Fasting. It's Not For Everyone
I'm writing this on our beautiful wooden balcony that juts out from our wonderfully cosy yet luxurious room. My view is palm trees, mangroves, fan palms, dozens of flowers that are completely unknown to me, and various other trees and bushes. I can hear birdsong, see another couple of bungalows, and can just make out the natural lake belonging to The Spa, Koh Chang. It's verging on a tropical paradise.
We were glad to finally put our bags down for longer than a night or two after about 8 days traveling through Bangkok, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Bangkok was as hectic and tasty as ever, and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh proved to be fascinating glimpses into a truly beautiful country, one I very much hope to go back to. I struggled - and am still struggling despite having read two books on the matter since our visit - to really comprehend the fact that the horrors that happened in Cambodia were so very recent. Somehow I just can't quite believe it. If you're looking for a first hand account, you could do a lot worse than First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers.
The Spa wasn't the first place we stayed on Koh Chang. First off, we spent a few nights by Lonely Beach on the other side of the island. We didn't do much except unwind, and I ate quite a lot, as I always seem to do in Thailand. Though this time, eating was a good thing, as when we arrived at The Spa, it promptly stopped.
My wife, Thilde, is a yoga teacher. She's probably one of the healthiest people I know (if not the healthiest). She doesn't drink, smoke, eat red meat (anything with four legs, basically), and she's calm, collected and generally very together. I, however, drink, I love cheeseburgers, I only recently (December 31st of course) quit my stupid drunken smoking habit, and to work out I love an aggressive CrossFit class. However, I used to do yoga, I eat healthily 90% of the time, and I love my wife, so quite often we find ourselves in spas, in India or Thailand. Usually, Thilde will do yoga, and I will run up and down the beach. She will meditate, and I will read. She will fast and detox, and I will eat and drink beer. The locations are always absolutely stunning, so it's a win-win situation.
This time, however, I thought I'd do something different. I thought I'd fast. And hell, why not throw an enema in there too.
We tried a fast once before. We had just got a great juicer as a wedding present, so we decided to do a three day juice fast. I’m not sure why this seemed like a good idea as I'm a big eater, and always have been (to the point where, when I was little, my parents left a pot of yoghurt by my bed so that I'd eat something before I went in to see them), but we had met some people who swore by fasting, and from what we read about it, it sounded like an altogether (potentially) very promising experience. You feel healthier, lighter, your mind is clear, you rethink food in terms of what you eat and how you prepare it, and you clean yourself out (sometimes literally).
But I love my food, and I really, really need my food. Without it, I lose all will to live, so obviously I came to the conclusion that a fast would be a great idea. Besides, it was only 3 days and it was supposedly incredible once you got over the aching hunger pains. Needless to say, I didn't make it. I got to just over two days before cracking. Thilde made it, and really seemed to enjoy it. She felt brighter, more alert, cleaner, and happy. In fact, she liked it so much she did a six day fast last year at The Spa on Koh Samui. I generally drank and admired her. In fact, she coped so well I started to forget the misery of my two day fast and found myself curious about the whole thing again. And that's how I ended up at The Spa on Koh Chang. Seeing as I was already going booze free for January, I thought it’d be the perfect complimentary process.
It probably was, but that doesn't make it right. I broke my fast two days ago, and can once again but quite definitively this time, say that fasting isn't for me. Turns out I don't handle not eating much very well. I didn't sneak any food in, I didn't kill anyone, and Thilde and I are still married, but a bit of me died for those three days.
My pilot light went out and I just couldn't care about anything or anyone. Yes, I was in paradise, but whatever. Yes, the fruit we could have for lunch exploded with flavour on my tongue, but whatever. The juices we had for meals were varied, fresh and mouth-wateringly good, but you know, whatever. I just didn't care. While I never got to the starving point, I had a constant hole in me. I'm not even sure I'd say it was in my stomach. It was if my brain was running on fumes and my muscles had turned to limp spaghetti. I couldn't get started in the morning and wanted to do nothing except lie down and read. Walking up the stairs was hard work. Getting dressed was an effort. We went kayaking one morning through a beautiful mangrove forest, but all I cared about was the fact that my bum got wet. Mangroves and views could stuff it. One upside I definitely noticed was that I slept well. Real blackout sleeps. Perhaps I was just quietly dying, but whatever it was, for the two days I've been back on food, I've noticed the change in sleep quality. But I'm loving eating. Definitely enough to let my sleep suffer a tiny bit. I feel myself. I can literally feel the energy in me, and I can't tell you how good it feels to have it back.
Thilde has been incredible. I've no idea how she's put up with my pathetic attitude. She’s a rock. Although she is pretty happy I've started eating again. As am I.
I won't dwell too much on the enema suffice to say it wasn't my cup of tea. It made me feel sick, not physically sick, but something about the process, and the equipment; I can't say why exactly, but I felt as if I was going through a kind of medical procedure that involved my bottom and I just didn't like it. I had two on my programme, and after very seriously considering doing the second, I decided to skip it.
So, here I sit on the beautiful balcony with a belly full of porridge and coconut water. Yesterday, I had to be careful about what I ate and how much I ate, but today I think I'll push it a little further. I missed my food. I missed feeling full and having a warm belly. I missed having energy and being sharp and focused. I understand and do believe that for some people, fasting gives them energy and allows them to tone and focus their mind, but it does the complete opposite for me. I am glad I tried it. I'm glad I now at least have an idea of what Thilde does, although it's not the same. I think she's one of those who can shift her mind from food, and meditate with the energy she gets from fasting. I admire her for it, and while I wish I could experience it as she does, I'm just an eater, a simple eater, and I like me just the way I am.
I did lose around 4 kilos though so it wasn't all bad (although it hasn't all stayed off...).