How intriguing is fasting, amirite? I mean, the thought of fasting really interests me, but the actual fasting part maybe not so much. But if warriors, philosophers, scientists, and highly revered religious leaders have recommended fasting and have reaped many benefits from it since the dawn of time, I’d say that’s a solid, long-ass study on why it might be a good idea for a middle-aged, mediocre yet enthusiastic athlete to give it a try. I didn’t even mention animals! Animals innately fast when they’re sick or need healing.
The thing is: I’ve never been a “good” faster. I don’t play nice when the comfort of food is taken away even if I did make the choice to do the damn thing. During the few attempts I’ve made to do traditional fasts, I experienced so many internal (and some outward) tantrums that I ended up soothing my frustration by shoving a loaf of bread down my gullet. Not quite healing, emotionally or nutritionally.
I’m also not a big fan of talking about fasts — unless it’s within a spiritual or scientific context. The toxicity of Diet Culture permeates so deeply that I’m always utterly bummed to hear how many women (I know men fall into these traps, too) use fasts and cleanses to self-validate the thought that something is wrong with them; that their weight isn’t good enough, that they have to “reset,” that their “failures” in nutrition somehow require the punishment of severe calorie restriction and that this failure ultimately defines them as people despite having amazing characters, despite all the good they do in their lives, despite looking good though so many are convinced they do not. Typically, I won’t talk about fasts or diet fads of any kind. I reject the general sweep of “wrongness” and the shame we can’t seem to shake as a culture about our bodies and food.
So, this post is a razor’s edge for me. I am wildly interested in the science of longevity and healing by way of holistic sources, and ya can’t get around that without talking about topics like food and experimenting with nutrition — and in this case: the restriction of food. If this is too triggering of a subject for you, honestly don’t read further. Know that you are perfect whatever you ate over the weekend and how you look in a bathing suit and how you performed or didn’t perform in the Open.
If the topic is not triggering, you are perfect, too, and read on.
I’m coming off the fifth and final day of a “Longevity Fast.” It was really “fast mimicking” as it was not no-calorie or juice based. I’d been researching the science behind longevity including cell rejuvenation and proactive disease prevention and came across Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of longevity at USC. Dr. Longo has capitalized on his research by assertively selling ProLon, a five-day “fast mimicking” kit for the high price of $250.
Though the price and the marketing of ProLon are a bit off-putting to me, I am completely compelled by the science behind fast mimicking. The idea is to eat between 800-1,000 calories a day for five days. The food is highly nutrient-dense with a specific macro content. A ProLon pack includes freeze-dried soups and bars parceled out exactly as needed each day. In Ted Talks and his books, Dr. Longo dives deeply into the science in great detail; an ability I’m not exactly qualified to relay — unless it’s pure regurgitation — but, what I do understand is that many studies of fast mimicking show lower disease markers, better cognitive function, and impressive cellular repair from periodic calorie restriction without having to be too extreme like with a water fast. What I intuitively know is that the body, when given a good opportunity, has an ability to heal itself and regenerate in many ways, which in turn, hopefully, retains a high quality of life for a long time.
The older I get and as I witness relatively young family members suffer serious health issues, healing and regenerating have moved up the latter of my well-being priorities.
I did not order ProLon. I mimicked the fast mimicking. I mainly wanted to save money. And though the ProLon food is made with whole foods, I wanted fresh food — and less packaging. In the mornings, I made a super-food green shake. Lunch and dinner were highlighted by a vegan mineral broth made with magical mushrooms and seaweed. Snack was another super shake made with fresh young coconut, cacao, and maca. I also had a cup of quinoa with the broth for dinner and I usually had half an apple after that. Not super hard, not super easy. Not full meals, not quite a full-on fast. Five days of this seemed doable for the coveted benefits of cell rejuvenation, possibly lower disease markers, and a vitality boost. Would the wheels come off as I still had to work full time at an energetically demanding job? Could I keep it together for the two workouts I planned to do while filling the other days with yoga? Would a loaf of bread be my pacifier mid-way through?
The wheels did not come off though it took FOCUS. There was juuuust enough food to ward off tantrums, and when I started to feel a rise of anger because of the emotional attachment I unapologetically have to food, I simply said to myself, “I am honored and privileged to do this fast.” Every time I said this — and I said it a lot — I calmed down because honestly, it is an honor to be able to experiment with my optimal well being when family members are lost in a minutiae of information, or they use the “shoulds” surrounding nutrition and beauty standards as ammunition again themselves. I feel privileged to be able to have intuition about my health without feeling that my looks and weight are the end all, be all. Lastly, I have the honor and privilege of optimal food choices when so many do not have access to enough fresh, nutritious food.
The nitty gritty: All in all, it wasn’t terrible, and I actually feel good! I wasn’t really hungry though I missed food and the celebration that is eating. I didn’t suffer from any headaches, tantrums, or major detox symptoms, but I don’t drink caffeine so I know that eased me into this. Day 1 and 2 were the easiest though I hear for some those are the hardest. Day 3 was the hardest. Day 3 was like when you’re in round 3 of a workout like Eva and you’re so sad that there are 2 more rounds to go. That’s what it felt like, but waaay longer. I ended up doing three workouts instead of two just because I felt up for it, and they weren’t easy workouts. I was worried how I would feel during, but I didn’t feel any worse than I normally would during challenging workouts. My days were busy, filled to the brim with clients and coaching classes and family life, and I really had to manage my crankiness at the end of Day 3. But with breathing and a couple “you’re ok’s” and “don’t take it out on this person” and “I’m f*cking honored and privileged to do this gd fast…” I was good, solid. In fact, no one really knew I was doing this.
Did my cells rejuvenate? HOW WOULD I KNOW. I hope so as I’m going to trust the science. I do feel less inflammation as I had been feeling sluggish lately on my runs prior to doing this, and now I feel better. My skin looks a bit better, — but maybe because I’ve been drinking SO MUCH WATER — and I do feel a little sharper mentally. This experiment was also a big reminder of how much better I feel eating mainly nutrient-packed, fresh food. Apparently, I can’t get enough reminders of that.
Fast Mimicking is not meant to be sustained for long periods; five days total. In fact, a good, nutritious refeed is part of the protocol for the regeneration process. When starting out, it’s advised to do this five days every month for three months straight and then take it down to once a quarter. Honestly, I think I can do that for less fog, less inflammation, a little more clarity, and the rejuvenation that, by faith, I believe is happening somewhere inside of me.
A) QAMRAP 8:
8 Bulgarian Split Squat (each leg)
8 Single-arm DB Push Press (each arm)
B) Breath Gear Pyramid EMOM
Ski Erg cals
Also on Friday at 12:00-12:30pm ….
Breath Class with Tanya!
19.3 CF Open
200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge
50 dumbbell box step-ups
50 strict handstand push-ups
200-ft. handstand walk
50-lb. dumbbell, 24-in. box
Time cap: 10 minutes
We’ll talk scaling options!
Partner AMRAP 20
6 Knee to Elbow
8 RKBS (32/24)
And at 11:15am …
Breathe with Tanya!