Around days 4 to 6 I struggled a lot with the amount of food I was receiving. I think the reason for this is because my energy returned very quickly compared to others, so I had a larger appetite. I never felt quite satisfied, and I wanted to feel full. This made me grumpy, and, I must admit, cheat. Some other fasters were getting full from their portions, so I seized whatever opportunity I could to finish what was on their plate. I mixed fruits, not paying attention to proper food combining, and did get a bit bloated. I also took whatever opportunity I could to get mango, the most calorie-dense option we had. The quantities were so large by day 6 that I was soon regretting that as well. My newly flat stomach was round and bloated again!
Energy-wise, by day 3 some of us were going on short walks, though tired and still needing to rest. Personally, my energy increased exponentially and I felt better and better every day… I was taking longer walks, swimming and doing yoga daily. By day 6 I was going on a 30 minute walk in the mornings, and an hour hike in the afternoons and doing lots of stretching. It felt so good to finally leave the grounds, and feel my body move. My energy was so much better and cleaner than it was before I started. I felt rejuvenated, inspired, and childlike in my new body. On day 9, we finally felt like we were on vacation. We went for a couple of beautiful and intense hikes, spent the day by the pool and got some sun.
Get ready for the poop talk! I had my first bowel movement on day 4, and got rid of lots of old material. I had one a day until day 6, when I started going easily shortly after every meal, all the while eliminating old material. I guess I’ll spare the details, let’s just say better out than in.
How can you make refeeding easier for yourself?
- I must state the obvious, go to a professional or a fasting center where you can be monitored.
- Refeed one day for every three spent fasting.
- Stick to mono-meals. One fruit at a time. (If you can’t do this, look into proper fruit combining, though still not recommended from experience)
- Be sure to stick to high water content fruits only. You will quickly realize how a banana may not be the right option for you right away!
- Commit to your refeeding plan and do not allow yourself to eat more than the quantity that’s allotted.
- Your mind is a powerful thing. If you feel as though you are sacrificing or depriving yourself of something you really want, you will suffer. Keep in mind that you are giving yourself a gift. You are allowing your body to heal and giving it the love it needs.
- Don’t drink water 30 minutes before meals or 45 minutes after. This dilutes stomach acid and makes it harder to digest.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water in allotted time between meals.
- Take the time to enjoy your new taste-buds. Eat slowly and in silence.
- Stick to your schedule. Eating too early or too late may throw you off and provoke feelings of hunger.
- Have someone else prepare your portions. The last thing you want is to surround yourself with temptations!
- Reflect on your experience, and pay attention to your emotions… there can be strong signs of old eating habits that need to be looked at. This is the best time to remedy that.
- (Not really about refeeding, but can be helpful if you have old material to eliminate). Squat over the toilet to poop rather than sit, it is much easier on your colon and you’ll have higher chances of success!