For more than three weeks now I've been thriving very happily on less than 1,000 calories a day. I embarked on this low-cal venture, not to lose weight but to eliminate foods I thought might be aggravating my fibromyalgia symptoms. Diet has long been suspected of playing a major role in this incurable syndrome where the brain misreads nerve signals, resulting in widespread and inexplicable pain.
I've made some great, life-changing discoveries in the past three weeks...and I've also reaffirmed some long-held ideas of my own.
One of them has to do with fasting. In Bucket List Weight Loss, published five years ago, I wrote about my love affair with Cambridge weight loss drinks. Cambridge was basically a fast. To have ultimate success, you were to drink three 110-calorie Cambridge shakes a day...plus lots of water. And that's all. Coffee and diet sodas were optional, but absolutely no other nutrition was allowed. The beauty of Cambridge, to me, was its simplicity. It was so restrictive that I couldn't even consider cheating a bit. It was like locking myself in a cell with no access to food. It was absolute. And easy. At least, after the first couple days.
Fasting is the same concept. When fasting, you're limiting yourself to certain liquids each day, with the understanding that eating ANYTHING else will blow the whole thing, waste your time and money, and make you fatter.
Total water fasts are best done under a doctor's supervision and with total rest. Neither of those was practical for me, so three weeks ago I reverted back to good old Cambridge. I did that for a few days, then added a "real dinner." That's pretty much what I'm still doing.
I fell off the wagon a couple times. They were just little falls, but I felt horrid 12 hours after each incident. Macaroni salad--can't handle the gluten. Weiners--probably too much salt and chemicals. Alcohol--gives me a headache. Potato chips--lethargic after eating a few. So I've been eating baby carrots (raw and cooked), strawberries, blueberries, grapes, spinach and a microscopic amount of lean meat. Surprise: I am satisfied, I feel great (relatively speaking), and I have no cravings.
Perhaps best of all, I've only weighed myself a couple times because I'm not obsessing about it! I guess I've lost about 12 pounds and know that my final 10 will drop off without any effort. With the weight loss, my joints don't ache as much, and my mental outlook is far brighter. The idea of alleviating pain from my life is much more motivating than shrinking down to a certain size.
It's this simple: I eat the wrong things and I have pain. I eat the right things and I don't have pain. It makes my nutritional choices pretty darn easy. The minor and transitory discomfort of an empty stomach can't be compared to the pain and stiffness that make climbing stairs impossible.
Fasting is to eating what abstinence is to birth control. It works 100% of the time. If you're inclined to try a modified fast for a few days, do your research first. Learn how. Convince yourself you're not going to die or compromise your health if you don't eat for a couple days! Set your parameters, keep temptations out of sight, and just GET THROUGH the first two to four days. Let your body rest and heal. Then start adding the foods you know your body appreciates and needs. If you suspect some of your former foods harmed your body, you're probably right. Trust your gut. Once you feel better after fasting, you won't want to do anything that will bring that pain back to you again.