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Journey into the unknown – A personal account

Steffanie Hornstein - 14/01/2019 - 0 comments

I was feeling low. Getting out of bed was a superhuman effort and I was sometimes close to tears. Even the smallest effort left me completely exhausted. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, and slept. I didn’t read or listen to music, and sometimes I could only watch TV with my eyes closed! One day I saw a documentary about fasting, but I couldn’t take in what it was about.

A while later, my son visited me and told me about a fasting programme he had heard about that was extremely effective and had made a great impression on him. His enthusiasm triggered my memory of the documentary, so he convinced me to watch it again. It was the film “Fasting and Healing” on the ARTE TV channel. Over the following days, I learned more about the programme and, after several e-mails and a telephone call, I decided to take a step into the unknown. What did I have to lose, except shedding the three to four kilos too many I had gained?

The adventure began one Sunday in November, some seven hundred kilometres away from Paris. I arrived in the early afternoon and was given a small, comfortable and pleasant room and a brochure explaining what would happen each day and the different care facilities. The clinic was set in lovely grounds sloping down to Lake Constance and it had a zen feeling about it without any phones or screens. I was sure I would be able to rest here. A vegetarian evening meal was served at 6.30 p.m. and I got to know several other people from France, each of them with a different reason for being there. Some had been coming regularly for years.

After a quiet night, I had an appointment for a blood test and, soon after, my first appointment with a doctor. My doctor told me that I was allowed to fast and had to do physical exercise. “Here I said to myself we do not eat but we must move!” And to apply the programme, the clinic offered hikes, gym sessions, tennis lessons, a gym, a pool… I also learned that this day was a digestive rest day, including three meals of a single category of food. I went for fruit.

At five o’clock in the evening, new arrivals were welcomed with a cocktail of sparkling mineral water, fruit juice and a mint leaf and told what would happen during their fast. So this is what I was to expect during the following days:

Fasting at Buchinger Wilhelmi comprises tea with a spoon of honey in the morning, a glass of freshly pressed fruit juice at lunch, a vegetable consommé in the early evening and as much herbal teas and water as you want during the day. I should not feel hungry, some small discomfort could appear the first two or even three days. Every morning, a nurse checks your wellbeing as well as your weight, blood pressure and pulse. Now I was curious …

The fast itself started on the third day and I remained fasting for several days. Every evening there were talks, readings or concerts. One evening, during one of the lectures, I was told how the organism manages to live without food. I discovered that my liver and brain were foolproof. In case of lack of sugar to feed the brain, the liver starts to convert fat deposits into alternative fuel. As soon as the machine was working, it was possible to fast several days or even weeks.

Every morning I noticed that I had lost a little weight, not a huge amount, but steadily two to three hundred grams. Also, blood pressure decreased and my pulse became more regular. I never felt bad during fasting, but I was still sceptical about the benefits. One evening, however, the elevator was broken and I had to walk up the three floors to my room. I noticed that climbing the stairs was not nearly as bad as I had imagined! One night, I was surprised about how easy it felt to move in bed. Was my back less painful? And suddenly I noticed that I could move my hands almost without any pain.

After returning slowly to eating solids over four days, I left the clinic for a short buffer in our hold shack in Haute-Maurienne. I didn’t want people around me asking questions and had to get myself back on my feet. After leaving the cocoon of the clinic, I was sceptical about whether I would continue to feel the effects in everyday life and whether I would be able to apply what I had learned at home. However, the results exceeded all my expectations: not only nobody was worried about non existing bad looks but it was the general surprise on seeing me starting to live again.

A. B.

Since her first stay, the patient has fasted regularly and in 2017 she returned to our clinic for the seventh time. Today, she writes: “After fifteen years of severe struggle, I have found a way back to living a normal life again thanks to fasting and my annual stay at Buchinger Wilhelmi in Überlingen. It is probably not a miracle, but since the first time, I can get out of bed every day and manage to live alone.”