A couple of months ago, I decided to go for 36 hours without food. Building up to the day on which I had set out to complete this mission, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated. I was FREAKING out! I had never ever gone to bed on a literal empty stomach. Even as a kid who constantly had bouts of highly inflamed tonsils, I would at least force down some nshima with delele (okra) or take a bit of juice at the very least. Going to bed hungry was out of the question; “mankwala siyaza sebenza bwino na njala (the medication won’t work well if you are hungry)”, my mother would say.

Now, some of you might be wondering why the hell someone might voluntarily go for that amount of time without eating, and for me, I was experimenting. You see, a year ago, I decided to take charge of my own health and well-being and the more I research and learn, the more I come to the conclusion that even doctors experiment on us. So why not experiment on our own bodies when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle? But anyway, before I digress, the second reason I decided to try it is that I wanted to get over a weight loss plateau and some experts had recommended a 36-hour fast as just the thing which could tip the scales and help you lose some belly fat too!

But before we get into it, let me provide a bit of information on my fasting journey up until this point for the sake of new readers who might not be familiar with my story. So, of course I didn’t just go straight from eating anything at whatever time I want into a 36-hour fast. It was a slow transition. My first intermittent fasting regimen was the very basic 13:11 plan, which means you fast for 13 hours and then you eat in an 11-hour window. Within a few weeks, I had transitioned to the 16:8 plan, I would skip breakfast, eat only lunch and dinner. It was very hard in the beginning, I would literally check my intermittent fasting App every other second to see whether it was time for me to munch, LOL!

Eventually, it became seamless and when I cut carbs out of my diet, I got to a point where I had to remember to eat because I wasn’t frequently getting hungry. It was during that time that I lost most of the weight I have dropped so far. However, I took a vacation to Livingstone and decided to bend the rules on my diet; added back nshima in my life, some pizza, cakes, name it and once we were back in Lusaka, it was hard for me to get back on track in terms of the low-carb life and I have been struggling ever since. But one thing I didn’t compromise on was my fasting. You see, once you start time-restricted feeding, you realise that the modern-day human eats MOSTLY for pleasure and comfort rather than survival and the worst part is that the things we call food today are designed to make us keep eating and they make us fat. So, I realised that because I had kept on fasting for 16 or more hours each day, I was not gaining weight despite adding some carbs back into my diet – I was not losing weight either but the fact that I was maintaining my weight, for me, was FASCINATING!

Whenever I lost weight on a low carb diet in the past, I’d put it back on the moment I took a bite of some brownies. So, this discovery that you can maintain your weight while eating whatever you want while fasting, was the game changer, and it is the reason that I have been able to keep off the body fat I lost on a low carb diet for the longest period of time ever! That’s what pushed me towards looking deeper into the benefits of fasting and the more I read about it, the more I get interested in pushing the limits. So, in a nutshell, that’s how I arrived at wanting to complete a 36-hour fast. And lucky for me, Hubby was on hand to do it with me.

I was working on that day and everything was going well until I hit the 22-hour mark into the fast – that is around the time I would normally have a meal and so my hunger hormone was in full swing, causing all my cells to cry out for food. I experienced a headache, drowsiness and, I won’t even sugar coat it, some serious irritability, LOL! And tell me why once you tell yourself that you won’t have something, that is all you can think about? Damn! My hunger hormone worked over time that day and I think it was worsened by the fact that by the 24-hour mark in most cases, your body switches over into a state of ketosis whereby you stop burning glucose for fuel but you instead start burning fat – that change over isn’t a very smooth one. While I was suffering at the 22-hour mark, Hubby was doing okay and laughing at me because he had gotten accustomed to 24-hour fasts already. Eventually, though, he joined me in misery-land. But one thing about us? We push through to the finish line once we set a goal and that is exactly what we did. Once we got into bed, it was a very strange feeling going to bed hungry but somehow, sleep caught up and it was like we had gotten into a time machine which transported us to morning.

I remember waking up feeling extremely weak, but also, I was pleasantly surprised about the fact that I had not died after spending 36 hours without food! I went to the kitchen and boiled us some eggs and fried up some beef liver seasoned with sea salt and some black pepper. A meal has never tasted so good! I have now done several 36-hour fasts and it gets easier every time. In fact, sometimes, I don’t eat until the 42-hour mark because I don’t feel hungry. Has it helped me with weight loss? A resounding YES!

So, what are some of the health benefits of a 36-hour fast according to the experts?

1. Autophagy: Your body starts to recycle and remove damaged cells and proteins, leading to cellular renewal and rejuvenation.
2. Increased Human Growth Hormone (HGH) production: Fasting has been shown to increase production of HGH, which can help with weight loss, muscle gain, and overall health.
3. Improved insulin sensitivity: Fasting can help your body respond better to insulin, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4. Enhanced mental clarity and focus: Fasting can help increase the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can improve cognitive function and mental health.
5. Weight loss: A 36-hour fast can help you lose weight and improve body composition.
6. Improved immune function: Fasting can stimulate the immune system, helping your body fight off infections and diseases.
7. Increased self-awareness and self-discipline: Completing a 36-hour fast can help you develop greater self-awareness and self-discipline.
8. Reduced inflammation: Fasting has anti-inflammatory effects, which can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health.
9. Improved cellular cleaning: Fasting stimulates the body’s natural detoxification processes, helping remove toxins and waste products from cells.
10. Increased energy: After a 36-hour fast, many people report feeling more energetic and alert.

Have you tried fasting? If not, are you willing to try it?

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