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How Much Weight Do you Lose if You don t Eat for a Week

Published on 16 November 2021 at 14:53

What everyone wants to know if you don't eat for 5 days 

It must have been sometime in 2005 that I read a message on facebook from someone who had done the lemon juice cure: for ten days getting nothing but water, tea and a disgusting mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. 

I couldn't believe my eyes: who the hell does that?

Food is healthy, tasty, cozy and oh yes, also quite essential for your survival. Why would you deny yourself that? But as so often there was that little voice in my head: 'You think that's not for you, but how do you know that?' - the same voice that once directed me to the a healthbeurs and gave me a lot of interesting dates. And so it happened that I went fast for the first time, as a psychological experiment, without knowing exactly what it entailed.

Fasting can come in many forms (see box) and this was quite hardcore for a novice. I would never approach it this way again, but it turned out to be a surprisingly positive experience. The hunger was not too bad and after the first few days I felt fresh and clear and energized. In the years that followed, I did the cure a few more times, until I just couldn't stomach that nasty mix of lemon juice and maple syrup. 

And then I had three weeks off in January and after a few months full of sugar, drinks and other goodies I suddenly felt a lot of appetite for a little less. Wouldn't I fast again for a few days? It had been a few years since I last did it. But in the meantime I had regularly done 16:8 or 20:4. That should be a nice setup to be able to last a little longer now. I decided to make it a five-day event, in the middle week of my vacation.

On Sunday I had a party - with drinks - so I decided to slow down on Monday (no alcohol, sugar, meat and carbohydrates) and then not take anything from Monday evening to Sunday morning. That worked fine for me (or well... almost then, more on that later) and during that time I kept getting the same questions. If you want to try it yourself, prepare yourself: this is what everyone will want to know about you. 

 

Have you gone crazy?!

No. If you consider that people used to have to go without food for a while, it is not illogical in itself: to skip one or two or fifteen meals.

 

What do you eat then?

Well, nothing. I do drink, and a lot. I mainly stick to water, tea and spa red and every now and then have a cup of broth with extra salt or a sports drink without calories, but with so-called electrolytes: potassium, potassium, magnesium, sodium et cetera. Because you drink above average during fasting, you also urinate more often and you can become deficient. Then you can feel weak and get cramps and I don't feel like that. Furthermore, I sometimes take a piece of sugar-free chewing gum, because that fast can make you smell really bad and being polite is also important. Incidentally, there are plenty of forms of fasting where you periodically eat (a little bit) or drink vegetable or fruit juice, for example. But without it works fine for me.

 

Aren't you hungry then?

Yes, of course. And most importantly, pull. But that doesn't matter. Hunger is not a feeling that gets worse over time. You feel it and a moment later it is gone again. Incidentally, I always leave the option open to myself to eat something. I am not a fanatic and can easily live with the idea that sometimes it might not work. In fact, that will also happen this time. On Friday evening, after a 97 hour fast, I suddenly find myself in the kitchen eating a cracker with peanut butter. And not even because I'm hungry, but purely out of habit, thoughtlessly. No biggie. I decide to make it into a small, healthy meal. Then I put my fasting app back on to complete the last 35 hours until Sunday morning.

 

 

And what about your energy?  

That differs from moment to moment. Especially the first two days I occasionally feel weak, from day three I feel fresh and fit. I chose to do it during the holidays and not during work because I would think it would be a bit stupid if I sat there with a fuzzy head. But that is so great. Next time, I would feel free to plan it in a work week. Then time goes a little faster. I also try to do some exercise every day: I go to the gym once, swim laps in the pool, take a few brisk walks and even go for a run. Only the latter (on day two of the fast) is difficult for me: my heart rate is too high and I regularly go for a walk. For the rest I sleep a bit longer than average, but that could also be due to the holiday. 

 

Isn't it difficult? Sometimes yes!

Especially when I would normally eat out of habit. For example, I'm going to Den Bosch for a day to see an exhibition there. Normally this would definitely include an extensive lunch. Now I stick to a cup of tea and have to make an effort to ignore the chocolate that comes with it. When I order another cup, I ask the waitress if she can omit the chocolate. Out of sight, out of mind. At times like that, it's a battle with the toddler in me - and anyone who's ever met a toddler knows that they can be quite brash.  

My inner dialogue then goes something like this:  

"Yes, but I want something to eat. I can know it myself, right?" "No" "But I've been on it for 48 hours, that's fine too, isn't it?" "No." "Just take that f*cking chocolate, it won't kill you." "No." "No one will ever find out that you've been smuggling." "No." Etcetera.  

 

This is also why it is good to stick to it: the rule is very clear, there is little to negotiate about. Simply: no. But that doesn't mean my head (or stomach?) isn't trying. 

 

What helps and what doesn't? Funny:

during fasting it is exactly your friends who are also your enemies. First of all, the time. 'Five days' sounds long and confusing. If you're having a hard time on day two, day five still seems infinitely far away. But if you think in hours, it goes by pretty quickly. I do 132 in total (with smuggling 1 meal) and that counts down nicely.

Every now and then I check my app, although time actually becomes less of a factor as it goes on. Another frenemy: smell. Man! Everything smells delicious. I can intensely enjoy the fresh sandwich that a friend is eating, I walk past a doner place with my mouth water, although I don't even know what a kebab tastes like.

Delicious, all those scents! At the same time, it does work up the appetite. That means I keep a list in my phone with everything I'm going to eat when I'm allowed again. There are very simple things on it - an orange, oh delight! - but I also long for strangely specific dishes: chorizo ​​lentil soup, hazelnut meringue pie, brandade, salad with spinach, white beans and artichoke... This is partly inspired by another friend/enemy: cookbooks.

I still have some Christmas book coupons and buy and read four that week. It is a bit crazy not to eat and at the same time to be busy with it a lot, but because I normally always read and think a lot about food, it is not entirely unexpected. And then chewing gum.

That is not recommended on all sides: the chewing movement would give your stomach a signal that food is coming and be disappointed if it doesn't. Anyway, my stomach is definitely disappointed these days and it's nice to do something with your mouth. Otherwise your jaws will get bored and before you know it your whole body will be grumpy.

That is also not the intention. And did I mention that fasting makes your mouth stink? Correct. 

Is that healthy?

Perhaps the most frequently asked question of all. In fact, I don't know enough about it myself, so I call Jaap Seidell, professor of nutrition and health at the VU University in Amsterdam.

He says that a lot of research has been done into short-term fasting, in particular 'intermittent fasting' where you regularly fast for a short time. "In itself, a time out now and then is not bad at all for your body. The constant grazing of us nowadays is not so good, then your body becomes overstimulated and it does benefit from some rest.

First you start burning your carbohydrate stores and when they are gone, your body switches to burning fat. Because traditionally food was not always available, your body is perfectly adapted to both types of combustion." There has been less research on voluntary long-term fasting - say longer than a week. "What we know about it mainly comes from people who have gone on hunger strike, for example. It is known that you will also lose muscle tissue.

Your body goes into a kind of starvation mode and your thyroid also starts to work differently. So that is really not recommended. ." And fasting as a counterpart to an otherwise unhealthy life, Seidell does not see as something positive either: "It is much better to always eat moderately and healthy, then unhealthy for a while and then nothing for a while.

As with Ramadan, for example: the nothing all day and then suddenly a very large meal with a lot of sweets, that's not good for you." Therefore, according to Seidell, fasting is also not a good way to lose weight; then you will benefit much more from small changes in your eating pattern that can be maintained in the long term. If you choose to fast (periodically), you should pay particular attention to your fluid intake.

And above all, move a lot. Your body does not know how long the period without food will last and will consume your muscles. Seidell: "And I would certainly also take a vitamin supplement, because you run into a shortage of that. Fiber is not necessary in as short a term as five days. They are in fact to keep your intestines working properly, but they have little to do during a fast, of course." 

And what about your head?

Not entirely unexpectedly, there are also people who make a link between fasting and eating disorders such as anorexia. When I call psychologist Robert Haringsma to ask where the boundary lies, he tells me that it is primarily about how you feel about it. "If it doesn't bother you, you don't have a problem." Unless there are practical consequences of course. "For example, if you get a very low BMI, or if it hinders your functioning.

Someone with an eating disorder can say that it does not bother him, but that does not mean much. The question: are you weight loss, or does the weight loss have you? Can you stop it easily? And then just pick up your normal pattern and not immediately want to fast again? Anorexia is a disorder often associated with wanting to exercise control, but in In this case, the control only works in one direction: over the non-eating.

There is no control over the well-eating. That is the difference". Fasting can also be quite good for your head. Haringsma: "For many people it is also a spiritual practice. If you don't eat, what fills that void?" And that brings us right to the last question that keeps coming up.

What does it actually deliver?

I recognize that emptiness that Robert Haringsma calls. Food is - rightly and with pleasure - something that takes up a lot of space in my mind: what shall I have for breakfast, is there still enough in the house, what shall I serve my loved one or friends? Now that all of that has disappeared, that emptiness in me fills with a hunger for beauty: movies, art, books, beautiful music, interesting conversations (and certainly not just about fasting), series, podcasts... As if my head wants to fill itself where my stomach is empty. In addition, I feel very free, without a fixed rhythm of breakfast-lunch-dinner, and full of confidence: apparently my body can handle this just fine.

The 2 kilos that I lost is a nice bonus, although this was not the greatest motivation for me. And the biggest bonus of the fast: when you start eating again, everything tastes delicious. On Sunday morning I officially stop, with the orange I put on my wish list earlier that week. Rarely eaten something so delicious! 


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