House Husbands star, Firass Dirani, shares intense diet ritual

“I had supersonic focus, I’ve never had that kind of clarity in my life.”

The thought of depriving yourself of food for an entire week is not something most people would voluntarily contemplate.

But House Husbands star Firass Dirani has a curious mind. He spent a month researching the pros and cons of a no-food, only-water diet suggested by his friend, before discovering the “staggering” results for himself.

For an entire week, Dirani only drank water. He consumed 1.5 litres a day, went about his daily fitness routine, which included Bikram yoga and weight training, and discovered the capability of the human body when in damage control.

“The first three days I was feeling weak, emotional and sluggish. I kept on getting distant headaches which was expected because I wasn’t consuming any food,” Dirani told news.com.au.

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“Then all of a sudden you feel incredible, almost enlightened. A clean source of energy, no fuzzies. Skin clears, eyes brighten, even my voice sounded clearer. It felt as though you could make good conscious, and accurate decisions because there was no negative influence from the toxicity of your normal well-fed mind.”

Since Channel 9 axed the popular drama show House Husbands earlier this year due to “financial reasons and budget restraints,” Dirani shifted his focus to the big screen (Escape & Evasion) and, for the first time in 15 years, decided to go back on stage. He hadn’t been on stage since drama school but agreed to join the cast of Lucy Prebble’s play The Effect.

After spending 30 days straight on stage, he wanted to “reset” — part of the reason for trying the diet. While he lost six kilos, weight loss wasn’t the incentive behind the fast — it was the physiological benefits.

“I had supersonic focus, I never had that kind of clarity in my life.”

“I love putting myself through extreme experiences to understand how we work, and what makes us gravitate to certain habits.”

“I discovered that during fasting, there are so many different processes that happen to the body, not just aesthetically such as losing weight, but I’m also what occurs chemically, and physiologically.

Around the fifth and sixth day he had so much “clean, usable focused energy, persistence” that he couldn’t sleep.

“I would lie in bed at night contemplating whether I should go for a run or not.”

“Fasting blunts your diet and lifestyle. As humans, on average, we have 60 thousand thoughts a day, 90 per cent of those thoughts are repeated the next day. But by fasting and pulling your primary behavioural source (which is food) out of your everyday living, you feel a sense of abundance, which in turn, encourages you to habitualise positive lifestyle routines, and hence affects the way you think.

“When I had my first meal I felt like all my old thoughts were flooding back in and that’s when I realised how connected and affective this fast was — what we eat is directly connected to our behaviour.”

Dirani says there is a big stigma associated with fasting and as a society “we are trained to think fasting is bad for you.

“The pharmaceutical industry will not endorse fasting because there is no money to be made from it.

“But when you fast your body goes into damage control, it starts to operate on weak, or dead stem cells in your immune system and then regenerates new cells, which I thought was amazing.”

Dirani could have gone on an extra three days of fasting but jokingly said “mum was on my case, she wanted to feed me.

“My friends and family kept saying things like ‘what do you mean you’re not eating for a week?’ ‘Are you insane?’”

“Now a bunch of them have tried it and say it’s the most incredible experience.”

Dirani said it was important to listen to your body when on the diet, go about your daily routine and seek the all-clear from your doctor or a professional before trying it.

He will be sharing more of his experience at the The Breakthrough Summit, a national wellness conference on July 26 in Sydney.

“We all need to hear of people struggles and advice on how we cope with certain things in life — if you’re looking for a change and want to feel inspired, this is an incredible event for it.

“It’s not just about the body, it’s about the mind. I’ve always been able to run marathons, but sometimes I felt my mind wasn’t stimulated enough and needed to be groomed and manicured as a garden should be.

“Your mind is a very powerful tool, you will be surprised with what it can achieve, and the change it can harness.”

EXPERT OPINION ON THE WATER-ONLY DIET

Sydney nutritionist Robyn Chuter of Empower Total Health spoke to news.com.au about the pros and cons of a short term water-only diet.*

“I am very familiar with the scientific research on water-only fasting, and frequently refer clients for medically-supervised fasts. I have also done a five-day fast myself,” Ms Chuter said.

“Fasting has many benefits; however people need to be aware of the risks before they undertake a fast.”

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN YOU GO ON A WATER-ONLY DIET?

Robyn: Water-only fasting activates powerful self-healing and regenerative activities within the body, including resolving chronic inflammation and inducing autophagy (the process of breaking down old, damaged or worn-out components within a cell to use as fuel and raw materials). When the fast is broken, the activity of stem cells throughout the body ramps up, resulting in fresh new cells being ‘born’.

STATISTICS SURROUNDING DIABETES, CANCER, DEMENTIA

Robyn: Cycles of periodic fasting or fasting-mimicking diets have been shown to reduce diabetes, cancer and dementia in animals. There is also evidence that fasting reduces the production of self-antibodies that’s involved in auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Studies published in medical journals demonstrate that fasting is the most effective therapy for high blood pressure ever discovered.

IS IT RECOMMENDED — WHY AND FOR HOW LONG SHOULD SOMEONE DO THE FAST?

Robyn: Healthy, unmedicated people who aren’t underweight can safely fast without supervision for three days. They need to rest during the fast (i.e. no exercise, no work and no strenuous housework) to avoid breaking down muscle tissue. Longer fasts should be supervised by a qualified and experienced practitioner who will monitor the faster’s blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs daily, and conduct blood tests periodically as required.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND DOES THIS DIFFER FOR EACH PERSON?

Robyn: The major risk during fasting is light-headedness because of the drop in blood pressure that fasting induces, which can cause people to fall if they stand up too quickly. Because of this, it’s not advisable to have baths or even hot showers during a fast. A small percentage of people have a genetic condition that prevents them from going into ketosis, which makes them unable to fast. With prolonged fasts, electrolyte disturbances can occur. This is why qualified supervision is so important. Fasting is not a DIY treatment unless you’re already healthy and are just going to do a three-day fast.

WHICH TYPE OF CLIENTS DO YOU COMMONLY RECOMMEND TRY THE FAST?

Robyn: High blood pressure that has not come down to normal with healthy lifestyle changes;

Auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can be put into remission during fasting, so the remission can be maintained with diet and lifestyle treatment.

WHAT ARE ITS MAJOR BENEFITS AND WHY?

Robyn: While some people feel tired during a fast, and most people who have been eating a Western-style diet will suffer ‘detoxification’ reactions such as headaches, body aches, lethargy and nausea in the first few days of fasting, others (including me) feel energised.

ARE THERE PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS?

Robyn: Yes, feeling calmer and more in touch with one’s spiritual nature is common, which explains why all religious traditions include fasting practices. Longer, medically supervised fasts have extraordinary benefits for chronic health conditions, as mentioned above.

WHY DID YOU TRY IT?

Robyn: I fasted to speed up recovery from a minor surgical procedure. As I already eat a very healthy diet, I had no headaches or other detoxification reactions throughout the fast, and I had abundant energy. I did have some insomnia which is extremely common during fasting. I had no hunger after the first day. I began fasting the day before my surgery, and did not have any post-operative pain. The surgical wound healed faster than the surgeon anticipated and the scar is rapidly fading.

* If you require further medical advice or assistance contact your local GP.

For more on celebrities quirky eating habits, check out why Steph Rice hates meal prepping and the one-step meal Chrissy Teigen cooks when she can’t be bothered.

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