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Length Of The Fast
Source: How And When To Be Your Own Doctor
How long should a person fast? In cases where there are serious
complaints to remedy but where there are no life threatening disease
conditions, a good rule of thumb is to fast on water for one
complete day (24 hours) for each year that the person has lived. If
you are 30 years old, it will take 30 consecutive days of fasting to
restore complete health. However, thirty fasting days, done a few
days here and a few there won't equal a month of steady fasting; the
body accomplishes enormously more in 7 or l4 days of consecutive
fasting, than 7 or 14 days of fasting accumulated sporadically, such
as one day a week. This is not to say that regular short fasts are
not useful medicine. Periodic day-long fasts have been incorporated
into many religious traditions, and for good reason; it gives the
body one day a week to rest, to be free of digestive obligations,
and to catch up on garbage disposal. I heartily recommend it. But it
takes many years of unfailingly regular brief fasting to equal the
benefits of one, intensive experience.
Fasting on water much longer than fifteen consecutive days may be
dangerous for the very sick, (unless under experienced supervision)
or too intense for those who are not motivated by severe illness to
withstand the discomfort and boredom. However, it is possible to
finish a healing process initiated by one long water fast by
repeating the fast later. My husband's healing is a good example of
this. His health began to noticeably decline about age 38 and he
started fasting. He fasted on water 14 to 18 days at a time, once a
year, for five consecutive years before most of his complaints and
problems entirely vanished.
The longest fast I ever supervised was a 90 day water fast on an
extraordinarily obese woman, who at 5' 2" weighed close to 400
pounds. She was a Mormon; generally members of the LDS Church eat a
healthier diet than most Americans, but her's included far too much
of what I call "healthfood junkfood," in the form of whole grain
cakes and cookies, lots of granola made with lots of honey, oil, and
dried fruit, lots of honey heaped atop heavily buttered whole grain
bread. (I will explain more about the trap of healthfood junkfood
later on.) A whole foods relatively meatless diet is far superior to
its refined white flour, white sugar and white grease (lard)
counterpart, but it still produced a serious heath problem in just
30 years of life. Like many women, she expressed love-for-family in
the kitchen by serving too-much too-tasty food. The Mormons have a
very strong family orientation and this lady was no exception, but
she was insecure and unhappy in her marriage and sought consolation
in food, eaten far in excess of what her body needed.
On her 90 day water fast she lost about 150 pounds, but was still
grossly overweight when the fast ended. Toward the end it became
clear that it was unrealistic to try to shrink this woman any closer
to normal body weight because to her, fat represented an invaluable
insulation or buffer that she was not prepared to give up. As the
weight melted away on the fast and she was able to actually feel the
outline of a hip bone her neurosis became more and more apparent,
and the ability to feel a part of her skeleton was so upsetting to
her that her choice was between life threatening obesity and
Her weight was still excessive but the solace of eating was even
more important. This woman needed intensive counseling not more
fasting. Unfortunately, at the end she choose to remain obese. Fat
was much less frightening to her than confronting her emotions and
fears. The positive side was that after the fast she was able to
maintain her weight at 225 instead of 375 which was an enormous
relief to her exhausted heart.
Another client I fasted for 90 days was a 6' 1" tall, chronic
schizophrenic man who weighed in at 400 pounds. He was so big he
could barely get through my front door, and mine was an
extraordinarily wide door in what had been an upper-class mansion.
This man, now in his mid twenties, had spent his last seven years in
a mental institution before his parents decided to give him one last
chance by sending to Great Oaks School. The state mental hospitals
at that time provided the mentally ill with cigarettes, coffee, and
lots of sugary treats, but none of these substances were part of my
treatment program so he had a lot of immediate withdrawal to go
through. The quickest and easiest way to get him through it was to
put him on a water fast after a few days of preparation on raw food.
This was not an easily managed case! He was wildly psychotic, on
heavy doses of chloropromazine, with many bizarre behaviors. Besides
talking to himself continuously in gibberish, he collected bugs,
moss, sticks, piles or dirt, and switched to smoking oak leaves
instead of cigarettes. He was such a fire hazard that I had to move
him to a downstairs room with concrete floor. Even in the basement
he was a fire hazard with his smoking and piles of sticks and other
inflammables next to his bed, but all of this debris was his
"precious." I knew that I was in for trouble if I disturbed his
precious, but the insects and dirt piles seemed to be expanding
One day the dirt exceeded my tolerance level. To make a long story
short he caught me in the act of cleaning up his precious. Was he
furious! All 350 pounds of him! (By this time he had lost 50
pounds.) He barreled into me, fists flying, and knocked me into the
pipes next to the furnace and seemed ready to really teach me what
was what. I prefer to avoid fights, but if they are inevitable, I
can really get into the spirit of the thing. I'd had lots of
childhood practice defending myself because I was an incurable
tomboy who loved to wrestle; I could usually pin big boys who
considered themselves tough. So I began using my fists and what
little martial arts training I had to good use. After I hurt him a
bit he realized that I was not going to be easily intimidated, and
that in fact he was in danger of getting seriously damaged. So he
called a truce before either of us were badly beaten up. He had only
a few bruises and welts, nothing serious.
After that he refrained from collecting things inside the building
(he continued to collect outside). This compromise was fine with me,
and the incident allowed me to maintain the authority I needed to
bully him into co-operating with the program: taking his vitamins,
and sticking to his fast until he finally reached 200 pounds. After
90 days on water he actually looked quite handsome, he no longer
smoked, he was off psychotropic medication, and his behaviors were
within an acceptable range as long as your expectations were not too
He was well enough to live outside a hospital and also clear-headed
enough to know that if he let too many people know how well he
really was, he might have to give up his mental disability pension
and actually become responsible for himself. No way, Jose! This
fellow knew a good thing when he saw it. So he continued to pull
bizarre stunts just often enough in front of the right audience to
keep his disability checks coming in, while managing to act sane
enough to be allowed to live comfortably at home instead of in the
hospital. By keeping to my program he could stay off mind-numbing
psychotropic medication if he kept up his megavitamins and minerals.
This compromise was tolerable from his point of view, because there
were no side effects like he experienced from his tranquilizers.
It is very rare for a mentally ill person who has spent more than a
few months in a mental hospital to ever usefully return to society
because they find "mental illness" too rewarding.
Next: My Own 56 Day Long Fast
Previous: The Prime Rules Of Fasting