Lessons in fasting


I’ve never really deprived myself of anything edible. Sure, there were the few months in 2006 I went dairy-free while nursing my son, and there was that odd, brief bout with vegetarianism during my sophomore year of college (I thought it would impress the hipster guys, and help me lose that freshman 20 — boy, was I wrong on both). But other than those times, I’ve historically been an everything-in-moderation kind of girl (within legal limits, I’m still a goody-two-shoes at heart).

I’ve never written many details on this diet I’m doing — mainly because I don’t want to bore you with the minutia of my dietary challenges. But to give a brief description of how the GAPS diet works: it is very similar to other diets out there (such as South Beach) in that it starts out with an extremely limited spectrum of allowable foods, then phases more foods in over the course of a few weeks to a few months. When I started GAPS back in October, I jumped to the last phase, or the full GAPS diet. I saw many recommendations for doing it this way —  it is too overwhelming mentally and physically to go from eating a full (albeit whole, natural) American diet to the intro diet. So I’ve been on full GAPS for over two months, with some cheating (I still drank wine, still occasionally had a gluten-free cracker or bowl of rice).

Last Friday was my day to start the intro. It was Friday the 13th, which seemed appropriate — he intro phase of the diet should last about 30 days, and consists of eating mostly homemade bone broth (almost a quart a day!) and homemade soups made with non-starchy vegetables, meats, and fish. Slowly over the course of 6 stages I will introduce fermented foods, cultured dairy (homemade yogurt), and nuts.

The past four days have felt like a lifetime.

I don’t know how many of you have fasted, or cleansed, or in other ways severely limited your diet. But truly, you begin to see the world in a new way.

I’m not claiming a spiritual experience, though I can clearly see how fasting creates an ideal environment for, shall we say, focusing.

Some things I’ve learned and/or experienced over the past 96 hours:

  1. Die-off” is real. And it totally blows (unless you are a fan of nausea and flu symptoms).
  2. Anyone who makes the statement, “I love soup — I could eat it every meal,” has obviously never had to eat soup at every meal.
  3. Once you have eaten soup for every meal, you feel as though you’d trade a limb for something crunchy.
  4. Since crunchy can’t happen, you will settle for boiled hamburgers. Which you eat ravenously, as though they were the most delicious dish you’ve ever eaten.
  5. At some point during fasting, you might start to imagine that you are a cast member on Survivor, back when it was good, circa 2002.
  6. Since, to your imaginary dismay, you have still not been voted off the flippin’ island, you decide there’s nothing to be done but eat more soup.
  7. When you put new ingredients in the soup, like fish instead of chicken, you become irrationally pleased with the result, like you now deserve to be the next contestant on Top Chef.
  8. Leaving Survivor behind, your new fantasy involves being the fourth sister on Little House. I mean, they were starving most winters, right? If they had an onion to boil in water for dinner, they were thrilled. That’s the mindset I’m seeking.
  9. When on a diet like this, it’s best to just keep a salt shaker in your pocket.
  10. Remember when I complained about starting the full GAPS diet? Right. Well, let’s just say that my tune has changed. I am counting the days until I can be back on that diet, it feels like I will have limitless options in just 26 days. Grains? Who needs them. I would kill right now for a giant bowl of dried fruit and nuts.

So, yeah, it’s been hard — but don’t go worrying about my going over a proverbial ledge. I have other friends here who are doing the diet as well, and there is a growing online community of people diving into the intro together to offer support.

And, in some ways, I just have to laugh. I’ve said on more than one occasion that I can give up most anything, that my willpower is strong — but that the day someone tells me I have to give up red wine or coffee? That is the day I will continue to live in blissful denial. It looks as though I’m eating those words, as we are often led to do.

But I’ll be honest here. It feels really weird to say it, and I’ve heard similar things from fasters (is that what you’d call a person who fasts?) and always thought they were delusional — but for me, I think it’s been a really good thing to do. Fasting in this way is resetting my taste buds to appreciate and be satisfied by natural sugars, and even giving me new cravings for healthy foods that I previously struggled with liking (such as fermented vegetables). I feel like I’m learning even more about how to make delicious foods from very limited ingredients, learning how to savor common flavors like never before. It feels like I just cleaned out a room in my house, down to the walls — and my job is to rebuild it, seeing all of my things anew.

Of course, it also helps to know that someday (date TBD), I will have that coffee and red wine again. And they will likely taste better than ever before.


This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.


9 thoughts on “Lessons in fasting

  1. Love liquid fasting–once I got past day 3. I, too, know the excitement over new ingredients added to the list! My question is, what does the GAPS diet do/say about elimination? Always a struggle for me when I’m cleansing.

    1. They say to push through ; )
      Seriously, the problems (with elimination) vary from person to person, depending on previous gut issues (some people have no trouble at all). Even with candida die-off, the symptoms range from diarrhea to severe constipation. The only thing I saw recommended to aid was an enema if necessary (thankfully, not something I’ve had to resort to).
      Also, this is not a true liquid diet — even on day one, you are allowed meat from the stock and well-boiled non-starchy vegetables.

  2. Oh, girl. Any strict, lengthy dieting that I’ve ever done happened before I was married and had kids. You, on the other hand, have a family to feed. That would be the hardest thing for me. If off-limits food is out of sight, then for the most part it’s out of mind. But I cannot fathom what it would take to stick with it all the while cooking mostly “normal” food 3 meals a day for everyone else. I’m intrigued and impressed at your resolve and ability to see all the positives, even during this challenging intro phase.

    1. Well, Jen likened it to childbirth ; ) I see her point — you just grit your teeth and move forward (I’m better at this than childbirth, as I had 3 children and just as many epidurals).

      Honestly, the hardest part about cooking separately is doing all the dishes. I thought I did a lot of dishes before — good grief, now it’s all I do, all day long.

  3. amen!

    I really believe in resetting our taste buds and perception of what is satisfying and tasteful food. I eliminated a number of things, sugar for one, to prepare to conceive atticus. I was amazed at how whole and wonderful food began to taste and how much better I felt.

    He’s still exclusively breastfed, or I would join you in GAPS, stage 1. Press on and good job 🙂

    1. Jen, I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished that I’d done all this before we had babies. I’d likely not be facing the prospect of having them all on GAPS sometime this year — the idea, quite simply, blows my mind.
      Can’t wait to read if you do the Intro in the future ; )

  4. omg – you have me laughing out loud!! like, seriously – I’m wiping tears! I so totally relate to every. single. one of your experiences. We “survived” 5 weeks last autumn (well, some of us revolted before others – two teen daughters fell by the wayside along the way). I had severely sprained my ankle the weekend before we started and the amount of cooking and cleaning up just got to be too much — not to mention the holidays were upon us and I was just done. However, one of the teen daughters is *asking* to go back on it! Woot! We all saw some improvement and I am thinking that even just doing full GAPS would be an improvement after all the holiday gorging. I actually had chicken broth with egg yolk for breakfast today 🙂 Thanks for the laugh and Best Wishes with Intro!!

    1. Thanks, Elaine!

      So, you did the intro diet for 5 weeks? Wow, I’m *hoping* to make it 3 1/2 (I’ve decided to go for 25 days rather than 30, I’m transitioning through stages very well — can’t wait for crepes on Sunday! Go, Stage 3!)

      I’ve actually come to love broth w/ egg yolk for breakfast — I did it for the 2 months before intro. If only I could chase it with a big bowl of granola w/ milk…

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