You Are What You Eat Or Don't Eat: Dieting for Detoxification
I’ve been accused of being a hippie, a city-girl, a fashionista – none of which are particularly terrible, or true. But this summer, after too much wine and revelry, I admitted to being a bit of a lush and a glutton and decided it was time for a little detoxification. A little detoxification is easy enough, right?
My Fasting Past
A year ago, I was turned on to an intense detoxification diet called the Master Cleanse, also known as the “lemonade diet.” For 10 days, I consumed nothing but lemonade (a mixture of fresh lemon juice, water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper) along with water and senna (an herbal laxative). As a girl who can normally out-eat any male comrade, I thought I wouldn’t be able to last even one day without biting somebody’s head off. To my surprise, I made it through all 10 days and came off the fast feeling more energized, clear-headed, and, not surprisingly, hungry.
Unprepared to commit to the Master Cleanse again (it’s neither pretty nor easy, folks), I opted instead for a three-day juice fast, which would give my digestive system a much-needed rest while providing an influx of nutrients.
First Course – Before You Fast…
It should be noted that fasting as a method for cleansing the body’s digestive system should not be mistaken for a weight-loss regimen. If done for the wrong reasons, fasting can be a slippery-slope to an eating disorder, and if prolonged, it could potentially cause serious health problems. If you are considering a fast, you should consult your doctor before beginning. Pregnant women, people with diabetes, and individuals with other health conditions should not fast unless under the supervision of a medical professional.
Think Fast – Who’s Fasting, Anyway?
Fasting has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. Indeed, passages about fasting are found in the religious teachings of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and the Baha’i Faith. Whether done for spiritual, religious, or health reasons, fasting can last from one day to one month or more, and can involve any number of variations. Some people enjoy a weekly one-day fast during which they ingest nothing but water; others fast during the day and eat at night for a month. How you do it, and for what reasons, is entirely up to you – just do a little research before you start.
Juice Me Up – My Three-Day Juice Fast
As someone of generally good health, I set out on a three-day juice fast to give my digestive system a rest, cleanse myself of built-up toxins, and down a ton of nutrients in the form of raw fruit and vegetable juices. The key to following a strictly juice diet is a good juicer – and self-control. I figured that if I could last 10 days on lemonade, three days of juicing organic fruits and veggies of my choice would be simple, even enjoyable.
Along with my boyfriend as moral support and fasting partner, I vowed to drink 32 to 64 ounces of organic fruit and veggie juice daily. No citrus juices, no animal products, no alcohol, no cheating.
For breakfast I enjoyed a tall glass of fresh carrot-apple-strawberry juice. I prepared a 32-ounce container of fresh juice including kale, apples, carrots, celery, and beets to take to work. It’s truly amazing how many veggies and fruits you can put into the juicer before you’ve made yourself a tall glass of juice. Just seeing the bright, pure colors of the fruits and veggies coming out of the juicer convinced me that I was getting more than my usual intake of vitamins, and shoving endless stalks of kale and apple slices into the machine assured me I was getting more than my doctor-recommended “five-a-day” of fruits and vegetables.
At around 11 a.m., I began fantasizing about a pastrami sandwich. I drank some juice. At 11:30 a.m., I daydreamed about nachos. I drank some more juice. I knew lunchtime would be a challenge, so I set up a little plot on the grass outside my office and read a book, far from the sights and smells of solid food cooking in the kitchen. Drinking juice, reading, relaxing… I could get used to this, I thought.
Back at my desk after lunch, I felt energized and didn’t suffer from my usual afternoon slump. One of the advantages of a juice fast is that the juices are digested easily, without drawing upon much bodily energy. The body’s stored energy can therefore be put to better use expelling toxins.
The rest of the work day went smoothly, and I was excited to make a different flavored juice for “dinner.” To my dismay, the juicer burnt out midway through processing a handful of strawberries. “Maybe it’s a sign,” I told my boyfriend. On the verge of quitting, he convinced me to stick with the fast, and off he went to buy a new juicer.
Minutes later I got a desperate phone call: “They don’t have the juicer we want,” he explained. “Which one should I get?” As I read product reviews online, he told me his pizza preference, should his mission prove unsuccessful. Thankfully, he made it home with a brand new juicer and we had our juicy feast – not a minute too soon.
Before we went to bed, we drank senna tea to help with elimination come sunup. Senna is an herbal laxative that has been used since ancient times. The taste is mild, but it upset my stomach, leaving me doubled over with cramps in the morning.
I woke up at 6 a.m. despite my alarm failing to go off. Surprisingly, I was not starving. After enjoying a tall glass of fruit juice, I was off to work with a concoction of liquefied veggies help me through the day.
The second day proved to be a great deal easier than the first day. I was able to concentrate and didn’t feel hazy-headed or hungry like I had the day before. I didn’t even fantasize about food – I was focused and alert, and felt great.
To help curb my appetite in the afternoon, I enjoyed Yogi Tea’s Fasting blend. After work, I made a delicious cantaloupe-cucumber-apple-strawberry juice. My energy continued into the evening, when I cleaned the house and did endless chores to try to get my mind off of the chips and salsa that were taunting me from the kitchen.
After a tall glass of veggie juice for dinner and a little flaxseed oil, I decided to do some yoga. The time I normally spend on dinner – preparing, cooking, eating, and cleaning up – meant hours of free time that I could dedicate to other interests.
After about an hour of stretching, breathing, and holding postures, I developed a terrible headache, sinus pressure, and allergy symptoms. Fasting proponents would say that this was the result of the toxins coming out of my body. Naysayers would assert it was due to nutritional deficiencies. I said it was time for bed.
I awoke before my alarm went off. A week prior, I groggily awoke thinking, “when is this week going to end?” On the fast, I began to feel like my body clock was really on target. The runny nose was gone, but the headache was still there. Unfortunately, trying to juice Advil® was out of the question, so I just hoped the headache would subside.
My morning routine continued – I prepared a glass of juice for breakfast and a 32-ounce bottle of beet-kale-kiwi-cabbage-carrot-celery-spinach-apple juice to drink throughout the day. My appetite was lighter than it had been the previous two days, and I was able to focus on work, though the headache never went away. I don’t drink caffeine, so the headache was not caused by caffeine withdrawal, but it is said to be a symptom of detoxification.
My energy lasted throughout the day, and I began to think of what I would eat once the fast was over. I intended on sticking to a raw food diet for a couple of days, and then working my way up to eating normal foods before my friends’ wedding a few days later. I came home to find my boyfriend watching the Food Network and plotting our first dinner for the following day.
While watching Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay prepare mouth-watering meals in HD might sound like torture for someone who can’t eat, we couldn’t get enough. Phrases like “Ooh, Kentucky hot browns…I’m gonna eat every last bite of you” and “Mmmm… do you think balls of ricotta and parmesan cheese covered with a mushroom-marinara sauce would be difficult to digest?” echoed throughout the house. Needless to say, we did not stick to our raw food diet plan. Our combined willpower was no match for our passion for cooked, solid food.
Final Course – “To Health!”
Alas, do as I say, not as I do. One of the most important considerations when fasting is coming off of the fast with the proper diet to avoid getting terribly sick. Preparing your digestive system to break down foods (especially meats and cheeses) is a process that should not be ignored. Plus, what good is a fast if you go right back to eating beef brisket and drinking wine a few days later? Though I felt healthy and alive on the fast, the brisket was damn tasty and downright irresistible. Hopefully I got rid of a few toxins before putting them right back into my body… and that’s a preventive health measure I’m willing to toast to.
The Fast Path to Optimum Health
Though fasting is not for the faint of heart, it was a rewarding experience that made me feel rejuvenated, healthy, and alive. And despite my love affair with warm, cheesy delicacies, I will no doubt be fasting again in the future. In the mean time, I can still enjoy the benefits of fresh juices without being on a fast. Some of my favorite recipes include:
2 stalks celery
2 stalks kale
1 bunch spinach
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