When I decided to take on my first water fast in 2013, I had limited knowledge of how to start, what to expect, and how to end it. Because I was in such a desperate state I started without knowing “how”, but spent many hours researching what expect, reading the experience of others, and came across the website of Robert Johnson – Fitness Through Fasting. The information on that site helped me to understand different types of fasts, water fasting, and the healthiest way to end a fast to minimize impact on my body as well as reduce the chances that I would return to my old ways of eating.
What follows is what Robert Dave Johnson wrote about ending a fast safely. Please take this seriously. Each step is important.
BREAKING A FAST: INSTRUCTIONS ON BREAKING A FAST PROPERLY FOR MAXIMUM HEALTH, DETOX AND WEIGHT LOSS BENEFITS:
Not breaking a fast the right way is the top reason why people fail at fasting. I have seen folks sacrifice their time and resources to fast for long periods of time, only to succumb to hunger at the very last moment and wolf down a pizza or cheeseburger – as the picture to the right depicts. The result is demoralization, shame, regret and, most of all, great danger to their physical health.
The same is the case with the digestive system. When breaking a fast (especially one lasting longer than 72 hours), you have to remember that your body’s digestive functions have slowed down dramatically. Your entire digestive system has, in essence, gone into a period of hibernation.
The body has shifted its from feeding on the food you eat daily, to feeding on the fat storages. If you needed firewood for a fireplace, would you go out and get more lumber if you already had stacks of wood inside the cabin ready for the blaze? Probably not. So, when fasting, you are no longer cutting fresh food (eating), but the body is still “feeding” on the stored wood (fat).
Making the transition from dormant digestion to feeding from stored fat takes anywhere from three-to-nine days and, in my mind, is a very sacred process.
If you had a loved-one who had spent months toiling to remodel a filthy, delapidated warehouse into a beautiful, clean office – would you show up with garbage and dump it in the lobby? I’m sure you would not.
So why do it to your own body? What the body is doing on your behalf, I submit, must be respected. Breaking a fast has to be done properly and with much caution. If you allow hunger and desperation to grip you, you will no doubt diminish the effectiveness of the fast and possibly harm your body. Here’s a wall-of-shame moment from my own experience to help illustrate this point.
My Fasting Debacle
Breaking a fast should definitely be planned in advance. Waiting until the last moment to determine what one is going to eat and drink is a recipe for disaster. Take it from me.
I have done amazingly-foolish things in years past. One time I broke a thirty-day water fast at a friend’s birthday celebration with burritos, pizza, hot dogs and soda. What a great guy, huh? NOT!
The “celebration” was short-lived. I was bed-ridden for almost a week afterwards and my stomach blew up like a balloon. I had severely irritated the digestive system which was NOT prepared for all of the trash I had abruptly dumped into it.
I thought I was giving myself a “reward” for reaching my fasting goal. Instead, I got egg in the face and one heck of a health scare. What I did was not only ridiculously foolhardy but also VERY dangerous.
At least my shame is now your gain. Those bitter experiences gave me motivation to research fasting and become as adept as possible in breaking a fast.
Let’s look at the best way to help you make the transition back to eating and active digestive-system function. I will start with instructions on breaking an extended water fast, then will bring in those who are breaking a prolonged period of juicing.
Breaking a Fast
The most important thing for you to remember is that: Breaking a Fast has to be done in phases. It is not a one-day occurrence. So this process will require patience and self-control. You will basically still be fasting for another 1.5 weeks, with the exception that you will now be eating and drinking – A LITTLE.
So don’t make reservations to a steak house for tomorrow night! In fact, why not consider changing your entire eating habits and lifestyle? Ok, enough said. If you have been WATER fasting for anywhere between 3 to 40 days, here is what to do:
Drink an 8-ounce glass of 50% water and 50% combination vegetable and fruit juice. I personally like tomato and grape juice, although I don’t expect that to become a popular recipe. Juice. Some 100% vegetable juice combinations are pretty good also. Here are some mixtures for you to consider:
Carrot and Orange Juice
Celery and Carrots
Tomato, Celery and Lemon
Celery, Apple, and Fennel
Pineapple, Pear and Celery
Papaya, Lime, and Cauliflower
Carrots, Watercress & Orange
Carrots, Parsley, Green Pepper & Orange
Spinach, Celery, Asparagus, Tomato & Grape
Carrot, Spinach, Lettuce & Orange
You can, of course, make up your own. But whatever combination you choose for breaking a fast: Make sure the juice is watered-down! I recommend that you start with 50% juice mixture/50% water.
The digestive system has been sleeping and we want to take it real easy. Make it a point to use BOTH vegetable and fruit juices in the mixture.
Using too much fruit juice alone could spike your sugar levels, which is not what we want – especially if you have any type of diabetic or pre-diabetic condition. This is very important and should be rule of thumb you always keep in mind when breaking a fast. Let’s awaken the bear slowly and with “kid-gloves” ok?
Also, I’m not going to tell you that you MUST extract your own juice with a juicer. If you don’t have the time or disposition to do so, then go ahead and purchase natural fruit and vegetable juices at the supermarket. Obviously, it would be best to juice your own because of the huge shot of fresh nutrients that it provides.
Since your digestive system is clean from fasting, the environment is optimal. But if, for whatever reason, you cannot do this, then at the very least make sure to purchase natural juices (preferably organic). Breaking a fast with Kool-aid or any other type of artificial juice is unacceptable.
I advice you to minimize the use of lemon juice, just because it is very acidic. One more thing: From here on, when I refer to juice, I am talking about the combination of both fruit and vegetable juice.
AGAIN: When you start breaking a fast, do so by FIRST drinking only ONE 8-ounce glass of the water/juice. Your appetite will sound alarms asking you to drink a gallon of the juice.You must use maximum restraint and not succumb to this urge. Now continue water fasting for another 4 hours.
Once the four hours have passed, drink another 8-ounce glass of 50% juice and 50% percent water. If you felt dizziness or stomach pains since you drank the first glass, then dilute it further to 75% water and 25% juice. Again, do not allow hunger to lead you to drink more than 8 ounces.
These two glasses of juice have begun to awaken the digestive system, and it has already started to assimilate and break down the nutrients. It hadn’t had to process any new nourishment for some time, so take it easy.
It is as this point that many people lose their resolve and just eat a sandwich, a salad or even a plate of steamed vegetables. Again, based on my experience, that is not the best way to go. Stay with me. Be patient. Drink the second glass of juice and continue water fasting for another 4 hours.
After 8 hours, you will have had two 8-ounce glasses of 50-percent juice and 50-percent water. Now go ahead and drink a STRAIGHT 8-ounce glass of juice. This will be the most amount of sugar your body will have received in a long time.
Drink it slowly. Look at a clock and make it a point to drink the juice over the course of at least 1 minute. Once you drink it, walk away … continue water fasting for another 12 hours. Time this in a way that the 12-hour lapse coincides with bedtime.
Days Two & Three
The second day of breaking a fast will be similar to the end of Day One, although today you will be able to drink 4 more ounces of juice per serving. Upon arising, drink a 12-ounce glass of 100% juice.
In other words, you no longer have to water it down. But, make sure that the fruit/vegetable juice mixture is comprised more of the latter than the former. Go 85% vegetable juice, 15% fruit juice, is my suggestion. We’re breaking a fast and also watching our sugar levels, ok?
When drinking this first glass of non-watered-down juice, time yourself. Provide at least 2 minutes to drink it. This will be the first full taste nourishment you will have tasted for some time. The urge to drink rapidly will probably be strong. Resist it! Continue water fasting for 4 hours and then drink another 12-ounce glass.
Have as many as four 12-ounce glasses, making sure to wait a minimum 4 hours between each one. In addition, it is important for you to continue to drink at least half a gallon of water per day during this entire process of breaking a fast. So it should definitely NOT be just juice, juice, juice. Please add lots of water, water, water!
Be careful. You will probably feel great (possibly better than ever) and want to just eat solid food and get it over with. It is possible that at this phase of breaking a fast you may be hungrier than you have been for some time. You may even feel a sense of desperation related to food and eating. Don’t react to it.
If you have made it this far, then apply the same commitment and complete this process appropriately. After swimming for months in the deep blue ocean, why drown at the beach now? Be patient. Drink your 4 glasses of juice on day 2 and GO TO BED!
On Day Three, repeat EXACTLY what you did on Day Two. Today your digestive system is more awake and beginning to put the wheels in motion. You may even have a bowel movement at this point of breaking a fast. That is good.
The human body is soooo loyal. It always comes through for us even when we abuse it and eat irresponsibly. Do the right thing and the body will forgive you immediately. Therefore, give the digestive system as much time as it needs to wake up. Be patient. Don’t pout!
On Day Four the digestive system is a tad more awake and can process some fruit. For breakfast, cut up an apple or pear in four slices and sit down to eat.
Eat each half very slowly and chew it until it dissolves in your mouth. Resist the desire to eat quickly. Chew each piece of fruit at least 20 times prior to swallowing. Count each chew. DON’T CHEAT!
Spend at least 2 minutes chewing and swallowing each of the four pieces of fruit. That means that you should spend roughly 10 minutes eating your “meal“.
To wash down the fruit, drink a 12-ounce glass of 50-percent water & 50-percent juice. We just gave the body some solids for the first time in a while. It is best to water down the juice and be cautious. Now continue to water fast for 4 hours.
Once the time has passed, repeat the breakfast meal with another piece of fruit and another watered-down glass of juice. Wait another 4 hours. Have a third fruit/juice meal. Mix the fruits.
You can, for example, have an apple in the morning and pears in the afternoon and evening. Steer clear of citrus (you can drink orange juice but hold off on eating oranges). Stick to apples and pears for now. Go to bed. Eat nothing else. Stay away from the kitchen!
Watch your thoughts and emotions very carefully.The mind will attempt to trick you into eating a full-course meal.
You may find yourself rationalizing “why it’s ok“ to eat this, eat that, etc. RESIST! The digestive system is shifting back from feeding solely on stored fat to relying (again) on the daily consumption of food.
Bowel movements should appear with greater frequency by this time. We want the benefits you received from fasting to last, right?
On Day Six of breaking a fast you can introduce salads. Eat an apple in the morning with juice and have a medium-sized plate of lettuce, cucumbers and baby tomatoes for lunch. NO DRESSING OR SALT! You can get away with a tiny sprinkle of olive oil and vinegar, but that is all.
Do not go overboard on the salad. Keep quantities small. TIP: Go to the supermarket and purchase several pre-made salad kits. Choose the simple kits, which usually include lettuce (Sidney Note: kale, Romaine lettuce are acceptable), carrots, cabbage and the like, nothing more. We’re looking for a basic “bare bones” salad at this point. Eat half a bag per meal. That way you take away the need of having to prepare a salad and hang out in the kitchen. Half a bag of a pre-made salad kit is more than enough for starters. If the kit you purchased comes with dressing and croutons, DISCARD THEM! Add food types and amounts slowly.
When it comes to breaking a fast, slow is fast. What I mean by that is this: If you are thorough, cautious and meticulous from start to finish (without rushing), then chances are pretty good that you will not have to repeat the process.
Going through the sacrifice of a long-term fast only to gain the weight back later is truly heartbreaking. The time is now for you to start mastering your appetites and learning that just because the body says it wants it, does NOT mean you have to give in to it.
If a little baby got angry because you took away a butcher’s knife he was playing with – would you feel bad about it? Would you feel guilty when the baby started crying and throwing a tantrum? Of course not. The same is with the stomach and our appetites. They MUST be disciplined – sometimes forcefully.
Have another salad for lunch along with an apple or pear and some juice (you don’t have to water it down anymore if your body is responding well). For dinner, you can add a small plate of steamed vegetables without butter. I like broccoli, carrots, squash and cauliflower. You can sprinkle a tiny dab of olive oil for taste. Make sure to drink lots of water – at least half-a-gallon daily. All in all, today (Day Six) you have given your body salads and vegetables in addition to the fruit and juices.
If at any time you start to feel stomach discomfort, add another 24 hours of just juices and fruit. When breaking a fast, always step BACK at least ONE day if you feel your body needs more time. Listen to what your body is really telling you.
Don’t make a decision based on hunger! Rather, close your eyes, go past the hunger and listen to what the body is saying. Is the digestive system processing the fruit, salad and vegetables properly?
Are you having trouble having a bowel movement? If you are straining to pass stool, then you are forcing the body to process way too much food, too soon. Slow down if you are in doubt.
Again I repeat: SLOW IS FAST!
Day Seven and Beyond
On Day Seven of breaking a fast, you can start to eat small pieces of lean poultry. You can steam-cook a breast of chicken very nicely on a pan with its own juices, a little water and a tiny sprinkle of olive oil. Be very light on the salt when seasoning.
If you have a broiler, use it. This piece of meat is not intended to be a gourmet experience. In fact, it should be pretty bland. You are eating it not as a fine-dining experience, but rather to continue awakening the digestive system.
And very important: Chew slowly! Resist the urge to gorge at all times.
For dinner, try this: A small chicken breast with a salad and half a baked potato without butter. One cup of brown rice is also a good choice. I like the boil-in-the-bag type because it cooks quickly and actually tastes decent. (Sidney Note: I recommend eating according to your blood type. This has been the best way for me to maintain my weight, eat well, and stay healthy. You can read more of my experience and get information here.)
Sprinkle a dash of Parmesan cheese on the potato for taste. The key at this phase of breaking a fast is to keep the portions small. If, after you eat a meal on Day Seven you start to have stomachaches, then you know you ate too much or you added some spice that was not permitted.
Beyond Day Seven, continue to eat the same foods I have just described. (Sidney Note: Or according to your type.)
You can exchange chicken for fish. You also can eat different fruits according to your taste. If you eat red meat, I strongly encourage you to NOT eat any for at least ONE month after breaking a fast. Your body is clean!
This is a great time for you to take some serious stock of where you have been, where you are and where you want to go. If you look back and realize that you do not want to go back to the way you were, then – as I said earlier – the TIME IS NOW to make some definite lifestyle changes and pay whatever price you have to pay for the sake of your health.
A FINAL RECOMMENDATION
When breaking a fast the body is clean of toxins and is thus much better able to absorb nutrients. For that reason, I want to recommend that you try Himalayan Salt. Himalayan salt has very powerful properties that can give your body a powerful boost once you have finished fasting.
Add two tablespoons to a half-gallon of water and make it a point to drink it in its entirety over a 24-hour period.
You can do this EVERY-OTHER-DAY for the first SEVEN days after breaking a fast. Then continue to do it semi-weekly at least once. Make sure to have plenty of plain water also as the salt will probably make you extra thirsty.
Himalayan Salt is known to contain energy and healing properties that assist in bringing the body’s regulatory system (homeostasis) into balance. This fosters improved blood pH, digestive system functions, brain activity, respiration, and it also helps remove heavy metals from your body, another of the powerful benefits of water fasting.
***Sidney Tip: Now that you know what has to happen, focus each day on drinking your water. Begin to research juices that you would like to use. I am partial to pear, carrot, orange, and pineapple. Carrot and orange I usually mix together. Specifically, I buy Bolthouse Organic Carrot juice, Evolution Orange juice or Simply Orange, and mix them. Do not forget to add in vegetable juices as well. Because I do not own a juicer, I blend vegetables in a Ninja Blender. You can buy juices as well. I’ve been told that Evolution vegetable juices are good. Look for recipes that suit your taste, AND be adventurous. Two years ago, I was adamant that I would not like any juice that included beets. I was proved wrong! It is one I love, and here is a recipe close to it (I do not use lemon in mine at all). Here are some other recipes.
Please feel free to leave questions. See you on Friday….maybe Saturday!
“Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin.”