my first extended fast – 11 days that turned my life around

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11 days that utterly and completely changed my life; 11 days that *gave* me a life… and a future.

Though I’d been reading, watching videos and thinking for a couple weeks, getting myself psyched up to start, and thus eating rather low-carb, shortly before midnight the night before I began, I had some Polish sausage and a package of flavored noodles. I knew I was saying goodbye to carbs for quite some time and needed a farewell party.

Today, I find it mind-boggling that I cared at all. I genuinely don’t want carby food. I’ve done low-carb off-and-on for decades due to diabetes and have never been in a place where I could honestly say that. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but today, I can truly say I don’t want bread, pasta or rice ever again.

Fung says to only do this with a doctor’s supervision; I ignored that. I know way more than my PCP does about adjusting insulin and it takes months to get an appointment with the endo. I was too gung-ho to wait for that; I went for it.

I learned 90% of what I know about insulin from other diabetics; how to adjust basal (which must be done seasonally for some folks); how to figure out your carb and protein ratios; I achieved extremely tight control by discussing insulin in various forums with other diabetics. I think if you’re knowledgeable about insulin personally, you can just go for it.

I found a Fung video in which he was speaking to other doctors, not patients. And he suggested a good starting place for a T2 fasting was 30% of their previous total daily dose (TDD) as basal. So I began there; I’d been on 40 u basal and 30 u bolus twice a day, for a TDD of 100; so I started with 30 u basal.

I would absolutely have quit any other diabetic medication that had hypoglycemia as a side effect as well. As it happened, I wasn’t on any other meds, as the bit of me irritated about decades of diabetes treatment had long decided there was no point to swallowing pills if I had to inject myself multiple times a day anyway.

I only told one friend; honestly, I was afraid to make a big deal out of this because I didn’t know if I’d succeed. I knew I wanted to go at least one week; had decided not to go longer than 14 days at most. There was Senate bean soup in the fridge when I began; no one here would be hungry except me.

My plan was to allow coffee with heavy cream, bone broth, my electrolyte drink, as much water as I could drink and a snow cone topped off with a liquid flavored stevia. Coffee began the day, then electrolytes, then water until bone broth as “dinner” followed by the shaved ice for “dessert.”

My electrolyte drink was different than most; it has a high dose of potassium. Previously, I’d been on prescription potassium; those pills are humongous so I had figured out the equivalent dosage in potassium bicarbonate and invented my drink. Insulin acts on the kidneys to cause retention of sodium and water and loss of potassium; I’d had problems for years with lymphedema in my legs and feet and for just over a year with my chest, congestive heart failure (CHF). So though most folks need sodium as well as potassium in their electrolyte drink, I just did potassium to begin. I did salt my bone broth to taste, but that didn’t amount to much.

My medical plan was to do some bolus if I saw a bG at 200; I expected my bG to go up fasting as I burnt off glycogen. I also was aiming to keep my BP at 140/80 or higher as I adjusted things, prefering to err on the side of less medicine. Finally, I was weighing myself daily, not to see if I lost weight, but because that is one of the things you track with CHF; a pint of water weighs a pound; you adjust lasix (a diuretic) if you gain.

Day 1

This was OK, not too difficult. My morning bG was 151, likely a consequence of those noodles the previous evening. My home health aid was still preparing food for evenings, so though she wasn’t fixing me breakfast, she didn’t notice I wasn’t eating; the wasband was completely clueless as well.

Day 2

My morning bG was 107, so improving. But this day was horrific; I was painfully ravenous. My HHA baked a meatloaf and made a big batch of mashed potatoes; the smell made me half-crazy. Fung says ghrelin peaks on the second day, so I just bit my tongue and muddled through, believing tomorrow would be better. I had a second cup of bone broth and went to bed early.

I invented my new mantra on this day, “I can eat later.” I repeated this of thousands of times in the weeks following.

Day 3

I began with a bG of 107; I felt better, but was still hungry. I had settled into my new pattern of: wake, coffee, electrolytes, water, bone broth, snow cone, bed. My BP went low a few times; I just ate some salt. Mostly, I was using Lite salt, but when my BP went low, I did sea salt.

Day 4

My morning bG was 104, about the same within the error of my bG meter. I felt pretty good; I wasn’t hungry anymore. A sort of euphoria kicked in; my brain fog and fatigue lifted. My BP went low several times and I decided eating salt was foolish while on a diuretic, so cut my lasix dose in half, from 40 mg to 20 mg.

I noticed a weird side effect; I could feel my legs below my knees.

Several years earlier, I’d had multiple surgeries, which resulted in a multi week stint in rehab, learning to stand and walk again. Physical therapy continued when I got home, but though I got off the walker and rarely used the rollator, that was only on flat surfaces. To walk on uneven surfaces, like my yard, or stairs and curbs that were too high, I needed a walking stick (which worked better for me than a cane).

A large part of why that occured was because of neuropathy; I had no feeling below the knees. Except for the occasional lightning-bolt strikes; a pain that only lasts a second or two, making pain medication useless.

Walking was like walking on stumps; I got no feedback from the ground.

But on this day, I could feel below my knees; all the way down to the calf on the good side.

Day 5

The day began with a bG of 92, so definitely lower. I continued not eating and taking 30 u of basal insulin daily.

I also spent much time feeling my legs. I could feel everything on the good side, even wiggling my toes. On the worse side, I was able to feel down to the ankle and the top of my foot by the end of the day.

Day 6

My bG was 81. Whoa! That’s like an IDEAL fasting bG for a diabetic! This is awesomesauce.

Day 7

My bG was 62. I was a bit panicked, so ate 2 smarties (not 2 packs, just 2). Looking back, I should have realized my bG could go very low; I have adrenal insufficiency and make very little cortisol; my bG doesn’t rise until I take my morning prednisone. It took me a few days to realize this. Meanwhile, I reduced my basal from 30 u to 20 u and since I was ridiculously thirsty all day, I cut my lasix in half again, down to 10 mg.

I find myself wondering: can I walk in the yard without the stick? I can feel both my feet, down to all 9 1/2 toes now.

I mention to the wasband that I am going to go walk in the yard because I think I can do it without the stick now because I can feel my feet. He asks why I can feel my feet suddenly, concerned something strange is going on. I reassure him, it’s just because my bG is way down; fasting today was 62. He is now more concerned, because why would my bG suddenly be down? And I confess that I haven’t eaten in nearly a week and laugh at how unobservant he is.

I walk in my yard, from one tree to another, over to the hammock, over to the firepit.

One of my kitties, Kanga, follows me from spot to spot. He climbs a tree and I play with him with a branch. I walk and drag a long piece of grass behind me; he chases it.

And thus was born my new hobby: walking with kitties.

I considered whether I wanted to continue tomorrow, decided to go for another day. This was an important idea I’d gotten from one of Amanda Rose’s videos; to decide today what I’ll eat tomorrow. I can choose whether to fast, eat well, or take a break for a special event; but if I decide the day before, I won’t be just giving into temptation.

Day 8

My bG was 68. Not enough to worry over, but enough to think I could reduce my basal further, so went from 20 u to 15.

It dawned on me that I have no Dawn Phenomenon; my “fasting” bG would be a while after my morning prednisone dose; I tested 2 hours later and it was 114. OK.

Walked with kitties again; this time Roo joined Kanga and I.

Evenings are when I’m hungriest. This evening, I argued with myself thusly: “So you think you’re hungry, eh? Well, fat has almost no effect on insulin or bG, so you can have a tablespoon of butter or a shot of olive oil? Doesn’t sound appetizing, eh? Then you’re not THAT hungry.”

I decided to go for day 9.

Day 9

My bG was 59. OK, panic time. I ate a half roll of smarties. My bG was 80 a while later. WHEW!

The thing is, I didn’t *feel* hypoglycemic. I’ve had 3 true hypoglycemic episodes since I began on insulin 12 years ago; I know what they feel like. If I hadn’t been testing daily to see how well the fast was working, I’d have not even known I was low.

I wondered what my bG was *before* I was diabetic; there weren’t home meters when I was diagnosed and I’d not have tested even if there were! Was this *normal* for me?

I know I am medically fragile; I had decided before I began that if anything seemed off, I’d stop. But it seemed to me that fasting was not threatening me; insulin was.

So I quit insulin entirely and decided to fast another day.

I went to an auction, an iffy proposition because I can’t stand and walk much, but did fine. And though I got tired, when I came home, sitting at my desk for a half hour reduced the fatigue, whereas a couple weeks ago, I’d have had to leave early and had to rest for a couple days to recover.

Day 10

My bG was 68. OK, that seemed safer. But still, I was on NO insulin and my bG was that low? Strange.

This was the third day in a row that I left the farm. A couple weeks earlier, I was spreading outings out so I could rest a couple days in between.

Today, after going to a movie, I walked with kitties again. But getting a bit bored with my yard, I went down by the hayfields, but stopped short of the cow grate. Even before I was disabled, that was a bit tricky to cross. If I break my ankle, walking with kitties will be over; I feel much too well to risk a setback now. Discussed with the wasband that I need some sort of platform so I can walk more.

Day 11

My bG was 88, a good bit higher than yesterday. So gluconeogenesis must be occurring to a significant degree, else where is the glucose coming from? I must have burnt off all my glycogen by now, so my liver is busy making glucose from protein and fat. While I’m happy for it to burn all the fat it wants, given I have quite a bit extra on hand here, I don’t want to burn much protein. So tomorrow is a good day to end this fast.

Also, there is just the… not being stupid about this. I mean, 11 days is a significant fast. Heck, I used to get irritated when they asked me to fast 12 hours for blood work! I’m not going to fast tomorrow.

But I am going to decide now what I will eat tomorrow.

Tonight, I’ll stay up to midnight and have some sugar-free jello. People breaking fasts often get GI distress, so I’ll have half the jello now, then half in the morning before I eat.

Then I’ll have a light meal, some scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions and cheese. Maybe a second meal of ground beef and salad later, but within an 8 hour window. That’s a decent plan for intermittent fasting.

I can get through the evening bit of hunger much more easily knowing I can eat later, and later is tonight!

Next, I learn to eat like a bear.

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