Take Fasting Slowly
According to an article on Vietnam net on Dec 12, 2010, a man died after two months of fasting, reportedly for a Qigong regimen. This 34-year old martial artist in Ho Chi Minh City was on a water fast in order to clear his blood and organs of toxins so he could build up his Qi . Instead he killed himself from starvation.
Going to the Extreme Does Not Heal
This fellow was practicing a method to the extreme. Extremes do not heal, strengthen, or make healthy. Extremes push boundaries, but healing happens with balance and relaxation. The great, crazed Nietzsche famously wrote that “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” In the context of a personal health approach, this is nuts. Anything that almost kills you makes you need to rehab and re-strengthen afterward.
Gentle Qigong practice helps us recover from the stresses, messes, strains, and pains of life. Don’t reinjure yourself when you are trying to heal. Don’t break yourself trying to remake yourself into something greater.
My Fasting Story
I once experimented with fasting after reading various enthusiastic books about it and it’s magic. These books weren’t written from a Qigong perspective; more from the American Naturopathic tradition. After I graduated from Chiropractic college when I was 25, I checked myself into a fasting institute in order to capture some of this magic energy and health that the fasting books promised. I wanted a jump start for my upcoming professional career. My water fast was only 11 days, not two months like the guy in the news story.
The fasting institute was pleasant. It was in a former residence in the suburban hills north of San Francisco. A lovely setting amidst the rolling hills, fields, and oaks of Northern California. The doctor and staff there were personable, knowledgeable and committed to their work. There were 8 or 10 of us there for the fasting.
I Got Tired
My experience was not as promised from my studies and inquiries. Friends had told me that after 3 days I would be full of energy. Not having to eat food I would be on a kind of a high. Instead, I got more and more tired. I got around the place in slow, heavy ambles. Once a day I would take a slow, labored walk up the hill on the paved road, feeling a thousand years old in my steps. Maybe I was just so full of toxins that I never did get them cleared all out.
I Got Hungry
I was also told that I wouldn’t feel hungry after 3 or 4 days. Yet hunger never left me. I will tell you, just from this little civilized test, starvation is no fun. I hope I never have to face it for real. I got hungrier and hungrier. I never stopped craving food; never stopped thinking about it, longing for it, daydreaming of it. On day 9 of the fast I was the sickest, clearing toxins through my amber urine.
By day 11 I was no longer sick, but was so hungry, so physically and mentally frail. I was too tired to read much even. To have the time and leisure and books, but no energy for reading is a kind of a hell for a bibliophile like me.
Coming off the Fast
On day 12 I came off the fast, starting my caloric intake with a glass of watermelon juice each at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yummy. I savored that fruity succor. Another day or two of juices and then on to giant, dry salads that took an hour to eat, chewing at maximum speed. After the last day—number 17—I left the institute and drove home. Still weak and hungry, I craved fat and bought packs of macadamia nuts at a gas station/store. How delicious those were.
I Felt Weak for Weeks
I felt fragile and feeble in my body for several weeks after the water fast. I lost weight, but I also lost energy and oomph. It set me back, rather than vaulting me forward. It may be that I fasted wrong, or not long enough, or it just wasn’t right for my constitution. For me anyway, fasting wasn’t the answer. It would be 5 more years before I discovered the non-weakening power of Qigong.
Fasting should be taken in small amounts, a day or 3 for most people is plenty. Short, periodic fasts are a time-tested way to more health. Longer fasts may be appropriate for some people, occasionally, but I wouldn’t put much trust in going too long. Be careful of extremes of anything. Any extreme is an imbalanced state that doesn’t take into account the other extreme. It is a one-sided, lopsided, untenable position, for the other side must come along to balance out the lever.