The first time I fasted was in 1985. I admit, I did it to loose the ten kilos I had gained during my year as an exchange student in Iowa, but I came away from the experience with more positive effects than just weightloss. After the initial difficult day or two, I became very energetic, mindful and calm. It felt as if I as a whole, mind and body, had been reset. I have since fasted many times, but not as long as the 14 days I did the first time.
In the 70´s and 80´s, fasting was made very popular by the various health farms that had been established all over Sweden (since re-cast as spas where you go to spend a lot of cash spoiling yourself with aromatic bubble baths, massages, wine and gourmet food, rather than deny yourself the excesses of modern life to promote longevity and health). One of these was Tallmogården, in the next village to where I grew up. Dr Karl-Otto Aly, who was also the local doctor, ran it and promoted fasting as the cure-all for the modern lifestyle. Other health farms had other ideas, like raw food, intestinal lavage, or herb therapy. More or less, they all built on the ideas of Are Waerland, a charismatic health profet who advocated lacto-vegetarianism and abstemiousness. I was very influenced by this and was a lacto-vegetarian for seven years, until I came to Luleå. I sometimes think it might do me good if I became one again. Or at least a pescetarian.
Anyway; you could, for years, buy fasting boxes in regular supermarkets, with teas and juices and some kind of mild laxative (in case the prune juice wouldn´t be enough) for a number of fasting days. Tallmogården had its own brand of fruit and vegetable juices. The trick was not to exceed a particular number of calories a day, about 200, as this would make you hungry. For later fasts, I mostly drank water (sometimes with a squirt of vinegar to spice it up), a small cup of coffee in the morning (no milk), a cup of herb tea for lunch and one in the afternoon, and half a litre of broth in the evening. It has been a few years now since I fasted, because of the rather physically demanding job I have, so I thought it was going to be interesting to see if the experience would be different.
In the end, I only fasted for two days. It felt oddly different this time, and perhaps it is to do with getting older and having a changing metabolism. Or perhaps it is about having a changed relationship with the body. I became frustratingly weak. Perhaps it is that I have grown used to being strong – that was hardly part of my self-perception as a younger woman. I don’t think I will do this again, but I will continue to look at how and what I eat. I am steadily gaining weight and have had a lot of rashes around the mouth – definitely food-related – this spring. I need to really look at this, to find a long-term solution.