My first experience of fasting and hiking in Provence, France

 

Several people in the past year have shared with me their positive experience of fasting, and after giving it some thought, I decided I would try it out too. The mere thought of not eating for a whole week is pretty traumatizing to many people – including me, but everyone I talked to seemed thoroughly happy and enthusiastic about it, so it couldn’t be that bad.

And truly, now that it’s behind me, I can’t imagine life without fasting anymore. It’s a bit like sex: once you’ve tried it, there’s no turning back 🙂

So here is a brief account of my experience and the type of fasting programme I followed. If anyone stumbles upon this article wondering whether they should try fasting or not, I hope it will help them make up their mind just as previous experiences shared on blogs helped me overcome my fear of fasting.

The Buchinger fasting diet: no solids, only liquids 

I spent a whole week in a fasting and hiking centre in Provence, not too far from Saint Tropez and Ramatuelle, called Re-naissance. The couple owning the centre accompanied the 13 people who joined me for this week of fasting which starts on a Saturday and ends on the following Friday. They provided advice when I needed it and guided you through this rather unusual experience.

They also offer different well-being massage, which I took advantage of. The concept is the following: while you fast following the Buchinger diet, you hike in the morning and relax or do some more sports in the afternoon, depending on how you feel. The Buchinger diet allows for one fresh fruit juice in the morning, filtered vegetable broth in the evening and as much water or herbal tea as you like. You are also allowed two teaspoons of honey.

That sounds like nothing but when you fast, every single intake of liquid other than water feels like a real treat!

The centre’s facilities are very nice: a large swimming pool and terrace for sunbathing, a jacuzzi, a sauna and a gym will help you relax and enjoy the farniente all afternoon 🙂 The centre is in the middle of nowhere so you are not tempted to go out and buy something to eat. In truth, when you fast, you don’t even feel like eating, although we did speak a lot about food – as all French people do when they get together!

Every day we would hike on a different path. Hiking is important so as not to lose your muscles during the fast. We went twice to the seaside near Saint Tropez. It’s absolutely stunning there, with some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to in France. The water is turquoise and crystal clear, although pretty cold at this time of year. See my pictures (link) of these hikes.

We hiked twice in the Plaine des Maures, a natural reserve that summarises Provence to me: lavender, thyme, rosemary, stone pines galore and I guess at some point during the year cicadas.

We also hiked around a lake and waterfalls during the stay, but unfortunately we couldn’t bathe in either. See my pictures (link) of these three hikes.

A week to replenish your body and soul 

I had started fasting on Friday eve and arrived on Saturday afternoon at the fasting centre where I was given a magnesium sulfate purge to empty my bowels. That tasted pretty bad, but it’s the only way to start if you want to cleanse yourself during fasting. After 3 days my bowels were completely empty and that’s when my body really started its detox work. In general the fasting went well.

I only experienced nausea and a feeling of tiredness on the third day, but that disappeared when we started hiking, luckily. After that, it was as if I was high on something, I was feeling so good and so full of energy. Once you start understanding how your body works without anything to eat, you understand why this is the case.

Even though I can grasp the scientific explanation, I still find it incredible that not eating procures so much joy, when all our lives, we are being taught the contrary! As this was the first holiday I spent alone in 17 years (without my husband or kids), it was also a wonderful opportunity to take some quality me-time and think about the meaning of life 🙂 And I did. I so much enjoyed fasting that I decided not to break the fast on the last day at the centre – despite the yummy food being prepared for us – and to wait for the next day once I was back home. Fasting involves a whole week of going slowly into fasting mode and getting out of fasting mode, so in total the fasting experience takes something like 3 weeks. I lost 3 kilos during that period, which is perfect because it’s beach time soon, and also because that’s the ideal weight for my size and my body. There are actually people who take on weight during fasting, because fasting brings you to your ideal weight (the one most appropriate to your size and morphology).

The best and worst part of fasting 

The best part about this experience? I learned a lot about nutrition, about the health benefits of fasting, about my own body and my limits, I discovered a fantastic area of France, and I made some new friends. And I’m also enjoying cooking even more than usual after my fast 🙂

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The part I didn’t like? I felt like the centre where I was could have offered yoga or meditation classes, something to go deeper into the exploration of our bodies and souls. That didn’t prevent me from doing yoga and meditating every morning, in front of the pool and in the morning sun, on my own. This just added up to my energy level during the week, which was already high!

And I’ve decided to continue doing it, so I’m now waking up every morning 30 min earlier than before to practice yoga and meditation, and I managed to convince hubby to join me (don’t ask me how!!!).

I also decided I would try to fast for one day twice a month, prior to the full moon and the new moon. Let’s see if this works out and how it makes me feel. And I’ll certainly keep up with fasting after winter, to prepare my body for the new year to come. If you’re interested in the scientific explanation of what fasting does to your body or its many health benefits, there are some great videos on Youtube explaining how the body reacts to a fast.

If you already tried fasting, how did it make you feel? If not, what would convince you to try?

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