My Seoul Fasting Experiment
Hello Korea. South that is.
We did meet incredibly briefly almost a decade ago, but a lasting impression of skyscrapers, bright lights and snowflakes falling almost as if on cue, left me wondering, wanting and wishing for more. That time is now. Seoul is now home (for this month anyway).
One day in Seoul and tomorrow morning I am embarking on a 3-day water fast. Seriously, you what? I can hear you say already. It might sound drastic but it’s not. Here is the why, and the how.
To say I am excited to be here is an understatement, for I am definitely that and more.
However, and yes there is a but, I do not feel as I wish I did – my body is out of alignment, which in turn impacts my emotional well being too. Having spent almost two weeks of the last three backpacking around eastern European countries my body had to adapt to different foods, a constantly changing water composition and I have likely asked it to digest far too much for what it can handle. Our digestive systems are core to our health and are constantly working; they very rarely get rest sometimes even much less than half of the day.
Since being on the receiving end of a digestive system (and some other issues that I won’t bore you with right now) that decided it didn’t want to work, I have put effort into eating well, eating more and listening to what my body is telling me. This works for the most part.
It doesn’t work when a) my system decides to be stubborn and not do what logic suggests it should be doing, or b) when I ignore a warning sign, much like the famous Australian saying ‘She’ll be right’.
As far as trips to the emergency room goes – she has been right (touch wood). In terms of how well my body feels – she needs some attention.
My recent 10-hour layover in Doha was actually the perfect alone time I needed to take stock of how I was feeling emotionally and physically and what I wanted to do to change what didn’t feel right. My mental state is strongly ruled by how my physical ailments are stacking up against me, I am sure I am not alone with this. My current state involves, a severely swollen gut (yes some will be weight gain, ice-cream and bread in Europe is too good, and that is totally worth it) but the rest is distension, aches and strong discomfort with digestion. I have a constant hunger that I know is not real, but is also somewhat insatiable, and a high level of tiredness in the mornings throughout the day but am wired by the evening. I am simply not spending a month feeling this way. Short term sacrifices for long term gain.
I need to push reset, I need to rest my gut, let it have a break. I need whatever toxins that are playing havoc with me to be flushed out. I need to wipe the slate clean so to speak.
So tomorrow morning I am embarking on my first 3-day water fast. It is not starvation, we fast when we sleep, when we are sick with a cold we often eat little or nothing to allow our bodies time to heal itself. Fasting will enable my hardworking and slightly disabled digestive system to take a well-earned sabbatical. By fasting the body is able to free up energy previously used to digest food and redirect it to healing within the body. Our digestive system is responsible for processing and removing all the waste and toxins, so without proper rest from food digestive efficiency can be severely affected. Great philosophers Plato, Hippocrates, Aristotle and Socrates all praised the benefits of such methods of healing, and almost all religions incorporate fasting in some form.
I know my body, and it is not functioning properly. It isn’t consuming processed refined foods, trans fats, or sugars but it is running like something that needs an oil and water change for want of a smarter analogy. As I see it there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain from changing how I feel physically and mentally. I already feel nauseous and bloated. I already have issues digesting some meals, have re-flux occasionally and regularly feel unsatisfied after a meal. This is not even going near the mental impact of just feeling yuck in your own skin. It is worth a try.
I am sharing this, for two reasons.
1. To track how my body changes/feels throughout the 72-hour period
2. To make sure it happens. Saying it aloud makes it real, there’s no more ‘oh I’ll start again tomorrow’ now!
Thanks for keeping me honest. Here’s to rebooting, repairing and resetting.
Day 1: The First 24.
Unsurprisingly the hardest part about the initial hours on the first day is letting your body know it’s not having its usual breakfast, but that the water you are sipping on is what it will have to make do with instead. Hunger definitely subsides, water is most definitely a powerful substance as it works it’s magic. Having completed a few 24 hour fasts previously I was not completely ill equipped to manage day one. An unsuccessful trip to a Korean bathhouse (due to being in possession of too many tattoos) resulted in joining a friend at a local restaurant – definitely a test of will. My glass of chilled water was delicious; I will definitely return for more! (Kidding – but no actually the food looked fantastic – or so I am told!).
Day 2: Hump Day.
My headaches have definitely lessened, still there occasionally but not as prominent as yesterday (these are in part related to the water fast, and in part the withdrawal from caffeine I imagine).
I managed to work throughout the morning today and felt able to concentrate and be productive which surprised me somewhat. I did take a short nap this afternoon after lying down to rest when I felt a little hunger (as all I read suggested doing this), but was then in a quest for fresh air and a distraction from the kitchen went for a long walk through Gangnam and found the stunning Coex complex.
Day 3: The Count Down
I actually did not wake up hungry at all today, and the intense headaches had for the most part subsided to almost nothing. I pretty much repeated my day from yesterday, work, nap, walk. Time definitely felt like it has slowed down today, there seemed so many more hours available than a normal day! I have deliberately not tried to over exert myself and taken the day at a leisurely pace, and actually feel quite a bit more clear headed than previous days. Next it is a long hot shower, a homemade coffee and sugar scrub and am off to bed (even if it’s only 8pm!). As my Mum, would say to us as kids, the sooner you go to sleep the sooner it will be morning (interesting logic I know, but it worked especially on Christmas eve!).
I will admit now, I did not do as much reading about how to break a fast as I had on the actual process of fasting. A quick overview of a couple of sources, and I ascertained the scrumptious chili fried eggs with sauteed spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes that I was planning on devouring needed to wait, instead starting my day with warm water with lemon and a cup of green tea.
I don’t know how I expected to feel on the Friday morning, or if I was all that sure I would get there at all. But I did. And it was not the struggle some had suggested it could be – it all comes down to your mental strength, as the body can go without food for around 40 days, so it is just whether you can maintain what you have set out to do. It definitely requires you listen to your body, which is something we should all do regardless – but fasting makes you so much more aware of how your body and your mind is feeling.
It is the perfect rest, repair and reset for me. I feel ready for my month in Seoul.
Added Note: It is now two weeks since I completed this 3 day water fast, and I can say without hesitation that I noticed significant changes in my ability to digest post fast, and have experienced less bloating and soreness than before. I am also being a lot more careful with what I choose to consume, and am staying away from gluten entirely as well as removed caffeine for the month. I plan to embark on another 3 day fast at the beginning of next month to continue this exploration into fasting and its natural health benefits. Watch this space.