Fasting Isn’t Easy, But It’s Worth It

One day I walked over to a friend who was sipping a spicy smelling lemonade.  As a serious lemonade lover, of course I commented and she then told me it was the recipe found in the Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs.  Never having heard of the Master Cleanser or Burroughs before, she explained to me that it was a lemonade made from organic lemon juice, natural grade B maple syrup, distilled water and cayenne pepper.  She further explained it was formulated as a detox beverage and that the lemonade, water and herbal teas were all she would consume for 10 days.

To say I was worried is an understatement.  How could she not eat for 10 days?!  I knew she was concerned for her weight and I felt this was extreme and would, in the end, cause more harm than good by damaging her metabolism.  I told her that and cautioned her by telling her, this is crazy!!  She smiled and thanked me, and went about her business.  In other words, she kindly told me to buzz off.  I didn’t harass her since she was a grown woman and it was her choice, but I was watchful due to genuine worry and wanted to be there when needed.

Twenty days later she was still going strong!  Not only had she lost weight, but she was glowing.  She was clear minded, smiling, energetic – a picture of wellbeing.  In fact, she looked so good I had to inquire more deeply about her experience.  She explained that after the 7th day she found a wellspring of energy, and she started distance biking.  Shortly after that she felt truly revitalized and productive.  However, she was in the process of breaking her fast because she was pregnant.  At this point I nearly fell over.  Through our friendship, I knew she and her husband had been trying to conceive for almost a year.

This was in February of 2007.  I was trying to prove myself at work, frequently volunteering, bought a house in need of some work, and studying for graduate school exams.  I wanted that pep in my step, the increased energy and the appearance of health that fasting had given her.  I decided right then that I would attempt the Master Cleanse (a.k.a the lemonade diet) the following week. 

I bought a copy of Stanley Burroughs pamphlet so that I would get the recipe and procedure down right.  I hustled over to Whole Foods for the purest ingredients and set a goal of 10 days.  I lasted nine of them.  It was hard, and by hard, I mean HARD.  Not even marathon training compared to how difficult it was going without food for those 9 days.  But it was also majorly worth it, and here’s why:

1.       I learned the body can deeply heal itself. That January I went snowboarding in Montana.  I am a far cry from graceful and had a hard time getting off the chair lift.  One time I fell awkwardly and there was a loud pop from my knee.  I remember laying still waiting for the pain and when it only ached, I thought I got lucky.  I said I was ok and boarded for a few more hours.  By that night, my knee had doubled in size.  I promised myself I’d see a doctor if it wasn’t improved by the time I got back to Minnesota (3 days later).  By then, the swelling went down so I skipped the doctor’s visit.  However my knee remained tender.  I treated it carefully and never applied much weight to that leg.  By day 6 of fasting, all sensitivity and ache was gone.  I could move it freely and kneel with no pain.  This shocked me and my husband.  I’m still amazed by this and can only guess that without the constant need to process and digest food, my body was able to put that energy to work healing itself.

2.       In order to heal, you must first detox.  The caffeine headache started on day one and by day three I was so dizzy and nauseous I would have quit, had I the coordination to find food.  It was brutal.  I went to bed early the first four nights, slept well, and still felt exhausted the following morning.  By the start of day five though, I felt light and clear headed.  This was the wellspring of energy my friend talked of.  I loved the evenness of my emotions and the awareness of my body and the power it holds.

3.       Fasting is liberating.  A lot of our day is spent preparing food, eating food, digesting food and then planning our next meal. With that time now available for other activities, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.  I put my time to use by getting more work and reading done. 

4.       Our culture is food obsessed.  A dominating contributor to the difficulty of fasting is our culture’s fixation on food.  Nearly every TV ad and sitcom shows people meeting over food and drinks.  Once I turned off the TV and avoided the typical social gatherings, fasting became much easier.

5.       Strict discipline teaches you about yourself.  Making a pact with myself that food was off limits and then forcing myself to stick to the deal caused serious internal negotiations.  During the pleading and hardnosed reactions, all sorts of mental laundry was aired.  I think this happens in any scenario requiring large doses of will power, but the intimate nature of food and it’s symbol of nourishment made this particular challenge more difficult.  Especially for a person like me who often uses food as a coping tool for stress.     

Since my first fast, I’ve done at least one per year (aside from when I was pregnant and nursing) ranging in length from 7 to 17 days.  Every time that I properly prepare and give it a wholehearted attempt, I gain from the experience.  Conversely, the times I approach it half-heartedly I feel disappointment.

I’m sharing this because I am preparing this week to begin a fast next Monday.  This is the week that I decrease caffeine intake and cut out all processed foods so that my detox is already underway.  With my attention squarely focused on the Master Cleanse, I wanted to write this post as a reminder for why I am doing this…and to galvanize myself for the challenge.  I will report back how it goes, and I would love to hear about any of your fasting stories.

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