My 36-Day Journey Into Rest and Renewal 3 Week Fast
by Steve Scharmer
I recently undertook the greatest challenge of my life. I am no wordsmith, but Touch has convinced me to tell my story, in hopes of inspiring others to never give up, to strive for health and happiness, to trust in the power of your body to heal when given the chance. Health has never come easy for me. In fact, I need to go back to about age 20 to remember what it felt like to be healthy and vibrant and full of energy. I am currently 38. I've been vegan for 11 years, the last 3 of those as a raw vegan. I meditate, I exercise a lot, I drink only distilled water, I eat mostly organic foods, I love my job, I have loving family and friends. Despite all this, my health, since age 20, has been in a downward spiral. This has continued unabated, in spite of the diet and other lifestyle factors I just mentioned. I could give you a list a mile long of "symptoms" or conditions that I've been faced with. It doesn't really matter though. My body clearly has not been functioning properly for a long time, and it has only gotten worse. I felt it was time for something dramatic to turn things around.
I had experimented with fasting in the last 3 years, receiving guidance from a Natural Hygiene teacher. I started with a "young coconut water" fast of 1 day. I was in Miami at the time, where young, green coconuts are abundant. Eventually, I did a 2-day then a 3-day young coconut water fast. Note this water was very light and refreshing, not like the rich and concentrated water from the brown coconuts you would see in a large USA supermarket. Shortly after these trial runs, I did a 1, then a 2, then a 3-day water fast, with at least a few weeks in between them. They all went fairly well. There is some nutrition in coconut water, so one doesn't detoxify at the rate one would with a pure water fast. With these pure water fasts, I experienced weakness, achiness, and my tongue got white (more on these things later). Eighteen months ago, I undertook a 9-day water fast. A couple days, I added lemon juice to the water, as some fasting books recommend this as a mucus dissolver. It went well, no major difficulties, just extreme weakness again. Still, my health did not improve. The raw vegan diet was not improving things. Nothing seemed to be helping. I tried dozens of acupuncture sessions, herbs, supplements and vitamins, chiropractic adjustments, a 10 session Rolfing experience (bodywork), and many other things.
My health continued to decline. One day at work, I just felt terrible. Not so much as a feeling of coming down with something, though there was a bit of that. It was more like I had reached the end of a rope, and felt it was just time to completely shut down, turn off, withdraw from the world. So began my long fasting journey. I consulted with Dr. Doug Graham. He is a 20-year raw foodist and a health and fitness coach. He ran a fasting retreat for 10 years. I've known him many years. He agreed a fast sounded appropriate. We agreed to just take it one day at a time, no pre-determined length. If one has the time, and detox isn't too heavy, a fast done properly is carried out until your body sends signals that it should end. Every day, I emailed Dr. Graham, and he emailed me back. Due to my prior experiences, I knew what to expect. That last day at work, I ate lunch. That was my last meal, as I skipped dinner or snacks. The next day was officially the first day of the fast. It was very uneventful. Felt mostly normal, had a little diarrhea (don't worry, I won't get too graphic!).
The next day, weakness set in. The main reason for this is that the body senses what is going on, and all energy that normally goes to muscles for movement is diverted inwards for detoxing and repair. If one gets so weak as to have to crawl to the bathroom, that is too much detox at once, and the fast should be ended. But, I never got like that, though I was quite weak the whole time. Achiness also set in on day 2. This is a sign of a high amount of toxins being released and circulating, eventually to be flushed out. This went away gradually, by day 4 it was gone. I would still be detoxing the rest of the way, it's just heavier at first. I experienced diarrhea twice during those early days. Just a small amount. I never did take an enema or colonic. There's division on this topic in the fasting world, but I've always been associated with experts who advise against such measures. They maintain the bowels will move when they need to, and there is no danger in toxin re-absorption by the colon if feces sit in there too long.
After those early episodes of diarrhea, I had no further colon elimination until a movement on day 23. Then nothing else until the fast was broken. That's getting ahead of the story a bit. During the early days of the fast, I had no hunger, no appetite. Really, I'd had no appetite for years. I just ate to sustain myself. Anyhow, through the whole length of my fast, I never felt hungry, I never had a desire for food. I sure thought about food!, and what great fruits I could look forward to eating after breaking the fast. But, that's different than being hungry. I drank only distilled water. No lemon juice, no vitamins or supplements, no juices or teas. Nothing but water. I drank when thirsty, usually about a gallon a day. I was in complete rest mode. Either in bed or on the couch, eyes closed. I only slept about 4 hours a night, as sleeping patterns are usually disrupted during a fast. But I kept my eyes closed and just immersed myself in rest and stillness and peace. I did usually take a very short walk to get some late afternoon Sun, just sitting in a lawn chair 30 or 60 minutes.
On rare occasions, I perused some fasting books or watched a tiny bit of tv (not the news!). Showers I took were very short, and only luke warm water. The whole thing with a fast is as little stimulation as possible, as much rest as possible. As the days counted off, it was becoming increasingly difficult from a psychological standpoint. I was going into heavy debt. Would all this be worth it? Will my health improve? When can I talk to people again? I live alone in a quiet neighborhood. I was very isolated. That's actually good, in that you don't want people pestering you to eat so that you keep up your strength. If you're not hungry, the last thing you should do is eat! I'm very close to my immediate family, and talked to them often on the phone for encouragement and support. Same with a few friends. Only those family and friends that understand what fasting is all about, as most people are ignorant to the benefits of fasting, and instead think of it as suicidal or crazy. My 2 cats didn't have anything to say about it! I did have to feed them their food though. They eat all-raw!, though it is mostly chicken (cats are carnivores).
As I approached day 30, I was at peace with the process. I had made the commitment to my health that I must keep it going. Okay, so I would be in heavy debt forever. Maybe my job won't have me back, as I keep telling them I need more time off ("sick leave" with no pay). Maybe my health problems won't all be solved. But I had to try. I had done everything else. I wanted to be healthy! I wanted vibrancy! I wanted to feel alive, to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and full of energy! It had been so long since I had experienced any of those things, and I would stay the course with this fast until the proper indicators told me it was over. Such indicators are the return of hunger, the feeling of well-being, the white coating on the tongue goes away. This coating is a sign of the gastrointestinal tract cleaning out. Other minor signs of the fast being naturally over include the whites of the eyes becoming clear, breath changing from foul to sweet, and other things. None of the indicators ever appeared for me.
On day 36, Dr. Graham said my body had done all it could for me. The indicators don't always appear he said. He also said there was no reason to continue further, my body had healed all it could for now. He expected great things for me. It was time to exit the "fast" lane. I wasn't going to argue! I felt it was time. It just seemed right. I wasn't hungry, and had no real desire to eat, but I dived into a watermelon anyway. It's important to eat tiny meals at first, which I did. I had lost 30 pounds or so, but I was not going to stuff myself to gain weight prematurely. I'll look deathly skinny for a while, but I don't care what people think. The weight will come back on eventually. It takes a long time to get strength back and to see what benefits you've accrued. It's still too early to say for me. At least my 15-year wart on my finger is gone! I'm happy to have given my body the break, and to at least have given it a chance to repair what it could.
You can only work with what you've got and remain optimistic. I wake up every day happy to be alive, and looking forward to improving myself, improving our beautiful world, and being of benefit to all life on Earth. If you want to try some fasting, read some books on it. I recommend The Science and Fine Art of Fasting by Dr. Herbert Shelton (he also wrote Fasting Can Save Your Life, another good one). Also, The Miracle of Fasting by Paul Bragg, and Fasting and Eating For Health by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I highly recommend you consult a professional, like Dr. Graham, if doing it on your own instead of going to a fasting retreat. There is a consultation fee, but it's so worth it. His website is www.doctorgraham.cc, and his email is Foodnsport@aol.com. Tell him I sent you! You may also contact me if you wish. firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and long life to all of you.