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My Turn: In the time of COVID-19: My 10-Day Water Fast

By Rupal Ramesh Shah Email By Rupal Ramesh Shah
September 2020
My Turn: In the time of COVID-19: My 10-Day Water Fast

“Impossible!” you say? Think again. On day 10, I emerged physically and emotionally stronger, more energized, and with a sharper focus and increased concentration.

There it was, the dreaded number: large, scary, and in pounds. It was finally confirmed! The pandemic, while forcing me to work remotely, had given me the luxury of eating mom’s delicious home-cooked food. I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed the food and ate more than my fair share. The result was weight gain that was not optimum for my body.

As I looked at the scale, I started thinking about my health and fitness journey over the past couple of years in Haiti while working in global health. When I first arrived in Haiti in December 2017, I was approximately 30 pounds overweight. By the time I returned for my first visit to the US in April 2018, I had lost all of that extra weight. Yes, in those few short months, I had lost over 30 pounds.

I would like to point out that I never had the intention to lose weight or be on any sort of diet. I always believed I was healthy and fit. After all, I was a marathoner and had successfully completed eight marathons by then. Whoever said big people cannot complete marathons, lied! So, how did I lose so much weight in a matter of 4 months? Simply by eating raw vegetables and fruits, and cutting down on sugar. I still ate a lot, but there was no intake of processed food. By drinking more water and reducing unhealthy eating habits, I lost most of my extra weight.

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One month into the pandemic in April, thanks to relishing home cooked food, I found myself feeling the weight gain and decided I needed to lose the excess weight and return to my healthy lifestyle. This time, the option I chose was to conduct a water fast. According to a piece published by Healthline, a water fast restricts the consumption of all food and drinks except water. The article discusses the benefits of water fasts to detoxify your body and promote autophagy, a process in which your body removes damaged cells to make way for newer, healthier cells. Additionally, the article also states the disadvantages of fasting, especially if one has chronic health conditions. I do not have any such conditions, nor do I take any prescription medications, hence it was an easy decision for me.

On day 1, I weighed myself and stopped eating at 8 pm. The first couple of days were the most difficult as I craved food and experienced mild headaches. However, I did not feel weak or sick. I continued my regular work and did not feel the need to slow down my activities. By day 4, I had no food cravings. On day 6, I weighed myself at which point I had already lost 10 pounds. As the days went by, I felt more and more healthy. I felt stronger not just physically but also emotionally. My concentration and focus improved, and I was more productive. I ended my fast on day 10 with a glass of lemon water, at which point I had lost a total of 15 pounds.

I want to emphasize that this 10-day water-only fast was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. While the first two days were difficult in terms of addressing food cravings, as time passed I felt cleaner, stronger, and more energetic.

Days after, I consumed a healthy and balanced diet of eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. I have weighed myself since then. I have managed to successfully keep all but five pounds off my body. I have also returned to my old ways of eating which includes eating mom’s delicious home-cooked food. However, what has changed is that I eat in moderation. Some of the other healthy habits I have incorporated include minimal consumption of sugar, no consumption of food before sleeping, and intermittent fasting.

During my fast, I only walked a few miles each day. However, I have started running again. I run five to eight miles a week on a regular basis. While my fasting journey was drastic due to the lengthy period, it worked well for me. I have returned to a healthier lifestyle, which is what I hoped to accomplish.

In the religion of Jainism, since its origins in the 8th century BC, fasting is commonly practiced. As stated in a write-up on intermittent fasting in by Minal Mehta, a Jain and a health professional, fasting is practiced to gain a deeper sense of self-awareness, to purify the body and mind, and to strengthen the ability to maintain self-control. One of the key reasons the religion encourages fasting is to incorporate a simple lifestyle.

Apart from religious teachings, research studies have demonstrated the benefits of intermittent fasting, which is a form of fasting that restricts eating to only a few hours a day. People practice intermittent fasting in various ways, such as fasting for 12 to 16 hours a day, fasting on alternate days, or fasting for two days in a week. Research published by the National Institute on Aging indicates improvement in conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, neurological disorders, and mental health due to intermittent fasting. However, the researchers make it clear that if a person wants to adopt intermittent fasting, they should consult an expert and do it in a phased approach.

I chose to do it because the pandemic had reduced my level of daily activity. I did not want to come out of this pandemic with an extra 19 pounds on my body! Now that I have returned to a healthier lifestyle, my biggest challenge is to maintain it. My hope is that as days go by, maintenance of a healthy lifestyle will become easier and easier. I also hope that by sharing my story, others will be encouraged to develop and maintain healthy lifestyle habits.



Some Documentaries and Resources on Fasting​

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Disclaimer: This article is a personal anecdotal account, and is not meant to provide health advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before undergoing a fast or similar remedies.


Rupal Ramesh Shah works in the field of global health. She has bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from Southern Wesleyan University, a master’s degree in microbiology from Clemson University, and a master’s degree in public health from Boston University.


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