Updated: Sep 26, 2021
I hadn’t been abducted by a serial killer and I wasn’t lost in the woods. So why did I go without eating for 14 days--voluntarily? You know that answer people give when asked why they climbed a mountain: because it’s there? Not that either. It was research.
I was writing Goddesses Don’t Diet, and I wanted to include an in-the-trenches report on what an extended fast felt like, going beyond my usual limits. Other than my cousin, who lost 100 pounds on keto (combined with occasional intermittent fasting), I didn’t tell anyone what I was about to attempt—not even the people who know that I occasionally do fasts of three to five days. I knew it would be challenging, and I didn’t need anyone fueling my doubt with well-intentioned concern.
So, how did it go? Following are journal entries from my fast, with a few comments to you, dear reader.
Day 1: Starting weight: 144 lbs. This was technically within the “normal” range for my height (5´5˝), but I felt bloated, and my muffin top looked more like rising bread dough that overflowed the mixing bowl. Because my jeans were a tight fit, I mostly wore yoga pants or pajama bottoms during the day unless I had to go somewhere, in which case I suffered the squeeze.
As a devotee of intermittent fasting, I often go a full day without eating so on the first day I wasn’t hungry at all. However, it was a very busy day, and I didn’t go to bed until almost 2 a.m. Then I couldn’t sleep. I got up and worked a bit, then went back to bed again around 3:30 a.m., finally fell asleep, then my day started again at 6:30 a.m. So, I got about 2 ½ hours of sleep. Not a good start to a prolonged fast. Time for the weigh-in.
Day 2: Weight: 142.8 lbs. A loss of 1.2 pounds! This was also a key day. I had a doctor’s appointment (to get a referral for a colonoscopy). While there, I also got a blood test for lipids, thyroid, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. I felt cold and dressed in layers, but temps were in the 40s, and I'm a woos in the cold, so I don't think it was lack of food. Again, I wasn’t hungry, but I was tempted to eat some leftover roast chicken while preparing chicken quesadillas for my son. However, it was fairly easy to avoid eating. Around 3 p.m., I started to get super tired (from lack of sleep the night before), but I had plenty to do, so I was able to keep busy until 9:30, when I took a multivitamin plus potassium, went to bed, and slept well.
Day 3: Weight: 141 lbs. A loss of 1.8 pounds (3 pounds overall). After I weighed, I checked for results in my full-length bathroom mirror. My stomach was definitely flatter.
I felt good all day. I didn’t feel any true hunger, but I did feel like eating a few times. When that happened, I drank water or black coffee with Ceylon cinnamon, or took a bit of Himalayan salt, and the feeling passed. It’s amazing how a bit of salt helps! It also helps to stay busy, and I did—working on the book, playing with my dog, and responding to emails, phone calls, and Facebook posts. Because I’ve done multiple three-day fasts before, Day 3 is familiar territory for me. I’ve also done a five-day fast, so I know that the next two days are doable but that it will require untapped strength to get through Days 6–14.
Day 4: Weight: 139.4 lbs. Another 1.6 pounds gone (4.6 pounds overall). I had a restless night, finally waking around 4 a.m., but I stayed in bed until 6 a.m. I realized I was thirsty. I had a glass of water on my nightstand, but I wanted to weigh empty, so I waited. I should report now that I’ve done zero exercise during this time. So, these losses are from fasting only.
I decided that I would start taking some bone broth if I feel I need it. This is allowed in many fasting circles for its electrolyte properties, but fasting purists will say that it's not a true fast. I'm not a purist. Pretty good energy all day and not hungry at all.
Day 5: Weight: 137.8 lbs. That’s another 1.6 pounds gone! Did not sleep well. Woke at 2 a.m. feeling like I was done with sleep. I took three melatonin tablets over the course of the night to no avail. Sleeplessness is a common complaint when doing an extended fast. The body is ramped up from all the fat it’s consuming.
I felt draggy today, so I took ¾ cup of bone broth with plenty of black pepper. It. Was. Delicious.
Day 6: Weight: 136 lbs. That’s another 1.8 pounds (!) shed at a point where I thought my weight loss would surely be slowing down. I figured it was my body's way of saying, “Thank you for shedding this fat I’ve been carrying around; lemme help.”
We’ll see what the next eight days bring. Slept well last night. I’m in uncharted territory now; I’ve never fasted this long before.
I had great energy all day and wasn’t hungry. Well, there were a couple of moments. My son needed help with his culinary arts flashcards, and I had to read descriptions like “Which international cuisine is known for thick wheat yeast bread seasoned with coriander, ginger, honey, orange peel, and cinnamon?” Later, when I was making him High Nachos, I was only tempted by the tortilla chips (my weakness: a definite trigger food), but I quickly closed the bag and started doing the dishes to distract myself. It worked! Later, I rewarded this display of virtue with a cup of bone broth. Again, superb. And although my stomach is still in bread dough territory, I’m beginning to look like one day soon I can ditch the Mom Jeans. Woot.
Day 7: Weight: 136 lbs. First day of no weight loss. I expected this at some point. To be honest, the huge drops I saw on Days 3–6 (mostly water weight loss, I’m sure) were surprising. I consider a little plateauing part of the process. I slept well last night but woke at 4:30 a.m., and that was it for sleeping, so I only had about six hours of sleep.
Today I really needed to tap my inner strength. Not that I was hungry, just that food was starting to sound really good. Okay: I wanted to eat my arm. And once again, my son needed help with his culinary arts flash cards. Luckily, I had already heated some bone broth, which I sipped while reading out definitions for confit, rémoulade, and fish en papillote. Beef broth is not only tasty, it also helps preserve one’s arm.
A funny thing happened today: I was making an appointment for my colonoscopy, and the intake scheduler asked me a bunch of medical questions. Then she got to “And what is your weight?” I didn’t know how to answer that. I finally said, “That depends. What date will I be coming in?” We settled on a date, and I made up a number and told her I’d call her if anything changed.
Day 8: Weight: 136 lbs. (yes, still). This is officially a plateau. It will happen. And if weight loss were the only benefit to fasting, I’d be incredibly disappointed, natch. But I’m in this for other reasons, and I’m in it for the duration. It’s possible, too, that I’ve not been drinking quite enough water, which I’ll remedy today.
I had what’s left of the bone broth (3/4 cup) at 11 a.m., followed by coffee with one tablespoon (I measured) of half and half. Half and half is NOT fasting friendly (if you need to add cream, use full-fat cream, which contains no carbs), but I’m beginning to feel a little like Oliver Twist. And half and half only has 0.5 grams of carbs, 20 calories. If I gain weight from that I’m going to ask to be put in a medically induced coma until I start losing again.
Not that I’m bitter.
Day 9: Weight: 134.8 lbs. Hold the pentobarbital! I have good energy—better than the last couple of days. In fact, it feels like my cells are singing. Am I losing my mind? I slept for about four hours initially, but after getting up at 5 a.m. and dealing with some email, I went back to sleep until after 7 a.m.
In other news, I’m beginning to think that hot baths on an extended fast are not a good idea. My go-to way to relax (besides a glass of red, currently off limits) is a hot bath with Epsom salts. But there was something about the change in body temperature when I got out that made me feel like I was falling off a cliff. I sat on a towel on the bathroom floor for about 20 minutes until that feeling passed.
No bone broth today (it was homemade, and I ran out), but overall, it was a good day.
Day 10: Weight: 134.6 lbs. Slept well. Woke at 6:30 a.m. feeling fantastic. More singing from the cell choir. And BIG news: I’m almost positive that a 22-year-old shoulder injury has resolved itself!
I mowed my front and back lawn today, taking a couple of water breaks because I tired more easily than usual. Later, I went clothes shopping but came back empty-handed. Sadly, I don’t have Jennifer Aniston’s body yet.
I had to really draw on my inner strength today. Even though I only have a full four days left, I miss food. I miss the mouth taste, the chewing, the swallowing, the feeling of something—anything—in my stomach. I just keep coming back to my health goals and the fact that I’m doing this for the book. That kept me between the bumpers.
Day 11: Weight: 134.4 lbs. At some point, seeing the numbers drop, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could make it to 130 (a drop of 14 pounds) in 14 days?” It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now, but I’m not complaining. These results are pretty fantastic.
I had a minor setback today. I had to pick up some medicine for my son at the pharmacy and phoned him on the way back to see if he’d like a donut as a treat. Of course, he said yes. I stopped by Sesame Donut and ordered two of his favorites (willpower that he has, he’s saving one for tomorrow), and got myself a large coffee while I was there. Before you go there--I wasn’t even tempted by the donuts. But the clerk asked, “Would you like cream in your coffee?”
I should have said no, but I answered, “Sure, let’s walk on the wild side.” He was training a new recruit, showing her the ropes, and he swirled a bunch of cream—far more than I would have even on a non-fasting day—before I could say, “That’s enough!” I swear there had to be at least ¼ cup of cream in there. I should have asked for a different mix or poured it out when I got home, but instead, I just used it to doctor my own coffee over the rest of the morning.
Today I’m feeling … well, maybe a story would help.
When I was first dating the man who would become my husband and the father of my children, he offered to train me to run. He belonged to a running group, had completed 20 marathons, and thought running would be something fun we could do together. I was willing, but a notice. We trained for a few weeks, and at one point, he told me I was ready for my first double-digit run. I was nervous, but we chose Forest Park in Portland, Oregon, which has some beautiful running trails, and I was hoping the scenery would distract me from what I was about to ask my body to do ... a 10-mile run.
Unfortunately it had rained the day before and the trails were mucky. This made running treacherous and I had to watch every step rather than enjoy my surroundings. On top of this, the muck coated my running shoes, adding additional weight to my stride. It was hard, but I dug down, persevered, and sooner than I thought possible, my boyfriend-slash-running coach said, “We’re almost there. It’s just around the next bend.”
Thinking we’d only done about seven miles, I was thrilled that we’d nearly done 10! I couldn’t wait to reach “there”! But when we got “there,” he said, “This is the halfway point; now we turn around and go back.”
At that point, my body had already let down and I couldn’t imagine completing another five miles, even on dry pavement with fresh shoes. I cursed him silently, then audibly, for not being clear in his communication. I felt set up, frankly. He offered to call it quits for the day and walk back together, but I was too angry (and, let’s face it: too stubborn) to quit. I turned around and began running, feeling hot tears stream down my face; feeling my feet, heavy with muck, slip and slide over tree roots and the uneven terrain; feeling the ache in my legs and back, the lump in my throat, and the fire in my lungs. I ran that last five miles half blind and more than half steamed.
I gutted it out.
All that is to say: I’m at the “there” point in this 14-day fast, even though I only have a few days left. It’s become very hard. I’d really like to eat something! But I’m no less stubborn today than I was all those years ago. I know this is good for me, and I intend to achieve what I set out to do. So, I’ll gut it out, even though I have no anger to fuel me for this leg of the journey. But there’s no muck, either, so at least there’s that.
I had another cup of bone broth today, purchased from my local health food store, a brand called Kettle & Fire, which is made from grass-fed beef.
Day 12: Weight: 134 lbs. Every day now feels like climbing a mountain, with self-care as the Sherpa. I had some bone broth, took a warm (not hot) bath, rested as much as possible, took my supplements.
For some reason, coffee didn’t taste good today, even with a splash of half-and-half. I poured it out.
I made my son Shoyu Chicken for dinner, and the smell of garlic, ginger, and coconut aminos drove me wild. He naturally had it over a huge pile of white rice (he can eat carbs and not gain an ounce, but I love him anyway). When he went to the kitchen halfway through his meal to get something as I was walking past, I fantasized about burying my face in his plate, Rottweiler style.
Two. Days. To. Go.
Day 13: Weight: 133 lbs. I’m surprised at the one-pound drop this late in the fast, and I’m thinking it might be that I’m a little dehydrated. I drank a good amount of water yesterday, but maybe I was a little shy of the right amount. I think a new magnesium formula I tried may have helped because last night I had the best night of sleep I’ve had since the fast began. At breakfast I had a nice espresso with a splash of half-and-half, and it was delicious.
Win! I was able to comfortably wear a pair of jeans that has been sitting on the top shelf of my closet for two years! And they’re not Mom Jeans!
Day 14: Weight: 134.2 lbs. A gain of 1.2 pounds? Odd. Maybe it was dehydration yesterday, and now I’m plumped back up. I didn’t overdo water, though. I have a digital scale, but it does require a level surface. I tried moving it around and weighing again: same results. This definitely sucks, but it can happen with an extended fast, and that doesn’t take away from the other benefits of fasting. It’s just a temporary number on a scale, so I won’t give it any more power than that. Also, it’s best not to weigh every day, as I have been. I only did that for the book.
I had an okay night sleeping last night. I woke at 3 a.m. and had to take a second melatonin but was able to get back to sleep. I had a dream that I ate two pieces of homemade chocolate fudge. I could feel myself eating it, tasting the butter I’d used to coat the pan, the weighty sweetness of the fudge on my tongue. Then in my dream I thought, “It’s Day 14! I blew it!” At that, I woke up. Fudgeless.
I feel great today! Not because it’s the last day (well, maybe some of that) but because I feel as though I could go on longer if I wanted to. (I don’t wanna, and you can’t make me.) Yesterday was also fairly easy. I had been pushing myself too hard on a work project and decided to back way off and watched an old movie in the evening instead of working. Fasting is hard enough. It’s important to be kind to yourself in other areas. Despite backing off a lot, it was still a busy day.
Day 15: Fasting is Done! Final Weight: 134.2 lbs. I woke at 3 a.m. and didn’t get back to sleep again even after taking a melatonin. So much for the new magnesium formula being the perfect cure. I have a craving for an omelet with green onions, but reintroducing food carefully is important. Today will be fermented foods, bone broth, and soft steamed veggies. Yay! I get to chew (a little). But before I eat anything, I’ve scheduled a follow-up blood test. I offered to do private pay, but even so, my doctor wouldn’t order a repeated blood test so soon. “Not much will change,” she said. So, I made an appointment with an independent lab. And she was wrong.
Weight loss: 9.8 pounds - Healthy weight for my height is 117 to 144 pounds, so at 134.8, I’m still in the ballpark.
Cholesterol dropped: 30 points (from 242 to 212) - a range of 199 or below is optimal, but I’m much closer. And I tend not to worry too much about the overall number since I eat lots of healthy fats when I do eat.
HDL dropped from 66 to 58 (healthy is greater than or equal to 40). HDL is the “good cholesterol” - again, not too worried about the slight drop.
LDL (the bad cholesterol) dropped from 158 to 140: Health experts like to see it at or less than 99. Again, no concerns on my part about trying to get it that low given that I don’t eat the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Glucose levels went from a prediabetes level to well within normal for the single-day test (105 down to 81, with the safest range being 99 or below)! Glucose levels are huge; you want to keep them in the healthy range to avoid Type 2 diabetes. The 30-day glucose test also improved (from 114 to 103, but since I only fasted for 14 days and had started after fasting for 2 days already, it’s hard to get too excited about a 30-day average). Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed at a glucose level of 126.
Triglycerides, which were already good, dropped from 89 to 78 (less than or equal to 149 is ideal).
So, would I do another 14-day fast? I’m not sure. Days 11 and 12 were cryptonite. As I write this, though, I’m in the middle of another extended fast, this one for 10 days. I want to see if those singing cells have learned any new tunes.
The above blog post was excerpted and edited from a chapter in Goddesses Don’t Diet: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Intermittent Fasting, by Yvonne Aileen.