I've spent thousands of dollars trying to improve the quality of my skin only to be met with frustration. From magic potions to acupuncture, I have tried every remedy on the market. Skin issues are not only disheartening, but also often unfairly seen by others as something you should be able to control. From personal to professional life, skin issues can hinder confidence and self-esteem.
"You need to wash your face more. Have you tried benzoyl peroxide?" my friend inquired.
"You are very beautiful, but your skin...." my acupuncturist stated.
"You're not eating well, you need to stop eating dairy," a facialist shouted.
While these individuals had the best intentions at heart, responses like this often leave me feeling defeated, wanting to hide in my dairy-free room screaming, "I've tried that already!" Trying an array of remedies from herbal to traditional, I had a hunch that my skin issues stemmed from a food or chemical sensitivity that was causing an acne-like rash. Running out of options for a cure, I came across fasting.
Many naturopathic and holistic doctors recommend fasting as a way to cleanse the body and give the digestive track time to rest. Combining a three-day fast and subsequent gradual elimination diet was worth a shot. Studies have proven that when fasting, the body starts to create new white blood cells, which improve immunity and can heal existing conditions.
"Fasting on water is scientifically proven invaluable to the immune system. The most effective way to control skin conditions is with a diet that eliminates all diet mistakes such as processed foods and dairy,” Marcus Antebi, JuicePress Founder told me.
Explaining this to a friend, she referred to this concept as "homeopathic bullshit" and told me that I was going to die. I explained that if Jesus could do it, so could I, committing myself to 72 hours of drinking only water and abstaining from food.
Day 1: Thursday, The Day That Would Never End
I'm sitting at work thinking of excuses as to why I’m not making my daily voyage to SweetGreen. Telling people you're embarking on a water fast quickly classifies you as crazy.
I settled on an excuse of "I ate a big breakfast" and then treated myself to water soup paired with a delectable water smoothie.
Fortunately, a full plate of work was substitute enough for food and I redirected my mental energy towards furiously typing. My stomach started to rumble. "I should just eat something, everyone is right. This IS stupid." I texted my friend asking if I should quit. I knew I'd be met with a "yes!" To my surprise, she responded with "No, you can do it! You need to give it a chance." I started to get a headache that felt painfully similar to an impending migraine.
Lying in bed, I was proud that I had made it one day into this experiment. My stomach growled softly, but I numbed the sound with an episode of Mad Men. Looking in the mirror, my skin already seemed to be improving. I wasn't 100% convinced and attributed the illusion to lack of food.
Day 2: Friday, (TGIF) Thank God I'm Fasting (Not Really)
I woke up easily with no alarm. When rushing on a normal day, I skip breakfast. I told myself "It's just going to be like one of those days — power through." Walking to the subway, I felt a bit three-gins-in intoxicated. Arriving to my meeting a half hour early, I sat down on a park bench. Everything seemed so clear. Everything was funny. I had no problems — or perhaps the constant hunger pains took my mind off of my normal list of preoccupations.
Trying to distract myself, I met a friend for a happy hour. The distraction of new friendly faces and conversation kept my mind off food. Well...until the calamari came out.
Day 3: Saturday, The Final Countdown
I awoke to an interesting feeling. I was no longer hungry. Though hunger was absent from my mind, I was exhausted. Three days without nutrients had begun to take its toll. I mustered up the energy to attend a meeting and even make an appearance at a friend's birthday party. Three different offers of an adult beverage confirmed that in New York, it’s easier to avoid food than alcohol.
Having started the fast on Wednesday night, a full 72 hours had gone by. My fast was officially over. I immediately walked across the street to and got a smoothie. Salvation!
The results of a three-day fast were astounding. My teeth turned a brilliant shade of white, my hair was shinier, and I felt calmer than I had in months. Not only did my digestion improve, but also my skin. This seemed to confirm that I likely have a food sensitively which is causing my skin issues. In the following weeks, I'll be following an elimination diet to determine which foods are giving me trouble. Here's to finding a cure!
Would I fast again? Though a tough experiment, I would be interested in an extended 7-day fast to see if my skin clears indefinitely. Before starting a fast of any kind, it's recommended to do your research to see if fasting is right for you. Talk to your doctor about possible risks and complications before making any drastic lifestyle changes.
Some of My Tips for Success
Omit dairy, refined sugar and meat beforehand. Two weeks prior to this experiment, I cut out coffee, refined sugar and meat. This helped me avoid intense caffeine withdrawal and allowed me to easily continue a plant-based diet after the three days.
Keep a low-key schedule. Experts recommend optimal rest during a fast and pause activities that strain the body. During my fast, I refrained from normal workouts and high stress situations.
Break the fast lightly. After a fast, the stomach shrinks and the body is no longer able to process heavy meals as easily as before. For the days preceding a fast, it's recommended to eat a diet predominantly composed of fruits and vegetables while slowly adding back heavier proteins and carbohydrates.