All about FASTING! (Part I)
Water fasting, the Master Cleanse, juice fasting, liver cleanses, blended food fasts…the list of different types of fasting go on and on. There’s never been more interest in fasts and “cleanses.” Unfortunately, there have also never been more misnomers about fasting circulating.
From a purely physiological standpoint, the whole point of fasting is to rest the system from digestion so that all the body’s energy can be used to improve the functioning of the body (there are of course other non-physical, spiritual reasons to fast but I won’t be addressing those in this blog).
Eating, assimilation, digestion and elimination take a lot of energy away from necessary functions within the body (such as keeping the body clear of the residue from meals past, turning over new cells more quickly, metabolizing substances efficiently, etc.). When the consumption of substances (food, drink, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, etc) are taken in the quantities they are taken in our culture (meaning 3 times a day or more), it’s impossible for the body to keep a system operating smoothly. If it helps, imagine an assembly line that has run amok. That’s your body on 3 meals a day (plus snacks — eek)! Inevitably there is tremendous back up of these substances because they are not easily digested or eliminated, which creates our physical (and many emotional and mental) imbalances. When we fast, we give our body the opportunity to catch up on the back-log of work that has piled up.
The cessation of consuming food is a powerful tool when executed correctly, but done incorrectly, it can be a major health misstep. Following are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your fast/cleanse:
1. Determine what level of fasting is right for you.
If you are relatively new to cleansing there is not likely a need to do an all out juice fast. Fasting too early your transition to eating a cleaner diet is not usually necessary. When people start to eat according to the principles in my books (The Raw Food Detox Diet and Raw Food Life Force Energy), the applications of properly combining Quick Exit foods and juicing until lunch create such an opening in the body and a dramatic shift in what the body is used to taking in on a daily basis that the body immediately starts to go into cleansing/healing mode. Fasting is not needed and in fact, not even recommended at this point since it would only encourage more old waste to be dredged up than the body could cope with. Just as you would not go from a sedentary lifestyle to running the New York marathon in a day, the same logic applies to undertaking a major cleanse before you have even started to dramatically elevate the quality of foods you are eating. Simply incorporating the basic beginner principles from The Raw Food Detox Diet at this stage is equivalent to a fast for the beginner.
One of the things that distracts people from sticking to their level of transition are the reports they hear about how quickly you can lose weight on a fast. For example, they will hear that a friend lost 20 lbs on the Master Cleanse and immediately think they should do that too. Please don’t fall into that trap. Know your level and be intelligent about how to approach a cleanse. Most people have no idea what they are doing physiologically when they undertake a fast but are just going on whims and fads. Rest assured, if you steadily apply the transition principles you will enjoy maximum weight loss without fasting. It won’t be weight loss in a vacuum, which is what most people experience when doing a fast before transitioning and that imbalance sends them careening to the opposite extreme time and time again. When you cleanse in accord with nature, weight loss, inner calm, clarity, beautiful skin tone, natural energy and overall rejuvenation come together. This is the prize. So take your time and don’t get distracted by what other people are doing.
Mini-fasts, such as “juicing ‘til lunch”, that become part of one’s regular day-to-day lifestyle are the most beneficial types of fast for most people because they offer long term protection against over accumulation on a daily basis (akin to making sure the garbage doesn’t overflow in your kitchen everyday). This is extremely beneficial and can help keep you in excellent balance and at a perfect weight for life! Notice that when you juice until lunch you are in fact undertaking a mini-fast – you are fasting between dinner and lunch the next day! You could try doing this a few times a week.
2. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can be redeemed from your excessive consumption over years of unfit eating by a few days of juice fasting. The accumulation in the modern body is so extensive that what you might “cleanse” in 2-4 days of juice fasting is a drop in the land fill of people’s internal waste matter. This is not to discourage you, but to point out that a short fast is no more of a cleanse than cleaning out a ziplock’s worth of rubbish from an overflowing community waste bin! You will feel a sense of well being relative to your state of toxicity, but don’t be fooled into thinking this means you have tapped the depth of waste that is buried within the tissues. From this perspective, you can see why such regular mini-fasts are more effective in deep cleansing than placing the occasional longer fasts among a typical diet/lifestyle. If you return to old habits (as in the case of most people who undertake the Master Cleanse for example) you have a false sense of having cleansed. Your health is a reflection of your daily consumption; the effects of occasional fasts will be lost like words written on the beach.
Tune in on Thursday for Part 2 of All about FASTING!