“Ready for a FAST?” by Alicia Patterson

In light of the lovely weather we’re having (finally it’s here!) and summer approaching (hello bathing suits!), I thought I would write about good ways to keep the diet light, and maybe even a fast if your body is ready for it. I myself tried on some summer clothes recently and though I always work on loving myself, giving myself space to not be “perfect” (what does that really mean anyway?) and blahhhh blah all that…I was thinking I need to clean up what I’m eating. I did a fast a few months ago and loved it, but one cannot fast all the time! So, here are some easy to understand tips. I’ll go over how to fast, the techniques to use to support the fast and make it easier, and the importance of how to break the fast. I’ve done quite a few fasts and different kinds, so I mostly talk from experience. Everyone’s experience can be different. Some people have a REALLY hard time fasting, and for some it’s easier. For me I have a better time fasting with juice than with whole food. It’s different for everyone.

First, a note about fasting: Fasting is the most cleansing thing you can do for the body, but because it’s so cleansing, many of us are not ready for it. Most of us may be better off beginning with a clean diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (lay off the starches and proteins for just a few days or a week), and then give it a go if you still feel pushed toward a fast. Once you think about digestion and the way the organs move what we consume, you can see why a fast right from eating lots of meat and sweets may not be the best idea. A fast puts the digestion on pause. So, if we are full of toxins (the more meat, processed food, sugar, alcohol, etc), the more the system has to clean. I really advise to take at least a few days to a week of clean food before trying a fast. And this diet of clean food can be the fast in itself! When we fast, all of our toxins are brought to the surface of our cells (symptoms can show up…typical example: headache). If the toxins are brought up and they’re not moved through by any cleansing food, they just hang out and a fast can actually do harm rather than good. So, think about how clean you keep it. If it’s not so much, clean it up for awhile before you try the fasting.

There are tons of fasts one can try. I do NOT recommend water fasting and the master cleanse fast, you will not find advice here on how to do those! I don’t think they’re safe and I don’t think they provide much benefit especially not in the long term. I do recommend raw fasting, fruit and / or vegetable fasting, smoothie fasting, and juice fasting. I’ll go over each of these methods briefly and there’s tons of information you can find out there to support which you choose. One should approach a fast with caution and really tap into how the body feels during the process. If and when it’s too much you will probably know, so don’t push it if it’s not feeling safe. Many people recommend that you take off work or do a little “stay-cation” (stay at home vacation!) to fast. In a perfect world that’s wonderful but for most that may not work. I fasted while I was working and just made sure I had my provisions. I did just fine, don’t be scared! There are some techniques I’ve discovered among my experiments that make a fast much more tolerable, and I will discuss them after I go through the kinds of fast one can do.

Okay here we go into the ways we can fast: • First fast and perhaps the easiest to handle physically will be a fruit and vegetable fast. During this fast we can eat any kind of fruit and vegetable we like. The more cleansing ones will be the less dense (stay away from starch vegetables like potato and winter squashes). Bananas and avocados may want to be avoided. Internet sources for the level of cleansing from each fruit and vegetable could be useful…tons of sources out there…google is your friend! The more water dense the food, the more it will cleanse. You want to think of the kinds of nutrients you’re getting from these foods. If you’re going to cook the foods, best to keep it light and use a method like steaming instead of frying or using oils. Lightly steamed vegetables are very cleansing! • Raw food fast: very similar to the fruit and vegetable fast except everything is raw. This may be tough during the winter or for people who are already low body weight. Broth and tea can help with temperature. This fast includes eating any and everything that one enjoys as long as it is raw and a fruit or vegetable. So we could use raw nuts, but because nuts are very hard on the digestive system, I recommend staying away from nuts and seeds during a fast. Stick to fruits and vegetables. Dried fruits can be used but make sure it’s the ones without sulfur as a preservative, and it’s helpful to soak dried fruit before eating (makes it easier on digestion). Ripe bananas and soaked dried fruit actually serves as a laxative. Bananas that are not fully ripened are binding, so stay away! • Fruit fast: the same as the raw food fast but only fruit. This can be a bit high in sugar so if you’re sensitive, I advise to keep vegetables in the diet. Fruit is the MOST cleansing food you can eat, so once again, think if your body is ready for that kind of cleanse. Too much cleansing if the body isn’t ready can be very uncomfortable…in the digestive system, mentally, energetically, just all around, uncomfortable. • Smoothie fast: who doesn’t love smoothies! Sometimes we get smoothies confused with blended meals these days. People put avocados, peanut butter, chocolate, protein powder, dried fruit, all kinds of crap in a smoothie. Of course it’s yummy! But for a smoothie fast, we want to stick to more clean things. This means fruit and vegetables. Yes I said vegetables! Adding vegetables to a smoothie balances out the sugar level…an all fruit smoothie is delish but the body processes it very quickly and it’s high in sugar. Adding some kind of greens to a smoothie packs more nutrients in and can help one to stay more satisfied longer. I did a smoothie fast recently and felt great with a juice first thing in the morning, a smoothie for late breakfast, smoothie for lunch, and smoothie for dinner. If you really need it, a dinner of salad or steamed green veggies is an option. The best way I’ve found to make smoothies is as follows o Always use one or two bananas, it makes it creamy and thicker o Always use a juicier fruit (apples don’t blend well! Think berries, oranges, mango, kiwi, pineapple, and papaya depending on preference) o Add some water but not too much to make it soupy, that’s just gross o Pick a green! One or two whole cups. The best I’ve found are spinach, cilantro, parsley, romaine lettuce, and celery. You can try others but most of the greens I’ve tried outside of this group can be a little bitter. • Juice fast: this is the last one, the ultimate, the most cleansing. You will need a juicer! If you have access to a local juice bar that’s great too but it can get expensive. I prefer to make and carry my juices. If you have a travel job this may require freezing the juice and / or using a cooler. If you have a fridge at your disposal throughout the day then you’re all set. This fast involves ONLY juice. This is not the kind of juice we buy at the grocery store. This is freshly pressed juice (not squeezed and not blended, it’s a different process). When thinking of what to juice, you want to combine the foods evenly. You want to have some kind of vegetable for the same reason we used with the smoothie with the sugar. 100% fruit juice is tasty but very high in sugar and not satisfying for long. You need to add vegetables! I’m going to give my favorites to use after experimenting, and you choose a combination that is even and balanced and appeals to you. Remember the juicier the fruit or higher water content of the vegetable, the more you get for your money. So, pineapple is going to juice better than mango because of the density. Just as cucumber will juice better than kale because kale can get dry (in fact I never juice kale, a lot of people like it but I find it barely gives enough juice). My favorite fruits are: lemon, orange, kiwi, apples, pineapple & papaya (you CAN juice the rinds!), watermelon, pear, strawberry (leave the tops on), and peach. My favorite staple vegetables are: carrot, beet, romaine lettuce, jicama, cucumber, celery, collard green, beet top, parsley, cilantro, and spinach. You can of course experiment with others you find. I also throw in a small amount of raw ginger and raw garlic in most of my juices, just a little is all that’s needed, it’s very strong and different than when we cook it!

Here’s my sample go-to juice to give you an idea of good quantity: • One large apple, pear, or peach • One large orange (peeled, throw out rind) • One lemon (peeled with peeler) • Two full lines of celery • Three romaine lettuce leaves • Two collard green leaves • One large beet • Four large carrots • One cucumber • Two kiwis • Small chunk of ginger and one little piece of garlic

You need to stir the juice and drink it within 20 minutes of making it to get the freshness (juice goes bad very quickly and it is GROSS once it gets bad or warm! Trust me). During a juice fast, there is a way to keep the juice good for one whole day so you can freeze it and / or take it with you. Blending one blender full of juice with three tablespoons of raw honey will make it stay fresh. This boosts the sugar of the juice but it makes it easy to take it on the go, so it’s worth it.

Making a big fresh juice in the morning is really helpful to use during any fast. It’s the best way I’ve ever found to start the morning off, it can keep you full for awhile or you can have breakfast a half hour after the juice. Fresh juice is processed in the body differently than food (even a smoothie is still whole food). A juice is a way to wake the body up but without putting stress on the digestive organs.

So, all you do during a juice fast is drink the juice all day. I tend to drink large quantities of the juice and it keeps me good for about four hours, but you can sip it all day long if you have the ability and the time to.

Now here are some tips: • NOT recommended to use alcohol or caffeine. Lighter on the caffeine is okay if you really need it….lay off the coffee and have green tea if necessary. • If temperature becomes a problem during fasting, using soup broth and / or tea will be helpful. • Food combining: there are tons of people who say food combining all the time is very important (example: don’t combine meat with starch…that means burgers are out). We don’t really have to follow those rules if we don’t want to but we should be mindful of combining during a fast. So fruits and vegetables should usually be separate unless their blended or juiced. Dried fruits only combine with bananas, and vegetables only combine with each other. This is because the foods move through the digestive system at different speeds. While we’re fasting, everything is processed quicker, it’s just natural. So it’s easier for the digestion not to confuse it with multiple food groups. Try to eat fruits separately or with a little space in between, and keep the vegetables separate all together. • I hate to bring up the bowel movement but it’s necessary here. We WANT to have a BM at least every day or every other day during a fast depending on how long you’re fasting. If you stop having BM, you want to use a technique or a little food to help push what’s stuck, through your system. We can use laxative tea (there are tons of types including Yogi Tea “Get Regular”, Traditional Medicinal “Smooth Move”…they are made of senna leaf). You can use an enema but it’s not something a lot of people want to use. If you’re really blocked up and it’s not moving at all, you can have a little fruit until it moves, and then go back into your regular fast! The more liquids you have, the better during a fast, even if you’re doing a raw food fast. • Hot bath is helpful with salt if you like, and sweating is good! You need to move and exercise during your fast, it helps to bring up the waste we’re trying to move out. Light exercise is best especially if you’re new to fasting. And, get some sleep…more than usual. • Dry brushing helps the skin to rid of the toxins that come up during the fast. • Netti pot can help to clean out sinus blockage. If you don’t know what it is, google and get one…it’s helpful for allergies and colds year round. • There are other methods of supporting cleansing that we use to “cleanse the lymph”. If you want to see more, read my post I did a few months ago on Ayurveda and how to clean the lymph.

Last I will discuss how to break the fast. It’s really simple to figure out, but it can actually be harder than the fast itself. We’ve been without food (or without the food we normally eat) for quite some time now. All of the sudden our head knows it’s time to eat and that we should start lightly, but our stomach says YEAAAAAAAAAAA BRING IT ON! And so, a binge can occur. This is not pleasant…believe me! My first fast was amazing and felt great, and I meant to break it with a salad. I ended up out for crabs with my family and after eating toxic crabs (but they’re soooo good) and a basket of fries, my poor tummy was not happy. My stomach cramps were some of the worst I’ve ever had, and I was still feeling it the next day. So, you need to think about what kind of fast you did. And you need to break it slowly and easily, SLOWLY building up to the regular kind of diet you eat. If you did a juice fast, you need one or two days with just fruits and vegetables. If you did a fruit fast, slowly add back in vegetables for a few days and then starches and then finally meat and regular foods after at least a few days or a week of cleaner eating. If you did a raw fast or a fruit and vegetable fast, slowly add in what you’ve been missing but start with starchy vegetables and whole food starches (like potatoes, don’t go right into processed bread and pasta). You want to work your way back into the regular diet. You want to keep portions small to start…think about it your digestion hasn’t had regular portions for a bit so it doesn’t need it yet.

This post was longer than I expected but there’s so much to explore and so much to know about fasting. It’s important to cover your bases before you dive into this world! If you have any questions you are free to email me at pattersonliving@gmail.com. Doing research on your own can be helpful too but it can be confusing depending on what you read, so stick to the basics and don’t obsess. Make it easy on yourself.

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