First, this isn’t really a food or body hacking blog. It’s an account of escaping corporate cubicles, and instead, vagabonding around the world while gaining new experience. I happily share my adventure stories from around the world.

I have no idea why Google is convinced I know something about water fasting and kidney pain. I’m simply a lowly travel writer who tried his hand at water fasting and ended up quitting (because I didn’t do it right).

There. You’ve been warned. Now, on to my water fasting experience.


I could feel every dimple and imperfection on the blueberry as I rolled it around on my tongue.

It was like eating a blueberry for the first time. I could even sense its temperature with my mouth. When I finally got bold enough to chew it, the flavor was surprising. So was the sound when I swallowed and it hit my empty stomach, which then convulsed in surprise and annoyance that we were starting with fruit rather than saturated fat or those good ol’ addictive carbs.

Going just these 2.5 days with no food has given me a new appreciation for both eating and the people scattered around the globe who can’t eat when they want.

I am a failure. After nearly 60 hours of starvation, just barely halfway through my planned five-day water fast, I had to stop. When I woke up this morning, my right kidney was swollen, and it felt like someone had stuck me with a dagger. I could barely drag around the house, and to make matters worse, I had a photo shoot for work. Nothing like trying to get people to smile when you are pastier than Neo from the Matrix and can’t straighten up all the way.

I know, I know. I can hear the “I told you so” resonating all over the internet.

As soon as I posted the start of my five-day starvation period — also known as a “fast” — I received a hail of criticism on the web.

Facebook, Twitter, email — you name the network — the caring nastygrams came like a winter storm into my various inboxes. Yes, I know deliberate starvation is one of my more pathetic, half-baked adventures, but isn’t there a thin line between genius and madness? Completing a five-day water fast has been on my life bucket list for years, so I had to try.

I do appreciate the concern, but I’ve got a date to climb a jungle-tangled Sumatran volcano in the near future. I definitely won’t jeopardize that with voluntary kidney shutdown. Kidneys are useful, both in the wild and at home.

2017 Update: I climbed an even bigger Sumatran volcano this year!

While consuming so much water (two full gallons a day) to fill my stomach, I assumed that I would be flushing my kidneys — a good thing, right?

A quick check with DuckDuckGo (try it if you’re tired of corporations watching everything you search for) confirmed that many people suffer the same back/kidney pain when starting a fast. Apparently, drinking that volume of water has the opposite effect on your kidneys; organs aren’t happy about having to work overtime to process so much new fluid without getting paid back in nutrients.

All that waste rides a rushing river down to your kidneys and accumulates faster than they can clear it. Doh!

Fun Observations From My Water Fasting Experience

The first 24 hours:

  • The fast was mainly psychological. My stomach rumbled, but there were no other negatives other than my lack of concentration on anything not edible.
  • I consumed two gallons of drinking water. I did get a rush from the sudden drop in sodium since I was not getting any salt in food. Plummeting sodium levels can actually be dangerous.
  • I couldn’t sleep a wink — part because of hunger pain and part because I strangely had a lot of energy. Metabolism change?

The next 48 hours:

  • I felt dizzy because of low blood sugar and drank a glass of juice. It may as well have been a tall glass of absinthe — the sugar made my head spin and warmed me up immediately.
  • I no longer felt hungry unless I saw food or walked by the kitchen.
  • Energy levels dropped significantly, and I had all the physical motivation of Jabba the Hutt.
  • I drank another two gallons of water, but my back and kidney were already starting to hurt — I knew the gig was up.

Start weight: 178 pounds; end weight: 175 pounds. A loss of only 3 pounds. (side not: I am 6’1″ / 185 centimeters, so of “average” weight for my height)

Per VeryWell.com: 1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories. Their diet calculator says I need 2,577 calories a day to maintain my current weight — wow! Water fasting weight loss is possible but tricky. My goal was never weight loss, more so detoxification and just to see what happens.

Trying to show some restraint, I ate only a bowl of soup to start back into real life. My stomach is about as messed up as it was on day two in Beijing — not pretty. Where are my Shaolin mystery cure-all pills I was given while studying kung fu in China?

No more water fasting for a while, but I haven’t given up completely. I do regularly observe simple intermittent fasting — it’s much easier. I will reattempt another three-day water fast again sometime in the future but a little better prepared. This crazy guy in Pai, Thailand (imagine that) managed to go for 40 days without food! Given how much I enjoy the healthy food choices in Pai, that doesn’t sound very easy to do.

Fortunately, I encounter plenty of delicious — and sometimes terrifying — food while vagabonding.