Fasting

Today is the seventh and last day of my juice fast.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “What hippie-dippie thing is Heather doing now?” “Is she insane? She has only a small precious amount of time to eat all the glorious food America has to offer.” “Doesn’t she have a list of fatty foods she must eat before she leaves the country?”

Yeah, so it seems weird and I did cross most of those things off my list but I do have my reasons.

I’ve been reading about different variations of fasting for some time and could never really commit. Going to Lesotho is a new beginning, so I decided to reboot. To clean my system of the fried junk I choke down on a normal day. I wanted to go to Lesotho feeling engerized and I thought this couldn’t hurt.

For Day 1, I started with a water and herbal tea fast. I wanted to really clean my system and I always do better with big leaps than easing in. I drank water with cayenne pepper and water with lemon for some variety.

Then, moving on, I switched to homemade juices and soups. The soups were prepared the some way as the juices, just heated. I tried to start my morning with a fruit juice and then move to a vegetable concoction for lunch or dinner. Now, I didn’t have a juicer and swapped in a blender, which created more smoothie-like mixes. Each batch had at the very least three whole vegetables or fruits, allowing me to get all nutrients I could from those things.

The recommended duration of a juice fast can be anywhere from three to 10 days. I thought about going 10, but I have lots of lunches, drinks and dinners with friends left to fulfill that it was impossible. If I wasn’t leaving the country in, oh, nine days, then I would’ve gone 10 but this was a great start to my first juice fast.

The first few days felt pretty good, but I hit a wall at days four and five. I felt weak, tired and downright miserable. My stomach aced with hunger pains and temptations were thrown to me at every turn. The give up button was always at hand and, at times, my family urged me to do so. But, I kept with it and I down to my last few hours of the fast.

I probably didn’t drink as much as I should have and having an actual juicer would have been a shade easier, but I am glad I did this for a number of reasons.

I coupled the fast with yoga, meditation, journaling and prayer. The fast wasn’t about an physical detox but also to shed the mental and emotional built-up crud. I wanted to find some stability and peace of mind going into Lesotho. One mistake I made in Niger was constantly concentrating on the difficulties of living in a strange land and coping with that. In Lesotho, I want to embrace those difficulties and see it as opportunities to experience something unique, but, to do that, I needed to handle a few things at home first. I must say that I do feel very calm right now, despite the busy week ahead. And I’ve noticed less worry and more calm with in my thoughts.

I also used this time to reassess how I perceive food and what role it plays in my daily life. Eating is such a basic part of our society and it’s something we’ve done our whole life that it is very unnerving not to do it. I couldn’t have beers with the regulars on Wednesday or take the popcorn a friend offered. I had to only sip the broth of a soup someone graciously bought for me. I couldn’t eat when I was frustrated or bored. When the rest of my family was eating pizza or chili, I stuffed vegetables into a blender and gulped down what came out. Breads and cheese were the hardest to do without, specifically cheese because I know my access to it in Lesotho will be limited and expensive. Even the smell of meat made my taste buds water and I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly five years.

However, this little experiment taught me a lot about what we put in our bodies and how much of the items I consume in a daily basis is over processed gunk. I purchased as many vegetables as I could from our tiny farmer’s market and tried to buy as much organic produce as I could. I also watched a few documentaries about food and where it comes from  – “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and “Food, Inc.” – and I look at nutrients and food very, very differently now.

Another byproduct of this fast that I did expect is to have an emotional experience with hunger. Sure, I’ve been hungry before but I’ve never felt this deep-rooted, in the bottom of your stomach, hunger. It opened up my eyes a bit and reminded me of how many children I saw in Niger with protruded bellies and exposed ribcages. I’ve seen hunger and now I felt it. My short-lived hunger is nothing like my villagers in Niger experience on daily basis, but it allowed me to connect with them on this level I couldn’t before. In Lesotho, I expect to witness to hunger and, after this fast, I will react differently to it.

Tomorrow, I will get up and be an eater again. This fast was not easy but it was enlightening and I may do another one someday. I am glad I did it, but I am also really looking forward to sinking my teeth into an apple tomorrow morning.

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