Even though I had my specs on, I still couldn’t see clearly. I was almost deaf in one ear and spent walks surreptitiously scouring bushes for wild strawberries. And stumbling around like a drunkard. Why on earth…? Because I fasted for ten days. Yip, me, the lady who loves eating.
At the start of the year, I left the job I’d been at for seven years, ended a four-year relationship, found a new flat and completed a training course. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. But I powered on through. And by the end of it, I was ready to be checked in to the madhouse.
After spending a weekend in Munich with friends, I had a better idea of where to go from here. And all because I met a psychologist there who recommended I try fasting. At that time, I still associated fasting with religion and denying yourself something you love. But I was quick to change my mind after she showed me an ARTE documentary.
The programme followed a Russian psychiatrist’s patients as they fasted to try and overcome major depression. It was gripping stuff. It was this that helped me see fasting in a new light, as though it was a kind of challenge. So why not go crazy and try it? Why not just give it a try, I thought.
7 days without eating in Bavaria
When you’re fasting for the first time, make sure you have someone fasting with you. Even if it’s just to help you see it through properly. Any kind of stress damages your body while you’re doing this. That’s why it’s best to fast in small groups. As I discovered when my own little group saved me from my first fasting meltdown. More on that later.
I knew there was something in this fasting concept, so I got started with a quick Internet search. The first thing that pops up is recuperation-style hotels in Hungary. The venues look massive and it’s far away. Nope, not for me. If I’m going to venture off to some place to stave off hunger and all the other side effects of fasting, I want to do it somewhere more bespoke and bijou. I’m thinking of a spot in the mountains.
Basically, somewhere I’ll be understood even when I’m whining because I have a headache or if I’m begging for food. The search continues and I eventually stumble upon a smaller organic hotel in Bayrischzell in Bavaria. It’s a family-run sanitorium and nature hotel that has been around for over 115 years. I go ahead and book the rookie package that involves 10 days’ fasting in Tannerhof according to the Buchinger method. For the uninitiated, Buchinger set up a fasting regime in 1935 based on these principles:
The decision to deny yourself food has to be your own.
You’re looking for inner purification and cleansing
You believe fasting is a fantastic holistic experience
You enjoy doing exercise as well as having quiet and reflection time.
Here’s my response:
Doing a proper number two: yip, things we don’t like to talk about
Hunger dissipates when you’re completely empty. I keep reading that and hearing it from other people. The Tannerhof flyers have already given me instructions for what to do three days before I get there.
Don’t eat too much
I get increasingly anxious each time they mention enemas and Glauber’s salt. In the «Noah» episode of the second series of «Jerks», featuring Christian Ulmen and Fahri Yardim on ProSieben, they talk about just that. Enemas. It’s hilarious. Oh well, at least I can laugh about these kinds of things just hours before I’m due to set off. Soon it won’t be a laughing matter.
If you’re looking in aghast at the screen, thinking «OMG, she’s not going to go into detail about enemas, is she?!» Nope. That’s not happening, folks. I opted to gulp down Glauber’s salt instead. Eurgh, that stuff is gross! Thankfully, I got to rinse my mouth out with apple juice afterwards. And then it was just a case of waiting.
If you’re worried about things being a bit unpredictable downstairs and calculating the distance to the nearest toilet, don’t worry. You’ll feel the need in time.
Here’s how Glauber’s salt works. As soon as it reaches your intestines, it draws fluid in from outside. The rest you can figure out. About two to three hours later and you can leave the loo. Afterwards you’re supposed to drink a lot of water to compensate for the fluid you’ve just lost.
Side note: take wet wipes...they’re the saviour of nippy bums!
Arise Swiss Baby Care
Feuchttücher Traveller (20Piece)
Now that I’d gotten rid of that burden – in both senses of the word – I wasn’t hungry anymore. Everything was out. All those people who told me it would be easier afterwards were right.
I didn’t feel too bad at all for the first few days. Sure, I kept thinking about food, especially feta and olives. But that kind of stands to reason, as my days were endless expanses of work-free time where my mind had plenty of opportunity to wander and ponder.
«I can’t expect to have a lot of energy if I’m just having tea for breakfast, soup at lunchtime and juice for dinner,» I told myself before I set off.
What saved me when I couldn’t get my mind off of feta and olives were the three ladies I shared a table with in the fasting room. I should mention at this point you sit together at Tannerhof. It’s almost like group therapy. My group of ladies is well past the beginner stage. The oldest at the table is a painter and she fasted for the first time 43 years ago. This is the third visit for the business consultant at our table and the second for the neurologist. I’ve effectively landed myself three mums to mollycoddle me.
And they do end up having to look after me because I’ve only recently quit smoking and I’ve left some crackers in the car. Oh gawd, how could I have been so silly? Who comes to a fasting retreat with food in their boot? Side note: the crackers are all still intact.
Three days feeling drunk
I’m now officially a non-smoker. Yay, go me. With me along the way were my three new mums, alias the watchdogs. I’ve also given up my chewing gum addiction. After all, the whole point of being here is to stop chewing for seven days. However, on the third morning of this not-eating regime, I wake up feeling pressure in one ear. I can’t hear properly any more. It’s just as well I’m due to have my second check-up with the Tannerhof doctor today.
«It’s nothing serious. It could be down to low blood pressure. You need to do more exercise,» she says.
I opt for aqua jogging. After some entertaining fidgeting around, my ear is back to normal again. But the next day, I can’t see clearly with my glasses. It’s linked to the lowered pressure in the inner eye. Again, the doctor assures me it’s nothing to worry about.
It’s only after all this fuss that I realise what really low blood pressure can do to the body. For three whole days I feel drunk. When I’m out walking, I sway from side to side. Going straight forwards is beyond me and cycling is just too risky. When I’m lying down I feel like a have an hourglass in my head, which feels kind of funny. And all this even though not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. I briefly grieve for one or two or three good glasses of red wine.
Eventually, I find a method to get my blood pressure back up. I start to shovel hay for Highland cows. Why? They’re the most majestic of their kind.
Kneipp water treading and affusions
The solution to my problem is actually a lot more obvious than I think. Cold water. Well, bloody freezing water, to be precise. Every morning, it’s a case of going straight to the bathing area once I get up. I get hosed with alternating hot and cold water up to my hips. Great… erm, not. But what it does do is make my heart pump better. Once I’m done I get to slurp tea and enjoy the tingling feeling in my legs.
But it doesn’t stop there. To keep my heart on its toes, I have to go walking. Just as well I’m in the mountains, eh? Every day I spend three hours ambling through the woods, armed with a jar of honey for emergencies. In case you’re wondering, the honey isn’t part of Buchinger’s concept but it is allowed at Tannerhof. Which is a blessing, otherwise I’d still be wandering about the woods today.
I’d never have guessed I’d have so much energy. When I get back to Tannerhof I do some more Kneipp water treading. It’s devilishly cold but it has a terrific effect. Here’s what I’d recommend if you want to try it out at home. In the shower start by directing the water on the soles of your feet and then move up to the knees, with warm water at first and then cold. Repeat twice and then finish up with cold water.
When you get out the shower, don’t rub your legs dry with a towel. Instead, rub the droplets of water into the skin a bit with your hands and let your legs air dry. This helps the cool feeling last longer. If you do this in the morning, it’ll certainly wake you up. This kind of exercise comes under the umbrella «vascular training». Not convinced yet? Here’s why it’s so beneficial:
Changes in temperature make the veins contract, which is a good workout for the vessels and it prevents varicose veins.
It improves blood circulation to the skin and muscles.
It can relieve foot pain.
It helps headaches.
Buttermilk and apple tea
«Buttermilk? I’ve never tried that,» exclaims one of the new Swiss arrivals sat at a neighbouring table.
When I did competitive sport as a teenager I could demolish the odd buttermilk. It fills you up and gives your body the protein it needs. During this fasting experiment, I got my taste and love for buttermilk back. If you’re thinking this is just a German thing and not something you can get in Switzerland, let me point you in the direction of any Migros or Coop. PS It’s also yummy.
While I’m fasting, there’s not much I really look forward to food-wise but buttermilk is certainly one of those things. That and apple tea. My fasting mums had already raved about it. And oh my goodness, they weren’t wrong. I haven’t had a tastier hot drink in ages. There’s no way I can put it down to my renewed taste buds after years of smoking.
Later on I managed to get my hands on the secret recipe. Buy a bag of apples, cook them in water for a good ten to twelve minutes. Then pour off the juice and thin it. So much for magic. You really have to give it a go.
If you’re into homemade teas like I am, this is a lip-smacking addition to your favourite iced drink. Add mint to water and bring it to the boil. Then mix in the apple juice.
The effect and weight loss
For me, fasting wasn’t just about giving my body a break or about doing a cleanse. I also wanted to lose weight and find a way to better incorporate sport into my daily routine. Last year I had an accident and ended up being ill for five months. While I did manage to get back to work after two months, I still wasn’t in a position to do exercise. On top of that, I’m also a comfort eater. All in all, it wasn’t the best combination.
My goal for this fasting experience was to jump-start a new stage of my life. I think I can safely tick that box and say it worked. Before I started fasting, I had a bio-impedance analysis and then another at the end of it. The results showed I lost fat to the tune of 12 packets of butter! In all, that’s 3 kg fat and in total I lost almost 5 kg. To be honest, I only really noticed it when I got home and could finally look in a full length mirror. I was so chuffed.
Back to the day-to-day: where do we go from here?
After fasting, I’m having real difficulty getting back into eating. The first day I tried I felt awful. Sometimes it’s even too much for my bloodstream. That’s a completely new thing for me. I mean, I love eating. But now I first have to consider what will be good for me. The answer: protein and healthy fats.
My digestion seems to really like that. And this confirms it. I haven’t ventured into the realms of meat and alcohol yet, and I’m sure that can wait. You shouldn’t worry about falling off the bandwagon. Think of fasting like cleaning up your flat. Once everything is sparkling, you’re hardly going to want to ruin it with a wild party.
As for day-to-day eating, I’ve transitioned to intermittent fasting following the 16:8 model. What does that even mean? Not eating for 16 hours and only eating within 8 hours. In other words, I skip breakfast and only eat between 12 noon and 8pm.
That works well and helps me maintain my weight. It’s also good for your innards, as it gives them time to clear through before you start shovelling more food in. If you’re interested in finding out more about your digestive system, check out this bestseller and my go-to for all things intestine-related:
Darm mit Charme (Giulia Enders)
Everything about an underestimated organ - updated new edition
approx. 3 – 5 days > 5 item(s) ready for shipment from external warehouse
Herzliche Grüsse von deinen ehemaligen Team-Kollegen, die du anfangs Jahr verlassen hast und dich in den Fasten-Wahnsinn getrieben haben ;-) Wir hoffen du kommst trotzdem mit uns wieder einmal ein Bierchen (oder Buttermilch) trinken, liebe Andrea! Dein altes, super schlimmes m-way Team
Super Beitrag mit hohem Schmunzelfaktor, Andrea :) Danke fürs Teilen und gratuliere zur erfolgreichen Fastenzeit! Hier noch ergänzend der Vortrag zum Buch, Darm mit Charm [Mono]: youtube.com/watch?v=iC0LbBQ...