Ex dancer, choreologist, and fitness expert. Author of The Kand Technique, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.
Many of you may have heard of an autophagy inclusive diet, perhaps even consider trying it but don't know whether it's safe or what it will be like. This article hopes to help you overcome certain doubts and fears. In addition, the questions and comments at the end will help you decide whether taking an "autophagy with water fasting" plunge is the right decision for you. If you already know what autophagy is, scroll straight down to Water Fasting in Practice.
What is Autophagy?
In 2016 Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist at Tokyo Institute of Technology got the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery: Autophagy which literally meaning “eat thyself”. No, it doesn’t mean that you are a self-eating cannibal, on the contrary. It just means that during the absence of external nutrition (as in fasting) the body uses its internal existing resources (like fat) for fuel. In addition, it is a process that removes accumulated debris from cells and regenerates them to a healthy state. In other words, when a cell is clogged up and no longer works very well, autophagy comes along, cleans it up but keeps the good molecules for damage repair. Then the cell is good to go for a prolonged period of service. This applies to any type of cell from brain cells, heart cells, skin cells, lung and liver cells, in short, any type of cell in the body.
Watch the next video by Dr. Annette Bosworth, MD for the full story on autophagy.
It has always been my policy to cure myself of any aches and pains with good real food. Food is my medicine, including specific herbs and spices with a daily intake of:
- 1 large clove of finely chopped up raw garlic (a natural antibiotic)
- 1 tablespoon of a mixture of:
- ground turmeric with pepper to help absorption (antioxidant, and brain protector)
- ground cumin (promotes digestion, a rich source of iron)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds (high in protein, good egg substitute)
- 1 teaspoon of grated ginger (protection from flu, nausea, and inflammation)
In addition, I believe in a minimalist approach to exercise by performing the body’s daily physical tasks in a “good movement and good posture” behavioral way. All this has lead me to adopt a lifestyle that never requires doctors, pharmaceutical products, or artificial vitamin supplements - unless in an emergency of course, like maybe having a tooth repaired. One could say that I am a good candidate for healthy, reasonably painless aging.
So Why Did I Go on a Water Only Fast?
The main motive for going on a water fast was that I didn’t feel as comfortable as I used to with a handful of belly fat around my waist. In addition, my ankles were swollen, my sense of balance started to diminish when putting shoes on, and my stamina began to feel rather weak when climbing stairs. So after some thorough research and talking to people who fast regularly I was pleased to find what might be a very simple answer to my concerns: autophagy and water fasting. This article shares my research, my experience and the results of the experiment. So what exactly is autophagy?
When Does Autophagy Set In?
Autophagy begins to function when glycogen is depleted in the liver. Glycogen consists of carbohydrate glucose molecules that serve as a form of energy storage in the body. Glycogen is mainly stored in the liver and in muscles. It provides the body with a readily available source of energy. As soon as blood glucose levels decrease, the rate of autophagy (cell repair) peaks. This begins at between the first 12 to 16 hours of fasting.
Water Fasting in Practice
Timing and Weighing Schedule
I weighed myself before going to sleep on Friday at 22:00. Then I continued to weigh myself at the same time every 24 hours to determine daily weight loss. This resulted in the following:
Length of fast: 2 1/2 days or 60 hours
Total weight loss 60.5 - 56.5 = 4.5 kilos or 133 - 123 = 10 pounds!
A 10 pound weight loss in two and a half days is quite satisfactory.
Was It Difficult?
It was not at all difficult to do. Whenever I felt an urge to put something into my mouth, I drank a lot of water throughout the day. On the odd occasion when I thought “Oh I am really hungry now” I did a few minutes of slow improvised yoga stretching combined with meditation and breathing exercises. On one occasion when I finished the meditation session I thought that the session had lasted for about 10 minutes but when I looked at the clock I had been in an unusually deep state of meditation for over half an hour! The resulting energy boost from moving and relaxing dispenses any feelings of craving or hunger.
Note on Digestion
Once the digestive system is fully empty at around 24 hours into the fast, you get to take a break from having to empty your bowels, which is nice.
Monday - How to Break a Fast
I have been advised by more experienced fasters to eat something that is easily digestible when deciding to start eating again. So I opted for a small bowl of oats porridge (cooked with water instead of milk) sprinkled with a little salt and fresh cranberries. It is now 22:00 on Monday and apart from a naughty piece of strawberry cake that my neighbour offered me at tea time, that’s all I have eaten today. I don’t feel hungry now so I shall go to sleep and see what happens tomorrow when I have a sightseeing day trip scheduled with friends.
How Not to Break a Fast
Tuesday 10:00. I am waiting for my friends to pick me up in a café in the village eating the traditional "pan con tomate" which comes with a huge clove of garlic that you are supposed to rub on the toast. Silly me, following my daily garlic routine, instead of merely rubbing the garlic onto the toasted bread, I bite straight into it, helping it go down with cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
My friends arrive. Half an hour into the journey on curvy bumpy roads I am car sick, which I have never been before. "Stop the car!" I shout. Standing by the roadside I get violently sick, watching huge pieces of raw garlic glittering in the sunshine.
Lesson Learned: Plan Your Fast
After a fast the digestive system is nicely cleaned out and very delicate. It needs to be treated gently, with respect.
What about Exercise?
During the fast I carried on with my regular mild exercise regime which consists of:
- Walking for at least 15 minutes a day
- 10 minute Yoga stretching
- General gardening duties around the land
- Occasionally climbing a 200 meters hill that leads up to my closest neighbours.
- Around 60 daily incidental sit-ups at my floor desk while working at the computer sitting on the floor with straight legs under the desk to keep my hamstrings supple and to force me to do a sit up every time I am not lying down, waiting for stuff to happen on the computer.
Please watch the next video if the last paragraph sounds rather strange.
Living on the Floor
10 Benefits of Autophagy and Water Fasting
- Weight loss
- Boosts metabolism
- Improved energy levels
- Anti-Aging (towards pain free longevity)
- Skin Rejuvenation
- Stimulates brain function
- Boosts immune system (disease prevention)
- Better sleep
- Better elimination (no more constipation or irritable bowels)
- Improves spiritual well being with deeper meditations
Conclusion and Results
Tuesday 22:00. Apart from the mistake I made this morning in breaking the fast with raw garlic, the results are:
- My ankles are back to normal.
- My balance has improved when I put on my shoes in the standing position.
- The handful of belly fat is almost gone. I lost 4.5 kilos or 10 pounds from around my waistline which means that once again I am well able to rest my head on the shin bones when sitting on the floor with straight legs as shown in the next picture.
- I have more energy both physically and mentally. Proof in the pudding:
- I felt fitter than usual walking uphill during our trip today.
- This is the first article I submitted for publication after over a year of procrastination and writer’s block.
I feel so good and so proud of myself that I have resolved to repeat the practice of water fasting to activate the process of autophagy every first week of each month. That way my body will hopefully be kept free from dirty damaged cells in my brain, my heart, my skin, bones, and all interior organs. The plan is to gradually extend the duration of these fasting periods to 5 days during the first week of every month. Hopefully, this practice will allow me to enjoy my longevity genes with fewer of the agonizing aches and pains that my 104year old mother had to suffer.
Update -Three Months Later
I never did repeat the water fast monthly as I had promised myself. Today, a Saturday 3 months onwards, I feel that my waistline and tummy are going back to their old tricks of feeling uncomfortably chubby. What with mid summer heat, long siestas and virtually no exercise, I am not surprised. Now I revisit this article, in particular to check my progress chart to see if I have gained weight since the article was published. And indeed, my feelings are real. I am back to weighing 59.5kg or 131 pounds.
Original Progress Chart
By looking at the chart I can see that my today's weight appears on the 2nd day of my last fast. That means that if I now (Saturday) fast until Monday morning (48 hours), I should get back to my former happy end of the last weight of 56.5 kg / 124 pounds. So that is precisely what I am doing. It's now 16:30 and I have eaten nothing since last night.
This is exciting! See you soon with the result.
Friday - Good News
I weighed myself on Monday morning before breakfast and the weight was down but not as much as I wanted. I had hoped to reach my previous weight of 56.5kg or 124 lb from after the first fast. Unfortunately the 48 hour fast only brought the weight down to 58kg /127lb. So for the next 4 days I decided to live on only one evening meal a day. It is now Friday afternoon and my weight is 56.1 kg which is down even further than what I had wished for. So for the foreseeable future, I shall definitely skip breakfast and eat small portions, no sugar or cakes to keep my waistline slender.
Then whenever my weight exceeds 56kg/123 pounds I shall return to water fasting for the appropriate amount of time. This ongoing weight control method is so easy and simple to maintain, surely it cannot fail especially for the long term.
Final Update 6 Months Later
Permanent Weight Control Management
Here we are, six months later and my weight has remained steady. During this time, whenever the weight exceeded 56kg/123pounds, I implement the appropriate amount of time to fast until I got back on track. Autophagy with Water Fasting is a perfect method for permanent weight control management. In addition, it regularly cleans out the digestive system, gets rid of dead cells, and replenishes the body with brand new ones.
M'n liefje wat wil je nog meer? Dutch saying translated: My darling what more do you want?
Please feel free to ask questions and share your own experiences with fasting and autophagy in the questions and comment sections below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Mikoak on August 04, 2020:
I'm looking forward to lunch after my third 3-day water fast. I have black coffee each morning and fruit teas without sugar in the afternoons. I find the teas help psychologically..
they do actually have one or two calories per cup but hey who's counting!
I also take a large teaspoon of salt each day with my water around lunchtime that helps replace some of the electrolytes which also the tea does.
I lost about 5 kilos this time I think most of that is actually from not having so much food or any food in your system but I guess some of it will be fat depletion also.
this one with the easiest so far partly because I kind of did it unplanned but maybe also I'm getting better at it!
Keep up the good work and thanks for the great article :)
Sonia from New York on February 04, 2020:
Interesting article with good tips. Conveys useful information.
SN Brown MEd from Jacksonville, Florida on March 08, 2019:
Okay, thanks for sharing!
Farrah Young from Lagos, Nigeria on March 08, 2019:
I carried out a water fast once for three days and it definitely wasn't easy. At the end of the first day, I became so hungry it made me slightly irritable (lol).
In the end though, I completed the fast and, while I wasn't aware of autophagy at the time, it made me lose weight, which was a good result for me.
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on March 07, 2019:
Well I haven't come across that situation yet but I imagine I would plan the time of the fast to have been ended a few days before any major socialising event. Unfortunately our culture demands that we pig out when we meet friends and loved ones.
What I do at parties as a no-alcohol person, I put water with a slice of lemon into a tall glass and pretend it's a gin tonic. Then I can be as silly as I like while secretly sober.
As for food?... Like I said, I would plan the dates of the fast way beforehand to make sure my digestive system is completely back to normal during holiday events. :)
SN Brown MEd from Jacksonville, Florida on March 07, 2019:
Thank you for the advice Juliette! I have another question, how do you manage fasting during major holidays? Do you skip fasting during that time or do you go along with your planned fasting schedule and just manage what you eat during the holidays?
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on March 06, 2019:
Surely you don't mean that you eat for 6 hours a day! That would make you very fat. You mean you allow yourself a six hour window of time during which you may eat something at some point during those six hours, right?
I wrote this article:
which is a kind of intermittent fasting.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 06, 2019:
Do you have an article on this notion of "intermittent fasting"?. I get to eat only for 6 hours a day. Of course fluids for the other. (no way a soda or energy drink ever enters)
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on March 06, 2019:
A thirty day fast? Wow! I am not sure that's a good idea unless you are super fat. But even then, I would do the research before you decide to do it.
If you can lose 10 pounds at a time with a monthly 2 and a half days water fast, surely that must be safer and more permanent in the long run rather than trying for a 30 day fast maybe once a year.
SN Brown MEd from Jacksonville, Florida on March 06, 2019:
Thank you for sharing your fasting experience! Ive fasted in thw past and have experienced ALL of the results that you listed in the article. Congratulations on your weight loss and better health! You've encouraged me to fast more frequently than I have in the past. I want to do a 30 day fast but I'm not sure on how I can balance it with working. I will definitely try your monthly first week fasting plan! I love how my body feels during and especially after the fasting process is over!
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on March 05, 2019:
Wow! 50 pounds is a lot!
After doing my first water fast I acquired much more respect for my stomach. On the odd occasion when I try to eat bad food my stomach seems to say: "Excuse me, you are not really thinking of throwing that down your oesophagus!"
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 05, 2019:
Excellent. I add Apple cider vinegar. Lemon is also good I think. I lost my 50 pounds so fast they said it was unsustainable. Over a year now. This notion is very good.