Recently, I completed a 72-hour fast. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t imagine ever writing those words. You see, I’m a girl who likes to eat. Everything. Eating for me is an experience. A holy one. Food makes me happy—all kinds of food. From filet mignon to chicken marsala to a Culver’s butter burger, I tend to like it all. And not only is food delicious to me, it’s comforting as well. (Cue the red flags, right?)

My post-50 body, however, has changed substantially. From ages 46-47, I lost 60 pounds. During years 50-51, I put it all back on. Thanks, pandemic and Oreos.

Of course, it wasn’t just Covid and Oreos that did me in. There’s always more to the story if you read between the lines, right?

Let’s recap: In 2019, my divorce was finalized. In 2020, the baby of my four left for college in the middle of a pandemic. In 2021, I lost my mom. In 2022, I lost my only sister. In 2023, I lost my job.

I was rudderless. A newly minted queer woman, a mom without any kids left to raise, a daughter with no mother, a sister with no siblings, a professional with no income or financial security.

There was so much guilt and sadness involved in my coming out, my divorce, and the breakdown of my first real queer relationship that I thought I didn’t deserve happiness and love. And then The Universe confirmed that by taking my mom, my sister, and my livelihood. It has taken some time to get my feet back under me and to feel like I’m worthy of something beyond just grieving and existing.

Add to everything else the saga of pickleball and my knees and my back in the past year as well, and I decided to do myself a favor by giving my body a much-needed break and some long-awaited love.

Since my 54th birthday in March, I’ve been swimming a mile a day. In late April, I went to a weight loss doctor who hyped me up on legal speed. But I didn’t like the way that made me feel, and I missed sleeping through the night, so I decided to stop taking it.

We have friends at the park who have been following an intermittent fasting regimen since January, and they’ve both lost a substantial amount of weight. Not only have they lost weight, but they say they’ve found “the fountain of youth.” Fewer health issues, more energy, better skin, increased mental cognition. It sounded too good to be true, but when B mentioned that his bone-on-bone knees no longer hurt, I decided it was worth a try.

Julie and I stocked up on grape electrolytes, and we girded our loins for 72 hours sans food.

I have to admit that the three days went by relatively quickly. Like parenthood, the days were short but some of the hours were long. When things were the most challenging, I took to my bed. A good two-hour afternoon nap meant two fewer hours for my brain to perseverate on pasta and wine. And who doesn’t love a good nap, anyway?

The funny thing about my fasting experience is that I never really got hungry. Oh, I’d have a hunger pang from time to time, but I found out that hunger itself is a pretty fleeting feeling. When I’d get a little hungry, I’d just drink more water. The end result was a feeling of satiation even if it wasn’t a feeling of culinary delight.

I learned to look forward to my electrolyte additions because it gave me a little variety in my water intake. And on day three, it was fun to research and plan our first “refeeding” meal: eggs and avocado. It was important to eat something easily digestible so we didn’t shock our systems.

The only real complaint I had about the fast was that I feel I lost a few days of productive output. It was challenging for me to write and to read. My mind was foggy, and I couldn’t hold complex thoughts.

But the true magic happened after the fast.

As we began refeeding, we cut out everything processed. We used an app called Yuka to determine whether the things in our fridge and pantry were “excellent” or “bad.” (Fun fact: salad dressing is basically poison. We make our own now.) We got rid of the bad things and held on to the good. (What a life lesson!)

Since the fast, we’ve filled our bodies with chicken, salad, fresh veggies, grains, and fruits. And water, water, water! We shop the outer edges of the grocery store with app in hand and a mission in our hearts. We now only eat between the hours of 12:00-8:00 PM, so we’re intermittently fasting 16 hours every day. Having a clean body feels soooo good, we never want it to end.

And here’s the real miracle:

ALL the inflammation in my knees is gone. ALL OF IT.

My pain level has gone from a 9 to a 2 because I’m no longer battling the swelling. I still have necrosed bones, so my left knee isn’t fixed, but the pain has subsided substantially. I have a torn lateral meniscus in my right knee as well, but it just doesn’t hurt much any more.

I’m also completely off of my blood pressure meds.

And my brain. Whoa. I feel so much clarity, so much energy, so much joy. I no longer feel sluggish or sleepy. I’m learning to listen to my body, and right now, my body says, “HOORAY!” I’m feeding it what it needs to swim a mile a day, to finish my book proposal, and to battle my lifelong depression.

I finally (FINALLY!) got a second opinion on my left knee, and this doctor rolled his eyes at the prior doctor’s claim that I was “too young” for a replacement. He said he wanted me to enjoy my life and my ability to be active rather than wait for my knee to give way completely. I wholeheartedly agree. My replacement is scheduled for August 30, but I’m on a wait list for a cancellation. He said I’ll be back to normal in six weeks and ready for pickleball by December.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to prepare myself for the best possible outcome by eating right and exercising daily. Isn’t it funny that that’s what we’ve been told to do all along? How very simple. How very effective. And it’s 100% FREE!

I haven’t wanted an Oreo yet, but if and when I do want one, I’ll have one. I don’t intend to live a life of deprivation, but I also don’t want to lose this feeling of happiness and joy and abundance and strength. I was definitely a sugar addict, and I no longer have those cravings. It’s like being set free from my own personal prison.

If you’re considering fasting, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I’m not a doctor, so please check with your own doctor first. There is so much research to be done, but this is a good place to start. Dr. Jamnadas is a cardiologist, but he’s also a very vocal proponent of the benefits of fasting. There’s some really powerful science behind it.

I’ve done everything under the sun to try and keep my weight under control and my body in its best shape. From Atkins to Weight Watchers to Keto to Paleo to Noom to South Beach—if it has a name, I’ve done it.

But this. This feels like something sustainable. This feels like something that will stick. My body says, “YES!” and I can’t argue with that.

And I’m remembering that I do deserve to be loved and happy and fulfilled, and that’s the best gift of all.

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