Starting Over from Scratch

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For me, it all started with numbers. I disliked all the numbers associated with me. My age. My blood pressure. My blood sugar. The waist size on my pants. My shoe size. All of them described someone older than I, sicker than I, more restricted by life than I. Over time, it came to seem as if gravity were pushing me down more than others.

So I decided to make a change.

I have been doing juice fasts every year for years now. Always in the high heat of August, when it feels so good to drink down the cool juice and then to sit outdoors, catching what breezes I can.

Sometimes the fasts are as brief as three days, just enough for a little detox and a little rest. Other times they can last a full thirty days, a period of time in which I can reassess, decide what aspects of life are working for me and which ones are not. It is a time to reassess work, relationships, and, most important, lifestyle choices—food, locale, etc.

Last August, I had set out to do a full thirty days. And I was nearly there. On day twenty-eight, Hurricane Irene swept up the East coast and walloped the state of Connecticut. We were without power for days. And, with no power, I had no juicer. Our excellent health food store, New Morning, was closed. Everything was closed. Trees were down everywhere, roads were flooded. Radio stations disappeared. The batteries on our old radio failed and stores were closed. So we went without.

In short, that fast ended abruptly.

One day I was juicing carrots, zucchini and cucumber. The next I was baling out the basement.

And after that we ate what food we had. Canned things. Bottled things. Crackers with peanut butter. Not the usual ending of the fast. I had intended to move onto raw foods for a time to continue losing weight and cleansing my body. But Irene changed my mind. Within two weeks it was as if the fast had never happened.

So, I’m on to the next fast now. To change those numbers. And I pray this time for a soft landing.

It was a funny thing that motivated me this time. It was a picture that I saw on Facebook. It has been all over the Internet by now, I’m sure, but I’ll post it here:

This bloated possum serves as the "Before" image for my juice fast

It’s a possum you broke into a bakery in Australia. You can see from the hole in the back of the box that he was a good bit smaller when he chewed his way into the box then he was when he finished eating. Image what the little guy must have thought when he got into that box. I’m sure he smelled the pastry, and so he had a clue as to what was ahead. But to find so many! And so many flavors! He apparently ate all night until he not only was too swollen to get back out of the box, but even to move.

Take a close look at the picture. His expression tells the whole story.

So I saw this picture and, at first, laughed. It is funny. (I just hope that the people who had the sense of humor to take the picture also had the sense of humor to let the poor thing go.) But then I began to identify with the animal. I realized that I look like that too many nights after too many dinners. That could be me on the couch instead of the possum in the box. And, like the possum, my own discomfort, my own bad numbers (aside from age) were those that I earned from my own bad choices.

So I have decided to make a good choice for a change and to decide to go on a juice fast as a means of starting from scratch. If you’ve never experienced a juice fast, it is an amazing thing. A time of detox, which can be quite difficult, followed by a time of rest and reflection that can yield powerful results if you let it. And then, at the end, there is a time of joy, as your being feels charged with energy and healed from within. It it, as I say both a difficult thing that requires determination and a wonderful, powerful tool for healing.

Last summer, I mentioned my juice fast in passing here at Psora Psora Psora, as a bit of an amuse bouche. This time, as the stakes are higher, I intend to write in more detail, giving notes on how to do a juice fast safely and effectively. Even with a nod to giving some recipes for specific juices. (Hint: lots of carrots are involved.)

There’s nothing that I can think of in life, short of joining the witness protection program, that can give you a fresh start like a juice fast. I hope that, as you read these entries, you come to agree.

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As a write this, the weather here in Connecticut has changed.  When I went into my juice fast, all was humid, hot and hazy.  Now, as is common for the end of August, the sun is hot but the breeze has cooled.  The nights are cool as well, and so the tops of the trees are beginning to color.  The little weeping cherry in our front garden is always on the forefront of the move from summer to autumn, and many of the leaves that trail down its ropey branches are already tinged with gold.

This leaves me, as it has other years, chilled to the bone.  Nothing in the body of anyone on a juice fast can withstand anything like the cold that is to come.  That is the reason why these fasts are done during high heat.  That and the abundance of fruits and vegetables of all sorts.

And so my fast winds down as does the summer.  The sun has shifted on the horizon, making the shadows already a big longer and the light already a bit deeper, not yet the pure gold of October, but not the July’s hot spotlight in the sky.

And so what has happened to me in this fast?  Well, certainly I have lost weight.  Certainly my skin is clearer, my eyes brighter, my cheekbones a bit more pronounced. The chin, that was more or less disappearing into my neck now protrudes into the world as it should.  And I certainly have detoxed.  My fingernails are perfectly pink, without mark or mar, as are my gums.  Most important, in the days since the exhaustion that is, for me, the second phase of the fast (detox being the first), the usual sense of peace has entered in.  While fasting, I feel that I am more connected with the earth beneath my feet, with the light, the heat (or lack thereof), the seasons.  I feel that I am also more connected with myself and with the body that I all too often take for granted.  And so there is at the end of the experience a sense of purpose, as sense of calm and a sense of accomplishment.

I had intended to give information, to tell what juices I use and how I blend them.  And how juices can become an important part of your diet, even if you don’t fast.  Even if you just add them in with what you are eating already.

But that will wait for another day.  There’s time enough for that when I get to it…

In the meantime, here’s a Wikipedia article that gives some basic information on juice fasts.

Juicy

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Because it has been a habit of mine for a long time now, I no longer think that it is strange.  But when I stop and think about it, or when I put it this particular way, I can’t help but find just how odd my habit is.  You see, I have a habit of not eating for one month out of every year.

Or to put it better, I have a habit of not chewing for one month out of every year.  I eat plenty, in fact I pack my system with nutrients, but I do not chew them.

 

Every August, I go on a juice fast.  I started it some years back when I was feeling what I can only say was “extremely middle-aged.”  I felt fat, tired, rather listless and, worst of all, trapped.  Trapped in my own body and trapped in a cycle of thoughts and actions that I knew were not the healthiest, the best they could be.

So I sought out a reset button.  I went to my naturopath before beginning my juice fast, and she mentored me through it.  Not only did she stand by and add rice protein powder when it was needed, but she encouraged me through it and educated me as to what I could expect from the juice fast.

And, if you are ever to undertake one, you need to know what to expect.

You need to know that the first stage of the fast, the detox stage, is a doozy.  Your tongue is coated white, your breath smells.  You feel achy and tired and irritated.  You may break out in rashes, and some of the stuff that will come out of your body will appall you.  Still you have to go through it.  It is an important part of the fast.

You see, the whole reason to go on a juice fast it to allow your body to heal.  And detoxing the system of all the junk that you regularly carry around inside, packed down in your bowels is an essential part of that healing process.

When you go on a juice fast, you are literally flooding your body with nutrients that are given to it in liquid form.  These nutrients are absorbed directly into your body.  They do not need to be digested.  And because the body does not have to use the amount of energy that it usually dedicates to digestion (especially of things like fried foods and red meats), it is able instead to dedicate that energy to healing, to rebuilding tissue that needs attention.  Kind of like when a community dedicates itself to rebuilding infrastructure.

And more, the juice helps cleans the bowels, sweeping away built up waste.  Therefore, the first few days of the fast can be remarkable in terms of what is lost.  Bloat goes away.  Toxins are flushed.  By the end of the first ten days or so of the fast, your system is beautifully cleansed, your eyes are brighter and your skin looks better.

For one thing, the juice fully hydrates.  For another, is fully nurtures the system.

I learned long ago that, for me, the best time of year for the fast is the high heat of summer.  Others swear by the first days of Spring as the best time.  But whenever the fast takes place, it renews, reinvigorates and it heals.

Most years, I only fast for three days.  To get to those days, I do three days of prep, in which I eliminate foods each day until, on the fourth day, I begin my fast.  While fasting, I take at least four large juices a day—two vegetable and two fruit.  In addition, I drink plenty of water.  At the end of the three days, I take three more to slowly add foods back into my diet, always breaking my fast simply with vegetable broth.  Then I add cooked vegetables.  Then I add brown rice as well.  Then I begin the fourth day with yogurt and begin to build back up to eating as usual.

Sometimes, however, I go for a full four weeks.  These are special fasts, and special times when I can take the time to rest and pay attention to myself and my needs, when I can meditate and be still.  In years when I am working hard in August, I can only do the short fast.

But this year, I will do the full twenty-eight days.  I am eighteen days in already.  My detox has passed and been replaced, as it has been in the past, with a sense of energy and concentration. In the first part of the fast, I was too tired to write about it.  Now, with time on my hands (it would amaze you how much time you have when you don’t have to cook, eat or clean the kitchen every night), I will finish up the fast here, with you, letting you know more about juicing (something I have become passionate about over the years) and the occasional juice fast.

 

My Dogs Are Barking

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So, I am mid way through my August journey, my month-long juice fast, and, oh, my dogs are barking.

Which is to say:  Juice fasts, no easy thing.  Not that you are hungry.  If you do it right, you are never hungry.  Or, at least, that is not the word for what you are.  If you do it right, you literally flood your system with so many nutrients, juiced and ready for the simplest act of digestion (which is to the usual act of digesting a large fried clam dinner as flicking away a housefly is to tossing aside an elephant) that you can never get hungry.  Getting hungry is death to the juice fast.  Those who want to go the distance know to keep yourself sloshy-full at all times, so that your stomach feels next to bursting with “food” and you therefore never yield to cravings.

So it is not eating exactly that you miss.  It is, instead, the sensual aspects of food, the smell of it, the taste of it, the chewing of it.  Think about it:  chewing is something that almost exclusively linked to one thing–eating.  Other than chewing gum, there is no other reason to work that particular set of muscles than eating. So when you are not eating, you are not chewing.  And something inside your brain notices this and fixates on it.  That something is a little voice that tries to get you to gnaw on the corner of books, on magazines, on doorjambs, on anything that will let you.

Last time I did the full 30, as we juicers call it, I could not have anyone in the house eating, including the dog.  As there was active rebellion on this particular point this time around, I have had to learn to live with a refrigerator filled with food and with the full knowledge that, just outside my bedroom door (where I retreat after each juice to let others have their meals in peace), they are all chewing chewing chewing, including that little dog Django, who loves me, but who has his limits.

I wonder if they were to all stop chewing a once and if they listened very, very carefully, if they could hear me quietly gnawing on my bathrobe on the other side of the door?

 

Beets

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For those of you, like me, who are undergoing a juice fast, a simple note:  if you are including beets in your juices, then calm down.  You are not having an anal hemorrhage.  It is the beets, not blood.

 

Juice Day Afternoon

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Experts in such things say that the two times of year in which the human body responds best to a juice fast are in the earliest part of Spring, just as the buds begin to show on the trees and during the high heat of summer, when the idea of eating anything much seems more than humans can bear.

Today, I begin my third juice fast.  As always, I have chosen to begin during the Dog Days of Summer, hoping to ride out the heat of August with the cool calm that the juicing brings.

A juice fast is not, in fact, a fast at all.  Key to the whole success of a juice fast is that you so cram yourself full of freshly-made organic juice that you cannot imagine eating or drinking anything.  You have to stay full, in order to fast.

The whole idea of a juice fast is that if the body is supplied with enough nutrients that have been presented in such a manner (ground up and liquified) that the body does not have to digest them, then the body will be able to take the energy (and a great deal of energy it is) that is applies to digestion of the fried, greasy, doughy, cheesy, and/or mawkishly sweet things that are usually eaten and use that energy for the sake of rebuilding, repairing, and generally healing the body.  And, as the body is flooded with nutrients and not with poisons, it will have a chance to detoxify itself as well.

Detox, in fact, is the sole purpose of the first week to two weeks of the fast, depending upon how toxic the system is going in.  Detoxing is a nasty thing, nasty to go through and nasty to watch.  As you detox, your tongue turns white, your mouth can get filled with blisters, your whole body can give off a nasty smell, as things come pouring out of your skin, sinuses, bowels and and urinary organs.  With mixed pleasure (it feels good once its gone) and horror (it looks terrible as its happening) you get to watch your bloat unbloat, your swollen feet unswell, rashes come to the surface and then fade, and your tongue, your once normal pink tongue, turn into a flokati rug for days and days, until that magic day about half way into the month-long fast, when you look in the mirror and see that it is clean and pink once more, that your eyes are shining and that you have cheekbones once more.

By the second half of the fast, you are not longer tired and achy as you were while undergoing detox, instead, you are filled with clarity and energy.  By the end of the month, should you make it all the way through, you find yourself seeing auras and talking to trees.  At this stage, it is best to begin to slowly re-ontroduce solid foods.

In the past, when I decided to undertake a fast, I did so with great organization.  I prepared, as you must, beginning the week before the fast, by slowly, slowly giving up on specific foods, from proteins to grains, from complex to simple, all the while beginning to juice, once a day in place of a meal, then twice, then, finally juicing all day, four or five good juices, but no meals.

And so I have begun today, without the strict determination of past years.  Instead, this year, I started because, through a freak accident, I managed to dislocate my jaw while eating flan.  (Another story, another time.)  Even after I had my jaw realigned by my chiropractor, I found it too painful to chew anything very solid, and, as August was just around the corner, I decided that it was a sign from God, and began to prepare for the fast.  My goal is, as always, a full month of juicing.  But whether, under the circumstances, I will have the strength to go the distance, time–and this blog–will surely show.