site logo

Length Of The Fast

Categories: Fasting
Sources: 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

pervasive anxiety.

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.