Friday, March 16, 2018

don't try this at home

Last week (from Sunday, March 4, to Friday, March 9), I ate almost no solid food as a response to my shock at how much weight I've regained. I lost a few kilos, but apparently, I ate and drank so much over the weekend—when I was making my seitan gyros—that I canceled out whatever weight loss I had incurred. This week, from Sunday the 11th to this very morning (Friday the 16th), I doubled down and starved myself pretty much wholesale. Whereas I cheated a bit on the "no solid food" rule last week (I had yogurt one day and ice cream on another—technically not solid food, but not exactly full-on liquid, either*), I had nothing but non-sugary drinks this week and absolutely no food that was even remotely solid.

The experience wasn't bad at first. There was some hunger at the beginning, and I spent a lot of my time torturing myself by watching YouTube videos about hamburgers and pizzas (there's a "Chicago's Best" series that might be to your liking). Otherwise, everything was fine: as I reported the previous week, I actually felt more energetic and more mentally focused as a result of not taking in the usual toxins—mostly sugar and other carbs—that are part of my regular, not-so-disciplined diet.

Then came the crash. This started Thursday evening, while I was still at the office. I began to feel sick, and I ended up going home about an hour early. That night, as I was taking a handful of my pills, my gag reflex kicked in, and I almost didn't get the pills down. That's never happened to me before, and I took note of the peristaltic hitch. This morning, i.e., Friday morning, was even worse: when I woke up, I had zero energy, and my mind was muddled and cloudy, such that the mere act of thinking felt like navigating through a thick fog. That, too, was clinically interesting, but it was also somewhat alarming. I knew I'd be seeing the doctor later that morning, after which I planned to break my fast and get some nutrition into my body. The need to do that suddenly seemed more acute, given my physical weakness and muzzy-headedness.

Showering and dressing proved to be a chore. My shoulders ached from the mere act of lifting my arms up, and I found myself out of breath after every exertion—after toweling myself off, after putting on my clothes, and even after shouldering my shoulder bag. In every case, I'd make an exertion, then pause, then cautiously move on to the next activity. I began to wonder whether I'd even be able to make it to the doctor's office without fainting. I walked down the hallway to the elevators, got down to the lobby, and ended up taking a cab to the Mido building, which is where my doctor's office is. Weak and lethargic, I thanked the cabbie and somehow slid out of the car, then managed to walk across the street and up to the doctor's office without collapsing in a breathless heap. This was not the condition in which I wanted to see the doc: I had wanted to be alert and chipper, and to see some much-improved numbers thanks to all the fasting I had done.

Well, the numbers turned out to be a mixed bag. My blood-sugar test—one of those quickie diabetes things where they prick your finger and use a tiny device—came back with a result of 150, which isn't horrible for a pre-diabetic. My HbA1c level, however, was still frighteningly high at 8.3: this reading represents your blood-glucose level over the course of three months, so two weeks of fasting didn't do much to reduce that number. My blood pressure wasn't bad at 130/80 (although I hear that that level is now considered hypertensive, as the medical community recently readjusted its standards), and I no longer suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency (I took extra supplements). I do, however, have high cholesterol, so the doc tweaked my meds slightly, explaining what he was doing as he tapped away at his keyboard. I nodded tiredly, vaguely surprised the doc didn't notice my lethargy. Either I'm a great actor, or the doc needs to be more observant. Revised prescription in hand, I left the second-floor office to go to the first-floor pharmacy, where I picked up my $90 of medication—two months' worth.

After getting my new batch of meds, I groaned at the thought of walking the ten-minute stretch from the Mido building to the Cheongshil building, where I currently work. Somehow, I managed to do the walk despite being weak and dizzy. Along the way, I stopped by a Paris Baguette and got myself a salad, a bit of bread, and two tiny-but-expensive bottles of designer juice. I schlepped the rest of the way to the office and retreated to my work station. After a few minutes, I pulled out my food and, very unwisely, decided to start by eating some salad.

Bad move. I should have started with the juice, as it turned out: my stomach must have shrunk or something over the course of the week, and the moment I stuck chunks of chicken and cherry tomato into my mouth, my gag reflex awoke, and I nearly vomited right then and there. I held myself perfectly still for the next five or ten minutes, desperately wondering what was going to happen next. I was sweating; my breath was coming in shallow, quiet gasps, and my mind frantically planned what to do should I actually need to vomit. The plastic Paris Baguette bag was next to me, so I resolved to grab it and use it as a barf bag if necessary. Several minutes later, though, I felt a spasm in my stomach, which was followed by a belch... and that was it. The nausea went away, and I began to sip at one of my bottles of juice. With the juice in my stomach, it was now safe to begin eating, but I didn't—couldn't—gobble. Over the course of the next three hours, I slowly, slowly ate my meal. A coworker of mine, who had told me about a new sandwich that the local bakery was selling, came by my work station and handed me the sandwich in question, which was very thoughtful. I couldn't eat it at first, though; I had to wait an hour or two before that was possible. It proved quite tasty.

When the boss came in, he could see right away that something was wrong with me. After he arrived, I got up and went down to the basement grocery to get more juice, which proved to be the best thing for me. I also bought some dried fruit and some mixed nuts, and these went down without triggering the gag reflex. I ended up leaving work four hours early (using some of my comp hours to do so), and once I got home, I had a session on the loo, then I slipped into bed and didn't move for several hours. Now here I am, awake and typing this entry, and I'm feeling much better, given all the nutrition now coursing through my veins.

I once did a hard-core fast in high school. Can't remember the reason. I ate zilch for a week, coming out of the ordeal a bit tired, but otherwise okay. Now that I'm almost 49, I can say that repeating such an experience, at my age, isn't a good idea at all. Sure, you can lose weight like a wrestler trying to move down a weight class, but the process fucks with your brain and body. Not recommended. Or if you do fast, don't do it for more than 72 hours. You really don't want to be where I was on Friday morning.

*I'm speaking dietetically, not in terms of the technical definition of a liquid.


John Mac said...

Wow. Glad you made it through that ordeal. When I read your previous post I was thinking "this can't be good", but had no idea it was this bad.

Glad you are on the upswing and have incorporated a new lesson learned in your life experiences.

Kevin Kim said...

It's funny how everything was perfectly fine right up until the crash.

Charles said...

I'm curious: Why did you decide to do the fast in the first place?

Kevin Kim said...


The answer thou seekest lieth in the first two paragraphs of this post and the first sentence of the above post. Basically, I freaked about how much weight I had regained over the past year.

Charles said...

Oh. I thought that there might be more to it than that.

Kevin Kim said...

You ascribe too much depth to me, but thanks.